Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Commencement Speech - The Secret to Happiness

Today I am receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the  University of Guelph.  I public speak all the time but this speech was difficult to prepare.  No Powerpoints and no Q and A (doing Q and A is one of my strong points).   I never write out my speeches (but I do always prepare for them) but this one I thought I would write:

Today I am going to share the secret of happiness but first you will have to listen to a commencement speech about success.  So what is your definition of success?  Defining it is the first step to getting it and from there you need to develop tactics to achieve it.

Most of my tactics revolve around habits - I call them success habits.  As Aristotle said - "we are the product of what we repeatedly do".  Whenever I do a speech, I aim to have lasting impact.  My goal today is to have you doing one success habit a year from now that you do not do today. 

So why habits?  2 reasons.  Habits reduce the need for willpower - they help things to just happen.  And the second reason is habits magnify greatly over time.  We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.  As new grads you have the benefit of time to allow your habits to have the multiplier effect.

And example of this magnification.  If you eat 10 more calories per day, you will gain 1 pound per year.  Over 3 decades, that is 30 pounds.  Or you can counteract that by walking 160 steps more each day.

One habit I encourage you to look into is meditation.   Learn to sit and be still and observe.  And this ties into another habit - constant learning.  If you do not know about meditation, you can easily study it.  I have the habit of never going to bed without pointing out one thing I have learned.

I read a book on the Dion quintuples years ago.  When asked how she manages to keep the hous somewhat neat with 3 three year olds running around she said "leave the room a little neater than when you arrived".  I apply that today - also for my car.

And that reminds me of my reading habit.  Leaders are readers.  Develop some reading habits.

Because of my Ted talk, I am known for the habit "never shower without breaking a sweat first".  I can break a sweat with 2 minutes of jumping jacks or burpees so do not need to do a full workout.  I am sure those short burst of exercise have contributed to my health.  

I have the habit of networking.  You are young so start now.  Connect to all your classmates on Linkedin.  Connect to me.  If you connect to 10 people per week, in a decade you will have 5,000 connection.  

Those connections will help you but only if you use this next habit.  Always try to add value.  Add more value than you take.

I am sure many of you will have success definitions that include money and finance.  I left this until later since health trumps wealth any day of the week.  To achieve financial goals, the most important thing to do is spend less than you make.  A part of this is putting off purchasing.

And the last habit is the habit of gratitude.  Be grateful.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  You can do this by having a gratitude journal and writing those things you are grateful for.  I know I am grateful for my luck in life.  it started by winning the birth lottery.  being born in a safe place at the right time in history.  I was born into a great family.  I am grateful to have the great parents that I have (and had).  Thanks mom.  

I am grateful to the University of Guelph for granting me this honorary Doctor of Laws.  A friend pointed out I am the last person who should get a Doctor of Law since I hate long legal agreements.  I always want legal documents to be simpler and shorter.  The best legal agreements for me are one page.

I learned the secret to happiness by doing my Syrian project.  I brought in 61 families and heard the stories of 61 families.  The stories of what the families had lost - not only material possessions but the loved ones were heart breaking.  What does a 50 year old lawyer from Syria do when they get to Canada.  They cannot speak English and the legal system is different.  They can be bitter for what life has thrown at them or grateful for being safe and being able to get a manual labour job to support themselves.

I see the refugees that are happy are the ones who are grateful for what they have - not ungrateful for what they lost or ungrateful for what others have.

Gratitude is the secret to happiness.

I wish you all great success and happiness in life.


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jim, Amanda here (from DDE/TrafficSoda). You've mentioned meditation a few times in your blog, and I recall at one point wrote that you were going to try to do it while cycling or jogging. Meditation is a practice people have recommended to me often (probably because I am a worrier) but I've always treated it with cynicism. You're pretty pragmatic, so I'd be interested in hearing more about your take on it.


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