Smile, Flap and Step To Success

Books Happiness Respect


Key Point: Happiness and forward action fuels success, not the other way around. It’s that simple and that complex. It’s that easy and that difficult. Shawn Achor‘s  book, The Happiness Advantage, draws on tons of rigorous Harvard driven research, and practical experience to demonstrate that this principle is a truism.

Achor introduces seven practical and actionable principles that are tried, tested and true in demonstrating how we can apply what he calls, “The Happiness Advantage,” to maximize our personal potential. While we learn and read about these principles, I’m going to share a short cut to accelerate this path to success.

He refers to an activity he has applied with thousands of people in a variety of situations and cultures. He breaks groups up into pairs and instructs one person per couple to use every bit of their self-discipline to show NO emotion, regardless of what their partner says or does. He then brings in the other person and instructs them to simply look the other person in the eyes and smile. Literally every time, usually within a few minutes, the person instructed to use discipline and show no emotion, ends up flashing a reciprocal smile or even erupts in bursts of laughter. This is the foundation of something called the “ripple effect.”

You likely have heard that a single butterfly flapping its wings can create a hurricane halfway around the world (Aka, the butterfly effect). The point is that every small change can trigger a bigger one. And I recently read a poem by Antonio Machado that states: “Walker, there is no path. The path is made by walking.” The poem reinforces that we all have only one real choice in front of us, which is to take a forward step. The step is more important that looking and waiting for a perfect path. That expected trail most likely doesn’t exist.

Character Moves:

  1. Embrace the research, science and belief that self-happiness leads to success, not the other way around.
  2. Genuinely walk through your day, consciously looking people directly into their eyes and smiling. Positivity is contagious. (Be honest… How much do you look people directly into their eyes and smile before EVERY intersection)?
  3. Flap and step! It is forward action that causes a ripple effect. Do not worry that there might not be a path. Do not worry if you can fly. Just flap and step and you will cause a ripple!
  4. Read and apply Achor’s seven principles to get real, sustainable momentum. However while everyone, including you, is studying and learning the seven principles, remember that smiling, flapping and stepping will create a positive wind, and maybe ripple into much more!

Smiling, flapping and stepping in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: In today’s sometimes-hypersensitive society, I’ve read/heard that a smile from a stranger can be perceived as something “more” than just an expression of positivity. Some assume there’s an agenda attached. It’s troubling. I don’t think that should be the case… But unfortunately, a smile from well-dressed doorman in New York City (nice to see you too, sir) could be received differently than one from a homeless person on the corner (oh he wants something), or a guy at the gym (what a creeper), or a woman at a bar (she’s into me), or even a co-worker (what are they smiling about)? But let’s be realistic, intuition isn’t a guarantee, and we all make hasty assumptions about what each smile “really” means. That’s our own mistake for overthinking it in the first place. The nitty gritty is that smiles are, on the surface, just a universal expression of friendliness… And one that should continue. Our self-conscious makes them something more/less… Chances are, if someone just means well, everyone will read that right on their teeth. Keep smiling. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis