Role Models

Role models- many of us have them. People we look up to. Have you ever reflected on what it truly is that you admire about them?

Our inclination to find leaders and teachers comes from the time when we were little and impressionable and our parents told us how to behave in order to secure our place in the world and find “success.” 

This has created an attitude of “looking up” – and so we have become used to thinking there is always someone better than us. While it is perfectly natural behavior to seek out sources of inspiration in order to advance oneself, the imitation game is definitely not.

Idolization has quietly become a very much accepted cultural phenomenon, striping people of their self identity and slowly degrading them to a general average norm. Entire groups of people desire to become someone else- not just be like that but become them. Or they give themself to worshiping their idol.

And this is where the heartache sets in: When people fall for other people because they see them as greater than themselves, they lose the ability to learn something about themselves from that person because they are blinded by the desire to be them. This is by no means the fault of the idol but of those who project their idolization upon them.

But what is this teaching that an idol or role model brings into the world? Nothing but the subject of all my writing: Human Value. Every single idol is nothing but a person that is relentless in the sharing of their value. Their teaching is not “be me” but “be like me.” Every true leader is here to inspire in us the trust and confidence to find a great leader within ourselves. 

Every great persona is not here to force us into their shoes, but to fill our own shoes. I hesitate to bring up religion but it must be said- the idea of Jesus is one that has separated the world for ages. Was he here to teach us about ourselves or to submit us to his supremacy? The former activates our self-ownership (if he created us in his image, that means we too are great), the latter denies it.

I kindly ask you to do a little early spring cleaning and clean out your “idol closet”: Who have you let in there and for what reason? Do you aspire to be them, or are you genuinely inspired by their example to tap into your own self? Inside-out or Outside-in?

Maybe it’s time to let some of your idols or role models go.

The hero’s journey

I know, I know… there are tons of analogies around journeys and adventures when it comes to our lives. And yet, despite the fact that we grow up with stories about them, in fables, myths, tales and lastly on the tv screen we fail to understand the true significance of adventure in our lives.

The proof can be found in the way we live and in the things we go after in our work. Seldom are the occasions on which we truly dare to take a risk. Rare are the opportunities we grasp to follow our wild heart. 

We are too busy securing a safe and secure lifestyle and our place amidst a society that, in all honesty, does not care too much about us in the first place. Our work has become the exemplified struggle for this safety. As such, it also has become the antithesis of the hero’s journey. 

To be a hero means to face the odds of the self. What do I mean by this? It means that all the teachings of the greatest myths and stories are just here to encourage us to walk through the door and start our journey to our true self: To rediscover what we are about, to abandon the false self we have adopted early in our lives, to slay the dragons that keeps us “safe” and finally emerge into the light of the world fully conscious of our purpose, our tools and our path.

That which makes a great hero is the same as what makes a modern-day pioneer, a trailblazer and leader- wisdom of the self, knowing your unique potential and obligation in this life. That is what creates conviction and the desire to act. We all know these people. They enter a room and fill it with their presence. They appear on global stages, share their truth and suddenly the world is not the same anymore. Their ideas, songs, projects, speeches make us pause for a moment and think. They make us change our behavior and reconsider things. That’s because they went on this most perilous but also natural of all adventures and connected with their truth, and now that they have this truth they have no choice but to share it, unapologetically.

A hero’s success is not the victory at the end because there is no end. A hero’s success is to show up as the hero of their story each and every day. 

This is the reason why I compare happy, fulfilled living with the existence of a fruit tree: We have to go on a dangerous journey just to find out what kind of tree we are, what kind of fruit we are here to bear. Once we live in this knowledge, we have no other choice than to be that tree. 

Knowing and owning who we are removes all questions and incertitude from our lives and makes it irrelevant to fight petty wars and measure ourselves up against anyone else because we are now walking in our own unique light.

A hero is self-reliant and self-dependent. She or he does not need the world to validate their existence and relevance. This simple yet difficult thing is the very definition of happiness. Think about it, happiness is what every story of mankind has ever been about, and will forever be about. We crave it. It is worth more than gold.

The first step in writing your story is acknowledging the lust and hunger you have to go on your life’s adventure.  

What is value?

It is common to think that value is the thing we give and receive as part of a transactional exchange. You give an item and receive money for it. But limiting value to this means furthering the hurtful notion that life is nothing but a series of transactions we have to tip in our favor. Nothing could be farther from the truth. True value is the lifeblood of expansion. It’s what fuels happiness in you and others. True value expresses emotions and it spreads emotions. Transactions don’t have this power as they are limited to their bargaining power.

