Interview with Sunny Grosso
How did you get interested in happiness at work?
My first real job was a grey-celled, err cubicled (!), soul-sucking experience right out of college that scared the bejeezus out of me. I realized that people were at work, in order to escape work. It made no sense to me. How could we spend half our lives waiting for the weekends, suffering in quiet withdrawal of our potential? Weren’t we also robbing the world of our gifts?
So I ran. Far! Across the country to California, where my search for a better way began. Naturally, I became a bartender! It was easy happiness, but you guessed it, short lived. I found myself job-hopping for the next decade. And then abruptly, I came to a turning point. An injury sidelined me just as the first Dot-Com Boom went bust. I was jobless, broken, and hadn’t found the fulfillment I yearned for. I felt like a failure, and worse, a pervasive emptiness had settled in.
Then a young CEO gave me a book called Delivering Happiness. I saw a new path to happiness, and for the first time felt something like a calling. I realized my own search and failures uniquely qualified me to build Delivering Happiness, and help the world work happier.
What is happiness at work?
Happiness at work is when you can show up and act in alignment with your values, the core of what you believe, and what makes you you.
When you connect authentically with the people around you. When you are making progress in meaningful tasks. When you have reached a healthy level of autonomy in your work. And when you can sense the greater purpose of your work, beyond money. It’s not about bonuses, status or ego gratification. Not for long at least. And it’s not about perks and pool tables!
Could you tell us 3 tips for achieving happiness at work?
1. Be you. Nothing will bring you happiness long term, in work or life, if you cannot be you. Yet, being ourselves in a world that has told us who to be, how to be and even when to be (!) is not easy. It takes curiosity to do the inner work of knowing our true selves, and courage to be just that. Vulnerability is at the heart of this. But beautifully, on this journey, we not only find ourselves and start to flourish, we inspire others with the courage to be themselves. And. As we arrive here we find we have so much more to give, which benefits the organization tremendously in ROI. It becomes a positive cycle between us, our organization and our work community. We call this Me –We – Community Model.
2. Live by your values. So how do you be you? One of most important skills of the future is to know yourself. The world is changing faster than ever, and so have our expectations of work. It’s not about stability or contentment anymore, it’s more about thriving. To navigate and thrive, we have to know ourselves. That’s the new stability! When we’re rooted in who we are, we have stability no matter what’s changing around us. We can do in a simple way by living by our values. These are our most core beliefs, that make us who we are, and the roots we can grow deep into the earth to stabilize our happiness in a changing world.
3. Get cozy with your Why – it’s been around forever. The Japanese call it Ikigai. Simon Sinek calls it the Golden Circle. And it’s hugely popular now. It’s your Purpose. It’s also extremely elusive, surrounded by folklore and mystery. The trick is, we don’t have to find our purpose to be happy at work, and in fact, it rarely happens that way! Merely being on the path or exploring our purpose is sufficient, and among all the forms of happiness, purpose is the most sustainable path to happiness.
Do you have a favorite experience from your career?
One of the first presentations I did was with our CEO Jenn Lim, in front of Bill and Melinda Gates. And there she was, Melinda Gates, regal and poised and dressed disturbingly smart in the front row! Nerves ran wild like electricity through my body. I was on the edge of a cliff about to share our message with Melinda… I bordered on peeing my pants! Just as I stood up, trying to be cool as the designer stage I was about to speak on, Jenn raised a brow and pointed down my torso. “Your fly’s undone.”
How much does humor factor into your keynotes?
Humor is essential to integrating new ideas! It diffuses stress and relaxes the brain. We take in information more readily, associate it more freely with our own experiences, and apply it to our lives. But also, humor is an extremely effective way to build community. It highlights similarities in a group as we all get the joke, laugh, and suddenly realize something common is at play in the room. We start to feel safe. We sense a new permission to connect with each other. We feel more comfortable being ourselves. Relating. Building new bonds. And in the best talks, a palpable micro-community develops.
What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?
There is nothing more exciting than when you feel a spark suddenly start to glow inside you. It’s the spark of an idea that is yours. It’s bloomed from a deeply authentic place of your own truth, and hopes, and dormant dreams. It’s often connected to you purpose. And this little spark carries the energy to change lives, from your own, to others, even rippling out to change the world. We need these sparks, they touch a part of us waiting to wake up. They bring out passions and purpose, and give us energy to act. It’s how real personal change happens, how we solve big problems at work, and together, in this world. Seeing that spark ignite, offering that spark as a speaker, inspires ME.
Describe yourself in 3 words