Five Ways to Spend Five More Minutes Being Happy

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on April 29, 2013

Inspiring Moment: Children at Play/Twister photo

I’ve been reading lots of articles lately on something that should come naturally to all of us, but often doesn’t in our busy work-a-day worlds: how to be happy.

Often children are described as “happy-go-lucky.” Adults, not so much.

Here are five tips to help you find happiness in everyday life.

1. Know what you treasure most.

In an article in the February/March issue of AARP The Magazine, author Jean Chatzky refers to Lois Vitt, Ph.D., founding director of the Institute for Socio-Financial Studies. “The things in life we value usually fall into one of four categories,” according to Vitt.

If you’re a personal-values person, you’re happiest spending on yourself. Therefore a wardrobe boost might do the trick.

If you’re a social-values person, buying gifts for friends and family improves your spirits.

Those driven by physical values enjoy getting things that engage the senses, such as a new bike or a luxuriously renovated bathroom.

If you’re driven by financial values, you relish money in its purest sense, from saving and investing to getting good deals.

Therefore, figure out what you value most, and spend accordingly.

In an article in the same magazine entitled, “Give Yourself a Happiness Makeover, by longevity expert Dan Buettner, I picked up the following two tips.

2. Get a daily dose of friends.

According to Jim Harter, Ph.D., co-author of “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements,” the happiest people are those who purposefully plan for social times and get at least six hours a day of interaction with friends or family. And, for each unhappy friend, our happiness declines by 7 percent!

3. Ignite your passion for compassion.

Givers tend to be happier people. In a test group, those people who were given money and spent it on others were happier than those who spent the cash on themselves. Altruism stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as sugar and cocaine, according to Jorge Moll, M.D., Ph.D.

In an article in the Washington Athletic Club (WAC) Magazine, entitled “Internal Wisdom,” I picked up our two final tips. Kathleen Keneally, LAc, LMP, LMHC, offers the following sage advice.

4. Listen to your body.

Take better care of yourself by really being aware and “listening” to your body. Our sensory system sends us signals about our own health, according to Keneally. “If we listen and pay close enough attention, we are more likely to experience ongoing health and wellness.”

5. Look for levity and creativity in everyday life. 

In the same article, Dr. James Weber, a yoga therapist, discusses the link between laughter and creativity and a longer life. He says we all hear a lot about eating healthy foods and getting enough exercise. But finding humor in situations and laughing out loud every day can be an important anti-aging technique. Add to this doing something new and different every day–thinking and acting outside our normal comfort zone–and you may just add years to your life, and have fun doing it.

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Guest Columnist Brad Rex: Humble Success

Written by Brad Rex on April 22, 2013

Brad Rex photo

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of being humble in order to achieve success. Humble Success is an excerpt from his book, “The Surpassing! Life.”

Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more so than anyone living on Earth.: Bible, Numbers 12:3

Humble success sounds like an oxymoron. Usually, success results in pride, not humility. We often associate humility with lowliness and failure. The word humility is translated tapeinophrosune in Greek, meaning “to think or judge with lowliness.” Yet, long-term surpassing success only comes from humility.

Jim Collins makes the business case for humility in describing the highest level of leader, the Level 5 leader in his book, Good to Great: Level 5 leaders are ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the organization, the work—not themselves—and they have the fierce resolve to do whatever it takes to make good on that ambition. A Level 5 leader displays a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

The prideful person often falls prey to one of the following “derailers”:

1. “My hard work got me here.” I struggled with this until the day I worked at a homeless shelter. I sat down to lunch with one of the men and heard his story. As he described growing up fatherless, with a drug addicted mother, in a crime-infested neighborhood, I realized that I would have likely been homeless if I had the same experience. We don’t choose the family we are born into and, as you look back, you will probably see some key times when you got a “break” that determined your future. Hard work is important, but so is intelligence, ambition, appearance, upbringing and family—all things that are outside your control.

2. Personal competitiveness. I’m a very competitive person, which is a blessing and a curse. Competitiveness can motivate you to take risks and excel, but it can also drive you to make poor choices. Before the recession, the Wall Street Journal used to have a section highlighting job promotions. I always read it with interest, looking first for the person’s name to see if I knew them, then the new position and company, and finally their age. I would compare their age to mine to see if I was “on-track.” If the person was younger than me and at a higher level, my competitiveness would kick in, and it would be time to call the recruiters. C.S. Lewis, famous for his treatises on pride, wrote: Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more than the next man. If you are never satisfied, you will do anything to get more, and your success will be short-lived.

3. Flattery and infallibility. When I took over at Epcot, all of a sudden my jokes became much funnier. This is a form of flattery. Many who succeed believe “success breeds success,” and their decisions cannot fail. Successful people often start “smoking their own exhaust” and believe their flatterers, until a misjudgment derails them.

