Terminal Value

Happy and Healthy Relationships for a World Class Life with Mike Duffy

Janine Bacani

Learn More

We have Mike Duffy with us today. Mikeduffeepeaks.com. And what we are going to be talking about is happy and healthy relationships for a worldclass life. And this is actually something that I’ve become increasingly sensitized to as I’ve gotten a little older. Back when I was younger, I was just the fax business, business, business, show me the numbers kind of person. But as I have aged, and depending on who you’re talking to, become more mature, I’ve developed increased appreciation for how important relationships are, how hard it is to really grow and cultivate meaningful relationships and how that tunes into happiness, and then just how tightly tied a lot of those things are. I used to have this silly idea that you had your regular life and you had your work life, and the two don’t have anything to do with each other. The truth of the matter is that you have a big life soup, and people try to pretend that they’re separate, but they really aren’t. Anyway, I am starting to talk a whole lot, and I have not let Mike say a single thing. So, Mike, please introduce yourself, and let’s go ahead and get started. 

Well, Doug, thank you for having me on your show today. I encourage all of your listeners to stay to the end. I have been researching happiness, success, and resilience since I was 17 years old, and I’ve written five books on happiness. I’m the founder of the Happiness Hall of Fame, so there’s going to be some great wisdom shared today. Now, I know you want to talk about relationships.

 Yes. But happiness relationships, it’s like the Venn diagram, right? There’s overlap between those circles. Yeah, just because, generally speaking, Lisa, I’ve found unhappy people tend to not have wonderful relationships.

 It’s true. Now, Benjamin Franklin said that 1% of people are successful because only 1% of people write down their goals, which leads me to

my happiness formula, which is P plus P equals H, purpose plus progress equals happiness.

Okay? So about a dozen years ago, I wrote down that formula, and I wrote down the different purposes of my life. I loved what you said. It’s a life suit because everything blends, right? So the first thing I wrote down was, be a great husband to my wife, Shannon, then be a great father to my two kids, be a great financial adviser, and on and on. We have multiple purposes of our lives. And then on the right, under progress, write down the steps to become what you want to be. So in the morning of my wedding, my father now, both my parents had a 6th grade education, okay? But my dad decided that he would not leave it at that. He would read a book a week. He was an incredibly wise man. And he said, Mike, he goes, it’s much cheaper to hire a babysitter than it is a divorce attorney. Right. So every saturday night. And that’s what I wrote down. Every Saturday night is date night under progress steps. And like magic, a babysitter would show up, my wife wouldn’t have to book them, and I would say to my wife, where is it that you want to go tonight? What movie do you want to see? What do you want to eat? Because my dad said, the law of reciprocity states that when you are kind to somebody, when you reach out for their benefit, they, in respect, wants to be kind back to you.

Can I do just a quick introduction there? And that is the little yes, big. But sorry, it’s a joke I tell. Not that good, but I think what you were saying is 100% accurate with the proviso that you are giving genuinely and not doing the passive aggressive thing where you try to be nice to someone in expectation that they are going to meet your unstated unspoken needs. Because I think that’s a place where you can really get into trouble and it’s easy to get there is where you kind of have this nice facade where you start to do all this stuff and you’re expecting them to do all this stuff for you. But at no point has anybody directly said, this is what I really want. I know that’s one of the things that colloquially called nice guy syndrome. I’m sure there’s a female equivalent, but it’s easy to fall into, and it can really get you into trouble if you don’t break the cycle. So anyway, tangent over. Please continue.

 Well, you see, Doug, I love my wife so much. I told her that if she ever leaves me, I’m coming with her. So I’m in it to win it. We’ve been together now in September will be 21 years together, okay? And we’re happier now than we ever were. And what this leads to, when you genuinely care and have concern for the other person’s needs, they do want to be kind to you. We rarely, rarely fight because we love each other. My father also explained to me, he goes, when you say mean things to the person that you love, it’s like punching yourself in the face. Remember when we were kids, if you had an older sister or brother, like, why they grabbed your hand and they go, Why are you punching yourself in the face? Right? 

