“What is at stake is not economics but culture; not the standard of living but the quality of life” (EF Schumacher – Small is Beautiful)
A new philosophy
Late last year, I revealed, to my underwhelmed friends, my quizzical family and startled dog, a new philosophy. This new philosophy is called #Happipreneurship. It is the result of seven years of secondary research into living a happy life and over twenty years of primary and secondary research into what makes people start up, survive and thrive in their own enterprise.
Cynics justifiably say I only came up with a new philosophy because I wanted to label myself a ‘Happipreneur’. Certainly, my riches to rags story demonstrates I’m not entitled to be called an entrepreneur. Furthermore, as the photo in my office shows, I have spent a life of non-stop hedonism and focused as much on enjoying time with family and friends as I have on my businesses. I won’t be asked to join the #ScaleUp Institute.
In the middle of the photo, there is a small sample of my massive hat collection. This stack of hats each holds a memory of a particular international game of cricket I attended. In the corner are boxes containing many thousands of cuttings, scorecards and programmes of cricket, football, tennis, table tennis, athletics, plays, ballet, shows, festivals and gigs I have played in or watched. It’s wall to wall fun.
Now and again I have been useful to others. ‘Be Useful’ is a central part of the Happipreneurship philosophy and the title of an excellent book by Jos Burton. In the photo, you can see I’m proud of the #MicroBizMatters memorabilia and the half and full marathon medals running for charity. I’m prouder still that this week during lockdown my wife and three ‘kids’, had a wonderful 40th birthday party for my eldest son and I won the two games of Dangermouse.
Wealth creation, productivity and the businesses I’ve started and run, with my partners, have never reached number one in my priorities. Running my own business has just been the ‘making ends meet’ part of a very happy life. ‘Do what you love’ is important. As my favourite psychologist, Albert Ellis, said “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.
Of course, nothing is really new. The concept of ‘happipreneurship’ has been around since antiquity. Diogenes the Dog, my favourite philosopher, would have approved of it. It’s free, easy to learn and is guaranteed to provide day by day happiness.
Economics as if people mattered
#Happipreneurship builds on Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ – economics as if people mattered’. ‘Small is Beautiful was published in 1973 but although always ranked as one of the most influential books it hasn’t changed economic policy in the UK or USA. ‘Small is Beautiful’ economics occurs naturally as an ecosystem in many countries but I’m hoping that many more countries will adopt it after this pandemic.
As, after China, all coronavirus infections were imported, it means each country’s citizens can compare how well their lives have been protected by their Government. Freedman economics pursued by the largest companies and supported by Government policy and largesse ‘to maximise shareholder value’ looks inhumane during a pandemic.
We can but hope that the largest companies, wealthiest individuals and the financial sector dominating Government Policy may not be so prevalent after this pandemic. After all, there will be other pandemics, natural disasters, climate emergencies, financial meltdowns, terrorist attacks and wars when the Government’s concern for public welfare is required again.
Self reliance #rocks (don’t rely on politicians)
The leading politicians in the UK and USA Government spinning the reasons for their delay in closing borders, screening at airports, confinement, testing and tracking is not a good look in a pandemic. If you want to see how the language of the pandemic differs between UK and US leadership and many other countries’ leadership watch Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand or this from Kang Kyung-Wha, Foreign Minister of South Korea. She delivers a spin-free, master class in communication. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-51897979/coronavirus-south-korea-seeing-a-stabilising-trend
It is easier to minimise importation of a virus in an island country as the relatively small number of deaths in Australia and Ireland have shown. It was also no surprise to me that two other country islands that acted decisively to follow the South Korea policies of containment are two of the happiest and most enterprise-friendly countries in the world (the USA is 26th and the UK 28th in best places to live and work). These two island countries are New Zealand (1 death at 08/04/2020) and Malta (1 death at 08/04/20).
I was in Malta, at the start of the pandemic reaching Europe, and, despite tourism being their biggest sector, I marvelled at how quickly they achieved total shut down and the community helped keep each other safe. They did it with total consent of the, immediately compensated, small and micro business owners. Still, the UK airports are not screening and temperature testing arrivals and many thousands are at work still spreading the infection.
