In the United States, we live in one of the richest, safest and most free countries in the world. Yet according to the “2016 United Nation’s World Happiness Report”, we rank No. 19. Why is this? We spoke to happiness expert Chris Butsch for some answers.
Millennials and Unhappiness
A millennial himself, Butsch believes that “millennials are a generation suffering from an unhappiness epidemic.” He argues that the American dream is skewed and that it stunts our happiness because the seeds to a happy life simply aren’t engrained into our culture. Affected a year ago by unhappiness, Butsch traveled the world to fully understand what it means to be happy. He interviewed hundreds of people (including millennials), studied positive psychology and read up on many underreported studies by some of the leading universities in the country, all of which forever changed the way he thinks about happiness. Read on for some of his key findings.
Achieving Workplace Harmony with Millennials
“The wrong approach is to treat millennials differently, or to give them special treatment,” Butsch states. “They like to work for well-run businesses and they don’t work well for companies that give them special treatment or hire a special consultant that tells managers to treat them differently…it all comes down to best practices.” Also, according to Butsch, millennials like to receive regular feedback from management. Studies have shown that millennials are seeking affirmation that the work they are doing is moving them in the right direction. Hence, if feedback is provided to millennials and regularly, it should eliminate ‘that’ millennial asking for a promotion shortly after starting a new job, or worse yet, quitting a new position with little explanation.
According to The Journal of Happiness Studies, all happiness derives from just two sources: true happiness and pleasure. Confusing the sources of happiness is something that Americans often do. “True happiness and pleasure are very different and the distinction is important to know,” says Butsch. Activities such as dining with a friend, reading, or volunteering lead one towards true happiness. A pleasure, on the other hand, is something that gives you temporary happiness. Drinking a soda is a perfect example of temporary happiness. If you have dinner with a friend versus drink a soda alone, the next morning you’ll actually wake up happier if you’ve done the true happiness activity of dinner with a friend. “You’ve actually increased your baseline happiness, referred to as your hedonic set point.” So the idea here is to do more true happiness activities.
Mindfulness: Moment to Moment Happiness
We all know that meditation, a strategy to lower one’s stress and increase the ability to focus, increases happiness levels. But what you may not know is a meditation technique called mindfulness, a practice that has penetrated many Fortune 500 Companies, including Adobe and Google. Mindfulness allows individuals to be able to reengage fully in the present moment without having distractions. In other words, eating mindful, listening mindful, a mindful walk, etc. So how about turning off your computers and cellphones to be more present? It really is that simple. The idea is to make peace with your present moment to be happier.
In this episode of In Process Podcast, Trusted Counsel interviews Chris Butsch , speaker, meditation instructor, millennial happiness expert and author of the new book “The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness.”
During the course of the podcast you will learn about:
- What led Chris to write a book specifically for millennials (and that every office should have a copy of the book)
- The building blocks of happiness: true happiness versus pleasure
- The problem with social media and its impact on our happiness levels
- How to increase your happiness levels over time
- Why everyone needs to have a sleep app on their phones
Stream the conversation with Chris in the player below to learn more. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to InProcess Podcast on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show to your smartphone.
Don’t Be Blue; Make Your Happiness
Interview with Chris Butsch, speaker, meditation instructor, millennial happiness expert, and author
John Monahon: Hello, and welcome to In Process, Conversations About Business in the 21st Century, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn Ashley: And I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John Monahon: We are partners in Trusted Counsel. Evelyn, today we are talking about happiness, specifically making happiness and the millennials who are trying to achieve it.
Evelyn Ashley: I think, in a lot of respects, everyone wants to be happy, right?
John Monahon: I agree.
Evelyn Ashley: I think that the discussion will actually be really interesting for the full span of our listening audience, and certainly for us, too. What I’ve always found interesting about happiness, because I’ve done a little bit of reading on this, is … I think when we talk to Chris we’ll hear this, being happy is very much a mindset where if you choose to be happy as opposed to … be positive as opposed to being negative, you can actually make yourself happy because you’re thinking in that direction.
John Monahon: One of the things, and we’ll talk to Chris Butsch here in a second, and he’s the author of “The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness,” he points out that America is one of the richest, most free countries in the world, but yet we are not at the top of the list of, let’s say people who …
Evelyn Ashley: The happiness list.
John Monahon: There’s a reason why. He’s saying that it’s not ingrained into the American culture. I do agree, this is going to be a relevant discussion to everyone.
Evelyn Ashley: Absolutely. I think we all understand that we’re a fairly driven country, driven not necessarily by happiness or maybe we think we’re being driven by happiness, or achievement of happiness, but it’s a question.
