Happiness Is...

We're getting richer, but we're not getting happier.
Magazine Contributor
12 min read

This story appears in the January 1998 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

We know is rich. And successful. In fact, those labels seem too mild for him. He is, quite simply, the richest man in America and the most wildly successful entrepreneur entering the 21st century. But is he happy?

If you're seeking an improved entrepreneurial existence this year, keep in mind that is in no way connected to . Richard Easterlin, an economic historian with the University of Southern California in , has found that, although the gross domestic product per capita in the United States has more than doubled in the past half century, there has been absolutely no improvement in the percentage of happy people. "Even though each generation has more than its predecessor, each generation wants more than its predecessor," says Easterlin, who points out one of our most enduring cultural beliefs is that another 10 percent to 20 percent increase in income would make each one of us perfectly happy.

According to Easterlin, who is also the author of Growth Triumphant: The Twenty-First Century in Historical Perspective (), there's an inherent flaw in that : It doesn't take into account that aspirations rise as a function of a rise in income. In other words, you'll probably be able to get what you want, but at that point, you'll probably want something else. "The more we have, the more we want," says Easterlin. "The evidence shows that's the way the world functions."

It's clearly the way the business world works, especially when you throw in that competing-with-the-Gateses factor. "Let's say you're starting a business, and you're struggling," says Easterlin. "You think `When it's a bigger business, I'm going to be able to sit back and enjoy it.' But when you get to that stage, you find out that all the other [entrepreneurs at that level] are working just as hard, living in much bigger houses and taking expensive vacations. And the result is, you don't feel rich or successful at all. People always think they're going to get happier as they progress through their careers, but the evidence doesn't bear that out."

How does a goal-oriented entrepreneur exist in this endless cycle? Not only with a goal, but with a goal that is purer. "I think it would be good if, instead of automatically getting into this material pursuit, we tried as a society to be more contemplative about what kind of world we want and what we want out of this world," says Easterlin. "It's now a largely unconscious process that we're involved in. If it were more self-conscious, if we gave thought to the way we wanted things to be, that would be desirable."

Laugh It Up

  • People with a sense of humor are three times as likely to report top levels of energy as those who don't have a sense of humor.
  • Ninety percent of survey respondents believe that having a sense of humor helps them perform better at work.
  • People with a sense of humor are half as likely to get anxious or frustrated in the face of a problem and are twice as likely to be able to pull themselves out of a bad mood.

(Source: Catchfire! 1996 Professional Work Force Survey by Peter McLaughlin Co.)

It's The Law

...and small business is on the docket.

By Charlotte Mulhern

Here's good news for entrepreneurs with legal needs: An increasing number of U.S. law schools are offering courses with a small-business focus. That means more graduates are entering the work force with small-business law experience, intending to break the mold and pursue careers at small businesses instead of big law firms.

Who's getting in on the trend? New York University School of Law in New York City, George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC, and University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia, to name a few. The University of Pennsylvania, for one, offers a Small Business Clinic where students work under the supervision of a law firm representing small businesses. Students practice advising entrepreneurs in the start-up stage, drafting shareholder agreements, creating sales contracts and more.

"I think increasingly [small-business law] is being recognized as a different practice, with different legal rules and skills," says Gordon Smith, a law professor at Lewis & Clark College's Northwestern School of Law in Portland, Oregon. Smith explains that while traditional lawyers often specialize in a narrow area of law, successful small-business lawyers keep their skills more general.

Lewis & Clark's entrepreneurial-focused curriculum extends beyond that of most law schools. The college offers 10 such courses, ranging from seminars on initial public offerings to classes on drafting business documents. It is also developing a clinic where students will work with emerging businesses. And last year, the college launched The Journal of Small and Emerging Business Law.

"More students are interested in emerging businesses; that's partially because they have become the sexy businesses in our ," says Smith. These companies also carry some risk. One Lewis & Clark student last year interned at a failing business. The benefit? He witnessed firsthand a company's struggle to survive. One drawback, though--the position didn't become permanent upon graduation.

Taking Care Of Business

"Nurture" is his middle name.