Happiness and ‘economics as if people mattered’, and as if ‘small scale enterprise’, matters seems more important now. Controlling your own destiny through your own enterprise will become an even more attractive way of living.
Working for the man
There will be many people who return to work after the pandemic with a markedly different outlook on life. Family and friends are foremost in our thinking. ‘Life is short’ resonates now more than ever before. Freedom is more precious than ever.
It was no surprise to me that when Taryn Lee Johnston, the generous founder of Chronos Publications made all her stable of authors’ books free that the ‘The Rockstar Retirement Programme’ by Dominic Watson topped the Kindle bestsellers. Working for the corporate or institutional man has never seemed less attractive. There is another way and it is called #happipreneurship.
Many employees in England, particularly NHS staff and care workers, have felt ‘gamed’ during the pandemic. Putting economics, wealth and power before safety, welfare and lives may not be tolerated in the future. Even if it is tolerated, there will be millions, as Schumacher predicted, that will have realised their future welfare is not safe in their large scale employer’s hands and will look for increased control of how they earn a living.
#Happipreneurship is not easy to achieve as it requires cutting out most of the luxuries, status trappings and wealth creation schemes. But you will get more quality time with friends and family. You’ll be useful to others and be doing what you love.
Some of my closest schoolfriends are better role models as happipreneurs than I am. They have been self employed nearly all their lives and are still doing what they love as actors, musicians, technicians and designers.
During this pandemic, a smiling 83-year old David Hockney, who paints every day, was photographed with his dog, Ruby, at his easel in the garden of his new home in Normandy. I think he explains his lifetime of ‘Small is Beautiful’ and happipreneurship far better than I could do. He said:
“I intend to carry on with my work, which I now see as very important,”
“We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it. This will in time be over and then what? What have we learned? I am 83 years old, I will die. The cause of death is birth.
“The only real things in life are food and love in that order, just like our little dog Ruby. I really believe this and the source of art is love.
“I love li”
Happipreneurship is enjoying work
We often joke that business owners are the healthiest working adults because we never take a day off sick. We can’t afford to!
We do take fewer days off for sickness, we take fewer holidays and we earn 20% less than our employed equivalents. We integrate our business life into our life with family and friends. We can be the same person at work and at home. For seven out of ten micro-business owners home is their main workplace. We’re much happier than our employed equivalents too.
Enjoying what you do makes you feel good. 40% of all illnesses are due to work-related stress. Running our own businesses is hard work, long hours and downright scary at times but all the research shows it makes us feel good about what we do to earn a living.
Happipreneurship is being good at what you do
Everyone wants to achieve something in their life. Wanting to achieve something is normal, not selfish. Some want to achieve little for themselves and more for their friends, family and people who are less fortunate than them. Enterprise is a great way to achieve what matters to you in life.
Most business owner-led organisations which survive over five years last for a generation. Some last for many generations. John Jaques and Son of London, inventors and makers of such games and sports aa snakes and ladders and ping pong, was founded in 1795. and Jaques family members comprise all the Directors of the business today. Just think of all the changes through national disasters, customer behaviour, technology, the economy and business best practice that has happened since they started.
I’m certain that the most successful business owners I’ve met are more ‘in search of happiness’ through their enterprise than in search of excellent business processes. It matters greatly to them to have happy, delighted even, customers. It matters to have happy suppliers that go the extra mile for them – that’s why they #PayIn30Days – or earlier. It matters to them to have a loyal and happy team.
Happipreneurship is hope
I’m truly inspired by the many 16-19-year olds I meet at the wonderful Charles Cracknell’s Global Entrepreneurship Week in Hull, Paul Lancaster’s Newcastle Start-Up Week and Jenn Crowther’s Yorkshire in Business that really want to make a positive difference to the world. They are determined and savvy.
They make giant strides very quickly, particularly on the environment, quality of life technology and creative arts. What they create out of nothing is fabulous. Starting and running your own enterprise is a great way to make a positive difference.