Yeah. Although when I was growing up, I had a younger sister, so I’m not touching you, which is where you’d be holding your finger a quarter inch from their face. 

Yeah. My older sisters were not that kind to me. It was violent. See the extreme.One of my favorite lines from the Beatles is in Sergeant Peppers. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. No one has ever died from loving too much, okay? Oh, he dropped out of loving too much. He dropped out of giving too much. I think today there’s a lot of selfishness in today’s society. It really is brought to the forefront. What can you give me maybe that’s bleach to a relationship. It’s just going to break you apart. You have to understand my dad said at the beginning of every love relationship you’re budding heads because you both want what you both want, right, your own self. But as time goes on you start to become as one. Those are the real relationships. So you wouldn’t want to say something mean to somebody that you love because that’s like being mean to yourself and why would you want that? 

Okay, yeah. I’m completely seeing what you’re saying and some of my recent reading is coming to bear. So I’m going to maybe not contradict but maybe challenge just a little bit. Because I think that with that said it’s also really important to ensure that your own needs are being a verbalized and be met because I think that is really a trap that’s really easy to fall into. That I’ve fallen into is where you kind of define yourself by giving to other people and then you end up sort of ignoring your own needs and then after enough time goes by you get mad at the people who you’ve been giving to because they’re not meeting your needs. Well A, they don’t know about your needs because you’ve never told it to them and B, it’s not other people’s job to meet your needs, it’s your job to meet your needs. That way you can give unselfishly and genuinely instead of subconsciously expecting something back. 

I think that’s a great point. But remember 1000 years ago St. Augustine said that it is in giving that we receive. Correct. Think about the birthday presents that you’ve received and forgotten about the holiday presents that you’ve received and forgotten about two days later. But think about the great presence that you’ve given other people. Right? Yes. The purpose of my life is to help other people get happier. Yes. That’s what makes me happy. Those are my needs being fulfilled. 

And I was going to say what you’re talking about is being able to genuinely give of yourself. I would put that at kind of that self actualized level of maslow’s hierarchy that top of the pyramid. But I think that what’s easy to overlook is that or I think a trap that a lot of people fall into is they create the appearance of what you’re actually talking about. But what people are actually doing is they’re being magnanimous but they have personal needs or psychological needs that have not been addressed. They are looking for other people to reciprocate from their giving and then they become angry or upset when they don’t. And so I think that the caveat that I’m trying to say in here is that I think what you are talking about is really a higher level which and I think that in order to get to that level.

You have to be aware of articulate and then take actions to meet your own needs. Then you can give genuinely and without any expectation of reciprocation.

 Because if there’s an expectation that somebody else is going to reciprocate, you’re not giving, you’re performing a selfish act.

Well, I can tell you this, I like what you’re saying. And I can tell you some of the greatest joy I get on a daily is that I have a let me go back so many years ago, I founded the happiness hall of fame. We recognize, celebrate, and encourage people and organizations that make other people happy. I would have loved to inducted mother Teresa into the happiness hall of fame. However, she had already passed. So I called up the local convent in San Francisco and we have our big event at the Stanford university faculty club. I said we would love you to come out, honor you, maybe even raise some funds for you. And they said, mike, we can’t do that because we’re not allowed to be photographed. All for the poor. We only get to see our families but once a decade. All for the poor. But come on up to our convent and we’ll accept the award. So I said to my daughter, who was not at the time, I said, kendall, you have to meet these amazing women that take a vow of poverty. They give everything to the poor. So we got two dozen cupcakes, you know those sprinkles cupcakes, the expensive ones. And we brought them up and I handed them to the mother superior and she opened up the box and she goes, oh, Mr. Duffy, these are so beautiful. Our friends on the street will love these. Now, Doug, have you ever had a word or a phrase that changed the trajectory of your life? It was at that moment that the scales fell from my eyes and I stopped seeing homeless people and people who are down in their luck. And I started seeing them as friends. And that’s what started my homeless outreach. Wherever I do, I go out and I see my friends and we share jokes. I find out how they’re doing and how I can help them. Again, it is in giving that we received.

