Be a mentor part 2: Matt’s perspective

Matt and his wifeSpecial guest blog

(Read part 1)

It took me awhile to figure it out, but, I am a writer. The longer I worked the more I realized my passion in life was with writing and communication. Since my current job involved no writing at all I was looking for a change. I didn’t want to leave my company or all of the insurance knowledge I had gained over the years, so I looked for an inside move. My sights were set on our company’s Communications area. Without any related experience or a related degree I knew it would be tough. I needed some help. That’s when I reached out to the one person I knew in the Communications area, a person I had been looking up to for inspiration for years, and asked her if she would consider mentoring me?

I had no idea what to expect when I asked Laurie if she would be my mentor. I was hoping she would accept, meet with me a few of times, give me a couple of writing assignments, and layout a rough map of what I needed to be doing to get where I wanted to be. Well, almost two years later our monthly meetings have continued and the scope of our discussions have expanded to more than the narrow field of communications.

Is this mentor – mentee relationship what I expected?


It was much, much more.

Professionally, my mentor has given me more than I expected.

  • She has shared her vast network of contacts with me.
  • Guided me on where the company is moving and where opportunities for experience and jobs will be.
  • Brought me up to speed on what industry leaders to follow and what books to read.
  • Stressed exactly the things I needed to do in our company to succeed (and have a chance at moving into the career I dream of).

Helpful? Very!

But, it was the non-professional things that had a bigger impact on me.

  • I am more motivated now then I have ever been in my work. Not only do I have that dream of moving into a communications job, but with my mentor’s support it feels like it is a realistic goal.
  • Having someone you trust, to share personal work related problems (such as conflicts with coworkers or management) is invaluable. Especially if that person, like my mentor, has been on the other side of the fence in management roles.
  • It has made me more empathetic. My mentor has changed the way I view those above me. She has allowed me to see the more human side to those in supervisory/managerial/directorial roles.

I did not expect this mentor mentee thing to cause such a monumental change in the way I feel about work, but, it definitely has. I am a much better employee in every way because of it.

This week’s #HappyAct is the a repeat of last week’s: find someone to help you grow. And thanks, Matt, it’s been a slice!

Contributing author: Mathew is a very productive and sarcastic cubicle citizen who reads way too many Dilbert comics. He blogs about his life outside of work at

Be a mentor

Me and my mentee MattFor the last two years, I’ve been in a mentoring relationship at work. I say mentoring relationship, because even though I think my role is technically the mentor, I’m pretty sure half the time I’m the mentee.

I knew a little bit about mentoring from some research I had done and from people I’ve known that have benefitted from having a mentor. But I had never taken the step to approach someone to help guide me in my career.

It’s been such a rewarding experience and I can safely say I’ve learned as much from Matt as Matt has hopefully learned from me. I’ve also learned a lot about myself and what I have to offer to others.

Here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered–some expected, and some quite unexpected–of mentoring.

  • In a mentoring relationship, you are constantly learning and sharing. Matt and I both blog and are involved in our kids’ school parent councils—we share ideas regularly on how to promote our blogs and council events through social media.
  • When Matt first approached me about being a mentor, my first thought was what could I possibly offer? I’ve learned that I have a lot to offer from years of experience dealing with people and issues at work.
  • Having someone you trust and can confide in is precious. Recently, I shared something with Matt that I have not shared with my team or my boss. It was something quite personal, and it felt good to be able to open up to someone who wouldn’t judge me and help me gain perspective and support me.
  • A mentor is a great sounding board. Often in our careers, we know the right course of action, but you just need a bit of advice or affirmation you’re doing the right thing.
  • A mentor can help you achieve your goals. By sharing your goals and making them “talk goals” you are far more likely to achieve them.
  • Having a mentor can also broaden your perspective and give you insights on other areas of the organization.

Tips to get the most of your mentoring relationship.

  • Meet regularly—we aim for 30 minutes each month
  • Try to set one goal or topic for each meeting
  • Trust is key—find someone who you can trust and who will respect your confidence

This week’s #HappyAct is to find someone who you can help you grow. Want to hear the flip slide? Read Matt’s perspective on mentoring next week.

