Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Celebrating 10 Years of Happiness With Deborah K. Heisz
[0:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 437 of Live Happy Now. Ten years ago, the Happiness Movement was just beginning to gain a global presence, and that paved the way for a birth of a company called Live Happy. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and this week, I’m talking with Deborah Heisz, CEO and co-founder of Live Happy LLC, as we look back on 10 years of sharing happiness. Deborah’s going to explain how her work in personal development led to discovering positive psychology and how that opened the door to launching a company that remains committed to sharing the many ways we can discover greater well-being. Let’s have a listen.
[0:00:41] PF: Deb, we’re 10.
[0:00:43] DH: I know. Isn’t that crazy?
[0:00:45] PF: Oh, my –
[0:00:46] DH: I don’t know what happened.
[0:00:47] PF: I know. See, now, here you have an advantage, because you’re a parent, so you’re used to raising 10-year-olds.
[0:00:53] DH: I can’t believe my kids are over 10 either at this point. When they say, time flies, they mean it. That’s unbelievable that we’re 10.
[0:01:02] PF: I know. It was so important. I mean, 10 years is a huge accomplishment for us to have reached there. This just seemed like a great time to talk with you. I wasn’t there in the very beginning. I was about three months late to the party, but I’m glad I got invited and I’m glad you’ve let me stay. Can you take us back to the mindset behind Live Happy, because there was such a compelling argument for creating this movement and creating this platform and it was unlike anything that people were doing. Take me back there of what was going on and what made this ball get rolling.
[0:01:37] DH: Well, the initial – my experience up to that point had been in personal development, which was great. I was founding editor-in-chief of the current version of Success Magazine. We were putting out content for people to improve their lives. Really, micro business owners, small business owners, and with tips on how they can have a better outlook on life, or a better attitude from the experts. Since you guys can’t see me, I’m doing air quotes when I say “the experts.”
Because there’s a lot of people that put out content on personal development. Some of it’s great, like my co-founder, Jeff Olson and his book, The Slight Edge, and others of it, we’re not going to name any names, just not so great.
[0:02:18] PF: Really questionable in the science.
[0:02:21] DH: Yeah. Well, lacking in science. What happened was, as I’m working on that project, on that publication and really diving into personal development, which I really believe in, I believe we should all be working on ourselves, that there’s ability for us to enhance our lives, we can all get better, we can all become better humans, this thing called positive psychology came on my radar.
There is an organization called the International Positive Psychology Association and they put on something called the World Congress. At the time, I believe it was their second world congress, and some people that I was working with on Success, the owner and some other went to this and came back and said, “You know what? This positive psychology stuff, it’s personal development, but with real science.” I started digging into it and looked at it and it’s like, you know what? There is a lot here. There’s a lot of stuff they’re studying and a lot of things they’ve learned about human behavior that where people – how people can enhance their lives, that is scientifically based.
Because positive psychology is the study, and it was really started by Dr. Martin Seligman, who has been all over our publication for the decade, the decade, right from the beginning. It really started with him standing up in front of the American Psychological Association and saying, “Look, psychology isn’t just about helping sick people get well. It could also be about helping well people thrive.” That was the foundation of positive psychology.
A lot of people started studying it. He’s professor at UPenn. A lot of the positive psychology program at UPenn, a lot of people we’ve talked to come out of that program. But really, for me, it was, this isn’t just somebody talking about experience. There’s real data that this works, that if we can take these simple principles, these simple activities and incorporate them into our everyday lives, we can be happier. People need to know this.
For me, Live Happy became the ultimate personal development project. It was getting better, becoming a better human, building better families, building better communities based in science. Scientists are really good at studying stuff, and then they publish and share papers with other scientists, so the general public never hears about it.
[0:04:45] PF: Exactly.
[0:04:46] DH: Never. I mean, they’re really good at talking to each other about everything, and the rest of the world isn’t even aware of the conversations occurring. We looked at it as this is an opportunity for us to take this fantastic content to a broader audience, to the rest of the world, and that’s what really founded Live Happy. Jeff was a big believer in personal development. I’m a big believer in personal development, worked in that space for the previous decade, and now I guess, two decades. Well, but it really was about bringing that out and helping others understand they can make choices that will make them happier.