By Charlotte Mulhern

It's an enormous undertaking traditionally administered by the government--but that didn't stop Jim Robbins from taking a crack at it. Five years ago, the founder of Menlo Park, California-based Business Cluster Development set forth to do what no one had before: design a system of business incubators for California's emerging technology companies. To date, Robbins has started eight incubators.

"It's a win-win situation," says Robbins, 50. "The process is viewed positively by the community as well as by the individual companies. And I like helping people get things started."

How does he do it? Robbins creates incubators using a prototype he formulated for technology-specific firms. The funds to set up the incubators are privately donated, unlike conventional incubators primarily sponsored by government grants. "We're taking what we've done successfully in one incubator and replicating it to open others," Robbins says.

It's a concept that works. Of the 180 companies he's helped so far, 85 percent continue to reap profits while on their own.

Business Cluster Development also awards incubator scholarships to women- and minority-owned businesses, opening doors to those who may not otherwise have the chance. Says Robbins, "It's clear the companies that come into these incubators have a higher success rate."

It's A Draw

Your kindergarten teacher was right.

By Heather Page

Along with writing business plans and creating marketing materials, here's a skill they probably didn't teach you in business school: drawing. Yes, the ability to put pen and ink to paper to create a picture isn't just for artistic purposes, experts insist. Rather, when integrated into brainstorming and strategic planning sessions or used as a problem-solving method, drawing can be a powerful business tool.

"Drawing is a great way to gather everybody's ideas and present them in a new way," explains Milly R. Sonneman, author of Beyond Words: A Guide to Drawing Out Ideas (Ten Speed Press) and president of Hands On Graphics Inc., a graphic communication and training company in Mill Valley, California.

Sonneman, whose client list includes several Fortune 500 national and international companies, advises beginning artists to start small by, say, drawing posters displaying one simple idea such as a business meeting's purpose or creating lists with graphical elements representing each point in a discussion. More advanced would-be Picassos can cluster groups of related ideas, turn topics into detailed grids for easy analysis, and use "mindmapping" to diagram the steps of a process and track a project's progress.

If you're not the Pictionary type and cringe at the thought of drawing in front of large groups, keep in mind there are simple techniques and common symbols you can use as a beginner. Then, with practice, you'll probably start focusing less on your drawing and more on what's being said and even developing personalized images, Sonneman says.

Using this technique, you may find people will speak up and interact more during business meetings because drawing facilitates a dialogue. It may also prove useful when implementing ideas. "When pictures are combined with words, people are able to integrate and remember the information better," says Sonneman.

So what are you waiting for? Break out the magic markers and start scribbling.

And The Winner Is...

Get ready - it's contest time.

There's something about you. The way you treat your employees, the way you serve your customers, the way you juggle your many day-to-day responsibilities.

That "something" might be enough to earn you the title of Office Depot and magazine's Small Business Owner of the Year.

To qualify, you must have been in business for at least one year, be a founder and majority owner of the company, employ fewer than 100 people, and return the entry form on page 29 by June 15. Besides winning a grand prize of $5,000 in merchandise from Office Depot and a three-year subscription to Entrepreneur magazine, you, of course, gain the prestige of being chosen as our first Small Business Owner of the Year. Now that's something.

Read All About It

What are business owners reading these days? The top 10 business books at press time (based on net sales) were:

1. Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley and William Danko, $22 (Longstreet Press)

2. The Excel Phenomenon, by James W. Robinson, $20 (Prima Publishing)

3. The Dilbert Future, by Scott Adams, $25 (HarperBusiness)

4. Wall Street Money Machine, by Wade B. Cook, $24.95 (Lighthouse Publishing Group)

5. Investing for Dummies, by Eric Tyson, $19.99 (IDG Books Worldwide)

6. Stock Market Miracles, by Wade B. Cook, $24.95 (Lighthouse Publishing Group)

7. Success Is a Choice, by Rick Pitino, $25 (Bantam Publishing)

8. The Dilbert Principle, by Scott Adams, $20 (Harper Collins)

9. Personal Finance for Dummies, by Eric Tyson, $19.99 (IDG Books Worldwide)

10. Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, by Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang, $24.95 (Hyperion)

Say Cheese

Taking a bite out of a nationwide craze.