When two people meet for the first time they have the choice to engage in a transactional value exchange by promoting features that the other person might find interesting, and which might result in a favorable outcome, or they can opt to share their truth and express what they truly care about. Something which is not aimed at winning, but at celebrating oneself. “This is who I am, this is what I stand for. If it resonates with you, I am willing to share it with you.”

This is quite a paradigm shift from what the world teaches us- to sell ourselves. Offering your true value is not about selling, it’s about offering. You only put selling first when your value is limited to the benefit you expect from selling. But when the benefit is the joy of sharing your personal value, we stop selling and we start offering, giving and celebrating.

In a restaurant business, this is the difference between hosting (celebrating) and connecting people with food inventory (selling). What comes from this is an experience that is either emotional or transactional. An emotional experience means that someone catered to our hidden needs, gave us something we didn’t expect but secretly wished for, exceeded our hopes and dreams and nurtured our own desire to find and express our value. It creates a memory, an indentation in our timeline.

It makes us smile and makes us emotionally involved. We ask questions, we investigate and become involved. 

We are not just the passive consumer and onlooker that transactional restaurants and hotels ask us to be. When you stay at a hotel that shares real personal value, you stay at someone’s place, you get exposed to someone’s personal view on the world and you get to share that view with that person for a moment.

In a time where offerings are becoming more and more generic and exchangeable, we have lost the ability to cater to hidden needs and to express our deepest desires in our work as value. This has resulted in the Amazons, Hiltons, McDonalds and Walmarts of the world. All of which are undermining our emotional experiences on the daily, turning wonderful opportunities for discovery and growth into mere transactions.

If you know who you are and decide to express this truth as value via your work you can finally start painting your world in your favorite color and allow for those who long to see this color to experience it wholeheartedly. Stop going for the ever same hues just because you think they will sell, because there is evidence for it and because everyone is using them. Find your own color and splash it on every wall you can find. 

True personal value is not for everyone, and this is a good thing! We cannot have the entire world as our friends, we cannot serve everyone, we cannot agree with everyone. Our house is only so big, and true value requires us to pay attention when we give it. Stop wanting to supersize your businesses. Make your business small enough that your value remains connected to you, but big enough that those who need it can see it in its entirety. And true value is ALWAYS seen!

Lastly, don’t doubt yourself. True value is a powerful drug, Its effect is highly intoxicating. The one who follows it is much like the painter who’s feverishly creating a masterpiece because she has to. They don’t do it to satisfy a crowd but to bring out what’s inside of them. It makes them unstoppable, self-guided, uninfluenced and self-reliant.

Doesn’t this sound like a very enticing proposal for work? Know this: the world is waiting for you to do it and will repay you for your courage in doing so.

Whose dream are you dreaming?

As many of you might know by now, the foundation-story I share in all of my publications is the necessity of ownership over the self. This is the one prerequisite for a meaningful life- to know who you truly are, to see your truth and to express it in the world via actions. 

This inside-out attitude is an indisputable natural principle many of you have learned to ignore. You submit what was once yours to prevailing beliefs that exist outside you without questioning them. By doing so, you invite foreign truths to take seat at your table and steer you in a direction opposed to your own. 

There are many foreign truths that take over one’s life: The way you see money, time, love, relationships, health and even your personal space. Whenever you shift your notion of them from being something that supports your happiness towards something that supports your place in society, you give up a piece of yourself. Amidst all these resources, there is something that is especially dire to lose: your dreams and your ability to dream.

True dreams are reflections of your heart’s deepest desires. When you are aligned with yourself and open to see yourself for who you are, your heart speaks to you in a constant dialogue. It instructs you on the things it needs to expand on but also where to draw boundaries. The ability to dream and to hear your dreams are your most important source of direction. It’s your communication line with your intuition. Those who have read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo should know what I mean.  

But there comes a time in everyone’s life where this ability is compromised and shifts from dreaming your personal dream to dreaming a more common dream. Growing up in Switzerland opened me up to the “Swiss dream” – the way Switzerland defines success and the goals that represent that success. Being a white male infused me with other specific dreams. Once I got into advertising these dreams got extended further. 

Over time, more and more of my authentic heartfelt dreams were overwritten with seemingly more relevant societal dreams that stood in agreement with my fearful mind that sought approval, respect and a secure place within society. 

Obsession with social conformity invites foreign dreams into the mind that clog the lines to one’s heart until our personal dream is just a rare and faint whisper. 

And yet, nobody can truly rid themselves of their heart’s desire. It resurfaces every now and then, in a quiet moment, in absence of distraction or when the doubt over the things you do on the daily and the world in general overwhelm you. If you are confused right now it is because of this disagreement. 

It is a general truth that we can only live in the outside world if we recognize our inside world first. Loving someone else requires us to love ourselves first. It is the same when it comes to our dreams. Your outside dreams are nothing if they are not in agreement with your inner dreams. They are confused narratives, disconnected and disjointed fragments of someone else’s dream. If you choose to live by them and chase them you choose to chase an illusion. And the thing with illusions is that they vanish as soon as you catch them because they don’t mean anything to you. 

So do yourself a favor and identify the false dreams you have. What are the things you do for no other reason than to live up to someone else’s opinion, expectation or judgement? 

What are goals and plans you have set that have no origin within you and that only seek to measure up with the world? 

And who are the real owners of these dreams?

You’ll be surprised by how many owners of your dreams there are, and how much they cloud your ability to walk on your path of happiness.


I am writing this because I am repeatedly asked to clarify the confusion around what happiness really means.

Time and again I have emphasized the importance that emotions have in our lives. They are synonymous to life because without them, we become hollow, instinctive creatures who only run on automatic reactions unable to make conscious memories.

With that said, the strongest emotion our heart craves is the one of happiness. I refrain from expressions like bliss and joy because for many they mean the same thing.

But it’s the prevailing understanding of what happiness means that creates much of the pain the world is enduring right now. I have said in the past that happiness is the choice between something we must attain or afford (sad work) or something we discover within ourselves and express through our work (happy work).

For the many billions who see happiness as a commodity we can buy- vacations, retreats, stuff- happiness has become a futile sensation. A numbing agent. A short break from the aches of life. Happiness in this case is the absence of the threats that the world poses. So with higher walls and tighter security, more botox, a flashier car and a better title people falsely assume they’re doing great. They think they are happy.

I spell this kind of “happiness” in lowercase because it is passing, must be fed with lots of hurtful actions and is at constant risk of being lost. There is no difference between a cocaine high and this sort of happiness. Both are illusive and lead to a loss of self. This kind of happiness lives outside of us because it depends on conditions outside of us that we cannot control but that we desperately seek to manage.

The uppercase HAPPINESS that is at the helm of happy work is completely different in nature. I like to compare it to an operating system or a general perspective that stays. This kind of HAPPINESS means that you are completely aligned with yourself because you know yourself inside out. It means that because you make the experience of HAPPINESS your guiding intention for every day, you recognize yourself first and then the world around you for what it is and move within it as exactly the person you are.

Contrary to the happy person, the HAPPY person lives inside out. Free of pretense and pretending, leading a non-defensive life. They don’t react to things to defend themselves, they respond with their authentic self to present themselves. You could call this HAPPINESS simply “falling into life.”

Now you might falsely assume that this entails that a HAPPY person is always smiling. This is, of course, far from the truth. Even with HAPPINESS at the core of our being we can still experience heartache and grief, but not because things happen to us but because we choose to have a healthy emotional response. 

This makes us the owner of our emotional reality, which is one of the greatest things you will ever experience.

It’s like driving a car

Flow is an essential principle in successful, joyful living. It lies at the heart of the experience that is life. When we flow, we become effortless because everything we do comes easy; no force is involved. 

I would like to compare being in flow to driving a car. Some of you might recognize the sign of an experienced driver- they don’t accelerate hard and they don’t brake hard. In fact, a really good driver will mostly use the accelerator to control speed. This very fluid way of driving is equal to the flow we can achieve in our life by making decisions that flow out of us and that are in alignment with who we are. By flowing like a good driver, we use the gas and brake pedals less, the ride becomes less jerky and more comfortable, and because we minimize wear and tear, we get farther without needing roadside assistance. 

A good driver also chooses her/his roads more carefully, always preferring new roads to the packed old paths.

Let’s take this into our work life. Most of our work experiences are constant stop-and-gos at rush hour. Because we are competitive hustlers, we find ourselves at the wheel of a race car in horrific competitive traffic. We flex our muscles as we rev the engine boastfully, desperate to find success and leave the pack behind, we hit the accelerator and leap forward 2 car lengths before we have to slam the brakes again because someone else is in the way. We engage in dangerous and tedious lane changes that don’t get us very far.

Our accelerator is the eagerness to move forward, all the concepts, methods and programs that are supposed to take us forward, and in our engine runs the fuel of our greed and fear of failure. What a dangerous mix to take on the road. Would you want to be in that car?

The rush hour traffic is the competitive market that we choose to navigate in. There is no room for us to maneuver, since everybody wants to do the same thing at the same time in the exact same way (pretty much like traffic on Fridays at 5pm). It’s a suffocating reality we create for ourselves. To be pulled back and forth between acceleration and total standstill. If we are dizzy from our work experiences, it’s because of the constant whiplash we give ourselves. Our necks are screwed. It’s hard to contain this extremely charged situation. Every once in a while, someone snaps and rams into the car ahead of them to push through. In a hustling world, where fear of failure is real, some people will roll over bodies to get ahead. Is this the kind of traffic we want to engage in? Note: you know right away if you’re in that kind of environment. 

Now, look at the people in flow: they glide through wide curves on the open road, one foot gently working the accelerator, wind in their hair, pushing through life at a constant and efficient speed, with the smile of success on their faces. They are open to taking new turns and changing their route because the ride is effortless. They don’t react to their surroundings, they merely respond to it in a flowing manner. It’s time for us to become better drivers and start enjoying the ride.

The biggest problem in the world

I was recently asked what I believed to be humanity’s biggest issue. I knew that my interviewer hinted at common systemic problems like lack of access to resources, inequality, climate change, etc. And while I agree that these are issues that need to be tackled, I disagree that they are at the heart of the matter. As usual, we are mistaking cause and effect and solely focused on the consequence of our doing.

Humanity’s real issue shows in the questions we ask. We run around the world asking “WHAT should we do?” and “HOW can we change things?” The thing is, no real issue has ever been resolved by answering a WHAT or a HOW question. Those questions are only good for finding a quick fix that delays a real resolution. You see, WHAT and HOW questions satisfy our impatience.

But, we also ask these questions because something feels off. We are emotionally bothered by something and immediately ask WHAT and HOW questions. Oddly enough, we never wonder WHY we feel this way. We don’t ask WHY things are the way that they are? We ask WHAT and HOW because we agree that a solution needs to be found within the framework that is given. We want a comfortable solution that doesn’t stretch the boundaries of what needs to be done beyond the admissible. And by doing so, we don’t leave room for valid solutions. 

We want things to change, but not at any cost.

Little kids are obsessed with WHY questions. They are still connected to their natural curiosity, their openness, their sense of wonder. They understand intuitively that the magic of the world lies in the cause of things. And so they are unafraid of getting straight to the point. 

For us as adults, this means we must re-engage with our intuition and go back to WHY questions first:

What causes you to feel the way you feel about your work or your life?

What creates the reality of your work and your life? (Don’t be fooled. These questions are based on WHY. They are not asking “What should I change or how can I change it?)

These two central questions are deeply interlinked. Whatever you allow to create your work reality will create your emotional reality. If what you have embraced as the cause for your work reality is unnatural and even opposed to your own true self, then the work that ensues will take on an unnatural path- something you are bound to feel deeply.

This cannot be rectified with all the WHAT and HOW questions in the world because you first need to work at the root level and correct the cause. Of course this requires courage and desire.

All systemic issues have a cause that remains inaccessible to our current limited mindset. Without the courage and desire to shift the cause we will never be able to shift our actions. Rice bags, medical aid and weapons delivered into zones of crises will never be a solution, just like changing the way you go about your work today without daring to shift its cause will never change the way you feel about it…

Budgets and Inventory Lists

We have budgets and inventory lists for so much in our lives. What about a Happiness Inventory List? Do you ever go through your checklist to see if the resources in your life work for or against your happiness? 

I talk about this in a 2-part episode on the Do Happy Work podcast. When you get a moment, click on the link below and have a listen to the Happiness Inventory Episodes, and take note of how you use: TIME, SPACE, PEOPLE, MONEY. Thanks for listening.

Do Happy Work Podcast

Are you really free?

I have yet to encounter a person who is not clear on the fact that they want more freedom in their life. It is time we inspect the definition of this laden word.

There is always a general view on what freedom means and how it can be achieved within any community. The view on freedom is directly dependent on the predominant mindset that is upheld within the community. There are, generally, two mindsets: A fear driven one, where freedom is always at risk, and an abundant one, where freedom is a shared commodity. 

Within a society that operates on the premise of financial gain, freedom is seen as whatever money can buy you. So, whatever can bring you more money will bring you more freedom.

This reinforces the notion that a society that sees freedom as limited to financial resources will do anything to make more of it, hence the extreme transactionality we encounter on the daily, not just in our jobs, but in all aspects of our lives.