When we talk about happiness, I think it’s really important. I know, everybody who listens to the podcast regularly has heard us talk about what we mean by happiness. We don’t mean I’m running around with glee with my hand thrown in the air, because I just scored a touchdown, or did a homerun kind of happiness. We mean, the kind of happiness where your personal well-being is higher. Things that you measure to determine how your life is going, how you’re feeling about life in general, about how congruent your life is with your dreams and where you want to be, that’s what we mean by happiness.
[0:06:00] PF: You bring up such a good point, because that has been really instrumental in my development and growth during this last decade, because it let me recognize that I ended up doing a presentation at IPA called when happiness has a bad day. It allowed me to accept that bad day like say, “Hey, this is actually cool. It’s fine if I’m sad for a week. That is okay. I still have great levels of well-being.” A bad day does not mean I’m not happy. I think it really has – I’m among those people that’s been able to really broaden that and stop judging day by day what happens and look at it over time. Look at the overall satisfaction of my life, instead of the dopamine hits.
[0:06:45] DH: It’s huge. It makes a huge difference in your life when you start looking at it from that perspective, from the long-term, from the whole, its entirety. I think we’ve all been exposed online to various toxic positivity discussions. Happiness is not this toxic positivity, where you’re positive about everything in life. You always say yes. You always are going, “Oh.” That’s almost a disease in itself, right?
[0:07:16] PF: It can be dangerous, if you’re not acknowledging, if you’re not allowing yourself to feel the negative emotions. One, you’re not going to enjoy the positive ones as much. Also, you’re glossing over some pretty important feelings that need to be dealt with.
[0:07:34] DH: That’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about live happy anyway. You see that outside view in that, hey, this is everything that’s toxic about positivity, that there are real problems in the world, that there are real challenges that people need to overcome. Not everyone can just live happy.
One of my favorite things that we’ve done is we don’t run away from that. I mean, our top downloaded article is post-traumatic growth. Just basically, how do you grow out of bad things that happen to you? How does that impact your life? It’s a remarkable article and it’s a really good article and it’s on our website. We don’t shy away from the fact that you can’t be happy in that arms in the air, running around, circling the bases, I hit a homerun every day of your life, because it’s life. We’re talking about living happy, which is not that, right?
[0:08:38] PF: Exactly. Let me ask you, as you were coming up with the concept of the magazine and mapping out what it was going to cover and how it would be involved, how did you determine all that?
[0:08:52] DH: We didn’t want it to be fluff. We wanted it to have a scientific backing, which wasn’t to say that every article was about science, but we wanted it to be scientifically based. We also wanted it to have practical information in it, as well as inspirational stories. Really, we just started dissecting what we felt was good content, versus what we felt was too light, because a lot of stuff that people want to put in is just, that’s nice, but that’s fluff. We didn’t want to be fluffy. That’s the best way I know how to put it.
[0:09:26] PF: Exactly.
[0:09:27] DH: We also didn’t want to be so overly technical that your average broad audience couldn’t pick it up and read it and get something out of it. A lot of these papers that we read that create ideas for articles, as you know Paula, really go so deep into the science, you almost need a master’s degree to start reading the paper.
[0:09:47] PF: I had to Google a lot of stuff, when I was – I would be reading a paper and it’s like, I don’t even have the slightest idea of what they mean by that, or what other study they’re referencing. It’s like, it was such an educational experience for me, just to be dropped into all that.
[0:10:05] DH: It can be a rabbit hole.
[0:10:06] PF: It was.
[0:10:08] DH: We also, really, particularly the early years, I think less now. Now that we’ve got a very, very established guardrails on what we will and won’t do, we got a lot of stuff that was just fluff. We had a lot of stuff that was just like, pop people’s ideas. I want to say, diet of the week, but it was happy idea of the week. This might make you happy. We really shied away from that.