I was going to say it’s an inspirational story and model. And I personally, really genuinely hope to aspire to that level of self actualization, because I think that being able to genuinely operate like that, there are very few people who can do that without subconsciously expecting anything in return. And I think it’s an amazing thing to see.

 Thank you. The other thing that if we’re on the topic of helping your relationships, a big thing is forgiveness.

You have to forgive other people. Otherwise you’ll have no friends, you’ll have no loved ones. They’re going to do things that are going to make you angry, right. And you have to forgive yourself. You can’t live in a state of unforgiveness and be happy at the same time.

That Venn diagram doesn’t work, right? 

Yes. They’re like this. There’s no intersection.

 So about twelve years ago I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle and I opened it up and it said an article about Dr. Fred Luskin and Carol Podolski, who’s going to be coming by my office today at 03:00. I’ve become good friends with these two people that I just saw them in the newspaper and I reached out to them. So Dr. Fred Luskin is the author of Forgive for Good. Forgive for Life. He’s one of the premier experts on forgiveness in the world. Hired by Northern Ireland to help hired by the country of Colombia to help with the unforgiveness of the drug wars. And when I was writing my book, I said, Fred, I’ve got to get your take on forgiveness. So we met at a Chinese restaurant and I said, Fred, I have been studying ancient wisdom all my life. And I said, I understand the great verse that says having unforgiveness is like drinking poison, expecting your enemy to drop dead. I understand all of this, but I can’t move from my head to my heart. There are people that have taken great joy in hurting me and I can’t forgive them. And he said, Mike, I want you to close your eyes. So I did. I want you to think of one person that hurts you. Not the cavalcade of people that have offended you throughout your life, just one. And I want you to say I forgive you. And I opened my eyes, I said, yeah, I did that. He goes, well, now you can move on. Life is too short to stay in a place of unforgiveness. And now that’s become my superpower Doug. When these negative thoughts come in my head, oh, that guy screwed me over. The train isn’t finished saying how somebody hurt me when unconsciously I coupled that with I forgive them. And then I can move on. With the moments going forward, I have no time for unforgiveness. And I would recommend everybody take the mental discipline to just forgive everybody each time and you’ll have a much happier life and better relationships.

I think that’s wonderful advice. Well, on the one hand, that kind of thing it’s hard to start doing, but once you’ve gotten into the habit of letting go, it becomes progressively easier. Absolutely. And also because as you figure out how to let go of things, it reduces your overall level of anxiety because at least one of the things that I keep thinking about is, right, I’m a late gen exercise. So of course we grew up with the go to school, study hard, go to the right college, you get in the right career path, there’s this right way to live life that was pretty much drilled into all of us from when we were very young. And of course, the whole question is what makes that the right way to live your life, because somebody else said so. You have to eventually get to the point where you say, okay, my decisions today, this week, this month, this year, whatever, will not change the cosmos. Trying to live according to a script that somebody else created is ultimately pointless. It takes a lot of us a little while to come to that decision. It took me roughly half of my life, and the implications of that can be rather significant in my view. I think the most important implication. Or the most important. AHA. That I’ve had is that I grew up with the narrative that. Okay. Well. The purpose of life is you want to try to go get a job where you can make as much money as humanly possible. So you can accumulate the big pile of cash as you can. So that when you inevitably get forced to retire or fired. That you’ll have enough so you don’t run out before you die and you can afford to do nothing. Okay, well, what if instead of that, you put something together where maybe you don’t make that every last cent humanly possible, but it’s self directed, you enjoy doing it, it’s flexible, and you could do it for as long as you want, so then you decide when you’re done. And if you really like doing it, you probably won’t be done until you’re literally done. That’s a completely different script. But that was outside my realm of vision for a really long time, and I constantly had anxiety saying, oh, well, I’m not far enough along the hyper success script. I haven’t accumulated enough, I haven’t risen high enough in my career. I haven’t done X, Y and Z. But it’s all based on a script that somebody else wrote that isn’t really applicable and truthfully doesn’t really work. Because. Of course. One of the things that all the studies are finding is that even the disturbingly small number of people who have adequate financial resources to. Quote. Retire. Usually are a not very happy. And then b start mentally deteriorating very quickly unless there is some other significant activity that occupies them. The people who generally tend to do the best are involved in something like Kawanas, Rotary Optimists, some sort of service based organization, which is my really long way of tying that point back into what you were saying, which is, since I’m a Rotary member, I’ll do the Rotary model, which is service above self, which some form of outward facing, helpful service.

