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Live Happy: The Magazine That Inspires Us To Do Just That With Every Page Turned – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Deborah Heisz, CEO, Co-Founder & Editorial Director

May 16, 2016

“Yes, I can. I know I’m in the magazine business and so that’s not something that I want to hear, but yes, absolutely. (On envisioning the brand without a print product) But I think the print component, with the permanence of print, brings it a level of credibility and a level of attractiveness. What I really mean is it draws people to it in a way that a simple online component or if we were just doing the podcast and had a website, could never bring to the brand. There’s something about authenticity that’s a big part of print that I just think isn’t a part of digital media. People hold it and touch it, they look at it and so there’s still just a level of credibility in a print piece that I don’t believe we would have just online.” Deborah Heisz

Live Happy_Doc blog-2 More than a magazine, Live Happy is a global movement that heartens us all to just stop the madness that can be our world today and simply – Live Happy. According to the powers-that-be at Live Happy, the U.S. moved up two notches to #13 on the recent World Happiness Report’s list of the world’s happiest places to live, proving that happiness continues to grow in importance and relevance in our everyday lives. Focused on manifesting happiness in people’s lives, as well as continuing to implement a global mission to help make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others, Live Happy has expanded far beyond the pages of its magazine, since its inception over 2 ½ years ago in the fall of 2013.

Recently, Live Happy released its first book on March 15: Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy. In March, in conjunction with the UN-Sanctioned International Day of Happiness (March 20th), Live Happy celebrated its 3rd annual #HappyActs campaign. In addition to sharing #HappyActs, communities across the country celebrated in person as over 100 Happiness Walls were set up nationwide, as well as in Mexico, Canada, and Brazil. At the walls, people were able to share their #HappyActs and for each posted, Live Happy is donating $1 (up to $25,000) to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Beyond the pages of the magazine, Live Happy also offers Live Happy Now, an inspiring free weekly audio podcast on iTunes, which features interviews with top researchers and experts in the fields of positive psychology and well-being. LiveHappy.com and espanol.LiveHappy.com also provide additional information on finding and sharing happiness.

The magazine has expanded its mission and has put out an all-points bulletin on happiness for all of us everywhere. And it’s a most refreshing change of pace in the erratic and often chaotic world we live in today.

I spoke with CEO, Co-Founder & Editorial Director, Deborah Heisz, recently and we talked about the brand’s intentions and focus for the future, and how it’s the small things in life, the ordinary things that are the easiest and the hardest for us to do to obtain happiness. The conversation was both inspiring and eye-opening.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Deborah Heisz, a woman who has found her “happiness” doing what she loves best, sharing a positive message in a most impactful way through the Live Happy brand.

But first, the sound-bites:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 6.51.22 AM On the secret of happiness: I think the secret of happiness is that there is no secret. It’s really making sure that you’re doing the things that you need to do to create a life for yourself. One of the surprising things that most people don’t realize is that happiness is a choice that we all make every day. And I don’t mean you choose to be happy like your emotions are just: la, la, I’m having a great time. We choose to do things that make ourselves happier and psychology has brought a lot of information out into the world about the little things we can do that will improve our overall well-being.

On whether in this day and age of notifications and constant information, there’s no time to focus on our own happiness: There’s definitely time to focus on happiness, but it’s more a matter of claiming the conversation. You’re right, we are bombarded. We’re bombarded by distractions. So, one of the principles and practices of happiness is being present and being mindful. But we are bombarded with distractions and we have to discipline ourselves to pay attention to the good stuff, to pay attention to the things that are going to bring richness to our lives, as opposed to paying attention to the noise.

On whether she feels that Live Happy, the brand, has tapped into something that has, up until now, been ignored for the most part in the magazine media world: What we’ve found is that there are people out there who are tired of negativity; they’re tired of salacious content and they’re tired of scandals. And really what has happened is that they’ve reached a point in their own lives where they have been bombarded with people telling them: you should want THIS; THIS is what success looks like. Success looks like a big house and a fast car, a great job, and partying all of the time. But for most people, that’s not necessarily what they want out of life.