Develop your emotional intelligence

EQI’ve been reading a lot about emotional intelligence lately. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions. Studies show that people with high emotional intelligence have better mental health overall, higher job performance and satisfaction, and are strong leaders.

While I haven’t read enough about emotional intelligence to know for sure, it seems safe to reason that people who are emotionally intelligent are also happier. If you can recognize, understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of those around you, you are far more likely to be able to connect with people and be happy with who you are.

The article, 13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People, lists thirteen habits of people who are emotionally intelligent that make them likeable. You can read the full article—it’s quite interesting, but for the purpose of what makes you happy, I will focus on these seven:

  • Be curious and ask questions—it shows you care, but it also pays off in dividends in terms of learning new things, understanding, and acceptance
  • Be genuine: it will make you feel confident and instill trust in others
  • Be open-minded and don’t pass judgment
  • Be consistent—people want to know what to expect from you
  • Balance passion with fun—be serious when serious is called for, but don’t be afraid to have fun
  • Use positive body language and words. Remember “how you say something can be more important than what you say” or in the words of mother Maya, people won’t remember what you say or do, but they will remember how you make them feel
  • Smile and greet people by name

Here’s the good news: we all have the capability to build our emotional intelligence. This week’s #HappyAct is to raise your emotional IQ. How well did you listen to others? Did you smile and greet people by name? Were you consistent and open-minded? Have a great week everyone.

Does being a leader make you happy?

Nelson Mandela quoteThis is the question I’ve been pondering this past week after spending six days with leaders from across the country at the Queen’s Leadership Course.

It was an amazing but exhausting week, where we learned about team building, transformational leadership and how to be a good coach.

Transformational leadership is elevating others by inspiring people to see the importance of what they do so they want to do it better. It often results in change through a shared vision. Think of leaders like Nelson Mandela, the great basketball coach Phil Jackson and Mikhail Gorbachev.

With this definition in mind, you would think the obvious answer would be yes. That helping people develop and elevating them to new heights would result in immense personal satisfaction and happiness.

But Mandela and Gorbachev also had to endure incredible hardships, stress and conflict in their lives.

It made me think of two of my most recent leadership experiences, both non-work related. I would probably rate my performance in both these cases as a 4. Sure, I shared my vision, I worked hard, I led a team to the best of my ability, but in the end, after my leadership stint was over, there was very little change. When I ask myself the tough question, did I elevate others, the answer is no. I failed as a leader.

I also didn’t enjoy the one experience at all. Instead of being energized, I felt drained most of the time, frustrated and unhappy.

So, back to my original question. Does being a leader make you happy? I’m not sure I can answer that question, but I do know that some of the things they reinforced this past week does make me happy and more important, makes the world a happier place. Things like caring for others, taking the time to say hello and ask people how they are doing, what’s important in their lives. It’s the little things that are the hallmark of a great leader and the good news is, we all have the ability to be great leaders.

This week’s #HappyAct is to think of one small act you can do this week to help elevate others. Tell me what you think. Does being a leader make you happy? Leave a comment. Here are some inspirational quotes from the week to inspire you.

“Leadership is not about taking control; it’s about helping others make better decisions.”

“People respond remarkably to what you say and how you treat them.”

“You don’t need to be inspiring all the time. Be inspiring at the right time.”

“Great leaders elevate their followers; terrible leaders demean their followers and make them feel smaller.”


Don’t quit your day job

questions to ask if you should quit your job
Source: Hammslice, 2015

Have you ever been to one of those motivational talks where the speaker tells you that you need to find your passion and follow your heart, even if it means quitting your day job?

Personally I find these talks a bit irresponsible. For most of us, the reality is we can’t quit our day jobs. Last time I looked most of us have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and clothe, and in our case two big dogs that eat us out of house and home. If you quit your day job, you will probably feel an initial euphoria and freedom, but then reality will sink in and you may be anxious, uncertain, and unhappy, especially if things don’t go as planned.

The other issue I have with these motivational talks is they imply that happiness and a sense of worth are only tied to work, and if you’re not doing work your passionate about, you can’t be happy. I’d challenge that.

The reality is our relationship with work is not that black and white—it’s a big ol’ corporate world of fifty shades of grey out there. We can like our work, the people we work with, and the work we do, but we may not be passionate about it. And yet, we can still be happy.