Well, Doug, I think we were raised in the same household, and I think that we came to the same realization. That’s not really the script for happiness. Look, it’s very important to achieve purposeless. Progress equals happiness. However, it’s also important to enjoy. Right? So I’ve been very successful in my business career. I was a top producer at Merrill Lynch. I was a senior vice president, corner office top producer and I founded Happiness Wealth Management four and a half years ago. I said, you know what, I can be happier if I run my own show. And it was the greatest thing that I ever did is to take away a company above me and just be on the same level as my clients trying to achieve what they need to achieve. 

Well. I was going to say I will say. First of all. Hats off to you because I didn’t have as much tenure as you. But my first job out of college was selling life insurance and mutual funds for Mass Mutual. Which is perfectly fine. Except that the thing that a lot of people don’t know or don’t really understand is how within all the financial products. 99% of them are just packaged up stock funds and bonds and they get packaged up different ways. But basically it’s just repackaging some of the same basic financial products and then layering on fees. Well, once you layer on a certain amount of fees, you’ll degrade the performance enough to the point where you’re not really helping whoever you sell this to. And that was always the problem that I had, is because either A, you get a lot of these brokerages that would push not so great financial products on the client portfolios at full value instead of whatever the market value would be that another broker would buy them at, or you get all these intermediary fees added onto what’s basically a market index fund. And I’m like, okay, well, hopefully there are people who are doing it better than what I saw. But what I saw is a lot of people, they were just trying to gather assets under management and then they essentially applied disturbingly simplistic models and then charge people a lot of money for it. And I’m like, this doesn’t really seem like you’re helping clients that much, but I know there are people out there who are doing it right, and I’m glad to know that you’re one of them. 

Well, whenever I sit down with a new client, the first question I ask is, what makes you happy? And how can we get to more of that? Yeah, right? How can we retire with purpose? Right. The reason some of my friends on the street have no purpose, they have nobody to support but themselves and they’re just wandering around aimlessly with no purpose and they need help when it comes to that. So you don’t just retire and then that’s it. Right. I think we all had a great dose of just sitting around during Cobb and it sucks, right? No, you have to say, okay, when I stopped working, what am I going to do to fulfill my passions? Or your passions will lead you into your purpose. It’s more than just buy this fund, let’s come up with a life plan for you. What dreams have you had on the shelf all these years? Where do you want to go now that you don’t have to work? What is your passion? Do you like dogs and cats? Do you want to work in a shelter and then spend some of your days around other people that share your passion and your love of animals? How great is that? Do you have to come up with a plan? 

Yeah, absolutely. Well, all right. I think it’s been a wonderful conversation. So give us your last one or two two thoughts and then let everybody know where they can go out, find more, or sign up for your newsletter or whatever you would like us to do next. 

Well, Doug, it’s been a lot of fun. You’ve got a great show. And what I want to say to everybody you can hear the sound of my voice is that

You are the author of the story of the rest of your life. Make that story one of amazing giving, outrageous adventure, kindness, love, joy, and pure happiness

You can find me@mikedupiespeaks.com. If you’d want to find out about the Happiness Hall of Fame, go to happiness Halloffame.com.

Excellent. Well, Mike, I really appreciate your time today. 

Well, thank you for having me.

All right.

Listen full episode 

Watch the full episode

Finance & Operations

Small Business Tax Strategy with Amy Kutzkey

I have Amy Kutzkey with me today. She is the owner and proprietor of Oak Hill Tax, and she actually took an entrepreneurial leap of her own. She formerly worked for Perkins, which is a local CPA firm. Correct me

Read More »