On the difference between happiness and positive-thinking: Happiness, as we’re talking to, is really a subjective well-being. So, the definition of happiness in our vernacular is: not are you happy right now, but instead, hey, this is the life you’re living. You have this job and this family; are you happy? The answer to that question is really subjective well-being. Positive-thinking is really a movement about if you focus on good things only, good things will happen. We’re not a movement about focusing on just the good; we’re about focusing on your entire life. So, it isn’t just thinking; it’s thinking put into practice.

On how the book and the #HappyActs campaign came about: The book came about because we had been looking at how we could reach more audience and a lot of magazines extend their brands with books and we realized that we had some great stories to tell. And we had a survey of the science and a pretty good grasp on what the scientific landscape looked like. And so we paired the science of happiness in 10 areas with people who are putting them into action in their own lives. This was our third year of doing the #HappyActs campaign and it’s what we call a “social activation project.” We want people to be aware of the fact that they can choose to be happier.

On how the Happiness brand has impacted her life: I feel like I should be a zealot spreading happiness, but I’m not. I’m an ordinary person. But the information is tremendously freeing for me. I have a very demanding job, which I love, and I tell people that it’s the best job in the world and I’m not kidding. I’m surrounded by people who are trying to make the world happier all the time and I’m surrounded by positive information in a way that most people don’t get the opportunity to be.

On whether she can imagine the Live Happy brand without a print product: Yes, I can. I know I’m in the magazine business and so that’s not something that I want to hear, but yes, absolutely. But I think the print component, with the permanence of print, brings it a level of credibility and a level of attractiveness. What I really mean is it draws people to it in a way that a simple online component or if we were just doing the podcast and had a website, could never bring to the brand. There’s something about authenticity that’s a big part of print that I just think isn’t a part of digital media.

Live Happy May_June Cover[5] On whether she feels recent research on how the human brain reacts to actually touching something versus just looking at something will impact our degree of happiness: I think that there is a personal rate of consumption. There’s a lot of science on the fact that if you actually hold something, you feel more connected to it, rather than just in front of a computer screen, the tactile experience of a magazine or a book. There was an article recently that you should read your book as a book instead if as a Kindle, especially if you’re reading for enjoyment.

On whether having all of the different platforms: print, digital, mobile, video, moves the audience forward to a different level of happiness: I think that it gives them the tools to move themselves there. That’s what we’re really after. We really want to give people the tools and the inspiration to make those choices. And I think by having multiple ways that they can access our information it’s more likely to reach them. We have a great weekly newsletter that goes out, which refers back to articles on the web and the podcasts. It’s however they want to access that information we want it to be available to them.

On anything else she’d like to add: We have a lot going on. We’re still a growing and developing brand. I really just hope that people continue to discover us, because that’s another reason for adding all of these multiple networks of distributing content. It’s multiple entry points for people to discover us. They may come across a podcast or web article, they buy the magazine off the newsstand or they may buy the book at Barnes & Noble. However they come across us, we just hope our brand is attractive enough and gives them enough at their initial entry point that they want to explore more.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings: I don’t really have a problem with that. (Laughs) I have so much that I want to do. I am fortunate that I have the best job in the world, but really, ultimately what makes me get out of bed in the mornings is that I’m connected to the mission. I really feel like there’s a lot of ways to improve the world and I’ve been given an opportunity to participate in one of them. I’m very blessed.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I have a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, so between 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. I’m cooking dinner, I love to cook. I read to my children every night; we do watch some TV, but for the most part we are no devices between the time I get home and everybody goes to bed. So, you won’t find an iPad or a phone in my hand. And that’s just part of being present and engaging with the family. We have dinner together and we do things together. We do read and watch some TV, but we interact for the most part.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m cursed with opportunity and we’re still a startup magazine, we’re still a startup company, so what keeps me up at night is how do I capture the opportunities that are in front of us? Which opportunity is the right one to pursue, because we have so much that we could be doing, it’s very easy to spread ourselves too thin. So for me it’s always reevaluating strategy all of the time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Deborah Heisz, CEO, Co-Founder & Editorial Director, Live Happy.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 6.58.54 AM Samir Husni: Live Happy is a magazine that’s less than three years old and is now an entire brand. You have your first book; the events; so, what’s the secret of happiness?

Deborah Heisz: (Laughs) I think the secret of happiness is that there is no secret. It’s really making sure that you’re doing the things that you need to do to create a life for yourself. One of the surprising things that most people don’t realize is that happiness is a choice that we all make every day. And I don’t mean you choose to be happy like your emotions are just: la, la, I’m having a great time. We choose to do things that make ourselves happier and psychology has brought a lot of information out into the world about the little things we can do that will improve our overall well-being.

And here’s the catch: they’re really easy to do. And none of them are surprising. But they’re also really easy not to do. It’s making decisions about taking care of your health; we all know that we need to take care of ourselves; we need to eat right; we need to move every day and get enough sleep. Those are all easy things to do and they’re all really easy not to do. And so happiness is a lot like that.

Samir Husni: In this day and age where we are bombarded by information, bombarded by social media, by politicians and their campaigns; do you think it’s just common sense that we need to focus on happiness or there’s no time for that today?

Deborah Heisz: There’s definitely time to focus on happiness, but it’s more a matter of claiming the conversation. You’re right, we are bombarded. We’re bombarded by distractions. So, one of the principles and practices of happiness is being present and being mindful. But we are bombarded with distractions and we have to discipline ourselves to pay attention to the good stuff, to pay attention to the things that are going to bring richness to our lives, as opposed to paying attention to the noise.

A good example of that are the current political campaigns. There is a lot of negative talk going on throughout the campaigns these days. But you have to look at it as two people arguing and throwing darts at each other; it can be interesting, but it doesn’t really have an impact on your life, it does depending on the outcome of the elections, that will impact all of our lives, but the actual day-to-day arguing doesn’t.

Instead of listening to all of the rhetoric, there are some other things that you could do instead, like having a conversation with your children, or reading a good book, or filling your brain with knowledge that will help to advance your career. There are all sorts of things that we could be paying attention to, instead we’re distracted by things that ultimately don’t bring any good into our lives.

Samir Husni: You have the print magazine; you’ve started the Podcasts; you have the Spanish-language website; are you finding that you’ve tapped into something that has been ignored for many years in the magazine media world?

Deborah Heisz: What we’ve found is that there are people out there who are tired of negativity; they’re tired of salacious content and they’re tired of scandals. And really what has happened is that they’ve reached a point in their own lives where they have been bombarded with people telling them: you should want THIS; THIS is what success looks like. Success looks like a big house and a fast car, a great job, and partying all of the time. But for most people, that’s not necessarily what they want out of life.

So what we’ve found is that there’s an audience out there that’s hungry for information and hungry for a media company that fits the lifestyle that they genuinely want. And what they really want is a happy family, a happy home life; to know that they’re raising good children. To know that they’re enjoying life and that there is something beautiful in life and they’re a part of something bigger.

What I believe the average person wants to know is that their life has meaning. And what do they need to do to create that meaning in their life? Well, if it’s not a house and it’s not a car; what is it? So, identifying what we’re doing; what it is we’re spending our time engaged in is important.

And there is a gap in the media world. Obviously, O Magazine does a great job of providing a lot of good content. MORE, which unfortunately folded, also had a lot of good content. It’s really about a hunger for information that’s uplifting, but isn’t trite. It has to be genuine.

Samir Husni: As an editor, what’s the difference between happiness and positive-thinking? When the magazine was first-launched and I did that initial interview, I was told happiness was a science.

Deborah Heisz: Happiness, as we’re talking to, is really a subjective well-being. So, the definition of happiness in our vernacular is: not are you happy right now, but instead, hey, this is the life you’re living. You have this job and this family; are you happy? The answer to that question is really subjective well-being.

Positive psychology is the science of improving your subjective well-being. What things can you do to improve your subjective well-being? And that’s really the type of content that we’re looking at. The types of people that we feature are studying that.

Positive-thinking is really a movement about if you focus on good things only, good things will happen. We’re not a movement about focusing on just the good; we’re about focusing on your entire life. So, it isn’t just thinking; it’s thinking put into practice. Now, thinking is a component of that, specifically attitude, and the way you take on the day is how you perceive yourself doing and how your well-being is. And that’s not the only component by any stretch of the imagination.

image002 Samir Husni: Tell me a little more about the print magazine, the new book and the event you just had, in terms of the #HappyActs campaign.

Deborah Heisz: The magazine is doing well, we publish every other month. Our digital version of the magazine is gaining in popularity. In fact, we won a Folio award for our digital magazine, which we launched this year. And we just launched a mobile phone version of our magazine this week and it will be a part of our regular subscriber package. And that’s doing well.

The book came about because we had been looking at how we could reach more audience and a lot of magazines extend their brands with books and we realized that we had some great stories to tell. And we had a survey of the science and a pretty good grasp on what the scientific landscape looked like. And so we paired the science of happiness in 10 areas with people who are putting them into action in their own lives. We added different chapters; in the Health chapter we had Arianna Huffington stories, and we also had a lot of stories involving people who you would have never heard of who were putting these happiness practices into action and seeing results. So, that was inspiration and information, as we included scientific surveys. We also thought it was a great way to introduce people to the brand.

This was our third year of doing the #HappyActs campaign and it’s what we call a “social activation project.” We want people to be aware of the fact that they can choose to be happier. Everybody has a different starting point and everybody has a different map for happiness, but people can choose to be happier by the things that they do every day. Most people don’t think about their own happiness; they don’t think about the happiness of the world on a regular basis, so we started the #HappyActs campaign and it has really taken off. The first year we did about 30 Happiness Walls, this year we did about 72 Walls that we sponsored and gathered volunteers for. But in addition to that there were several hundred people who also hosted other Walls around the world. And what these Walls are is you put them up in public places and people walk by and they take a moment to write on a card: I will share happiness by__________, and they fill in the blank. Whether it’s “I will share happiness by smiling at strangers” or “volunteering at a pet shelter,” just whatever way that they want to share happiness and make the world a little better today.

Our goal is just to get people to think about the fact that they can personally do something that can make the world a happier place. And just being at the Walls is great, you get to see people’s surprise, because they want to know what you’re selling and then they want to know if you belong to a cult, and of course the answer is neither. (Laughs) So, once you get past those things and people find out you’re genuinely curious about how they want to share happiness, they’re OK.

The goal is to share happiness in some way and build a happiness movement; a world full of people who are impacting others in a positive way by doing nothing extraordinary, just ordinary things that we all can do.

Samir Husni: Do you feel as though you’re a zealous missionary spreading the religion of happiness, or do you feel like you’re just doing your job as a curator of this science? How has the brand impacted your own life?

image001 Deborah Heisz: I feel like I should be a zealot spreading happiness, but I’m not. I’m an ordinary person. But the information is tremendously freeing for me. I have a very demanding job, which I love, and I tell people that it’s the best job in the world and I’m not kidding. I’m surrounded by people who are trying to make the world happier all the time and I’m surrounded by positive information in a way that most people don’t get the opportunity to be.

But it’s freeing for me because it allows me to let myself off the hook. I, like everyone else, have been bombarded with the information to want more. I should want more of whatever it is. And I’ve never really wanted more; I’ve always been one of those people who could be happy doing whatever I’m doing, but like a lot of people, I would tend toward being a workaholic to go after something that I didn’t really want. So, Live Happy has really allowed me to see the way I think and be present in my life in a way that I never was before.

I have three children and I’ve always made time for them, but I don’t feel guilty about making tome for them anymore. Nor do I feel guilty about going to work. And I really used to. Now, it’s understanding that I’m making choices to do the things that are going to enrich my life and that’s OK. I don’t have to compete with someone else. I’m running my own race and the only winner is me and there is no loser. And I don’t have to compete with somebody else who is running their own race.

Samir Husni: So, you’re living the magazine?

Deborah Heisz: Yes, very much so. I feel like the magazine is me. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling to go to work every day and feel like you’re working on yourself, but you’re also empowering other people to do the same thing.

Samir Husni: Can you imagine yourself doing this without a print component? Can you envision the Live Happy brand existing or being what it is now without a print product?

Deborah Heisz: Yes, I can. I know I’m in the magazine business and so that’s not something that I want to hear, but yes, absolutely. But I think the print component, with the permanence of print, brings it a level of credibility and a level of attractiveness. What I really mean is it draws people to it in a way that a simple online component or if we were just doing the podcast and had a website, could never bring to the brand. There’s something about authenticity that’s a big part of print that I just think isn’t a part of digital media. People hold it and touch it, they look at it and so there’s still just a level of credibility in a print piece that I don’t believe we would have just online.

