Happiness is Quite Contagious

The most frequent question I get asked when I talk about Civility and Happiness is, “How do you get this started? What’s the first step?”

My answer is simple, direct, and prompt:

  1. Be a happy person every day in every way.
  2. Happiness is a habit others will notice. Insist on dealing happily on whatever comes along. When you run into someone who is intentionally negative, because being negative is always intentional, abandon them. Just walk away and do your thing somewhere else. If they follow you, ask them politely, but firmly to step back and walk away.
  3. BE THE ONE ready to suggest a happier, more constructive way to do or say whatever life presents.

Get Your Tissues Out
A Very Special Christmas

One of my favorite stories about happiness came to me from someone in an audience who said she really wanted to thank me for helping her reconnect with her younger sister who had become estranged over the years. She said, “I heard you talk about being positive, it seemed so wonderful, but so impossible. Nevertheless, I took your advice and just did them. It happened last Christmas, which is the one time a year when our families get together. It’s usually pretty tense among the adults. We tell ourselves we get together for the kids. But of course, “it’s a bit of a nightmare for them.”

“This year was going to be different. I decided that I would find ways to discuss and talk about things and tell stories in completely positive fashion avoiding all negative words, criticism, and negative thinking. My sister was her usual self, anticipating that we would have these negative clashes and would walk away wondering why we were doing this for yet another year. But I really wanted to see something change.”

“I talked to my kids about it and they promised to really work hard to do and say positive things the entire time.” When they were confronted with negative things simply absorb it and take a positive approach.

“I have to say that I believed that the meeting with my sister’s family was just a bit more positive than in the past. But still it was really hard because the old habits kept creeping back and my sister was her usual kind of negative self.”

“We had occasion to talk on Valentine’s Day. She called me. This surprised me.

I was always the one who called her. And her first comment was, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about what happened over the holiday.” With some trepidation, I asked her what happened over the holiday? She said, “Well I’m not sure, except that I really had a good time and many of the old squabbles and things we talk about routinely just never happened.” I’m trying to figure out why was that. So we talked and I told her about you and about your ideas about taking responsibility for everybody’s happiness beginning with yourself. “She actually started to cry.” Then told a story. Then I told one and we were both in tears, tears of reconciliation, apology, even joy.”

She touched my arm and walked away.

Our Mother Died Badly

The second story involves a woman I saw after a powerful presentation. She said, “I had the most amazing experience because of you and because of the surprising generosity of others. And I just wanted to tell you about it.” So she began saying, “My mother became ill later in her life and spent a lot of her time in hospitals. In the last hospital she was in, where she did pass away, there were accidents and things that went wrong continuously during her care. On the day she died, our family decided to hire an attorney and approach the hospital about some kind of apology, correction, something that forcefully brought to their attention the problems that my mother suffered as her life ended.

To make our point even more boldly, we asked to meet with the top hospital officials in my mother’s former sick room. To our surprise, they readily agreed and when we arrived at my mother’s room it became a totally amazing experience.”

“There were six or seven people in the room, including the hospital administrator, their legal counsel, and a number of other personnel in their professional medical uniforms which they didn’t generally wear. The hospital administrator took a breath and said, “These people, all cared for your mother every day. They will all say they are terribly sorry about what happened to her but, all have some things and stories about your mother that you might not know, but would like to hear.” The nurses introduced themselves they were the day, midday, and swing shift main supervisors. There was a young man, a hospital orderly and a couple others. The hospital orderly went first. He said, “I don’t think you know that your mother was a competitive pinochle player.” We were stunned. My daughter said, “I never saw her ever play a card game.” The young man said, “Well, she played for a time every single day. One of my jobs became finding other patients and employees in the hospital who could play. She got really good.”  Each person had a personal story about her and even about the incidents which so concerned us.”

“They all apologized for mom’s suffering then said their goodbyes. The Administrator suggested that when we were ready to talk to him we could meet in his more comfortable conference room.”

“We sent our attorney home.”

Happiness Can Teach A Lot

The principal lesson has always been, if you give happiness a chance it’s pretty powerful. But the most important lesson for you is that happiness starts with you, and gives you the most satisfaction.

Getting started is easier than you think.

Send a simple thank you to someone who has helped you, who you’ve never really seriously acknowledged. Practice unconditional happiness relentlessly, look for the happy things. You’ll be happily surprised how often people you thanked, respond. I’d love to hear your stories about giving happiness a chance in your life and the lives of those you care about. Good luck! 

