“People Say ‘I Can’t’ Too Much.”

Happiness interview: C.C. Chapman.

How did I first learned about C.C. Chapman? I can’t remember; it’ s lost in the sands of time. Somewhere in the wilds of the internet. He’s a writer, photographer, speaker, and creativity and social media guru, so there are a lot of ways I could have encountered him.

We finally met in real life at SXSW, the big blogger conference in Austin. He is as nice and interesting in person as he is on the screen and page.

I’m thrilled for him: his first book, Amazing Things Will Happen: A Real-World Guide on Achieving Success & Happiness, just came out. (In the photo, you can see him holding the very first copy.) Here’s what I wrote about it: “For people who want to make a leap into a new kind of career but just can’t quite make the jump, C.C. Chapman offers practical advice, real-life examples, and thoughtful, realistic encouragement that will allow them to dare to do amazing things.”

He’s done a huge amount of thinking and writing about how to make life happier, so I was very eager to get the chance to ask him some questions.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

C.C.: Cooking. It doesn’t matter if I’m scrambling some eggs or making a full on Thanksgiving dinner. When I’m in the kitchen I’m always happy.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

That there is more to life than money. When I was coming out of High School I was too focused on how much my paycheck was going to be above other things. Yes, money is important and can help you be happier, but it should never be priority one. Having a loving wife (who was my girlfriend back then) who supports me and is my best friend on top of my wife brings more happiness than any wad of cash.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

I get caught in the “click stream” as I call it sometimes. That is where you go from checking your inbox, to seeing what is being said on Twitter, then over to Facebook, then a quick look at my Google Reader and back to my inbox. Suddenly and without notice I’ll realize that an hour has gone by and I’ve really accomplished nothing. I get frustrated and angry at myself for allowing it to happen.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

My dad always told me, “To each their own.” There are always going to be people we encounter who have different beliefs, tactics and ways they live their lives. It is way too easy to get bothered and unhappy about these people. But, if what they are doing is not directly causing you or someone you care about harm, than just let them be and move on because challenging them is not going to help you in any way and usually just adds up to more frustration. This little bit of advice has made my life MUCH happier.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?

Listening to music is the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve always loved music and popping on a favorite song or album always makes me smile. No matter how frustrated or down I might be, the right song can always make me a bit happier and break out of any funk big or small.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness? 

People say “I can’t” too much. They make excuses for why they are not doing whatever it is that they wish they were doing. When I challenge them and ask for specific reasons why they can’t do something I rarely get something that isn’t a personal roadblock that they’ve put up themselves. Sure, whatever path they are wishing they were on might not be an easy one, but life rarely is. People would be much happier if they realized that they’ve got to work hard to achieve their dreams, but that hard work towards a goal that they really want will in fact make them happier.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

When I was much younger I was not very happy at all. I was bullied and didn’t have very many friends growing up since we moved around a lot. It had a profound effect on me and my life as I have always cherished those people that are my friends. As I got older, I realized that friends shouldn’t ever be based on quantity, but rather on quality. Having kids of my own this is something I try to teach them. Popular kids are rarely as happy as they seem on the outside. Having a core set of close and trusted friends is a cornerstone of why I’m so happy these days compared to back then.

Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy?

I work out of a home office, and I love it because I’m surrounded by memories and comforts. I have a big couch and a leather reading chair that I can kick back in and unwind. There are lots of windows to let the sun in and photos and prints all over the walls. I can’t look anywhere without seeing a knick knack or little treasure from one of my trips and I always feel comfortable and happiest there.


  • Andrea

    My 5 year old (just, last week) announced to me this morning “there’s no such word as can’t” not something I’ve ever said to him, when I asked him where he’d heard that from he told me that his headmistress had said it to his school friend who says he “can’t” do things all the time….he, very matter of factly told me that he was silly because “when he tried he COULD do it he just wasn’t trying”. I was amazed that at 5 years old he’s learnt such a valuable lesson!

  • lcb

    Love the quality vs. quantity reminder about friendships! Being in my late 20s, it’s easy to look around and think, “hey, where’d everybody go?” compared to college. But I’ve found I’m so much happier with my small group of close friends than I am in a large group of acquaintances.

  • great interview… Gretchen’s question “what is something you repeated do that makes you happy” really touched me… I don’t what the answer to that is yet for sure… i want to find out now that you asked… thanks

  • rob k

    Don’t forget the value of just being in the moment.

  • Savvy Aggarwal

    Loved reading this interview of this wonderful person. Just reading it has made me so happy. Keep posting such great interviews Gretchen!

  • That’s a solid interview, and an inspiring read 🙂

    It’s a shame that the ‘To each their own’ philosophy isn’t held within more people, I even get others telling me what I should be doing, or what I can’t do! But I guess it’s part of the roller coaster ride, and it gives me that extra touch of motivation to get going 🙂