By Heather Page

Now that the Christmas decorations have been put away and the smell of cookies is fading, you may once again spy a rather unusual sight when you look around . . . cheese. Or, to be more precise, Cheeseheads. Reaching epidemic proportions last year after the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, the Cheesehead craze sweeping the nation hasn't slowed since.

Bob Fruchter is one getting a slice of the Cheesehead pie. In conjunction with Milwaukee-based Foamation Inc., the company that developed those cushy foam Cheesehead hats that you see at all the Packers games, Fruchter is marketing a Cheesehead soap-on-a-rope and fragrance (which, by the way, doesn't smell like cheese). "People just like funky, neat things and want to get caught up in the fun," says Fruchter, 45.

While moving into the national spotlight only recently, the craving for everything Cheesehead actually began 11 years ago when the first Cheesehead hat was worn at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game.

Since then, people around the nation have been saying cheese by donning Cheesehead baseball hats, neckties, cuff links and earrings. Just like the pungent smell of Limburger, it looks like the Cheesehead craze will linger--at least for a while.

Gray Matters

Things only your hairdresser should know.

By Heather Page

Conventional thinking says men with gray hair look distinguished, while women with ash-colored locks look, well, old. But recent findings reveal that men may not be so lucky when it comes to people's perceptions of their silver mops, particularly in the entrepreneurial world.

According to a recent study commissioned by hair products company Combe Inc., not only are gray-haired men perceived to possess less vitality than men with other hair colors, but they're also seen as less proficient. When rated by 100 leading image consultants, only 27 percent of the gray-haired participants were deemed "very capable." But when the image consultants were shown the same men with their natural hair color restored, the very capable rating jumped to 49 percent.

These findings may be of significance to male entrepreneurs because, for many, image is king. "Entrepreneurs are a walking image of their company, so if their image is suffering, it could impact their businesses," says John T. Molloy, an image researcher and consultant.

Unfortunately, there is no silver lining to this story. Today's youth-oriented society values a youthful appearance, says Molloy. Looks like it's time to get out that Grecian Formula.

Cyber Sick

A new kind of computer virus.

By Debra Phillips

Can you be sick and wired? According to psychologist Michael Cohn, the unrelenting presence of computer technology is driving quite a few folks to become afflicted with technopathologies.

"There's been expanded use of the Internet for commerce and for personal relationships, but there hasn't been [as much] attention paid to the downsides that have human as well as financial costs," says Cohn, who co-authored Technoshock (Kendall/Hunt Publishing) with his wife, Linda.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to PC? Well, something like that. As Cohn sees it, today's technopathologies run the gamut from cyber-avoidance to cyber-obsession. Symptoms include everything from anxiety or panic to concentration problems to a refusal to discuss technology at all. Clear signs you're obsessed, says Cohn, are if you lose control of the amount of time you spend on your computer and if you neglect responsibilities.

"I foresee at least a couple of generations struggling with this issue," says Cohn, who treats those suffering from technopathologies through biofeedback, relaxation-skill development and a host of other therapeutic measures. "To keep up with the demands for productivity everywhere is hard."

And getting harder. Since technology shows no sign of slowing, however, we must understand why we can't always get with the program--and how our computers may byte back.

Contact Sources

Business Cluster Development Co., (415) 854-1707, jarobbins@aol.com

Combe Inc./Just For Men, (800) 431-2610, http://www.justformen.com

Dr. Michael Cohn, 7330 E. Earll Dr., Ste. L, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, http://www.expertcenter.com/members/cohn

Foamation Inc., (800) FOAM-FUN, http://www.arcfile.com/cheesehead

Hands On Graphics Inc., (800) 773-DRAW, http://www.cyberzones.com/handson

Lewis & Clark College, Northwestern School of Law, 10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd., Portland, OR 97219, dgsmith@lclark.edu

John T. Malloy, c/o Marina Maher Communications, 400 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022

Price Waterhouse LLP, (516) 425-3140, richard_kalenka@notes.pw.com

Showtime Advertising and Public Relations, 17800 Rte. 306, Chagrin Falls, OH 44023, (216) 543-2298


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