One caveat this week: If you are really unhappy at work, to the point where it’s affecting your health or other important aspects of your life, finding a new job may be the way to go. But for the rest of us, finding happiness in what we do and what we can control is a more realistic option.

This week’s #HappyAct is to make one conscious change at your work, or in your regular routine that will help you be happier in what you are doing now. Sign up for training, offer to take a lead on project, or start a new project at home. I’d love to hear your thoughts on work and happiness–leave a comment.

Whistle while you work

Panda in tree saying he hates mondaysSpecial guest blog

I was joking around with a co-worker recently, pointing out that she has spent about 65,000 hours at work. Granted, she has been working for 35 years, but, when you actually see a number like that you realize–that is a lot of time.

Even the significantly smaller number of 8 hours (your average work day) takes up a third of your day and about half of your awake time.

So, what if you are unhappy at work? According to my numbers, about half your life will be wasted.

There have been times in my career when I was unhappy at work and counting down the 47,000 or so hours I had left until retirement. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the job, or the people, or the idea of contributing to society. It was that work got in the way of ‘real’ life. It got in the way of family and friends. It was time consuming.

So I made a change. I dismantled the wall between work and ‘real’ life. I realized I was wasting so much time and negative energy on something that, maybe, wasn’t so bad. I had to be there, so why not embrace it?

I did. The change was more than I expected. According to the numbers I expected to be 50% happier, but, in reality I became 200% happier. I’m not sure exactly why my happiness multiplied exponentially, but, now I wish I’d figured this out ten years ago.

What exactly did I do? The main thing was to change my perspective. I will admit, this is easier said than done. I guess for me I just accepted that work was part of ‘real’ life and I should treat it that way. I started taking things a bit more seriously. Not only doing what needed to be done, but, living up to the same high standard I set for myself at home.

I also broke down the mental barrier I had built up with the people around me. I used to be of the mindset that you leave work at work, and that included the people. But, when I started opening up and getting to know my coworkers outside of work (Facebook is a wonderful place to do that), that is when things got fun. Now I’m not spending a third of my day, and the majority of my adult interactions, with people I barely know, but, I’m getting to spend the day with friends.

My #HappyAct challenge is for you to reevaluate work. Find a way to get connected with your job and the people around you. Good luck.

Contributing author: Mathew is a very productive and sarcastic cubicle citizen who reads way too many Dilbert comics. He blogs about his life outside of work at

Ed. Note: Great post Matt and so true! Consider these stats from

  • Seventy percent of employees believe having friends at work is the most crucial element of a happy work life.
  • One-third of adults have met at least one of their closest friends through work.
  • Seventy-four percent of women and 58 percent of men say they would turn down a higher-paying job if it meant they wouldn’t get along with their co-workers.


Christmas sweaters, me stuff and Father Time

Clock with time for me
Important stuff

Hi there. I should probably introduce myself, I’m Craig from Todays Chapter. Don’t worry, Laurie will be back next Sunday, but she has kindly offered to hand over the reins for a guest post. I’m a huge fan of Happy Act and Laurie’s thoughtful weekly advice to achieve happiness, so I’m fully aware just how big these shoes are to fill. Here goes nothing…

There is phrase often used when talking about personal finances, “Pay yourself first”. The basic concept is before you try to pay down debts or buy new things, you should carve out a little something for the ‘you’ of the future. It’s generally agreed that for this to be effective it should be done automatically, not something you consciously have to decide to do each payday. Money is finite but the list of things to buy with it is seemingly endless, so you should carve out a chunk to put aside before you blow it on that hand-knitted Christmas sweater that suddenly seems like an essential purchase.

Xmas sweater
Not important stuff

While I am terrible at paying myself first financially, I am a strong believer in applying this concept to my time. Just like money, time is a finite resource that needs to be carefully managed to achieve your goals. Unlike money you can’t earn more of it. This means we all try to cram more and more into a day.

