“You are spreading happiness right now.”
That’s what Dian Griesel, self-appointed dean of the Business School of Happiness, told me I was doing by interviewing her and her brother, Tom, founders of a motivational, pseudo-academic online newsletter service. Web surfers who are unhappy–or just not happy enough–sign up to receive excerpts of saccharine self-help prose, excerpted from texts by the Griesels and others.
The first entry on site, “‘No’ is a Complete Sentence,” begins with that one-word sentence only to follow with a paragraph of three fragments. It ends, with a description of that magic word, on the same splintered note: “The most liberating word in the world.”
With posts like these, the Griesels hope to prove that “happiness is a choice,” Tom says. “People can choose to be happy regardless of what’s happening around them, regardless of the circumstances in their life,” he adds.
Dian cites people too focused on their work–or finding work–as an example of people who might benefit from “choosing” to be happier by spending less time thinking about their bad luck and more time reading “inspirational articles.” Of course, Dian says, people may resist the notion that a layoff forced by the recession is no reason to wallow. She explains their wariness more viscerally: “I think we live in a society where a lot of people are comparing their insides to other people’s outsides.”
Let’s take a look at Dian and Tom’s outsides. The two call themselves “serial entrepreneurs.” Dian is founder and president of the Investor Relations Group, an $8 million company, she says. Tom founded his own company too–Reedland Capital Partners, a boutique firm in San Francisco. Both siblings tout their philanthropic prowess on the Business School of Happiness website; Tom and his wife, for instance, have “personally” given more than $350,000 to national charities over the last decade.
And now they’re giving their knowledge, which is their duty, they say, as perennialists. For Tom and Dian, sharing also means quantifying. They have a “combined 60 years” of relevant experience, they say, and according to their website, they have more than 2,500 books between them (Dian says 3,500).
Maybe it’s all that counting that has them both stymied when asked what some of their favorite books are. Dian makes an attempt: “Any religion’s primary book, because the fascinating thing is pretty much every single religion sends the same message.”
Or maybe it’s running their business school, which is certainly a business but almost certainly not a business school or even a school. Nevertheless, the Griesels’ wholeheartedly encourage learning. “Self-education is probably the most important thing someone can continue to do for an entire lifetime,” Dian says. So far, they have about 60 subscribers on board.
To make that learning easier (read: less reading) subscribers to the Business School of Happiness receive much-abridged versions–“the golden nuggets”–of the tomes of wisdom Dian and Tom have filtered through. “It’s kind of like when you get an album, there are maybe 20 songs on it, but probably two or three of them are the real golden nuggets,” Dian says.
Obviously she hasn’t heard the new Arcade Fire.