How Sharing Smiles Made Me Resilient, More Confident and Happier
When’s the last time you were turned down?
Regardless of the context, the words, “no thanks”, “no”, “I don’t want it” will often be received with some twinge of disappointment.
Have you ever heard those words while trying to do something with positive intentions and a desire to make someone happy?
One time, a man faked a phone call without even responding to me. Another time, a woman tried to flatten herself into her side of the bench we were both sitting on — we were already sitting three feet apart. And on more than one occasion, people responded, “no, thanks,” either with or without looking at the card. What did I do to elicit such responses? I asked, “excuse me, would you like a smile?” and held out a Going For Smiles card.
I could focus on those experiences. Let the memory of being treated as if I’m bothersome influence my future behavior. But I don’t.
I’m resilient. I’m realistic. I know that I can’t make everyone happy, and I’m not responsible for everyone’s happiness or unhappiness. Upon reflection, I realize that I was aware of how this point related to my professional career as a marketer long before I was aware of how it applied to my personal life.
Back in 2015, I was interviewing for a marketing job. It was the third round of interviews, and I had to prepare a case study on Tesla Model E production. Everything was going great, but then my interviewer asked a curve ball question. “You’ve told me all the reasons why customerX, who is concerned about gas prices, would buy a Tesla. But what happens if gas prices drop? And then customerX no longer wants the car?” After pushing the momentary lump out of my throat, I responded, “if customerX’s only motivation is gas prices, then that is not Tesla’s ideal customer at this stage. The company does not need to attract every customer; they need to attract good customers who will promote the brand. In the future, customerX may be attracted to Tesla again. But for now, Tesla should not spend its finite marketing resources attracting customers who would be a hard sell. Especially since they already have a captive audience of environmentally-conscious customers.” (I did get the job, by the way 😊)
Why did I know the answer so easily in my professional life, but it took until the end of 2016 for me to realize that principle applies to our personal lives also?
Because, until 2016, I did not put myself in a position to need to be consistently resilient. Sure, I learned some form of resilience through personal and professional experiences, but the emotional connection always complicated the outcome. I also did not put myself in a position where loved ones, friends and strangers could offer consistently supportive words of encouragement.
In 2016, I started Happiness367 (read about Happiness367 origins story by clicking the link at the bottom of this post), which was my original smiles project. The goal was to make people smile when they least expected it. It was built upon the idea that every single day I would write a new quote on an index card. That meant that every single day I was opening myself up to acceptance or rejection. Would the card get picked up by someone? Or will it get thrown out as trash?
Fortunately, I learned how to distance myself from the outcome, enjoy the process and simply focus on that goal.
It was difficult at first, and that is when the support of my loved ones was most important. They got me started, and then I did the rest.
Just like one of my favorite quotes says, “to succeed you must be easy to start and hard to stop.”
Towards the end of 2018, Happiness367 was revamped into Going For Smiles.
Andi Smile (@goingforsmiles) * Instagram photos and videos
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Today, I offer smile cards to anyone and everyone who I feel may be receptive to it. There is no filter for how happy or sad a person looks, whether or not they’re scrolling through their phone, already chatting with someone else, etc. I believe anyone, anywhere, anytime can enjoy a smile.
On the occasions when I interact with someone who says no, or makes it seem like I have quite the audacity to even speak to them, then I wish them a good day and carry on. I’m not responsible for everyone’s happiness, and if my actions can motivate just one more person smile, then that’s all that matters.
Examples of People Who Smiled
- The woman in Newark airport who gave me a mini bag with Hershey Kisses and who I shared an amazing conversation with
- The man who smiled despite the lost-in-thought-energy-drained expression he was wearing right before I offered him a smiles card
- The woman who gave me a hug… then returned with her two friends a few minutes later to chat and take a picture together
- The kindness advocate who genuinely commented on how impressed he is with Going For Smiles’s mission
- The man who picked up the card that was clipped to a plant, realized he had to run to catch the subway, had the card flutter out of his hand while he started bolting down the stairs, but he stopped, turned back, picked up the card, and then continued running for his subway
- The couple who was commuting to work and were genuinely curious to hear about the project, then started following me on Instagram before we reached our destinations
- The young girls who were giving food and thoughtful notes to the less-able on Christmas Day
- The woman who said she’ll bring the card with her to Alaska, then pass it along to a friend in the military to take with him to the Middle East
- The friend who said seeing these posts are the highlight of his day
- The woman in front of me at the grocery store who just finished work and was about to head home
- The woman who asked for more cards after the got an energy rush of happiness because she made someone smile by passing along her card
How Far Can a Shared Smile Go?
“Every. Single. Day??” is the common response when I tell people about Happiness367. The emphatic staccato in their…
Thank you to all the untold stories of kindness in the world. I hope our paths with cross one day! If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org . I hope you always find a reason to smile!