Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

Service of Dogs Who Make a City Smile

Thursday, March 7th, 2024

My neighbors.

Sunday is the best day for dog-watching in Manhattan, especially on a springlike sunny one because there are pets on almost every street.

A block from my apartment a Saint Bernard was ambling sadly towards his apartment when his human turned away from the front door after punching in his building code. The pooch’s tail wagged and his gait quickened—he practically skipped with joy. I mentioned this to the young man walking him who beamed. Something tells me the pup got a bonus extra few blocks that morning.

The darling couple in the top photo live in my apartment building. Their puppy is a sweetheart and they are just as lovely. They enjoyed my appreciation of their furry bundle of cuteness.

When I admire a dog sometimes the walker doesn’t respond. I don’t stick around to see if it’s because they didn’t hear me over whatever might be blaring in their ears through earbuds, but I become discouraged about saying something to others for a while.

Do you speak to strangers about their dogs? Don’t dogs make a city a happy place?

Service of People Who Make You Happy

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

There are some people who are not your dearest friends or relatives but what they do and/or how they treat you and others make you happy.

Drilling Down

Dr. Jaslove

Dr. Jaslove

I got a message from my dentist, Alan Jaslove, DDS, this week. Normally this wouldn’t make me happy as I’ve spent far too many hours since childhood in a dentist chair or quaking at the thought of the next visit. But this call was to thank me for having written a review of his dentistry on Yelp. So what’s the big deal? He runs a busy practice, has a wonderful receptionist who has known me longer than I’ve known him [I went for years to his partner, now retired], and he could have asked Rose to make the call. But he took the time to call himself—and he didn’t have to thank in the first place. By the way: That’s the kind of care Dr. Jaslove grants his patients.

Happy Talk

Then there is Bob Marrone, the host of The Morning Show with Bob Marrone at Cumulus WFAS 1230 AM in White Plains NY. I was hoping he’d interview a client. As I didn’t hear back after I sent a few emails and left a few voice messages, I wrote him a letter. I was late to work one morning—actually I was at Dr. Jaslove’s office. [He was rescuing a tooth.] On my return there was a phone message from Bob and as I was about to return his call, the phone rang and there was Bob calling again—to apologize. He said his phone and email were down for days and was sorry I had trouble reaching him and for his not responding in a timely manner. In my line of work following up with the press is normal. Media apologizing for being unavailable is unusual. Bob is a charming, gracious man and his interviews are spot on. He is the voice of Westchester–a crack communicator both on and off the air.

Tech Savvy Plus

Brandt Ziegler, [Photo right], is the service coordinator for one of the businesses in the office in which my office also is. He is interesting, interested, fun and tech-savvy. This week he turned around an after-hours computer crisis for me in minutes—[though he’s usually here until 7 pm so technically it wasn’t after hours for him]. But he was on the list for this post long before this happened because he makes people he speaks with happy. His cheerful attitude, enthusiasm, exemplary manners with everyone at the office, quick smile and sense of humor set him apart. He’s a hip throwback—refreshing to be around. His clients, colleagues and boss are also fortunate.

Does an above and beyond approach reap benefits as much for the donor as it does the recipients? Can you add to this list?

Service of Optimism

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Americans are encouraged—even expected–to be happy and optimistic. Corporate, popular and sports cultures promote a “you can do it, anything’s possible” approach: it’s the Declaration of Independence’s “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in action.

New York Times best-selling authors such as Gretchen Rubin study happiness and travel the world sharing tips encouraging small changes to achieve it. Making your bed daily is one antidote to consider if you can’t correct big things such as a miserable job. Rubin recently addressed The American Society of Journalists & Authors as a result of which David Levine interviewed her for a blog post “Gretchen Rubin: serious about happiness: The bestselling author of The Happiness Project talks about the discipline of happiness – and what you should avoid doing.”

I thought of our culture and of Rubin in reading Walter Russell Mead’s opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal: “For the U.S., a Disappointing World: The chaos in Iraq is just the latest evidence that history doesn’t follow America’s optimistic script.”

The foreign affairs and humanities professor at Bard College pointed out the similarities between Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush in their approach to foreign affairs: “While it is true that both presidents got some important things wrong, it is what unites them rather than what divides them that is the root cause of our troubles. Both Messrs. Bush and Obama, like many of their fellow citizens, radically underestimate the dangers and difficulties in the path of historical progress.