Transactional behavior always stems from a mindset of fear. The fear of not surviving and the fear of stagnation. These two are the inherent drivers that act across the layers of the societal cake: The ones who have little, work to remain alive. The ones who are at the top use their money to create more of it. They are the ones free to invest. And the ones in the middle use their freedom to advance to the top and fight stagnation. It’s the struggle for a limited resource. 

It goes without saying that this very behavior is also limiting freedom towards the bottom. The less you have, the harder it is to create more of it because financial freedom never trickles down within a transactional economy. After all, the top relies on the bottom to provide their cheap labor and willingness to mindlessly consume. This can only be assured if they remain unfree, bound by tools that supposedly bring freedom, like credit cards, loans, affordable mortgages but we all know that they are really designed to rob them of freedom.

This also means that according to Maslow’s pyramid, within which we are currently living, only the wealthy have the freedom to reach transcendence and self-actualization. For the rest, living within the level of transactionality will be about working for freedom that caters to lower, less visceral needs. Full stop. 

Is this what life is about? Of course not. 

Life is nothing but a deep emotional experience. It goes without saying that self exploration and creation from one’s truth is a basic necessity that everyone needs to have unlimited access to. Without it, the greater part of society remains deprived from the very magic that is life and reduced to working and consuming assets, trapped in the illusion of toiling for reward.

This is where entrepreneurs make a difference by making one choice: Is my work going to serve my own advancement through financial gain (traditional), or is it about the creation and sharing of human value that offers freedom that becomes available to the system?

We are far less dependent on socio-political decisions than on our consciousness when it comes to our willingness to make freedom the shared commodity it is in every forest, body of water and nature altogether. 

Train all your muscles

When it comes to training our muscles, what images come to mind? Weights? Body builders? The gym card you never use? We know that keeping muscles well-oiled will help them function longer and even grow.

Sometimes we also remember to keep the brain trained through mental exercises like Sudoku and crossword puzzles. But what about those other muscles we have? We’re not made up of only intellectual intelligence- we have to look at greasing our other faculties as well. The most important muscles, the ones without which physical and mental muscles wouldn’t matter, are the emotional muscles. Yes, you heard right.

Since emotions lie at the very heart of the human experience (without emotional experiences life would be nothing at all), it is also the basis for everything of value in our existence.

That which gives our emotions depth and expression is not so much the intellectual and physical muscle, but the social one. When we are in charge of our emotional reality and we connect with our surroundings and the communities around us, only then do the physical and mental elements come into play. 

You could also say that the emotional and social layer represent the base of our impact in the world. The expression of our true self happens through actions and mental creativity, yes, but without them stemming from an emotional place of deep knowledge and social integrity, they are nothing but vain punches in the air. 

I recommend a strict regimen that takes all 4 layers into account.

When you wake up, first thing in the morning take care of your emotional muscle: Find gratitude for being alive, for waking up, for seeing the sun, for being at one with yourself, for a wonderful night’s rest, for whatever this new day might bring. Be respectful of your emotions, own them.

And if fear is in your heart, embrace it and understand where it comes from. This is also a good moment to voice an intention for the day ahead.

Only after you do this should you move forward with connecting to your surroundings to flex your social muscle. Look at the world in appreciation, wave at a neighbor, hug a tree or simply engage in constructive thoughts about the world. If social media has a tendency to aggravate you, reclaim power over your emotions and say no to it for now. If listening to the news brings anxiety, leave it out. Make this all about reconnecting with the place you are in and the people around you and do so in the light of the loving intention you have made earlier. 

Now that this is settled, you should wake up your mind. While reading is a beautiful way of kicking the machine into gear, the content of what we read impacts and can impact the delicate balance of a wonderful morning. This is why I recommend writing instead of reading, as this is a much more proactive mental exercise. Automatic writing allows the mind to pour itself onto a page and removes the blockages imposed by the conscious mind. Accessing the unconscious mind is much like purging and allowing for our fresh intention to crystalize itself. Once the conscious mind reads these outpourings, they are like an agreement we can hold ourselves accountable to. 

When all this is done, the physical machine is ready to warm up. This does not necessarily mean kickboxing and 500 push-ups. Simply use your body to express what you are feeling. If you feel fear, then move in order to free yourself of it. If you feel restlessness, transform it into body heat. If you feel happiness, express it by dancing in the kitchen. If you need to scream, scream. I implore you to allow your body to express all the energy it has built up inside, in ways that are not harmful, of course.

You are a beautiful, wholesome and complete being with parts that are deeply interconnected and should be treated as such. Don’t just train the obvious.

We use cookies to ensure you the best experience. By using our website you agree to our Cookie Policy.

Skip to content