John Monahon: Today we have with us Chris Butsch. He’s an author, speaker, meditation instructor and millennial happiness expert. He has been called “The Malcolm Gladwell of Happiness.” Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris Butsch: Thank you so much for having me John.
John Monahon: Chris, you have an interesting story. You were in a very professional career and doing excellent, and then you started on this journey about studying happiness. Can you tell us where your life was at the start of this journey?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, my quarter life looked like I had achieved the American Dream. I had the cool bachelor pad, the cool car, great friends, great job, but despite all the stuff I felt I was doing something wrong, and the feeling was affirmed when I went to see a counselor and was eventually diagnosed with acute clinical depression. After I was, I found myself in front of a psychiatrist, and I’ll never forget the moment that my psychiatrist cut me mid-sentence to prescribe me 5 mg of Wellbutrin, a common antidepressant. On my way out, still baffled, he goes, “Oh, wait, be sure to see Bonnie on the way out. We’re going to schedule you out for about six months. Come in, we’ll double your dosage.” I went, “Really? That’s the solution society has for me for my unhappiness, just join 10% of American and take some drugs?” No, there must be a better solution. There are way happier people out there in the world. There’s science out there. There must be a way that I can cure myself of this problem. I feel that antidepressants just weren’t the solution for me. I then became … the challenge became how do I … if I’ve been given morphine … after you get morphine you get surgery, right? I’d been offered morphine but the surgeon never came, the surgeon of my happiness. I challenged myself to become the surgeon of my own happiness.
John Monahon: I think the interesting part in that story is that he knew six months from now that he wasn’t going to solve your problem.
Evelyn Ashley: He’d just increase it, yeah.
Chris Butsch: Right. Like if you saw a mechanic and on the way out drove your car out and he said, “We’ll see you in six months when it breaks down again,” …
Evelyn Ashley: Or three weeks.
John Monahon: Right.
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah. So do you see this as an epidemic issue among young people?
Chris Butsch: That was the question I asked myself, was “Man, I feel like I did so many things right but I’m still depressed. I wonder if it’s just me, or …” I sat with my friends in Madison where I was working at the time and said, “Hey guys … ” This is about six months down the line, so fast forward six months. I had effectively cured myself of my depression using a lot of research and taking action in my own life. I sat down with my friends and said, “Hey guys, if I’ve been really emotionally distant lately, it because I’ve actually been really depressed. But it’s okay, I’m back. Don’t worry about it. I’m here.” After that conversation, one on one my friends came up to me and said, “I think I’m feeling depressed too. I know I look like I’m great on the outside and I look great on Facebook, but I’m not feeling so great.” Immediately, I thought “Well, my employer has a serious morale problem.” But then I expanded my scope and traveled across America, did a road trip and continued talking to young people. “Hey, are you guys … have you guys found happiness in your 20s? Did I do it wrong?” It became clear that there is a happiness epidemic, especially among the millennials. There’s a lot of confusion out there, a lot of over medication. That was when I realized the stuff that I had found, I could really use to add value to other people’s lives.
Evelyn Ashley: So walk us through. What was your actual journey, once you’ve been prescribed with your Wel-…
Evelyn Ashley: Wellbutrin. What happened next? You made the decision I’m not going to stay with this, I want to change. What happened?
Chris Butsch: I read two statistics which completely changed my life. The first was that the rate of antidepressant prescriptions has risen by 400% since 1988, but at the same time America’s happiness hasn’t increased. The society-wide solution to, “Oh, you’re unhappy, take some pills,” it doesn’t work. For me, I started researching the things that supposedly do work. I discovered the positive psychology, the study of happiness, started researching things by Marty Seligman, Emma Seppala, the heavy weights in the happiness research industry, and the things that they had found, and the stuff completely blew my mind. Why are we not talking about this stuff? This is incredible. I started implementing, taking the scientific papers, implementing those concepts into my life, doing things like exercising more, meditating more, cutting out some of the extra fat from my free time, fewer video games, less alcohol, and using that time instead to build myself as a person, more reading, more challenge. Over time it was a bit like a workout regimen. Happiness wasn’t … personally to me it’s not a mindset, it is an action step you take, it is a workout regimen, and you can increase it over time.
