Interview by Mike Sullivan of Sully’s Blog
Brother and sister team Tom and Dian Griesel are the co-founders of The Business School of Happiness. Tom has over 35 years of business experience. He served for 20 years in a large public utility company, in various positions, before “retiring” as manager of customer service to pursue other interests. He moved to California in 1996 to begin a new career in finance and co-founded Reedland Capital Partners in 1998, a boutique investment banking firm specializing in small cap companies. In January 2010, upon co-founding BSH, Tom again embarked on a new venture to pursue lifelong passions and fully utilize his expertise and experiences to mentor others to more fulfilling lives.
Dian has over thirty years of business experience from owning and growing companies in the marketing, investor and public relations, professional writing and sponsorship sectors. In addition to being Dean of The Business School of Happiness, she is also President of The Investor Relations Group, a company she founded in 1996. She is the author of several books including: Uncapped: A Critically Important Workbook for Officers of Public Companies, and several others. She has written articles on a variety of topics that have appeared in The New York Times, The Daily News, Investor’s Business Daily, Crain’s Weekly, and more. Dian has appeared in fitness videos and movies, and was a nutrition expert for PPI Entertainment. She is a frequent keynote speaker at investor conferences and is regularly quoted in the media.
The Business School of Happiness runs on the philosophy that you need to enjoy yourself at your place of employment. If you aren’t honestly glad to be working there, your mood will suffer and nothing will help to improve it. It’s a challenge that all office workers need to face: Either figure out how to make your occupation and workplace more enjoyable, or else find something new to do that you will enjoy better.
We all want to be happy in our working lives. How will The Business School of Happiness help us to achieve this?
Currently the Blog offers a selection of thoughts from both Dian and I along with writings of others that we deem particularly insightful and/or helpful. The topics tend to cover more than just work or business but life in general and are meant to increase satisfaction and happiness in general by providing viewpoints that may not have been considered previously.
The BSH blog is, hopefully, a place people can go to get a little perspective. Although Tom and I write some original pieces, there are so many great articles, speeches and thoughts penned by others that can help provide a little thought-provoking balance. For example we recently posted a speech by Steve Jobs. Certainly, he’s had plenty of success—but he’s faced challenges and ups and downs, too. Recognizing that success and failure walk hand-in-hand (for everyone!) is one of my personal favorite reminders. We like to remind people of this, while also saying…keep trying until you find what you love (and know that even then, you’ll face plenty of challenges!)
Should we find a way to be happy at what we do in our current jobs, or is it ever necessary to move on to something else in order to be happy? Is happiness within us, or a result of our environment?
If someone does not enjoy what they are currently doing, they need to figure out why and do something about it. That may or may not require a change in occupation or employer. People need to check their attitude first. Is their dissatisfaction due to the work, boss, co-workers or their attitude about things. We believe that happiness is a choice and therefore does come from within. You can choose to be happy when you clean the table after dinner or when taking out the garbage, OR you can choose to be grumpy. Your job or occupation is no different. However, if you truly feel you should be doing something else that you are more suited for or find more enjoyable (your passion in life), you need to find a way to move on if you want true fulfillment.
I’ll second everything Tom has said. Happiness is a moment-by-moment choice. From a work perspective, moving on to a next role is a lot easier if you have some good past job references that accrue because you do what you do well while you are doing it! So, I’d have to say that we all need to bring enthusiasm and our best work to each work day because I believe it is the best contributor to luck. Luck, by my definition, is doing a lot of hard work without complaint and with plenty of enthusiasm, so when an opportunity arises—you’re ready for it. I think people are often “lucky” at work because bosses or clients would prefer to surround themselves with enthusiastic hard workers. So, applying this “luck” principle, may help people move to a new role within their current company or result in offers from others. As the expression states: “It’s better to be lucky than smart.”
I believe the large majority of employers want happy employees and good work environments. If we each focus on what we can individually choose to do to bring enthusiasm and happiness to our daily lives, often the surrounding environment, whether work or home, suddenly feels more sunny and cheerful. As our Mom used to say… “Put on your rose colored glasses if you want to see everything a little more rosy!”
People often find themselves in a position where they have built up their careers, they’re making good money, but just are not happy with what they are doing or how they are contributing. The thought of a career change can frightening if it means a cut in pay and a change in life style. What advice do you have for this common situation?
I left a well-paying job I was at for 20 years to start a new career at 42 years old. People thought I was nuts but it was a very liberating and enjoyable change, not to mention very rewarding from a monetary standpoint. It was a very big risk at the time but I just didn’t enjoy what I was doing anymore. Staying put seemed to me like slow death. Again, I recently left a lucrative business partnership of 12 years for the same reason. My advice is to always follow your heart but be sure to plan ahead. It’s tough to leave if you are up to your neck in bills and living paycheck to paycheck.
You raise an excellent point about the fear of not having enough money to undertake a career change. Personally, for the most part, I believe this fear is an obstacle people focus on when they lose sight of their goal. If we really want to try something new—money is usually not the primary problem. We can always find things to cut from a budget. Changing careers is scary yet invigorating. It also, involves the choice to buckle down spending for a period prior to the change and for an undetermined period into the future.
