The 6 Tenets Of Happiness & Success

Life Balance

ted leonsis
Ted Leonsis, Author, The Business of Happiness; Owner, The Washington Capitals





By Ted Leonsis

The cliché is that money can’t buy happiness, and I know that to be true.  As a young entrepreneur who sold an early New Media company for a lot of money, I was very wealthy at a young age.  An emergency landing in an airplane I believed was going crash forced me to evaluate my life, and I had to face facts: If I died then, I wouldn’t die happy.

It was the most important discovery of my life.  The moment I got off that plane, with shaking knees and a queasy stomach, I resolved to pursue happiness and live my life without regret.  And so I have done for the past 25 years.  Along the way, I’ve learned some things, which I explain in The Business of Happiness, which was published in February.

I called my book The Business of Happiness because I believe that happiness can be achieved by approaching it with the same degree of discipline and rigor that’s needed to build a successful business.  I’m also convinced that the people who approach happiness in this manner increase the odds that they’ll be successful.  Money buys happiness?  Not necessarily, as I found out.  Working toward happiness makes you more successful in achieving your business and career goals?  Yes, I truly believe that.

Along the way, I’ve learned that there aren’t only happy people; there are happy businesses and companies.  Some of the same rules apply to institutions as individuals.  An enterprise that actively seeks to create happiness for the customers it serves, as well as its employees, partners, and yes, of course, its shareholders – a business that in its multidimensional ambitions for fulfillment has an outlook similar to many of the happy people I have known and studied – is more likely to be successful than one that doesn’t care about the happiness it creates, or over-indexes entirely in favor of shareholders at the expense of everyone else. 

There is, I believe, a “double bottom line” that is made up of fiscal results and positive impact on people and society.  I believe that by pursuing happiness, people and businesses alike increase the odds that they will be successful in achieving their broadest goals.  This concept of the “double bottom line” is now the overriding pursuit of all my business interests.

The time I’ve invested in studying happiness and success has led me to conclude that individuals should treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business – with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach and metrics to measure your progress.  It is also my observation that the happiest and most successful people live by six common practices or tenets.

  1. Successful and happy people set goals. 
  2. They participate within multiple communities simultaneously. 
  3. They find outlets for personal expression. 
  4. They are willing to express a sense of gratitude for what they have. 
  5. They have high degrees of empathy, which leads them to give back to society.  
  6. Over time, they find their higher calling.


It took me a quarter of a century to connect these dots and understand how they amount to a formula for achieving happiness.  I urge you not to take as long as I did to discover how becoming a happier person will make you a more successful person.

Ted Leonsis is the former vice chairman of AOL, and is the owner of the Washington Capitals NHL team, and an entrepreneur, film producer, and philanthropist.  This piece is excerpted from The Business of Happiness by Ted Leonsis with John Buckley.

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  • Working towards happiness is one point of view. Another is being "happy for no reason" as espoused by Marci Shimoff in her book of that title. She writes: "When you're Happy for No Reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them." For more on happiness from a midlife perspective, see

    Posted by Dr. Frank, 30 April 2010.

  • This is an articulate and insightful post, Ted. I appreciate the idea that happiness needs goal setting, just like anything else. What a unique and refreshing comment.
    Thanks for the six tenets to happiness. A roadmap is sure to make all the difference.
    Our goals may change with time, but the deeper we go into self-discovery, the clearer our take-away will be.

    Posted by Lynn Fishman, 22 April 2010.

  • This was an awesome post which I enjoyed very much and will take it upon myself to share this with my friends and associations who are fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners.
    Being a business owner is such hard work and the focus on the details to generate revenue and manage cash flow are so crucial but it's equally critical for us to be reminded of our higher purpose: that passion that caused us to go into business in the first place.
    Thanks, Ted for inspiring us with your insights.

    Posted by FEMPOWERFINANCE, 21 April 2010.

  • Ted:

    Glad you found happiness. It certainly is easier with money than without. And you can take that to the bank.

    Best regards,


    Posted by gfcorbett, 21 April 2010.