4. “I am irreplaceable.” Successful leaders sometimes delude themselves into believing their organizations will fail if they leave. In their mind, this delusion means they must do anything possible to remain in their role, to “save the company.” They fire potential successors, create organizational turmoil, and engage in bitter proxy fights. Often, they put the company at risk, and the only way to save it is to fire them.

5. Temptation. Successful people can believe that they are less prone to temptation or, if they succumb, their fame or money will protect them. Ancient wisdom is as pertinent today as 2,000 years ago: If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. A good example is former Governor and Attorney General for the State of New York, Elliot Spitzer. He had money, power and fame. He thought he was above temptation (or at least getting caught) and succumbed to the temptation of engaging prostitutes, derailing his success.

Humble success is possible in today’s business world. The finest leader I ever had the pleasure to work for is Judson Green. Judson is an incredible “Renaissance Man” who was Chairman of Disney’s Parks and Resorts division. He transformed the culture of the division, and led the company through five years of double-digit revenue and income growth, achieving $6 billion in revenue. He then went on to become Chief Executive Officer of NAVTEQ, a preeminent mapping software company, taking the company public and then selling it to Nokia. Beyond his substantial business success, Judson is a concert-level jazz pianist and composer.

Judson epitomizes the Level 5 leader who cares about the people who work for him, and builds strong trust and loyalty. At Disney, Judson always made himself available to help any Cast Member who came to him, despite his very demanding schedule. He taught leadership, through a fascinating Leadership Jazz seminar. He was a major cheerleader for the team, and fought hard to get the resources and rewards necessary to build a world-class culture. He was very focused on business success, but when that success occurred, he gave the credit to his team rather than highlighting himself. He did not fall prey to the pride derailers, and succeeded in life and leadership through humility and service. He has a fruitful legacy in leaders who follow his example and impact the lives of thousands.

Is this the type of leader and person you would like to become? Recognizing the pride derailers and taking steps to foster humility using many of the ideas in this book will promote a lifetime of humble success.

Action Points

• Recognize that humility is a key requirement for long-term success.

• Understand your “pride derailers” and take steps to prevent your misperceptions and temptations from destroying you.

• Ask a good friend to help you know when your pride is harmful to you and others, and remedy the situation.

• Look for and follow role models of humble success.


Continued success, exceptional performance, a lasting legacy

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Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

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Five More Minutes With His Mother

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on April 15, 2013

Hipstamatic Angel

A March 9 editorial in The Seattle Times really struck a chord with me, and will for the Five More Minutes With community. Seattle writer Doug Kim shared his experiences about his last days with his mother, Eunhee C. Kim, who passed away from cancer in February at age 82.

His writing is exquisite, the sort of heart-felt, gut-wrenchingly intense writing that often comes during these times of deep and unconsolable anguish.

He says, “It feels as if it’s been an excruciatingly long journey to this small room, where my father and I are keeping vigil by her bedside. Time seems to operate differently here; even the space between breaths can seem like an eternity.”

He shares the sentiment many (most?) of us feel who have lost a loved one. “I’m ashamed I didn’t know more about what they [those who have lost loved ones] endured; both the ones who passed, and the ones who cared for them.”

The last line of the piece is absolutely haunting. “I believe that as surely as I am sitting next to her, she is mostly somewhere else right now. She is free. And the angels are there with her, guiding her home.”

Thanks, Doug (a self-described story teller, and former Seattle Times Arts & Entertainment Editor, who “somehow missed these stories”), for opening up and sharing this most intimate portrait. We need more people like you to make talking about death more common and less taboo.

Editor’s Note: After I penned the above post, I got in touch with Doug to be sure he was okay with me printing it. He was, and even volunteered the following:

I have a post-it note of the five things the hospice nurse told me to say to a dying person:

I love you.

Thank you. 

Forgive me.

I forgive you.


She said it was from a book, I don’t know which one but I thought that was a pretty powerful list.


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Not Five More Minutes, But Eternity Together

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on April 8, 2013

Cemetery photo

The March 2013 issue of AARP Bulletin featured a really interesting story about 32 friends who “plan to stay connected after they die,” by being buried alongside one another in upstate New York graveyard.

An article on the same page entitled, Cat Klatch, htalks about cafes in Europe that offer up cats for companionship. Sounds like heaven to me as we still miss our dearly beloved Bo-Bo and just don’t have the heart to get another feline companion.

The final article on the page, Happy Feet, describes an 87-year-old woman who danced with the Rockettes thanks to the Wish of a Lifetime foundation. Inspiring stories, one and all!

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