Today launches the first day that we highlight the AMAZING members of our VHP community to the world. Our first VHP of the week is Anthony Lee, organizer of the East Bay Book Club, and he's Delivering Happiness one book club meeting at a time.
DH: How did you discover the DH movement?
Anthony: I discovered the Delivering Happiness movement the same way many others, I believe, have found it: through Tony Hseih's book of the same name. It was a book that was very easy and engaging the first time I read it in 2010. Only when I read it again a year later for my book club (which I, as organizer, had chosen for the club) did I truly see the value of DH beyond the world of business. The reason: hearing so much bad news related to the economy, the political climate, world affairs, etc. I couldn't help but think of how much negative energy and unhappiness there is, and that's when I realized how DH may be the answer. If all of us could play a part, even a small one, in making other person happy, the world would surely be a much better place.
DH: Did DH Inspire you to make a difference in others' lives? Or were you already living a life aligned with the DH message, which is what brought you to be a part of the movement?
Anthony: In the few years leading up to finding DH, I was in the process of gradually figuring out what happiness is and what I could do to achieve it. There were many steps I took to become a happy person, like exploring things I have never done or seen before, spending money on experiences and memories rather than material things only, diversifying my interests, exercising both the mind and body equally, being grateful for the little things in life, meeting and regularly hanging out with fun-loving people, and, most importantly, becoming a leader of a book club to create a happy environment for book lovers. So, yes, my life was just starting to be aligned with the DH philosophy.
Initially, after reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, I thought I would be delivering happiness just through the little things I do in my life as I was doing already. But when I e-mailed Tony with my thoughts on his book, I got replies from a few other people, including Melissa Lacitignola from the DH movement who offered to join my book club meeting on DH (to which I said yes) and Clair Byrd, also from the DH movement, who invited me to join the cause as a Very Happy Person (to which I also said yes). Now I am looking forward to the opportunities to deliver happiness in ways that go above and beyond what I'm already doing.
DH: Does DH still play a role in your life? If so, how?
Anthony: DH is a principle that I am continuing to incorporate into my everyday life. For example, I find myself more willing to donate a little extra money, whether it's loose change for a Salvation Army collection bucket or a $20 tip to the owner of the coffee shop (often without any food or drinks in return) where I have my monthly book club meetings. Speaking of which, in August 2011, I took about 20 of my book club members to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant in Oakland, California, and covered all meal expenses for the entire group, which came out to a few hundred dollars. It was a huge step for me towards doing bigger and better things for people. Other things I may do to deliver happiness include opening doors for a long line of people (I don't mind waiting several extra seconds), making jokes with strangers to start a conversation, and offering words of encouragement to anyone in an unhappy mood. Whether big or small, DH reminds me to keep doing acts of kindness.
DH: What's something weird that makes you happy?
Anthony: I would be so immersed in happiness whenever I let my imagination run wild, particularly after being fascinated by something. Believe it or not, this is actually a lifelong habit of mine. For instance, when I was a kid, I might enjoy a video game so much that I would momentarily imagine myself in the game after I finished playing it. Over the years, I would do the same with movies (especially James Bond movies, as I strive to be handsome, suave, and daring), books (imagining myself as a fictional character in crime thriller novels), and even sports (wishing I could play ice hockey like a real pro, even though I can only play at the beginner level).
This isn't limited to fantasy, though. In the last few years, I found myself asking a lot of questions about current real-world affairs. If I were a multimillionaire or billionaire, how would I use the money to improve the world for future generations? If it were up to me, how would I promote green energy and environmentally conscious lifestyles that would halt climate change, save endangered species, and preserve our planet? What is the best way to fix the American economy that is fair for everyone? Is there a way to create a sustainable and effective healthcare system? While I still don't have the answers to these questions, especially as I'm not in a powerful position to make large-scale changes, there is one question that is simpler and perhaps far more important: What is the best way to make people happy, regardless of the problems we're still trying to solve?
The answer: any act of kindness, whatever it may be. That's the beauty of DH. The possibilities are endless and can certainly go a long way.
DH: What's your advice to someone who wants to start making happiness a priority but doesn't know where to begin?
Anthony: I think the first step would be to recognize beliefs about happiness that may not be true and replace them with more realistic expectations. To illustrate, here's a partial list of things I came to realize in recent years. Happiness is the presence of a sense of accomplishment in trying to solve problems, not the absence of problems in one's life. Happiness comes from modifying your own little world to go your way (which you can control), not expecting the world at large to go your way (which you can't control). Happiness comes from achieving what you can, not from reaching perfection. Happiness can be found everywhere in everything, not just in a few certain things.
From there, I would say the next step is to keep your eyes open for opportunities to be happy. If you feel unhappy at work, for example, remind yourself to be grateful for having a job, some means to support yourself, and the opportunity to go home when the day is done. If there is something else you'd rather do for a living, certainly pursue that dream while maintaining your current job. If you're unhappy because you're lonely, make the effort to put yourself out there in situations you like to be in, and you're bound to meet new people. Along with that, everyone has a talent or something to be proud of, as well as something they're passionate about. If you focus on those positive aspects of yourself, you'll be much, much closer towards happiness.
To sum it up, happiness comes from seeing the glass half full, not half empty. Or as the Sheryl Crow song "Soak Up the Sun" reminds us, "It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got."
DH: What does happiness mean to you?
Anthony: Hmmm. That's a good question, because it's something I honestly never took the time to think about. Until now, that is. :-)
To me, happiness is a sign that one is truly cherishing the gift of life. It doesn't matter the circumstances you are in. You can appreciate feeling alive by counting all of your blessings and counting them twice, as the old saying goes. Also, to achieve constant happiness, you should have diverse sources of joy. Focusing on certain things as if they are the only ways to be happy, like achieving great wealth or finding love as soon as possible, probably isn't the way to go. After all, what if it takes a while to reach those goals? By seeing the positive side in all aspects of life, there will always be something to lift your spirits each and every day. That is the way to treasure life itself.
DH: What do you think stops people/companies from delivering happiness?
Anthony: Perhaps some businesses are reluctant to deliver happiness to their employees because of fear, based on the assumption that happiness equals not taking work seriously and, therefore, lower productivity. But that's not true. If an employee is made happy, there's a good chance that he or she will enjoy going to work, which may translate to loving the work itself and wanting to do the best job possible, especially above and beyond the minimal expectations. Other companies may not deliver happiness to customers because of the fear that spending extra money for service cuts into profits. But as Tony Hseih suggests in his book, significant profit come from repeat customers, meaning you have to give them a reason to keep coming back for more. A business that doesn't deliver happienss through service ends up, I imagine, with mostly first-time customers who don't return. I am not someone with a business background, but even I know that such a situation might fail.
As far as people not wanting to deliver happiness, I tend to notice that such people haven't experienced enough happiness themselves. It's as if one needs to experience happiness in order to understand it and appreciate the value of giving it to others. I also think that people forget that delivering happiness creates happiness for oneself as well, maybe moreso than other things. With that in mind, I think it's great that the DH movement is picking up, because we need some people to take the initiative to make others happy, so that those people in turn would feel inspired to do the same. Eventually, everyone can play a part and make our world a joyful one.
DH: Has there been a community/customer response since you started making changes based on DH? If so, what's it been like?
Anthony: As I've only been a VHP for a few weeks, I'm just getting started with finding ways to spread happiness to my community. Hopefully, the response to what I do will be a positive one. :-)
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