Evelyn Ashley: Right, and you can choose to change your life. I mean, isn’t that so much like other things, like painkillers. We know there is an epidemic in painkillers. People are out of control. They’re just, “I feel pain, and therefore I want drugs.” Doctors can’t really evaluate pain and that sensitivity, so they will often overdose people. When you think about that, because I have a husband that has a continuing back issue. Basically the last time he had a herniated disc, the doctor was ready to do surgery, blah, blah, blah, and then he started researching can exercise change my life?, and it actually can. It does beg the question from an overall perspective, if it’s not just … it’s our thinking, it’s what we’re doing, and maybe our industrialized society is making us lazy human beings.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, and I think that there is a vested corporate interest in over prescribing people medications that they don’t need.
Evelyn Ashley: Absolutely.
Chris Butsch: For example, did you know that you can actually rearrange your brain and permanently reduce your stress without touching it?
Evelyn Ashley: No, did not know that.
Chris Butsch: Did you know that the Germans …
Evelyn Ashley: That’s pretty cool.
Chris Butsch: Yeah. The Germans discovered you can increase your happiness over time like a muscle. I mentioned that before, or that Harvard spent 75 years trying to determine the number one indicator of life’s satisfaction, and they announced it three years ago.
Evelyn Ashley: Where is it?
Chris Butsch: Right, yeah, where is it? We don’t talk about this stuff. I could go into dreadlocks, “It’s a conspiracy, man,” mode, but really you can take the actions, you can find the stuff. I encapsulated the best stuff of what I found in the book, and it’s the workout regimen for building a much happier life.
Evelyn Ashley: That’s awesome.
John Monahon: Yeah. A lot of what I saw in the book was great, because it was about cutting out some of the short-term indulgences that we’ll probably get to later on in the book and talking more about a sustainable … what can make you happy on a long-term basis. We need to take a quick break, but we will be back with Chris Butsch and speak more about happiness.
John Monahon: Chris, in your book you talk about basically the difference between being truly happy and something that is a pleasure. Can you tell us the difference between the two?
Chris Butsch: Absolutely. There are two building blocks of happiness. There are pleasures and there is true happiness. A pleasure is something that gives you temporary happiness. Coco-Cola is a perfect example. You drink a fizzy pop, it feels good, but then it’s over. Right? After 15 minutes, it’s over. You don’t reminisce about the good times you had with the Coke in 1993.
Evelyn Ashley: Come on, that’s not what Coke says.
Chris Butsch: Right. But you do reminisce about a good time you had with a friend in 1993, because friends are a perfect source of true happiness. The chief difference is that a Coke will make you feel, for lack of a better term, high temporarily, whereas a friend will fulfill you and grow you as a human being. If you spend a day with a friend verses spend a day just drinking Coke, the next morning you actually wake up a little happier. You’ve done what you’ve … you’ve actually increased your baseline happiness, referred to has your hedonic set point, so you’re again becoming more fit in happiness. You’re increasing your happiness over time. That goes back to the German study that found by measuring the happiness levels of people over 25 years, wow, some people are actually increasing their happiness over time. They’re waking up happier every day. What are the things they are doing? That’s awesome.
Evelyn Ashley: What were they doing?
Chris Butsch: That was in 2008 that those findings came out, so the positive psychology community has exploded finding out what those things are, what are the workouts of happiness. They’re things like volunteering, learning, reading, relationship building, and challenge.
Evelyn Ashley: Interacting with humans as opposed to technology.
Chris Butsch: Exactly, things that fulfill us, enrich us, enrich our minds.
John Monahon: I think this interesting. You mentioned the hedonic set point, because for me, I probably think of this in a very old fashioned way, but sometimes I get into a mindset that you’re born the way you’re born, and that’s just about … life is life and you have a set point of happiness and you’ll be temporarily … you’ll have moments of happiness but life is not all general happiness. There’s work and other things, and you just sort of return to the baseline. Can you tell us more about what that hedonic set point is, what the concept behind it?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, it’s the happiness equivalent of your physical fitness, and like your physical fitness if you don’t actively train your happiness through these things it actually atrophies, and you become a little less happy over time. A great example of this is the most medicated demographic in America in terms of antidepressants, who do you think it is?
Evelyn Ashley: I don’t know, Gen Xs.
John Monahon: Millennials?
Chris Butsch: No, it’s actually women aged 48 – 64.
Evelyn Ashley: Really?
Chris Butsch: My theory behind that is a lot of these women have a purpose which is raising children, and around what age for the mom ….
Evelyn Ashley: Children leave.
Chris Butsch: Kids taking off, exactly.
Evelyn Ashley: Empty nest syndrome causes depression.
Chris Butsch: Exactly, yeah. What had been driven, a lot of love and passion and happiness …
Evelyn Ashley: Total focus, right?
Chris Butsch: And happiness and focus has suddenly gone to college. So the happiness is now steadily decreasing over time. Eventually there’s a conversation with a psychiatrist who go, “Here’s Wellbutrin, I’ll see you in six months.” That’s what I’m trying help America avert.
Evelyn Ashley: I think that that’s really an interesting point to raise, because … I’m going to take you down a rabbit hole for a moment, but then we’ll come back. We work with a lot of executive coaches and I know that when people are going to retire it works really well for them to often work with an executive coach so they can understand what the transition is like into another life, and be prepared for your next phase of your life. It’s almost like people need to have an education level of big changes like this in your life can cause unhappiness, and therefore be prepared. So when your kids are starting to apply for college, you need to start preparing with the idea of there’s going to be a transition here and I need to decide what it is that I’m going to be doing with myself on the other side.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, your chief purpose and passion from the last 18 years is about to go off on their own, and there absolutely is some mental prep for that. I have a woman in my network who I think did it really well, when the kids took off she of course stayed in touch with them but also started exploring other passions and used that passionate creative energy on painting and on writing and on travel, and she’s much happier for it.
Evelyn Ashley: Right, that makes perfect sense. Let me just take you back, I know that in your book you talk a little bit about your experience with mindfulness and how that can actually help with happiness, and an experience in a monastery that you had. Can you talk a little bit about your experience there and the PST patient that you interacted with?
Chris Butsch: Absolutely, so I knew I wanted to write about meditation in the book. I tried the apps, I tried the Five Minutes to Heaven. I tried all this stuff, none of it worked, so if found myself in a rut. I had nothing to write about, so I decided to move into a Buddhist monastery and study with the pros. It was in Gainesville, Mississippi. If you look for Vietnamese Buddhists you go to mid-Mississippi, of course. I get there about 9:15, but noble silence is from 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM. I show up and there are about 25 brothers and sisters, and nobody talks to me. It’s like high school all over again.
Evelyn Ashley: Gosh, is it me?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, is it me? So the monk shows me around, he gives me the tour but it’s weird getting a silent tour because he just walks around and points, and it’s like, “Oh, yeah, that’s a building.” But the next morning … I’m a night owl, I only slept from about 2:00 to 5:00 and morning meditation is at 5:45. I shuffle into the main hall and the meditation hall is like … picture a small Catholic chapel, but with no pew and slightly less stained glass. There’s just nothing in it. It’s like an open auditorium, except for these square yoga mats and these medication cushions. I just pick a spot, the ring a gong, and I go, “oh, I think this is meditation time.” I close my eyes, I’m like, “I got this, I got this,” almost went completely insane because …
Evelyn Ashley: I don’t have this.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, I don’t got it. Because really, when in life do we really give ourselves the chance to listen to our inner thoughts. I did it for 45 minutes. No music, no alcohol, nothing. Just you and your brain. It was like I closed my eyes and after about a half hour, my brain was just sitting there, legs and arms crossed, went “Where have you been? We have a lot to talk about.” You go a little nuts but then what happens is I found myself in these beautiful, calm waters and I felt this sense of clarity and connectedness, I’d never felt in decades. My inner German took over and went (in German accent) “I don’t understand what’s happening. We must understand what’s happening inside the brain.” I had to excuse myself from the monastery briefly to go hunker up in Starbucks, do some research and figure out what was going on in my brain. Why did I go from this crazy, highly anxious mental state to incredibly calm. Yeah so it turns out, when you meditate, two things happen. First your brain has a forward gear and a neutral gear. If you’re having a conversation, if you’re focused on something, you’re on the forward gear. When you give yourself a chance to back away from whatever that is and just chill out, your brain engages in neutral gear and you reflect and process information. A very healthy brain goes back and forth. But when in American modern society do we ever engage our neutral gear and just chill out and listen to our brain?
Evelyn Ashley: Very anti-capitalist, really.
Chris Butsch: Exactly. You pull your phone out, a lot of times is what happens. When you do engage that neutral gear and just sit and be quiet and just listen to your inner thoughts, the brain begins to catalog and process and reflect. It’s a very healthy exercise. That’s why meditators are very calm and controlled. The second thing that happens is up until the age of 25; the belief has been that the neuroplasticity process, the brain engineering itself stops. Twenty-five, the brain is set in stone.
Evelyn Ashley: Wow.