“Americans tend to believe that history is easy and that things usually work out for the best. When the French Revolution began, many Americans followed Thomas Jefferson’s lead in thinking that the overthrow of Louis XVI would lead rapidly to democracy in Europe. Before World War I, most Americans believed that another great European war was unthinkable; when that war ended, President Woodrow Wilson was sure that a global democratic peace was on the way.”

He pointed out that the American standard of living has always been higher than others– starting after the Revolution—and that it affects our rosy attitude. He wrote: “This happy history shapes our thinking about the world more than most of us know. Whether conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, Americans tend to think that history doesn’t matter much, that win-win solutions are easily found and that world history is moving inexorably toward a better and more peaceful place.”

Additional excerpts from his thoughtful piece: “The holiday from history came to an end on 9/11, but the Bush administration’s subsequent approach to Iraq and the Middle East dramatically underestimated the difficulty of building stable democracies in a troubled region.”

Mead also observed: “Today we see a very different world. We are being forced to remember something we’d rather forget: that history is hard, that the choices it forces on us are sometimes harsh and that not everything ends in win-win.”

Isolation isn’t the answer, he concluded. “What we need instead is realistic goals and historical modesty—perhaps, at last, a foreign policy that is more about preventing catastrophes than constructing utopias.”

Do you think that too much optimism can be problematic and that our eternal search for happiness and peace for all is unrealistic? Does this approach steer our leaders into making inappropriate decisions?

Service of Happiness–for Some

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Happiness seemed like a good topic for the first post of 2014 although the picture isn’t rosy for everyone.

In Arthur C. Brooks’ “Formula for Happiness” in The New York Times‘ “Sunday Review” section he wrote that social scientists have attributed happiness to “genes, events and values.” We inherit 48 percent; events such as a great job or acceptance to an Ivy League college account for up to 40 percent—though the glow doesn’t last long, “which leaves just about 12 percent.

“That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.”

He identified the 42 year old General Social Survey of Americans by the University of Chicago as the “gold standard for understanding social phenomena” and noted that when it comes to happiness, responses have been consistent all this time: A third of us are “very happy;” half are “pretty happy” and 10-15 percent “not too happy.”

For the 12 percent some of us can control, Brooks focused largely on the importance of work. According to the Chicago survey almost 75 percent of respondents wouldn’t quit their jobs even if a financial windfall meant they could live in luxury for the duration. Those with humdrum jobs were least likely to quit while the privileged were more likely to run with the windfall and luxuriate.

His next point didn’t quite mesh with the previous one. “Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others.” He continued, “The secret to happiness through work is earned success.”

This may apply to car mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, builders, contractors and chefs, writers, marketers, bankers, doctors, dentists as examples but what about a person with a monotonous or physically uncomfortable, poorly paid job such as dishwasher in a hot kitchen at a hash house, short order cook in a takeout joint or data entry person. Where would they find their passion in work?

Brooks addresses this—they won’t without opportunity which he observed is in peril. “Evidence is mounting that people at the bottom are increasingly stuck without skills or pathways to rise” and he cited research that showed opportunity was moving in the opposite direction here while mobility is “more than twice as high in Canada and most of Scandinavia.”

His turnaround solution is free enterprise. He suggests “leveling the playing field so competition trumps cronyism” and notes, regarding big business that seems to win a pass, that “it certainly doesn’t imply that unfettered greed is laudable or even acceptable.”

In “The Merchant of Just Be Happy” Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote about a life coach well-known since Oprah discovered her. The New York Times article made some points which the coach, Martha Beck, admits are so obvious she’s baffled as to why people pay her $hundreds to $thousands to hear. “If something is really good for you, you might want to do it. And if it feels really horrible, you might want to consider not doing it.”

The following was a curious point that may be true for some, but not all men and women: “‘When I tell a woman you really need to quit your soul-sucking job, she goes home, and she can tell her husband, ‘I need to quit,’ and he’s like, ‘O.K., let’s do it.’ she said. ‘If I tell a man he needs to quit his soul-sucking job, he has to go home and fight with his wife or fight with his parents and fight with his in-laws and fight with everybody, because men aren’t supposed to be happy; they’re supposed to do well.’”

Beck also said, “You will have all the happiness and money you need if you can just find what you’re supposed to be doing and do it.” Brodesser-Akner noted that Beck’s clients weren’t “trapped in poverty or impossible circumstance.”

Do you accept the findings of the University of Chicago, Arthur Brooks and coach Beck? What about those who are trapped—is Brooks’ answer, free enterprise, their passport to mobility? And do you think women are free to take off from what they are doing to work at something they enjoy and that men are stuck trying to “do well?”

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