Happiness interview: Dan Schawbel.
I’ve known Dan in a virtual way for years. Now I’m trying to remember…have we ever actually met in person? I think so, but I’m not even sure. Such are the wonders of the internet.
He’s one of the foremost experts on the subject of personal branding, and the managing partner of Millenial Branding. He’s also the author of Me 2.0: Four Steps to Building Your Future, as well as a new book that just hit the shelves: Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.
For many people, the idea of promoting themselves doesn’t make them happy, but Dan emphasizes that this exercise is really about helping yourself create the kind of life that you want–one that expresses your values and interests.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Dan: Running. I’m constantly dealing with stress from working on various projects simultaneously so I use running as an excuse to get away from everything and unwind. I’ve been able to run five miles each day without stopping this year, which I view as an achievement. I use running to break up my day so I’m not focused on work for eight hours straight. I’m happier because I’m less stressed and because I have more endurance for consistently doing the activity.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
If you focus on the positive aspects of your life, and your core strengths, you will be happier. I used to spend too much time trying to turn my weaknesses into strengths and dwelling on rejection and failure. I view everything I do as a learning experience so I never see anything as failure, just a chance to improve.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
My biggest weakness is that I spread myself too thin. I take on too many projects out of passion and excitement instead of what makes the most sense for my goals and aspirations. When you take on too many projects, you end up hurting your social life and your happiness.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
A happiness quote that has stuck with me is “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” I find this helpful because it pushes us to not dwell on the past but benefit from it and enjoy the present , while looking forward to tomorrow. It’s a message that helps me put life in perspective.
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).
When I’m in a bad mood, I usually cook myself a steak. The process of cooking takes my mind off of the situation too. I rarely eat red meat but really enjoy it so I save it for times when I’m not as happy.
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?
My life is a roller-coaster so my levels of happiness are constantly in flux. I do activities like cooking, running and going out with my friends in order to stabilize my happiness but it’s still hard. As you know from publishing books, the process is daunting and there are so many variables. Even after the book is out, it’s unpredictable what the response will be so that stress falls on the author.
What do you do if you’re stuck at work?
A lot of workers aren’t happy with their current job situation and don’t know what to do. In a new study I did in partnership with American Express for my book, we found that 44 percent of both managers and employees agree that it’s most reasonable to leave their company if another opportunity comes along. You should always be open to new opportunities and if you’re stuck, look to see if there are internal opportunities first, then external ones afterward. You might be in the wrong job and it’s easier to get a different job within your company than to move to a different company altogether.