Lately my mom has been telling me that I sound like my grandma. I guess I skipped a generation in the whole “turning into your parents” thing, but can I help it that my grandma is the smartest lady I’ve ever known? There are tons of books about how to be happy, how to get along with people, how to go on an epic journey to figure yourself out, and how to let go of your baggage. Even some from very wise people. These long-winded lessons are all valuable, but I think my grandma’s book would be about two sentences long: “If you feel bad, get up, get dressed, and do something for someone else. Smile.”
I heard this all the time when I was growing up, especially during the most unenthusiastic moments of my teenage years. My grandma was the youngest of eleven kids and had eight herself, so I doubt she’s ever had the time to feel bad or do much of anything just for herself. Growing up a little more modern, I had and took my share of opportunities to be selfish. I never consciously took her advice to heart, but it’s hard-wired into my brain anyways. It’s no accident that I became passionate about social justice, worked at a crisis hotline, volunteer all over the place, and always let people over into my lane.
That’s the cool thing about this lesson: it applies anywhere you take it. It probably won’t solve all your problems (that’s what all these other lessons are for), but it can change your perspective. So much so that one day your mom is saying that you sound like your grandma, and that’s a compliment.
I also don’t think it’s an accident that more and more companies are living by mottos like “Don’t be evil” and “Do good.” The philosophy of being happy and successful, for individuals and businesses, pretty much boils down to that. Get up and do something for someone else. Smile.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user: katerha.