Another important piece was we wanted to integrate family. We wanted to integrate home. We didn’t want it to be a workplace-only magazine, but we also wanted to include work. Success was really a workplace-only that had some personal development when we’re working on it. We wanted to take that and make it a whole life concept. We wanted that to put that positive experience on a whole life perspective. That was really important for the magazine, particularly for me coming out of success, where I felt like, when you talk about business and you talk about personal development, everything ended up being tied to money and monetary success. As we know, money and monetary success and happiness are not – they don’t necessarily exist together.
[0:11:20] PF: Right. Right.
[0:11:21] DH: For some people, it’s an neither or. For others, it can exist together. For others, they’ve got nothing to do with each other.
[0:11:26] PF: What I loved about Live Happy, what I loved about it from the beginning is that each issue, you would have a different approach. It doesn’t mean the one that was the last month didn’t work. It’s just that different people have different things that work for them. I think that was always, for me, it’s been a delight, because I got to explore things that I wouldn’t have known about. I wouldn’t have known to research them, had it not been for Live Happy.
[0:11:52] DH: One of my favorite things we did was the book, Ten Practices for Choosing Joy, which has my name on it, but the whole editorial staff participated in. It says my name and the editors of. I have to tell you, and the editors of. It should have been the editors of and Deborah for the amount of time you guys spent putting that together. One of the things I love about it is Ten Practices for Choosing Joy, for those of you who haven’t read the book, it’s available on Audible. It may, or may not be out of print on Amazon, but I recommend you get your hands on it, because what we did was we did Ten Practices for Choosing Joy, and for each practice, whether it was attitude, health, spirituality, mindfulness, creativity, these are all things that there was science behind practicing these things. Can bring you joy, live happy type joy.
Each chapter has the science behind what the studies say. Some people put it into practice and then some things you can do to put that practice into your life. We say in the book, and I’ve said over and over and over again, just because there are 10 practice of choosing joy, you don’t do all 10. Pick one, or two, integrate that into your life before you even look at number three, right?
[0:13:10] PF: Exactly. Find the one that works for you. It’s like a catalog, basically.
[0:13:14] DH: It is. Pick the ones that you think. If it’s resilience that you need to focus on, focus on that. Don’t focus on resilience. It’s a recipe for failure trying to do too much. When you talk about the magazine, and by the way, we started as a print magazine, folks. We’re not that anymore. We should probably talk about that in a second. When we look at every issue, we had a slightly different look. Same thing with the book, we had a slightly different focus. It all contributes to your happiness, to your joy, to your meaningfulness in life, to finding your purpose. But you don’t do it all. Is just, you pick up the practices that speak to you and make it work.
[0:13:54] PF: Yeah. You find what’s good for you. It’s just like a diet and exercise plan, or a spouse. You find the one that works for you.
[0:14:00] DH: If you can’t stick to it, it won’t.
[0:14:03] PF: That’s so true. Another thing that is turning 10 this year are our Happy Acts. I think, again, your timing on creating Live Happy was so phenomenal, because the world day of – International Day of Happiness had pretty much just been declared. We were there when that was all picking up steam, and we were able to be part of that. Do you want to talk about, especially that first International Day of Happiness, you were on the floor of the United Nations.
[0:14:35] DH: Yeah. I was there. Jeff, Co-Founder, he got to speak to the United Nations. I spoke the following year. We really were right there at the beginning of the International Day of Happiness. It was coincidental. We were doing the magazine and that happened. It wasn’t that that happened and then we started doing the magazine.
[0:14:54] PF: That’s what I mean of the timing was just perfect.
[0:14:57] DH: It was. But it was really important and we’ve continued to see the World Happiness Report every year, we put out. What was happening is governments around the world and the UN was a forum to discuss this and to start talking about it and analyzing it a little better, really had started looking at the well-being of their populations as being a measure of successful country.
Happiness, their countries had started with happiness officers, which is something that never happened before. Ministers of happiness. Sounds like we’re in a Harry Potter movie. It’s the Minister of happiness. Ministers of happiness. Governments were starting to pay attention to this. It truly is, and we’re a part of it. I think we’re a leader in bringing that information to the general public to a general audience, but there really still is a movement that was started about 10 years ago towards improving the well-being of humans through practices that they themselves can take on and paying attention to that as a measurable outcome.
That World Happiness Report every year, there’s a list of happiness countries, happiest countries and why. It’s been very interesting. But the privilege of speaking at the United Nations is one I’ll never forget. It’s such an honor, and for Jeff to have that honor that first year and for me to be able to follow it up the second year, it truly was, for me, the indicator of how important what we’re doing is.
[0:16:29] PF: Yeah. Then, what made you decide, “Okay, we need to do our own thing that’s going to be our own celebration and observation of this and create happy acts”? Because that’s been so enduring and really to me, something that just is, it’s so unique to live happy and it’s something I really love that we do.
[0:16:50] DH: Well, I think it goes back to what I was talking about earlier, where scientists study stuff, but they don’t share it, right? For me, it really was the, we need some way to get the word out, something simple to get the word out, that there are things you can do to make the world a happier place, to make your world a happier place. We conceived of Happy Acts, which I’ve described it like this from the beginning, is a social intervention campaign. Meaning, we get people to stop for a few minutes and do something with intent, to make the world a happier place. Even if it’s just smiling more. Even if it’s just talking to a stranger. Even if it’s just dropping a thank you note to someone. Something simple to show gratitude, show grace, show thankfulness, help someone else, buying that cup of coffee for a stranger, we’ve all seen that go viral. But to make sure that it’s done with intent.
That’s why the cards, that’s why people, I will make the happy – the world a happier place by. We’re not asking you to make the world a happier place by starting a global charity. Oh, you want to put that in a card and follow up with it? We’re all in. We’re asking you to just think about something you can do and realize, which is why it’s social intervention, realize that there is something you can personally do to make the world a happier place right now. That’s why we did it. I think it’s been a great success. I think the world has changed a little bit since we did it, obviously trying to do Happy Acts during a pandemic was a little bit –
[0:18:29] PF: That wasn’t so good.
[0:18:31] DH: Yeah, people don’t go to walls, or walls. We did. We did. But we had a great online experience those years. I’m looking forward to making a few tweaks. I’m looking forward to getting back to everybody early next year and talking about how that changed.
[0:18:43] PF: I know. It also spun off the Halloween Happy Acts, which we’re doing in, I guess it’s, yeah, later this month.
[0:18:50] DH: No, and I love that.
[0:18:53] PF: Yeah, I think there’s so much potential for us to be able to do different things with it for different times a year. I’m excited to see what we continue to do with that.
[0:19:01] DH: Note, podcast listeners, Halloween Happy Acts, that’s later this month, but not later this month. You can check it out right now online.
[0:19:10] PF: Yes, you can. You just mentioned podcast listeners. That was another element that you brought in and brought in very early on, even before a lot of people really understood what was going on with the podcasting space.
[0:19:26] DH: I’m so thankful we did.
[0:19:28] PF: I know. I’m glad you got in there at the time that you did. Really, that was a way you saw that as a way to amplify the content that we had in Live Happy Magazine. Can you talk about that? It was so interesting the way it started and then how it’s evolved.
[0:19:43] DH: At the time, I did. We were doing these great interviews with these thought leaders, these very eloquent, passionate people. You sit in the interview and you’re doing the interview, and you know this, Paula. You’re doing the interview, and you’re like, “I wish everybody could hear this,” right? This is right near the beginning of when podcasting was starting to take off. It’s like, well, everybody can hear this.
We started doing some of our key interviews for the magazine is for the podcast. That was why. I thought it was so important, not just for us to take the information and drill it down into an article and pull a few quotes, but for people to hear how passionate these people are about this, how important it is, how detailed the information was.