As a new parent I particularly felt this strain. Overnight my time became someone else’s. In my initial panic to keep our darling daughter alive and happy, I stopped going to the gym; there simply wasn’t time. Then I stopped reading, then writing, then sleeping and showering. I did all of this for good reason, but the net result was a happy baby and a tired, stinky and grumpy Daddy. I’d forgotten to pay myself first. When I finally figured this out it seemed so obvious, but at the time it didn’t seem that way at all.

The solution was simple. I carve out 30 minutes a day just for me. Each day I figure out what to ‘spend’ it on, sometimes it’s a nap, others a blog post. I even manage to occasionally sneak in some video games. The other 23.5 hours a day are to spend on ‘stuff’, but that 0.5 is all mine. The difference that simple change makes is staggering, I feel like a new person. I have transformed into a tired, stinky but happy Daddy!

My advice to achieve happiness is simple, pay yourself first. Carve out a tiny slice of your day and make it all yours, then fill it with whatever makes you happy. Make this a habit, not something you do every now and again, because if you don’t you will always find other ‘stuff’ to spend that time on.

Ok, that’s it, I’m handing the controls back to our resident happiness guru. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a new Christmas sweater…

The most important blog post you’ll ever read: the secret to happiness

Sign secret to happinessWhen I first started this blog, I said there was no secret to happiness. Rather, happiness was a state of being and to be happy, you had to do happy acts and seek joy in every day moments.

Well, after a year of #HappyActs, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I lied.

I believe there is a secret to happiness, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon this pearl of wisdom a few years ago while reading a bathroom book in a bookstore in Chatham, Massachussetts.

The premise of the book was simple: in order to be happy, you need to have low expectations. I remember laughing when I first read that because it goes against everything we are taught, which is to be ambitious, set goals, and have high expectations. But the stark truth and simplicity of this philosophy slowly started to sink in and I have tried to live by this adage ever since.

Have you ever wondered why on sites like TripAdvisor, you read a review of someone who stayed at the same hotel or bed and breakfast as you did, and you thought the place was just fine, but they panned it? It all comes down to expectations.

If you have low expectations, you will always be happy with your lot in life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals and work towards them. On the contrary, anyone will tell you having goals and dreams is critical to having a purpose and feeling fulfilled in life.

Let’s take the example of an Olympic athlete to illustrate this point. Olympic athletes set lofty goals: to be the best in their sport, medal and to be standing on that podium. They work extremely hard to get there, making huge sacrifices to see this dream come true. But when you hear them interviewed, their expectations can be very different—they may expect to finish in the top 10, or beat their best time. And when they don’t get the gold, they are happy with their achievement.

This week’s #HappyAct is to dream big, work hard towards your dreams, but make a conscious effort to have low expectations for yourself. Note I said yourself, not others. Continue to have high expectations of others and they will rise to the occasion. What do you think is the key to happiness (other than doing one happy act a week!)? Leave a comment.

Interested in hearing more? Watch this TedTalk with Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice”.

Make fear your friend

Halloween costumes of QR codes
We go big for Halloween at our work–the year we dressed up as QR codes

It’s Halloween, time of ghosts and goblins, spooks and spirits. A time when our imaginations run wild and fear permeates the soul.

Halloween is such a fun holiday. From picking the perfect pumpkin, to dressing up in costumes and trick or treating and all that delicious candy, what’s not to love?

If Halloween is so much fun, why do we make fear our friend for only one week of the year?

I read a blog post the other day by TV anchor Betty Liu about fear. In the post, she talked about Felix Baumgartner,  that crazy guy sponsored by RedBull who broke the sound barrier doing a freefall jump from 39,000 feet from an airplane. Felix was torn between two types of fears: the fear of the actual act of jumping out of the airplane, and the fear of not seeing his dream through and not making the jump. At one point, he was apparently so scared about the mission he literally fled the project for several months.

Liu experienced something similar when she had to make a big career decision. In the end, she asked herself a very important question. If I was in the same spot as I was now, would I be happy?

This week’s #HappyAct is to make fear your friend. The next time you are at a crossroads or have a big decision to make, think of the consequences of not taking action. Will staying where you are make you happy?

Have fun trick or treating this week. This week’s tip: Make fear your friend at Fort Fright, on every night this week in Kingston—guaranteed a frightfully good time!

Girl in Halloween costume and helmet
Clare “crossdressing” this year in her costume and hockey helmet