Busted, but Happier

UnknownA friend and I went to a Meet-up last night for a start-up company called Happier. It was way more fun than we expected.  Admittedly, our expectations were low, as the last networking event we went to turned out to be a thinly veiled recruitment party for a religion.  So all Happier had to do to please us was just be something close to what they said they were and not pull any blatantly manipulative stunts. We weren’t hard to please.

The Happier folks hit it out of the park.

First of all, there was orange. Lots of it. For those of you who remember my quest for an orange purse last summer (still haven’t found quite the right one, but the dream lives on!) you can imagine my glee walking into a room where bright orange is used with crazy imagination (WHY didn’t I take a picture of the wall mural made of paint sample stripes???).

Happier founder Nataly Kogan, along with “Robot Parker” who rolled around the office greeting people.

I also appreciated how not-cheesy the Happier team was about what they’re doing. They weren’t forced-happy automatons (even the guy who was there as a robot, via a iPad strapped to a Sequeway – which was pretty cool); they weren’t circling the room pelting us with fairy dust. Instead, they talked about the development of an emotion-driven business, and how the Happier community is a place to share all sorts of thoughts with candor we don’t often find on Facebook (which has sort of become, “Look at me! And my fabulous life! Things are just great!” like the social media version of the dreaded Christmas letter).  Happier isn’t about bragging about how happy you are. It’s about reaching to be a bit happier, and noticing what gets the job done.  As Nataly, one of the founders, told me, “You don’t have to be happy to become happier.” 

I LOVE this idea. It’s so true. She showed me a post she’d done that morning where she admitted to feeling fried & blah, and how an english muffin made her a bit happier. I can relate to the incremental uptick in joy found in bread-y carbohydrates.

You have to climb 5 flights of stairs to get to the Happier office, so they’ve lined the landings with encouraging signs to make you laugh along the way (“Climbing releases endorphins, which means this is making you happier!”) I appreciate the way they combine seriousness about their vision and business, while fully embracing the humor that goes with the pursuit of happiness.

I should also admit (in case it makes one of you happier) that I got BUSTED last night on being beyond horrible at networking. I’ve known this was a problem for awhile. I go to things like this filled with questions I want to ask the people running the business, and forget that most human interaction involves 2-way communication.  Last night, my friend and I were asking Nataly all sorts of questions, which was awesome because she’s really clear and articulate about what they’re doing and why. Plus, she’s funny. So I was having a blast until she asked, “So tell me about you guys…”  Which was a lovely, polite thing to do. But I realized that feel like such a dilettante in business settings admitting that I write memoir, and help other writers, too.  It just sounds sort of ridiculous to me when I’m around people who do REAL WORK – you know with office space and venture capital funding.

I mumbled something like, “I’m a writer,” and followed it with one of those, Enough about me, let’s talk more about you! smiles. Which is usually enough to get the conversation back on a more comfortable track.  But Nataly pushed for more information (which was so nice of her – it was pretty amazing that she had the bandwidth to care) and my friend said something about my prior career as a lawyer, how I’d left it because I was so unhappy, and how I’ve published two books and seem to be much happier now.

Nataly looked me straight in the eye with the steely glare of one woman calling out another on not living up to her potential and said, “You should tell people that. Seriously.”

I know that look. I’ve been on the delivery side of statements like that dozens of times. It’s been awhile since I’ve received it. But in that strange way that true encouragement works, her words prompted me to do better, to be better. I felt emboldened to be less of a squishy, undefined entity when I go to these things.  I have a career I love. Why is it so hard to admit that?

So thank you Nataly & the Happiness team.  Last night was an evening well spent, and indeed…it made us happier :)

If you want to learn more about this fun company, download the Happier app & find me. I’m under the super-secret name, “Trish Ryan.”  And check out Nataly’s Ted talk: