Billionaire Ted Leonsis On Happiness In Life And Business
As a former AOL, Inc. (NYSE: AOL) executive and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment (patriarch to Washington, D.C. sports), Leonsis has seen great success. At 26, he sold off his first company for a cool $70 million.
Recently, he talked with Altucher about why success doesn't always lead to happiness and how his new book "The Business of Happiness" lays out in detail the life philosophies that have worked for him.
Happiness And Life Philosophies
“I would give speeches and be talking about business, and then I would talk about the life reckoning I had, and talk about happiness. And afterwards young people would say the parts of my speech that resonated most was when I was authentic and talked about how we over index as a society and community on talking about success in terms of dollars ... and that I had learned a very valuable life lesson, which is that if you're successful, it doesn't mean you can be happy, but if you're happy, more times than not, it means you can be successful,” said Leonsis.
He referred to keeping a “life scorecard” in order to achieve individual happiness. Leonsis went as far as to say that often happy companies end up being the most successful ones. He talked of times where achieving great wealth and success didn't bring him happiness in a younger life.
Airplanes And Bucket Lists
It took a bumpy ride on an airplane followed by an emergency landing to help shift his attitude toward one of humility. He said that “reckonings” like this happen all of the time and come in many shapes in forms. Leonsis recalls praying during the landing and making a deal with a “higher calling” to leave behind a better world while living his life as a contributor to that better future.
After surviving the emergency landing, he made a list the following weekend. He included 101 things he absolutely needed to accomplish before he died. It included owning sports teams, winning champions and taking a company public, but also selfless acts, like giving a large amount of his earnings away to charity throughout his life, as well as contributions to the arts.
He noted that he was embarrassed at some of his choices in retrospect, like “getting a hole in one.” While Leonsis hasn't gotten that hole in one yet, he has been able to check off a good number of his goals.
To find the “how” required a listing of internal reflections. Being an active participant in multiple communities of interest is step one, he says, because activity and connection will make you more productive in all of your areas of interest, including work. According to Leonsis, when business taps into that they seem to have very happy customers and employees.
Self-Expression And Empathy
The next is to have high levels of self-expression, because people are inherently creative and need their voices heard. Companies that activate collective creativity in costumers and employees, and “harp on self-expression” are stronger for it, he said.
Having very high levels of personal empathy is also key because emotion is one of the least-valued aspects of life in business, yet we know a lack of it “creates evil in the world,” Leonsis noted. He went on to say that those in life who exhibit high levels of empathy “get monuments built after them.”
Getting “out of the I and into the we,” also ranks high on the list, because collective goals are typically accomplished and good teams win. Finding better context through a perspective change allows one to have an enhanced awareness of their position in life, he pointed out. It will also help lead you to a higher calling.
Leonsis had advice for direct success in business after finding that higher calling, which is to be open to doing math, which is crucial to many facets of any good business, and to being an “attacker.”
"Groupon Inc , in a way, is attacking Amazon.com, Inc. and basically we've said ‘Well, there was a big, a big segment that wasn't being focused on which was critical.' Right? That, that we wanted to be the place where within 10 miles of your house or a mile of where you work that you would go to eat and get your hair done, buy things, and the like,” said Leonsis.
Be open to opportunity through those attacks is the general message, as Google found opportunity in executing a plethora of products derived from AOL perfectly, not only improving their function, but also within a single application, Leonsis said.
Sampling in such a way is nothing new in business, and it's often called innovation when even a slight value is added. Such can be said about AOL's free trial software campaigns, which were derived from a marketing technique when free samples of shampoo were sent out to potential costumers, something that former CEO and chairman Steve Case picked up from his time at Procter & Gamble Co.
Filling In The Blank And Connecting The Dots
Being able to connect the dots, Leonsis said, is key to being successful in business. “That's how we got America online,” said Leonsis. Combing multiple communities of interest and a higher calling allow you to better see all of the working piece that can lead to innovation, and it's based in a foundation of open thinking, patience and smart living in Leonsis' book.
Leonsis also commented on video streaming and compared subscription content distribution services, which recycle movies and television shows, to HBO, which started out by showing movies in a similar fashion, but on a programming schedule.
Now, HBO is defined by its original content, and as subscription services like Netflix, Inc., Amazon Prime and Hulu distribute and find success in original content, the trend will play out in the value of what's released and not how it's distributed. This is untrue, he highlighted, for sporting events, which are in high demand for live viewing.
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