We started there and then we – when we quit doing the print magazine, we still have the website, which puts out original content on a regular basis, and we still have a newsletter, which puts out independent original content. If you guys are not signed up for the newsletter, you need to. Go to livehappy.com and sign up. Free to everybody. Please, take the opportunity to do that.
As we started to move from the print format into a more digital format, the podcast also evolved into being the key content, where we used to do a feature article. Now, we do a feature podcast, is the best way to know how to describe it. We’re still have all the same great content we had, but in a way that’s more accessible. Frankly, I think in a way that broadened our audience. Because I think, when we were doing the print magazine, people didn’t really understand it was for everybody necessarily, that it was a little bit more of a science-heavy, because reading can sometimes be science heavy. It was a little less accessible to everybody.
I think the podcast with most of them being 25 minutes or less, really, people can listen to that as they walk their dog, as they drive to work. It’s two people talking, or more, but usually, two people talking and they get so much more out of it. Then, of course, we had the follow up materials on the website if people want to delve more into that topic. I just think it’s made the content so much more accessible, and that evolution took place over time, but I’m really happy where we are right now and where we’ve ended up. It’s been a phenomenal, I think eight years of podcasting?
[0:22:10] PF: It is. Yeah.
[0:22:12] DH: Eight years of podcasting.
[0:22:12] PF: Hard to believe.
[0:22:13] DH: Ten years of Live Happy. I’m getting old. What am I going to do next?
[0:22:19] PF: We’ll have virtual something. We’ll have our avatars doing this for us, I guess. One thing that I’ve noticed with the podcast is sometimes, people will reach out because someone had sent them a podcast, because just as with our practices, not every episode is going to resonate with every person. Some things like, that’s not really my thing. But then, especially like the pet loss episode is one that I know has been shared quite a bit and that’s something – that’s a great thing to have in your back pocket. Hey, your friend loses their pet, you just send them a link. I know firsthand of that having happened. There’s other situations, like other episodes that we’ve had that people can just share and say, “Look, this spoke to me, because I know you’re going through it and I thought you’d want to hear it.” I think, to me, that is really the power of podcasting. That’s the power of the reach is to be able to just have that, to give to anybody at any time when they need it the most.
[0:23:14] DH: I agree. I think, be able to share that. I think accessibility is key.
[0:23:21] PF: We’ve had 10 years. We don’t want to quit anytime soon. What do you think? What do you see for the next 10 years? How do you think we’re going to grow and change?
[0:23:30] DH: I think that as the world has changed, more people need this content. I think, our number one goal has always been reach. It’s always been building a happiness movement. It’s been building a group of people who really understand the power of things like gratitude, who really want to make a difference in their local communities and their families. For me, over the next 10 years, we’re going to continue to try and reach people where they are, where they have the most access. Whatever is after podcasting, I’m sure we’ll go into. Whatever is after the Internet, I’m sure we’ll figure that out, too.
One of the things we’ve discussed recently is in expanding our presence on social media, to reach people who aren’t necessarily looking for podcasts, or looking online to go read an article and figuring out how to do that in a way that isn’t just flippant, that isn’t just, “Oh, that made me laugh,” but something that actually adds value to someone’s life. We did something before called The Happiness Minute, it was in the wrong format. Maybe we bring that back and maybe that’s a TikTok.
Where my head spins is, how do we continue to get the message out? How do we continue to get this message to more people? How do we evolve Happy Acts to get the message to more people? How do we evolve, get more involvement? Because this is something anybody, whether they’re two, or a hundred can participate in and can make a difference in the world. Our mission hasn’t changed. Sometimes the medium changes, but we’re going to continue to try and expand to reach more people in any way that we can. That’s where I see us going in the next 10 years, and continuing to produce the fabulous content that we produce, that you help us produce, Paula. It’s been a great ride so far, but we’re just getting started.
[0:25:14] PF: Yeah. Saddle up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:25:21] PF: That was Live Happy CEO and Co-Founder, Deborah Heisz, talking about how we got here. If you’d like to read some of our great content, sign up for our free weekly newsletter, or follow us on social media, just visit us at livehappy.com. That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.