One of my areas of concentration for the happiness project is friendship, and my sub-resolutions include “Bring people together” and “Help people think big.”
“Bring people together” came from my realization that the one of the most thoughtful gestures is to help friends connect with other people – setting up single friends, recommending people for jobs, etc.
“Help people think big” came from my realization that words of enthusiasm and confidence from a friend can genuinely inspire someone to tackle an exciting goal. My agent was the one who said to me, “I really think you should consider doing a blog.” “Really?” I said dubiously. “Do you think I could?”
I try to live up to these resolutions, and Tuesday night marked the culmination of one of my most dramatic happiness-project adventure stories.
In December 2004, the Big Girl’s nursery school arranged a “reunion” for all the children who had graduated into kindergarten, so they could come back to see their old friends and teachers. While the children were occupied, the nursery school directors, Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum, led a parent discussion about the kindergarten transition. These kinds of meetings were familiar, because we had had them periodically during the nursery school years.
As always, Ellen and Nancy’s insights and advice were incredibly helpful. As I stood up to leave, I thought, “These two should write a book.” I was immediately convinced that this was the greatest idea ever.
Now, I didn’t know Nancy or Ellen particularly well, but I went over to Ellen and said, “You two should write a book.”
“You know, we’ve thought about that,” she said, “but never very seriously.”
“Well, I really think you should,” I repeated. Ellen called Nancy over, and we talked about it for a few minutes. Then we said good-bye.
I suspected that nothing more would happen unless I nudged them along, so I suggested that we meet for coffee to talk about the publishing process. As we talked, they became increasingly enthusiastic and full of ideas. I put them in touch with my agent. In a flash, they had a book contract and were on their way.
And now they’re done. They’ve written a fantastic, helpful book for parents of nursery-school age children. Two days ago, Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years, went on sale (perfectly timed for me personally, because the Little Girl starts nursery school in the fall). That very morning, Nancy and Ellen were on the Today Show. At their book party that night, they said that if it hadn’t been for me, they wouldn’t have written the book.
The fact is, I played a teeny, tiny role in their huge achievement. But it just may be true that I played a critical role. They needed someone to say “You should do this” and to help them begin to navigate in unfamiliar territory.
They’re thrilled with their accomplishment. But I feel fabulous, too. It makes me so happy to think that I helped them. Do good, feel good. It really works.
I'm fascinated by the issue of obesity, and I was flabbergasted to read Gina Kolata's New York Times story this morning, Study Show That Obesity Can Be Contagious, about the new study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows that obesity "spreads" among friends.
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