Chris Butsch: Harvard did a study on meditation. A lot of happiness researchers are very elegant. You stick a bunch of people in MRIs, you look at their brains, and you go out, you make them do something that makes them happy and you stick them back in and see if anything changed. Harvard did this with meditators. After they meditated for a collective six to ten hours, stuck them back in and they could see a difference in the brain’s structure from 10 feet away. The meditation had reignited the neuroplasticity process, started rebuilding the brain again, and these students also shrunk their amygdala and increased the size of their hippocampus. The brain was talking to itself, and we’re really stressed out. The amygdala is a little out of control. It doesn’t need that much gray matter, so it shifted it down to the hippocampus so they became permanently less stressed out and had better memories. This has created a renaissance of meditation research because we’re not asking ourselves in the scientific community, wow, what else is happening in the brain? What other parts of the brain are moving around? What’s fascinating to think about is what are the lifetime mediators like?
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris Butsch: What are the people like who’ve optimized their brain every day for 50 years? Let’s look at some of them. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are Olympic gold medal volleyball duo. Oprah Winfrey, Ray Daily, the billionaire who outright says the reason I’m a billionaire is because I meditate every day. Is that a hint or not?
Evelyn Ashley: Right, absolutely.
Chris Butsch: I’m about a year and a half into my meditation exercise, and I absolutely feel a complete change in the way my brain operates, and it’s unbelievable and it’s freeing, and it’s just incredible. Meditation is mind-blowing.
Evelyn Ashley: It allows you to react differently to stressful situations.
Chris Butsch: Exactly.
Evelyn Ashley: Amazing. So, Chris, we’re going to take a quick break, and we’ll be right back.
Evelyn Ashley: So, Chris, we talked a little bit about your experience with the monastery and I know that there was a patient there that really engaged you and what his story was. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, absolutely. Despite everything I talked about with meditation, the most poignant moment of my journey into the monastery and actually my journey in the past two years of all of this, happened when I met this 15-year-old PTSD victim. He was bullied at school and then beaten by his father. He had no escape. He had no change. The monks allowed him to move in to find peace. I was typing up the first draft of a book, and he saw the title over my shoulder, and he goes, “Oh, can I read it?” I said, “No,” because it’s ….
Evelyn Ashley: It’s not ready.
Chris Butsch: Germans don’t reveal anything until it’s perfect. But he insisted, so what I did is I pulled out a small chapter and put it in a separate Word document and gave it to him. He disappears and we don’t see him for 12 hours. He comes back with my laptop and his face is bright red. He’s got my laptop tucked under his shoulder, under his arm, and he goes, “Well, Chris, I’m sorry, but I actually … I dug up and I read the entire book. Sorry about that. What I wanted to tell you is that it’s the first time that I’ve laughed and felt hope in the past six months.” He gave me this incredibly tight hug and why that moment was so powerful for me was not only affirmed that I was on the right track trying to help people, but he gave me my purpose. That was when I found my purpose, that one moment in time. I’ll never forget it.
Evelyn Ashley: One little pebble in the ocean can cause a wave, all the time.
Chris Butsch: Exactly.
Evelyn Ashley: That’s pretty cool.
Chris Butsch: That’s when I realized there was something behind the stuff that I’m finding.
Evelyn Ashley: In your meditation practice and your teaching of others, tell us what that process and kind of regularity, how long, how long does it take to actually feel like you are truly meditating? Talk to us a little bit about that.
Chris Butsch: Absolutely. The key to meditation is to eliminate distractions. That’s why personally I don’t advocate the apps as much. I think they’re helpful as a training tool, but eventually you’ll want to vacate your mind entirely of extraneous voices or music. That allows it to fully engage that neutral gear. The mechanics are you want to sit cross-legged but elevate your back so you sit on a couch cushion folded over is a good meditation cushion. Elevate your back about six inches. Straighten your back. That maximizes the flow of nutrients up the spine, and you set a timer for 15 minutes, close your eyes, breathe very deeply in and out for about five breaths in and out. That’s going to help clear the mind, and then you just sit there and you just allow your mind to do its job. You don’t think about any particular thing. You allow your mind to just run wild like a toddler on a playground until it wears itself out. The key is if you get a little stressed out while you’re meditating, you’re doing it right. That’s your brain categorizing, reflecting, engaging that neutral gear, and it’s not an oiled gear. It’s a little rusty down there, but a little engagement and after you do that for five days in a row what you’ll feel is a general higher sense of calm and at the end of the meditation exercise, that moment when you go, “Okay, I feel like this is working,”
Evelyn Ashley: It’s real.
Chris Butsch: Just like exercise, it’s tough to go to the gym when you’re out of shape but eventually you get in shape enough and your body tells you this is great, let’s keep doing this. Your brain does the same thing with meditation, so stick with it,
Evelyn Ashley: Make the commitment and then you’ll feel the benefit over time.