In fact, there are a lot of other online sites that touch on what we do, but they touch on it in way that just doesn’t seem as thorough and in depth. The print component adds a lot to what we do. Could we do it without it? Yes, but I just think it would be a different and smaller brand.

Samir Husni: I’m seeing some research taking place now about the way our brain reacts if we’re touching something or looking at something; do you think that will also impact the degree of happiness that we experience?

Deborah Heisz: I think that there is a personal rate of consumption. There’s a lot of science on the fact that if you actually hold something, you feel more connected to it, rather than just in front of a computer screen, the tactile experience of a magazine or a book. There was an article recently that you should read your book as a book instead if as a Kindle, especially if you’re reading for enjoyment.

So, there is definitely that out there. What I’ve really been paying attention to lately is this whole concept of you should have a lead and watch component for your information, because people like to consume media differently, depending on who they are. And if you’re providing all three, what’s going to happen is they’re going to read or watch something first and it’s going to be reinforced by the other. And that if you encompass all three, people can really grasp the concept in a way that if you had just one or two components it doesn’t work.

But I think that tactile experience of reading is really important. The article I read basically stated if you’re holding the book, you’re actually reading it, where if you’re reading it on a screen, you’re doing more scanning and skimming, not really involving yourself in the content the way that you do when you read a physical piece.

Samir Husni: When you combine all of these elements: the podcasts, the web, the mobile/digital and the print and now the book, do you think the combination of all of these will move your audience to a higher level of happiness?

Deborah Heisz: I think that it gives them the tools to move themselves there. That’s what we’re really after. We really want to give people the tools and the inspiration to make those choices. And I think by having multiple ways that they can access our information it’s more likely to reach them. We have a great weekly newsletter that goes out, which refers back to articles on the web and the podcasts. It’s however they want to access that information we want it to be available to them.

But I do think that just having a website or just having a podcast isn’t enough. You have to have a richer experience in order for people to really get enough information and develop enough of a relationship with the brand to know that we’re their resource.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

Deborah Heisz: We have a lot going on. We’re still a growing and developing brand. I really just hope that people continue to discover us, because that’s another reason for adding all of these multiple networks of distributing content. It’s multiple entry points for people to discover us. They may come across a podcast or web article, they buy the magazine off the newsstand or they may buy the book at Barnes & Noble. However they come across us, we just hope our brand is attractive enough and gives them enough at their initial entry point that they want to explore more.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Deborah Heisz: I don’t really have a problem with that. (Laughs) I have so much that I want to do. I am fortunate that I have the best job in the world, but really, ultimately what makes me get out of bed in the mornings is that I’m connected to the mission. I really feel like there’s a lot of ways to improve the world and I’ve been given an opportunity to participate in one of them. I’m very blessed.

I don’t ever have problems getting motivated in the mornings. Sometimes it’s because my four-year-old crawls into bed with me. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening, what would I find you doing? Reading a print magazine, or your iPad, watching television, or something else?

Deborah Heisz: I have a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, so between 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. I’m cooking dinner, I love to cook. I read to my children every night; we do watch some TV, but for the most part we are no devices between the time I get home and everybody goes to bed. So, you won’t find an iPad or a phone in my hand. And that’s just part of being present and engaging with the family. We have dinner together and we do things together. We do read and watch some TV, but we interact for the most part.

Now after the kids go to bed, it could be a book or an iPad, or it could be watching TV. But those three hours between when I get home and they go to bed, it’s their time. I have such limited time with them while we’re all awake and doing things, we have no devices at night. We spend time just doing things like I did when I was growing up.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Deborah Heisz: I’m cursed with opportunity and we’re still a startup magazine, we’re still a startup company, so what keeps me up at night is how do I capture the opportunities that are in front of us? Which opportunity is the right one to pursue, because we have so much that we could be doing, it’s very easy to spread ourselves too thin. So for me it’s always reevaluating strategy all of the time. Are we on the right track that will give us the most results? Or have we taken a side trail where we may get some results, but the resources could be better used somewhere else?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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