By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
"Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. The Giving Tree gave everything to the boy because it made her happy. I talk about this classic kids’ book by Shel Silverstein from time to time; it was one of my favorites.
Today is #GivingTuesday. There is a crazy little hack to happiness, and it’s giving. My happiest moment last year was at Camp Grounded. I was surrounded by loved ones and music at the camp snack shop.
Lots of people were cuddling on the lawn and they looked hungry. So I bought everyone a huge ice cream sandwich.I tried to do it anonymously and have the shop pass them out, but everyone found out it was me. I saw so many people light up when they were given a surprise ice cream. I felt euphoric. Weirdly euphoric.
Studies show that people who spend their money on others are happier than if they spend it on themselves. There’s something about doing nice things for others that makes us feel really good.
Now, there are people who ask for too much, and who are not very appreciative, like the boy in “The Giving Tree”. This is where our Jaunty skills of reading others and assertiveness really kick in. You can choose relationships in your life that are two way streets.
We are blessed at Jaunty that we get to give everyday. I hope you try out this happiness strategy and do more to be of service and help others, today and every day. As Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's writer
“When you push yourself outside your comfort zone you really learn who you are as a person,” says Christine Fleming, who recently graduated from Jaunty’s six-week course on social intelligence. A Bay Area native, she’s an administrative assistant at a law firm in San Francisco. “I’ve always been a very very shy person.” She thought of herself as a “homebody”. Before Jaunty, she says, “I wanted to talk or open up to people but it was like there was a block there. I never really went out that much. I hung out at home a lot.” When she did socialize it tended to be, “One-on-one time with the few friends I had.”
“Really I was just too anxious to try and go out and meet new people.”
Last year, Christine was in a relationship she describes as “pretty unhealthy” and destructive to her self-esteem. “My ex-girlfriend had an idea of how things are supposed to be and she was very intense about it. It got to a point where I wasn’t asserting myself and kind of lost my voice.” When she got out of the relationship, she decided it was time for a change. Jaunty was part of that process to work through things and find herself.
She started going to Meetups as a way to get out there and surround herself with positive people and ideas. She did Jaunty’s free workshop on social skills and felt the six-week course could help her become more comfortable in social environments and be herself without feeling anxious.
“I’ve made a lot of really great friends through Jaunty.” Christine says, her classmates, Jaunty’s Founder Eric, and Head Instructor Craig were “amazing”. “It was an amazing experience and I’m really happy I did it.” But she admits, “The homework was definitely hard.” Especially challenging was the direct approach where you strike up a conversation with a stranger. Jaunty teaches specific techniques for the entire flow from approach and openers, to building rapport and keeping the conversation going, and finally the contact exchange.
By end of class Christine had done a few approaches but no contact exchanges. “I loved all the tools I was learning in the class. [And] I knew I had to go at my pace.”
September, two months after the course ended, Christine was at Bawdy Storytelling talking with a guy — something that would have made her “hella nervous” and anxious before Jaunty. She used her new conversational agility skills and humor techniques that had become very natural for her. “Out of nowhere I just blurted out, ‘Want to hang out sometime? I’d love to get your number.’” Before, she would have been in her head worrying about how he might respond. They’ve hung out now and are getting together again next Tuesday.
Christine says, “I am super comfortable with approaching guys now and [doing] contact exchanges. Now the next step is women. They can actually reject me and it might hurt.” She’s planning on practicing at the next Bawdy Storytelling.
“It’s definitely getting easier. Jaunty really did give me the tools to go for it and to make connections with people.” Christine has used her new social intelligence skills to get closer to her co-workers and have more in-depth conversations. Before it was all small talk about the weather. “I feel so much more comfortable opening up to people now.”
Thanks to Jaunty, “My social life basically blew up. With our class being so close, we’re constantly planning things. I’ve gotten super into karaoke. I just love singing. I’m constantly meeting people. I talk to people all the time, everywhere now. I went to a concert by myself last month because my friend got sick.” In the past she never would have gone on her own. But she did and it was great. She met all these people.
“I think really everyone can benefit from Jaunty. Not only does it help with social skills, but I think it can really help with finding who you are. When I got out there and started exploring the social side of me, I learned all this stuff about me that I didn’t know before. I used to be very introverted. I didn’t go out much. I stayed at home. I didn’t like that part of me. I just didn’t know how to change it. Now I have the tools. I go out and meet people. Wow, okay now I know I really like going to bars and hanging out with friends and just talking. I really like hanging out in big groups. Meeting people from diverse backgrounds and learning things about them. I never knew that about myself.”
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
If you could hit a random life reset button, would you? Imagine entering a room with a red button under glass. If you press the button, you’d randomly be swapped out for a new body in a different environment. You’re still you, but in a different, adult body and with a totally different life. Would you risk your life for a new one? Maybe you’d wind up in a fitter body, with a better paying job, and a hilarious, witty boyfriend or girlfriend.
Would you press the button? I think most people would not. We might regret some of our past choices or wonder what our life might look like if we’d made different decisions. But our decisions and the experiences we’ve had, have made us who we are. Pressing the button means suddenly having a wildly different set of circumstances that we might not understand and have no control over. Most of us would rather make the most of the hand life has dealt us, than swap out our cards for random new ones from the deck.
The brain tends to make us believe that everything works out for the best. When a relationship doesn’t work out, or we didn’t get a job we really wanted, it can be painful and it’s easy to wish things had turned out differently. But with enough time, our perspective shifts, and we create what's called synthetic happiness, the brain’s response when we don’t get what we want.
Dan Gilbert, psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, says synthetic happiness is just as real and enduring as real happiness (which is what we feel when we actually get what we want). Basically, because of the way our brains work, we’re grateful that things happened the way they did. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if things had played out differently.Then part of me wonders if I would feel the exact same thing if I had gotten that job or I was still in that relationship. Am I just rationalizing that everything has worked out? Maybe the result is less important than how we feel about it.
I believe three things are most important to our well-being: genetics, behaviors, and environment. If I was to push that reset button I’d hope for a healthy body with good genes for longevity. Secondly, I’d hope for an even lower pleasure threshold, meaning it’d be really easy for me to feel joy. Lastly, I’d hope for good looks. (Because why the hell not?)
In reality there are things we can change and things we can’t. For now at least, our genes are our genes. We can choose to take better care of our body, eating better, exercising more, drinking less, getting better sleep. This stuff all makes a huge difference to our physical and mental well-being. And we’re working within parameters set by our genetic make-up.
We can totally change our behaviors and environment. At Jaunty, the school for social intelligence, we teach people how to become more aware of their behaviors, explore new ways of interacting with others and build meaningful connections. We can overcome our fears and social anxieties. We can learn how to approach strangers, build rapport, play with humor, and feel confident in any social situation. We can learn to be more assertive.
We can also change our environment. You don’t have to move across the country to change your environment. Instead you can create meaningful change where you are, by deliberately choosing your circle of friends and community, and being more thoughtful in who you spend time with. Do you have people in your life who are bringing you down? Are your friends, friends of convenience rather than friends of choice? With greater social skills you can learn to connect with whoever you want.
It’s fun to imagine what it’d be like if I hit the reset button and that new body felt really comfortable and was way happier than mine. But what if I hit the button and I ended up with misery? I’d love to see what it feels like to be someone else, even for a few minutes. For now, I’m staying away from the red button and am working on optimizing my life and making the most of what I have.