Chris Butsch: Exactly.
John Monahon: In addition to meditation, there are several things that you mentioned that people … aspects when I was reading, I was like, “Well I’m not …” it would mention certain things where I’m thinking “Well, I’m not doing this right, this right,” I’m basically not taking care of myself in a place to stick myself in an optimal state. One of those you were talking about was sleep, people don’t get enough sleep, and specifically millennials sleep very little. What’s the importance of sleep and the effect on long-term happiness?
Chris Butsch: So here’s what happens when you sleep, and I think more people need to know this because it’s extremely important. When you sleep your brain flushes itself out with what is called cerebrospinal fluid. It gives itself a car wash basically. The reason that’s important is because when your brain processes your cells create waste. There’s literal garbage piling up in your brain. When you sleep it flushes itself out, so it’s a nightly car wash, extremely important. When you don’t get enough sleep and you wake up and you feel groggy and you can’t focus as well and your conversations don’t flow, it’s literally because there’s garbage in your brain. That’s why it’s important to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night. There’s general consensus in the scientific community that seven to nine hours is that par, because that allows for about, if I do my math right, five … four or five full sleep cycles. Sleep cycles aren’t precisely 90 minutes for every person, so I’m a big advocate of the sleep cycle app. What it does is it measures your movement and your breathing and wakes you up right after sleep cycles. You feel very crisp and fresh when you wake up.
Evelyn Ashley: Interesting, so wait, it wakes you up during the night, or it wakes you up in the morning?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, you give it a window of time. This morning I said wake me up between 8:00 and 8:30, and it woke me up at 8:24.
John Monahon: Is it a wearable device?
Chris Butsch: It’s through your smart phone.
John Monahon: It’s just on your smart phone.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, and while I typically don’t like … I typically tell my readers not to keep smart phones in the bedroom, I do think in this case sleep cycle outweighs the cons and it’s a very helpful app.
John Monahon: When I’m thinking about sleep and meditation, it seems to me that some of this is about there being so many distractions in the world, and that is pulling people this way or that way, keeping them from being present in the moment, or just draining them. I mean, you talk about several other things in the book that are similar. Do you want to take us … can you talk a little bit about, I guess, social media and other technologies and how that is effecting people’s happiness?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll tackle social media. So, with social media it was a tool originally conceived to bring people together. The problem is it’s become a megaphone for impression management. This is a term meaning as a species, we tend to flock our feathers, just like a peacock. We want to look more interesting, so we get more attention, more power, potentially better partners. Facebook has become the next platform for us to flock our feathers, and make our life look really amazing. The problem is when you scroll through your newsfeed chances are it’s not because you’re not very engaged wherever you are. You’re kind of bored, things may not be going very well. When you scroll through your newsfeed, what are you seeing? You’re not seeing everybody else also bored at work, “Hey, I’m also bored, let’s talk.” You’re seeing, “Look at my six-pack. Look at me riding a giraffe in South Africa. My life is so awesome all the time.” The problem with that is it creates basically like an inferiority complex. It makes you feel less significant and those things; they’re not adding value to your life. Here’s my end-all on social media. There’s a function on Facebook called “unfollow.” You don’t have to unfriend anyone, because I think that is unnecessary, but you can unfollow people, so their stuff never appears in your newsfeed. I used to “follow” all of my friends, which is 1250 of them, but I didn’t really care about all of them. I wish them well but I don’t need to see their picture of them on a giraffe. I unfollow these people, and every day I go through my newsfeed and I unfollow two or three more people. My newsfeed is now only 50 people, highlights from the 50 people I care about most in life. My sister, having a surprise party thrown for her, that’s great. My best friend from high school just got a diploma. That’s awesome. These are things that add value to my life too, and things that I can celebrate with them because I care about them. My social media experience has gone from a loud crowded bar to a small intimate party with the people I care about.
Evelyn Ashley: So, this is funny because my husband and I travel a lot, and he loves to post his pictures when we’re … we were in Amsterdam, then we were in New York right after, here and there, and my sister actually responds with “Are you people actually on vacation all of the time?,” which most of the time we’re actually working while we’re doing this …
John Monahon: That’s why he’s so proud of the pictures, because he’s actually out.