Happipreneurship is creating something out of nothing
Last summer, I was watching my favourite band, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, who were on a rare tour of the UK. Joziah, Tink and Starkey who front the band, and create their amazing songs and music, were explaining why we’d not seen the bass player and drummer in the band before.
The regular bass and drums had not been able to tour because of family commitments back home in New York state. Joziah, Tink and Starkey could tour because they were ‘empty nesters’ – their children were grown up and pursuing their independent lives.
Joziah reflected proudly that they’d managed to bring up their kids safely and well by running their own enterprise – the band. They made ends meet from the day their kids were born, through college, to leaving home. A band is exactly the kind of micro-enterprise I most love.
Why? Because they make beautiful music, but they make a living from marketing it beautifully too. They sell tickets for their gigs, recordings, teaching, merchandise and even have their own coffee brand. They use crowdfunding and have Patreon subscribers, including me, too. Many creative ‘stars’, including musicians, are happipreneurs.
Nearly nine out of ten business owners are happy. Six out of ten employees are unhappy.
Tina Boden, my #rocking co-founder of #MicroBizMatters, rightly states that we’re not only happier in our own business rather than a job but after just a few years we’re so used to our freedom that we become unemployable. Tina is also right that having your own business is best because you don’t have to ‘work with tossers’.
Happipreneurship is thinking for yourself
Philosophers and psychologists agree that how we think determines how we feel but the most important thing is how we act.
Barbara Ehrenreich – ‘Smile or Die’, Oliver Burkeman – ‘The Antidote’ (to positive thinking) and Derren Brown – ‘Happiness’ have all written books on happiness which expose the ‘positive thinking’ industry as manipulative and dangerous to health and wealth.
I can’t prevent most people believing popular sayings about enterprise and entrepreneurship. These sayings have gone down into history as fact and are now ingrained. The saying I hate the most is: “You are the average of the five people you associate most with”.
This sounds right and there’s always some truth in a fiction. Implied in this motivational quote is that you shouldn’t associate with poor people, ‘losers’, and ‘negative people’ instead, choose and only associate with wealthy, successful and positive ‘winners.
The saying, and there are many variations of it, has its origins in the of ‘law of attraction’ writers, who promote how to get rich through their books, talks, academies and business opportunities, including MLM.
The fact is that I haven’t interviewed one happy, successful, authentic entrepreneur who has discarded their best friends and family members and, instead, chosen wealthy, powerful people to spend their time with. Most business owners work with and, even, employ friends and family.
Happiness is not faking it
I have met many debt-ridden wannabe Silicon Valley superstars and depressed MLM leaders who have tried to follow ‘dream makers’ advice. They’ve left their past network of family and friends behind and now only associate with richer, more successful leaders and are faking it until they make it with the trappings of success – car, house and spouse.
The superstar ‘So you want to be a millionaire?’ line up of the last 120 years of William Wattles, Napoleon Hill, Robert Schuller (Minister), Norman Vincent Peale (Donald Trump’s Minister), Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins and Rhonda Byrne (The Secret) want you to believe this ‘ law of attraction’, ‘secrets of success’. They repeated the truth, in a slightly different way, from their predecessor and probably believe it themselves. It makes them money.
We know that the happiest, longest living people are in countries where they live very simple lives, haven’t got wealth and haven’t even heard of goal setting. As Bob Dylan said, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
Happipreneurship is being you
Who are you really? Many people are defined by their job and the status that comes with it. It’s as though they assume another identity as they enter their workplace. Take away the job and the status that goes with it and they are lost.
Some of my greatest sporting heroes have descended into very dark places and a few have committed suicide because their job so defined them. When they were no longer able to excel playing their sport many don’t enjoy their life anymore. Inappropriate business ventures, gambling, drink, drugs, divorce and depression are too often the consequences of losing their identity.
Most business owners feel lucky to be doing what they really want to do and so no-one can take their identity away. One business partner I had for a while will admit that the prospect of not going into work each day scares the life out of her – she will never retire.
Running your own business can create the life you want. You can be really who you want to be – NOT how you need to be to succeed in a work role in someone else’s workplace.
I think this is the main reason I’ve had a very happy three decades in my own business – I can be exactly who I want to be. #Happipreneurship #rocks.