That said, I don’t discount the value of money. I’ve been poor and turned orange from eating just carrots and I’ve been rich. I like pocket change much better. However, it doesn’t make me happy. My family, friends and work do. Things don’t. Most of us could be saving more and spending less. So much of what we buy is really not necessary and any happiness it may bring is fleeting, especially if we can’t pay the bill instantly or if we spent the money we wanted to save to effectuate a life-career change.
Making a career change is simply a matter of making it a priority. If it is a priority, we can find ways to cut personal spending budgets, save some money and reduce the fear-factor of change.
Finally, there are so many things that may need to be learned, researched, gathered or that can be pre-purchased (to facilitate the start of a business) when cash flow is coming in. Just the process of taking the first steps towards a new career or business can reshape attitudes and priorities and eliminate some of the financial fears. Once we start actively striving to actualize our dreams, it is amazing how the “things” we used to think were so necessary or important to our happiness, become fading memories. Personally, I’ve never had a hard-stop between my many careers. They all seemed to fold into each other, and the skills, and often contacts, from each past career made the next one a little bit easier.
Can this work for entrepreneurs as well to not only be happy, but to encourage an environment conducive to happiness for employees and contractors?
Absolutely! An entrepreneur will never be really successful unless they really like (even love) what they are doing. Follow your passion. Doing something just for the money will not produce lasting satisfaction or happiness. That gets old fast. Also, business owners should only hire and keep people who they enjoy and respect. This goes a long way in creating and maintaining the proper environment. One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch (and that starts at the top).
I believe that old expression, “If a fish stinks, it stinks from the head down.” If I reflect honestly, I have to say the “down” times in any business I have run, resulted from me, the leader, taking my eye off the business objectives. Sometimes it was simply because I got distracted. Other times, it may have been because I expected more from others than they were capable of giving. I take personal responsibility for any “unhappy times.”
Today, I believe in three things for entrepreneurial business success: 1) Enjoy each day and figure out what you can do to make progress; 2) Focus, focus, focus on the projects with the best return; and, 3) As the late President Ronald Reagan said: “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, give them your vision and get out of the way as long as they are fulfilling it.”
You both have extensive resumes. What particular experiences do you draw from to facilitate the teachings of The Business School of Happiness? Were there certain, distinct events in your lives that led you to where you are today and the philosophies you teach?
I consider my resume to be more diverse and interesting rather than extensive. I try to plan out a course of action and usually stick with it for a while until I no longer enjoy it. That is a big part of the “experience” I bring to BSH. I really believed that money could make me happy for quite a while before I realized it just allowed more options which usually made things more complicated and not necessarily better. I have worked in vastly different business fields and environments (a very large public utility down to a three man financial operation) yet have come to understand that there are certain “basics” that bring it all together and make things work well. Following my heart, leaving successful occupations when they lost their appeal, moving from the east coast to the “left” coast. Major life changes. Ultimately I learned that the only thing in this world you have control over in this world is yourself and your satisfaction and happiness in life depends on the thoughts you cultivate and the choices you make on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.
I think the running joke in my family for years was… “What business card is Dian passing around these days?” I’ve started more corporations than I can remember. Yet interestingly, if I look at my life today, what I learned from the health & fitness industry, fashion, publishing, automotive, entertainment, television, stress management, public company, public and investor relations industries—all segue. Each move I have made benefitted from my prior challenges, knowledge and experience. Although industry sectors have unique differences, the similarities are striking. Usually it gets down to providing the best product or service and taking good care of your clients or customers.
So what have I learned? I’m not scared to make changes anymore. I’ve learned that Failure is a great teacher: I good education is expensive, and a real good education is very expensive. FYI: I’m not talking about Harvard! I’m talking about learning quickly what mistakes I don’t ever want to make twice.
Finally, I’ve lived through three plane crashes, a very serious boating accident, and was a block away from the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. I have learned this: You never know when the second half of your life began. (Meditate on that!) Enjoy today and do what makes you happy while saving for tomorrow in case you’re lucky enough to wake up alive and well.
What are a couple of small, simple changes anyone can make in order to be happier at work?
First and foremost, make the choice to enjoy what you are doing. Look for ways to be more productive and do not concern yourself with what everyone else is doing or not doing. Concentrate on business during business hours and save your personal stuff for evenings and weekends. Use your breaks and lunch time wisely. Spend it with co-workers you really enjoy or get out for some fresh air read a book or perhaps take a walk. Put a picture of your family, boyfriend or girlfriend on your desk or someplace where you can see it to remind you of the important things in life.
I’d recommend two simple changes:
1) Smile and be nice. Smiling is infectious. The combination of smiling and being nice can open doors to adventures you may not even imagine.
2) Be grateful. You live in a free country. There are a lot of people around the world that don’t have the opportunity to make so many of the choices we can make here.
These two simple changes can change your entire perspective on work, your day and your life. Remember, we each control the thoughts we allow to enter our minds. Don’t rent space to negative people or thoughts. Close your inn!
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