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah, exactly. Look, it’s beautiful outside, but we’re not actually outside. That whole idea really resonates where you create this image where, “Oh, it’s all so fantastic,” and everyone else is “Oh, great, here they go again.” Hmm, I wonder how many people have unfollowed us as a result? But I think it does raise another ustion for me, too, which I do know that as a group, and I’m not going to actually use the term, but I think young people that are starting to … that are in the workforce, that are starting in the workforce are also taking a view that things, so material items, should be less important. Which if I roll that back to their parents who probably were the yuppies and the highly driven capitalists in our past, the later baby boomers, I guess, do you think that’s why this question has arisen?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, we grew up and started going to college right about when the American Dream capitulated in 2008. It became clear that the things, the yachts, the luxury houses and vacations, the Infinity pools weren’t actually making people happy, and they were really fallible anyway. A lot of people just lost them. The beauty of graduating into a mediocre economy is that most millennials can’t afford to buy the American Dream anyway. We can’t even afford to make that mistake, and that’s an absolutely good thing, because we’re starting to find homemade happiness, organic happiness, things that are way cheaper but also we’re discovering that these things are way more potent as happiness givers anyway. Millennials drink close to 100% of the craft beer brewed, not because it’s great, but a lot of it is, but because there’s a social aspect to it. We like going to breweries and spending time with our friends.
Evelyn Ashley: Right, that and I know that a lot of people are actually brewing their own beer, kind of as a way that they can actually bring their friends close over to experience what they’ve created.
Chris Butsch: Exactly. That’s another huge one. I saw a lot of folks in my parent’s generation idealize the big five bedroom house in Marietta, whereas millennials, we’re more interested in these co-housing communities and these high rises that are effectively college dorms because the common element is there is more of a sense of community with those locations. They’re cheap and that’s great, but also we can be more of a part of something. We can be closer knit and tighter and this is something that the Danes figured out in the 1960s when they instituted co-housing communities. Why would I … if relationships are the number one indicator of life’s satisfaction, why would I literally distance myself from the nearest person? Why not come back together?
John Monahon: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Chris Butsch, the author of “The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness.” Chris, when we left off we were talking about the differences between what the young millennials want versus what their parents wanted, and really what it boils down to, it sounds like we’re talking about the difference between buying things and having experiences. The millennials are much bigger on experiencing things, which leads to sort of a shift in the economy as well. Are we a consumer economy, are we one that focuses on services and experiences? What’s your thought in that shift? Do you see the millennials keeping on that path? Is that something that’s extremely important to them?
Evelyn Ashley: And how is that positive?
Chris Butsch: I absolutely do, for two reasons. First, we are … a huge part of everyone’s happiness journey is when they truly internalize the difference between pleasure and true happiness. Now, millennials can’t afford a BMW M3 which is an awesome car, but it’s also a form of pleasure. But we can afford to go to Ecuador, because it’s pretty cheap, and I could afford to go to China because I can get a beer and some won tons for a buck. We tend to gravitate towards the experiential stuff because (a) a lot of time it’s less expensive, and (b) we feel more fulfilled by the experiential stuff. It’s a form of true happiness. We’re connecting with people, we’re meeting people, we’re learning, we’re challenging ourselves. I do think it’s a hugely positive thing that the millennials are more based around an experiential economy rather than a pleasure based one.
John Monahon: This is a good segway into millennials in the workplace, because I think this is … maybe this goes to the crux of what is sometimes the problem with millennials … I won’t say problem …
Evelyn Ashley: If it is a problem.
John Monahon: The difference with millennials in the workplace with their older employers or bosses, is that it’s much easier if you’re in a business if your younger workforce just wants to buy something, because that means working more hours and getting more money, and buying something takes very little time. Having an experience is cheaper, can’t sort of motivate you with money for that and it takes time off to do it, which isn’t as beneficial to the business. How do these things come together for the millennials and for the businesses in the workplace?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, absolutely. I think … I’ll make a poll. Who in this room is tired of hearing about millennials needing special treatment in the workplace?
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris Butsch: We’re totally tired of it. I find it personally fascinating because we have this whole industry surrounding “here’s how to treat the millennials, they’re special snowflakes and trophies and [inaudible 00:38:51]”. And yet, when was the last time a business came forward and said, “We achieve workplace harmony because we started treating a specific demographic completely differently.” Or how about, “Our baby boomers and Gen Xers are thrilled that our young new employees are getting special treatment.” Never.
Evelyn Ashley: It’s changing everything to the positive.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, so I think it’s a load of bull, personally, and what I found interviewing dozens of my friends and their friends and workplaces, and their managers as well, is that the millennials put their backs into companies that simply have the best practices. They will work for well run businesses. They don’t work well with companies that give them special treatment or need to hire a special consultant that tells them to treat them differently or put them all in a room …
Evelyn Ashley: How to talk to these people.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, how to talk to them.