“How Can I Get Decency, Happiness, and Trust Started in my Organization, Family, Company, or Community?”

Steve Harrison, my colleague and co-author of The Decency Code, The Leaders Path to Integrity and Trust (McGraw Hill © 2020), always immediately answered, “OBSESSION!!!” “BE THE ONE” or find the one who can eat, sleep, dream, advocate, irritate, motivate, and inspire decency, civility, honesty, truthfulness, trust, and finding happiness.

Second Most Important Questions: Can You Be The One?

Steve also talked about the many pathways to BE THE ONE. “If it’s you, then BE THE ONE…”

Pathways to Be The One:

“Who is accountable.”“Who has integrity.”
“Who is agreeable.”“Who is open.”
“Who is apologetic.”“Who is patient.”
“Who is candid.”“Who is peaceful.”
“Who shows character.”“Who is pleasant.”
“Who is charitable.”“Who is polite.”
“Who is chivalrous.”“Who is positive.”
“Who is civil.”“Who is principled.”
“Who shows compassion.”“Who is respectful.”
“Who is constructive.”“Who is responsible.”
“Who is courteous.”“Who is sensible.”
“Who is decent.”“Who is sensitive.”
“Who is dignified.”“Who is simple.”
“Who is empathetic.”“Who is tactful.”
“Who is engaged.”“Who is thoughtful.”
“Who is forgiving.”“Who is tolerant.”
“Who is helpful.”“Who is transparent.”
“Who is honest.”“Who is trustable.”
“Who is honorable.”“Who is truthful.”
“Who is humble.”

I did say Steve was OBSESSIVE!!

So many paths to civility, decency, integrity, truth, and finding happiness. Take as many as you can, as often as you can every day…encourage others to do the same.

Make progress every day. Work to increase the paths you take daily, every day. Challenge yourself. Keep a log. Encourage others beginning with those around you.

Note: Steve Harrison died on July 10th, 2021. He revitalized an industry, was obsessive about the power of small decencies, those actions, and decisions often unseen, but powerful enough to make good companies great places to work, good families, communities, and lives great.

How about it? Can you BE THE ONE in your life, household, family, neighborhood, work, community, and other places?  

Good luck.

Let me know how you are doing.

Jim Lukaszewski


Barbara’s 7 Ingredients of Happiness

August 30, 2023

So, why are we talking about happiness? Three reasons; Number 1, my wife of 56 years Barbara (met in High School) and I had an extraordinary life together. I called her The Sunshine Girl because she was always happy and she taught me how to be happy, too. To our surprise, our unintended example seemed to have a powerful effect on those around us. Barbara died in 2019. This is her legacy.

Number 2, In 2021 A friend and I, after three years of work, in the middle of Covid 19 published a book about Decency and Civility, The Decency Code © 2021, McGraw Hill. It failed. In the process, we discovered that many successful people are happy. Decency is the critical ingredient in achieving happiness. And yet for so many more the accolades, gratitude, and recognition they expected would come with their success never happened. But it can. If you help it happen.

Number 3, Happiness comes to those who help others create it for themselves. It’s The Platinum Rule, “Help others achieve those things they feel are meaningful, helpful, and important to others, but who need help completing what they hope to accomplish.” Do good things for others, doing good things for others, and all will do good things for you.

Throughout much of our life together we deferred talking about how our happiness occurred. Frankly, we figured that if we talked about it, we’d probably mess it up. But toward the end of her life, and people knew about her illness, they pressed us to talk more about this topic. The result of our conversations is the list below. We share them here because they might help you, as they helped us.

  • Intentionally say nice things about and to each other in private and publicly every day, everywhere.
  • Avoid saying the two or three divisive, corrosive, “Get-even” things you might really want to mention every day. Let them go.
  • Always better to be positive or blah than negative or inflammatory.
  • Rid your lives of negative, irritating, and intentionally abrasive people. Walk away. Skip the goodbyes. Immediate happiness happens.
  • Make every day simple, sensible, and satisfying for yourself and for others.
  • Maintain a genuine respect for those you care about 24/7.
  • Place the responsibility for your success on those closest to you or who really care about you.

Do this every day and the payoff is immediate and pleasant. What are your happiness ingredients? Please send them to me and we’ll build a powerful running list of more happiness ingredients. Email me at jel@e911.com.