Written on 27th June, 2012
For the last 3 months I’ve regularly been meeting startup founders here in Hong Kong to try and help them with the biggest challenges they have. It’s been truly enjoyable and fascinating. I feel I’ve had a positive impact on many, and at the same time I’ve learned a huge amount and made some great friends I’ll definitely stay in touch with.
I’ve been meeting 3-4 founders most weeks and almost all of the meetings I had were 45 minute slots during lunch time. This worked very well as I needed a break and to get lunch anyway.
After doing it for a little while, I started to notice that in the afternoon after I’d met a startup founder I was always extremely happy.
A lesson from the happiest man in the world
I’m currently reading Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard, who has been called the happiest man in the world.
Ricard discusses the “joys of altruism”, relating altruism to happiness. He mentions a series of studies which found a very strong correlation between altruism and happiness:
"The satisfactions triggered by a pleasant activity, such as going out with friends, seeing a movie, or enjoying a banana split, were largely eclipsed by those derived from performing an act of kindness."
He concludes the section with the following concise explanation:
"Generating and expressing kindness quickly dispels suffering and replaces it with lasting fulfillment."
When I read this, it hit me. This was exactly the reason why I was happy. Helping someone for 45 minutes during lunch is a far better way to be happy than watching a funny video or procrastinating on Facebook for 45 minutes.
Hiten Shah: bringing happiness to the startup world
"You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want." - Zig Ziglar
Every email Hiten sends has the above quote in his signature. He is the person who I’ve seen best embrace the methods Ricard talks about.
The amazing thing about Hiten is that he truly helps anyone. When I first had contact with Hiten two years ago, I was nobody. However, he took an hour of his day to jump on a call with a stranger in the UK.
I’ve found Hiten is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He seems to have really ingrained this idea of constantly helping others, and I imagine it may be at least partially triggering his happiness.
Taking this approach to the level that Hiten does is something which I have always aspired to since we first spoke. This is also main reason I started meeting founders here in Hong Kong.
Building a startup around this philosophy
"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success." - Albert Schweitzer
At Buffer, as a whole team we try to internalise this philosophy. Every day we have a Skype call at 6pm where we help each other to work on personal improvements which will make us happy. We know that if we can simply be happy, we will produce great work and be productive.
On the other side of the equation, we also try to apply this to our approach with user happiness, largely inspired by Zappos. In general, we try to make this all we do. We sit down, we type, and we try to bring happiness to others. We do this hours on end with email support, and we do this by writing thousands of lines of code to create an amazing experience.
What are you doing to make others happy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Photo credit: Jill G