Evelyn Ashley: How to motivate them.
Chris Butsch: Yeah, exactly. We’re not aliens, we’re people. What I’ve found is that the wrong approach is to treat millennials differently, or give them special treatment. The right approach is to find ways to optimize your business to run a better business, and millennials will naturally work for you and they’ll stick around and they’ll work much harder for you. This is becoming the basis of my new book, because the chief feedback I got from the first book was, “Yeah, this stuff is great, it’s really enriching me and I get it, but I’m still miserable at work.” Then I talk to the manager and they go, “Yeah, we’re really tired of this anti-millennial zeitgeist. We’re still not really sure what to do. What they’re telling isn’t really working.” My goal is to bridge that gap between the boomers and the Xers and the millennials at work, and what I found is that again it all comes down to best practices. The things that the millennials really value and really work for and give 110% for are best practices. The book is all about what those are and how to implement them.
Evelyn Ashley: So is that process, is that communication? A little bit on what the best practice is inside business?
Chris Butsch: Yeah, absolutely. A preview is my co-author, Jim Beach and I, we just recorded a chapter yesterday on learning and development, opportunities for ongoing learning.
Evelyn Ashley: Okay.
Chris Butsch: I found that if your employees are like engines, then ongoing learning opportunities are like the synthetic motor oil of your work force. They will keep your employees healthier, they’ll last longer, and they’ll perform better. Again, the opportunity to continue to learn and grow yourself is not something that specifically only millennials want when they show up. Everyone can benefit from that opportunity.
Evelyn Ashley: That’s interesting. I think that also begs the question can companies and managers change to actually implement those processes, because one of the things that as lawyers, quite frankly, we suck as managers. Even those of us that come out of large firms originally, training programs for lawyers are not actually what anyone expects. It’s very much go in the deep water and if you can float then you’ll do well. I think that’s really interesting, the idea of how do we actually move professional firms and other businesses in the direction of actually making sure they are actually focusing on those elements in order for them to be successful with those people going forward.
Chris Butsch: Absolutely. That’s one thing that Jim and I are very focused on in the book is not only here describing the best practice and why everyone likes it, but also how do I implement it in a business of any size. An example for learning and development, the conclusion we reach is you can take an hour every two weeks and if it can’t be in work hours it can be before or after work. Take an hour, call it free development Fridays. Task a millennial, for example, to fill those slots with interesting speakers and workplace experts. Hire me to come in and give meditation seminar. Then tell your employees, “Hey, we now have free development Fridays.”
Evelyn Ashley: That’s pretty cool, Chris. I think we’ll try to implement that. We’ll talk to you about that. That would be really awesome, actually.
John Monahon: Are there any companies that have done especially well at this, or is it just a great company, being a great company, this is what you do?
Chris Butsch: Yeah. Case studies for me, I interview a lot of millennials and the big four consultancies. We’ve got BCG, McKenzie, Bain, Deloitte. They tend to do this very well, and they have good millennial retention. They track and they keep the top talent. One thing I found is … my favorite example from Bain is I commonly hear “My millennial just showed up and they want a promotion. They’ve been there for eight months and they want to be … “Okay, the first question I ask when I hear that is how much feedback is that millennial receiving? “Well, they get their quarterly review.” Hmm mm, not enough. I don’t have time to go into the research why quarterly reviews are bogus, they do more harm than good, but they do. That millennial is asking for promotion because they just want to feel affirmed that what they’re doing is the right step. Bain does not promote people for two years, and they tell you that when you show up. “Welcome to Bain. Here’s a packet. We’re not going to promote you for two years.” But the millennials stay. Why is that? Because they get routine feedback from multiple directions. They know how they are doing and how to improve, constantly.
Evelyn Ashley: Hey, John, does this remind you of anyone who used to be in our offices every 15 minutes for positive feedback?
John Monahon: It does, and you know, it’s good to know for future purposes.
Evelyn Ashley: It’s true.
John Monahon: There’s easier ways than trying to …
Evelyn Ashley: Beat people around and shoulders.
John Monahon: Right or the solution provided, you can just affirm them. Well Chris, this has been very interesting, I really enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us.
Evelyn Ashley: Yes, thank you very much.
Chris Butsch: Thank you for having me.
John Monahon: If you’d like to learn more about Chris and connect with him, please visit his website at chrisbutsch, that’s chris b-u-t-s-c-h dot com. There you will find information on hiring Chris to speak, meditation training for your organization and information about ordering his new book.