Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on October 13, 2009

Today: The path to a happier life.

“You have to stay in shape,” said comedian Ellen DeGeneres. “My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”

Ellen made us laugh and in that instant we set our cares aside. Staying in shape is a nice tip, but the point of today’s story is, every day, a little laughter. And as you laugh, you’ll bring joy into the hearts of others for happiness is contagious.

But you may claim you can’t laugh and that others don’t understand you or your pain and that it’s worse than we can all imagine.

We all have pain. You’re not the first to get sick, injured or to lose a loved one. You’re not the first to lose a job or your home or feel alone or fearful.

If you can smile or laugh when all seems lost, you’ll start taking control of your situation.

The husband of a woman I know left her and she had to raise their son alone. Then she got hit by a drunk driver and after months of intensive therapy in a live-in facility was left a paraplegic, living each day in a wheel chair.

She lost her independence, her social life, her job and control of most of her body.

But she didn’t lose her sense of humor. To this day, 37 years after that accident her laughter fills a room with joy. And people want to be with her.

For the last 35 years, she’s had a devoted live-in companion who helps to care for her needs and helped her regain the social life she’d lost as he treasurers the wonderful person she is.

Her name is Silvia Richard, he is Terry Robinson and I’m proud to say they are my friends.

31 years ago John Mackey, a 25 year old college dropout and 21 year old Rene Lawson Hardy opened a health food store in Austin, Texas. With a smile, the couple named it SaferWay, a play on the name of the grocery giant, Safeway Stores.

But their little store struggled and in the first year, they lost half the money they started with. Desperate to cut their expenses, they moved into the store, showering by using a water hose attached to a dishwasher.

A year later they merged their still struggling store with another health food store, changed its name and began to build a successful business.

Then just as it seemed success was theirs, a huge flood devastated Austin and it destroyed their inventory and damaged their equipment. They had no insurance and suddenly their success was gone as was their money and it looked like they were finished.

Yet they kept a positive attitude and a smile or two and they refused to quit.

And when times were darkest, friends and neighbors, customers and staff came together and rebuilt the store. Investors, vendors and creditors added financial help and against seemingly impossible odds, just 28 days later the store reopened.

This time success would be theirs. Today that little store, Whole Foods Market has 280 stores, $8 billion in annual sales and has 54,000 employees in North America, Canada and Great Britain. Its success has redefined the meaning of health food stores.

But there’s another way to view business setbacks as comedian W.C. Fields expressed years ago. “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

So if you want a happier life, look for humor. The more you can laugh, the more fun life will be as you rise above the heartaches and reverses we all face.

As such, I’ll leave you with an observation about leadership from comedian Jerry Seinfeld. “Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you have two life forms, one of them making a poop, the other carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?”

Success Tip of the Week: Laughter is cleansing. It washes away anxieties and soothes the soul. Buy a book of jokes or funny stories or just watch an episode of “Seinfeld” or some other sitcom as for a little while you set aside your cares.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to my aunt, Eleanor Kazan, a very funny woman who helped assemble this humor.

In the next KazanToday: After retiring, a modest man makes a fortune by doing what he loved.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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