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Happiness is a Problem.

I first read that in Mark Manson’s book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.”

In it, he makes the case that humans are happiest most when we’ve overcome a big challenge. The feeling we get when we survive a near-death experience or a surprise conflict. It’s palpable. We love it.

That concept has stuck with me. I thought, are business teams wired like this too?

“[Most strong leaders] envision themselves sitting around a table with a group of colleagues, wrestling with difficult issues, and doing their best to make the right decisions by tapping into everyone’s knowledge, experience, and intuition,” explains Patrick Lencioni, author of The Advantage. 

He believes “the high point about being a leader in an organization is wrestling with difficult decisions and situations.”

Shit happens…

A customer contract is suddenly grossly unprofitable. You make a consequential decision that has existential ramifications. You’re hit with a broad economic downturn that has you trapped. You suddenly need to ask a lot of people to leave the company. And, your investors shift from “go, go, go” to a “no, no, no” attitude. 

All of these events can leave even the best CEOs unhappy at first. It’s another fire to put out. It’s consuming the team. No one is getting any sleep. 

It’s not easy

But, I have found that when things are hard, that’s when all the learning happens and when the fun begins. 

The problem is…

We are inundated with the day-to-day malaise of meetings, emails, and tasks; there is no time left to tackle those gnarly problems with dedicated focus.

It’s essential to make the time during strategic sessions like offsites to get after it.

Everyone should drop their pens and prepare to work on the problem(s). 

In one of my companies, we had our fair share of Happiness. And we happily solved some of the venture’s most gripping problems, including:

  1. Unlocking capital and liquidity during an economic downturn 
  2. Vendor and partner management challenges
  3. Data center site stability, including climate disasters, equipment failure, team, death, and partner dynamics
  4. Regulatory change and geopolitics
  5. Building a cohesive team during a pandemic
  6. Brand building in a noisy sector
  7. Running a public company in a volatile environment
  8. Multiple layoffs
  9. Liquidity challenges and closed capital markets 

My happiest moments were listening to my team share their wins after overcoming one of these giant waves of chaos.   

It made us all happy. 

That’s why I often say I would go to battle with my team any day.

We keep pushing. We. Never. Ever. Give up.

You should do the same. 

Be Antifragile

Very few teams win the prize for plans that remain constant in the face of a tsunami wave.

They build plans with lots of flexibility.

Instead, the winners build foolproof teams that expect the waves of chaos to strike.

Those teams say, “we can’t wait for the waves to come, so we can swim in all the learning.”

They get happy. 

OK, now go on. Get back to being happy…

You have a lot of work to do. ;)


By Published On: March 19th, 2023Categories: Being CEO, Coaching, Crisis, LeadershipTags: , , , ,

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About the Author: John Belizaire

John is a versatile CEO and serial entrepreneur who has successfully founded, scaled multiple technology companies over a 20-year career. He is currently the CEO of Soluna, a company helping to shape the future of renewable energy and computing. Before Soluna, John was the founder and CEO of FirstBest, a transformative insurance software company acquired by Guidewire Software and Theory Center, an e-commerce software company acquired by BEA Systems. Before becoming an entrepreneur, John was the lead architect for Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group. John is on the advisory board of several software-as-a-service, data analytics, and insurtech startups. He is the Managing Editor of CEOPLAYBOOK Media LLC, an online publication full of sage advice for first-time founder CEOs. John is also a trustee of Harlem Academy, an independent school in New York.