How to become a leader

Here’s the secret to happiness

Oprah is one of America’s most influential, powerful, and richest women. She’s had a profound effect on American culture and society. Every book and product she recommends turns to gold. In fact, she’s become so famous that she doesn’t even need a surname. What makes Oprah so successful? In her own words:

“The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get.”

This is profound. Often, we focus on what we don’t have: “Boy, I’d be happy if only:  I get that promotion… I get a gorgeous wife… I get a 7-series BMW, etc.”

I spent my 20s and most of my 30s in that mode.  I was the most hard-working, ambitious, impatient young professional ever. I was on the fast track. One graduate degree was not enough; I wanted two. Both at the same time. And while I was still working. When I was appointed Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles at age 31, that was not enough to make me happy. My challenge for myself always was, “What’s Next?”

And here it is: The next challenge is to practice the Discipline of Gratitude. Every day.

You can practice the Discipline of Gratitude in different ways. Oprah keeps a Gratitude Journal, in which each evening, she writes and reflects on five things that she’s grateful for that day.

Because in fact, gratitude is a discipline, in the sense that training for an athletic event is a discipline. It is a single-minded focus. It’s the result of hundreds of decisions each day to choose thankfulness over complaining and bitterness.

Like any discipline, this takes practice and can be difficult at times. What if you have a bully boss, for instance? I will have more to say on this blog about bully bosses and how to manage them, but for now, I’ll simply say that while you don’t have control over other people, you alone are responsible for your own joy. Do not give it away. It may be true that your boss is an arrogant, morally reprehensible idiot, but that would be even more reason why you must not give that kind of person control over your own life and happiness.

The magical result of the Discipline of Gratitude is: a rich source of joy within, and greater success than ever in your life. The amazing thing about continuously cultivating the joy that comes from gratitude is that success starts to multiply in your life. Your joyful attitude causes more good things to happen to you. And it acts as a magnet, causing other people to want to be with you, and to help you.

Now as an executive head-hunter, I spend my time interviewing and evaluating extremely successful global CEOs and other executives, and in my estimation, cultivating the joy that comes from gratitude is the single most important launchpad to your enduring success.

Comments in English and Chinese are welcome, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.

UPDATE: I encourage you to click over to the Comments on this blog post, where blog reader David Lam provides some beautiful and practical tips on how to find things to be grateful for each day. Thank you, David!