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The Business of Happiness

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jul 26, 2010 | In Reviews

I just finished reading The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Work and Life by Ted Leonsis (with John Buckley). Leonsis is a former America Online (AOL) owner/executive and current owner of both the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards.

I was eager to read this book due to the subject matter. I live near DC and Leonsis is a noted local public figure, successful businessman, and philanthropist. More than that, however: is it possible to be successful in both “work and life” by planning for your own happiness? It is an appealing proposition! I intended to find out.

The book is not particularly well written, but proves the point that a business book need not be great prose in order to be effective—it need merely tell interesting stories and make interesting points. This book accomplishes that much, as it chronicles the very interesting life and pursuits of Ted Leonsis up to the present, including the dramatic rise, fall, rise, fall of AOL.

But Leonsis tells his own tale to a purpose: to show you how his life came to a moment of crisis, and how his desire to live life to the fullest and without regret caused him to learn about how to achieve happiness.

Leonsis’ premise is that “the happiest and most successful people live by six common practices, or tenets”: set your goals and actively work to accomplish them, participate actively in communities of interest, find an outlet for personal expression, express gratitude, express empathy by giving back, and finally... find a higher calling.

Leonsis touches a lot of bases with which we, as Catholics, would not disagree. Set goals? Check. God wants us to be focused and determined in pursuing things of importance. Participate in communities of interest? Nothing to disagree with there, really.

Find an outlet for personal expression? At the end of this chapter Leonsis writes: “For millions of people, the ability to have a private conversation with a single listener provides them with the expressive outlet they need. They don’t sit at the computer to do this. Instead they get down on their knees and put their hands together. Their outlet for creative expression is called prayer.” Uh... one-quarter check. Room to grow.

Moving on... express gratitude, be empathetic, find a higher calling. Check, check, check.

The book is pretty much devoid of significant religious reflection (although God and religion are certainly mentioned, as illustrated). Thus, it presents a serious challenge to Catholics in Business (CIBs): can we, who believe ourselves to be in possession of “the full truth”, do better?

If Leonsis has come to his conclusions primarily based on extensive analysis of “what works”, primarily from a non-religious perspective, how does that correspond to what we as true Catholics believe about holiness and happiness? Shouldn’t we be as happy as Leonosis and those individuals that he has observed, if not as successful in a temporal sense?

Again, if we as Catholics know better than Leonsis about the nature of true happiness (as we might suppose)... am I happier than Leonsis? Are you?

Peter Mirus is a business, marketing and technology consultant who serves as a guiding member of the Trinity Communications Board of Directors. He has served as director of design and/or application development for many key Catholic projects since 1993, assisting such organizations as EWTN, the Knights of Columbus, and the March for Life. A specialist in non-profit organizations, he continues to work regularly on the design mission of CatholicCulture.org.
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Show 14 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Rogvald183981 - Jun. 08, 2019 6:20 PM ET USA

    A charge that objectivity is treated as an euphemism.is it not more likely it is a more comforting form of ignorance.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Jun. 05, 2019 5:20 PM ET USA

    I'll leave it to each reader to decide whether or not your two articles did, in fact, smear those "far right" Catholics and Dr. Marshall by using McCarthyism as "an example of the same thing." And I hope you will re-examine your own use of politically loaded terms such as "far right" and "McCarthyism," and your dismissing of Bishop Schneider's suitability to comment, based on ... what, his not agreeing with your point of view? I'll pray for you, and ask you to also pray for me.

  • Posted by: Edward I. - Jun. 05, 2019 3:54 PM ET USA

    I've been listening to Taylor Marshall for a year but I've been reading you for almost ten. Taylor Marshall, Michael Voris, and all those types are on the upswing. They talk about what people are actually thinking about in plain words without seeming to dance around the topics. I was angered by your review when I first read it but I've cooled my head. Dave Armstrong's criticisms helped me more than yours did. You're older and have been Catholic longer than Dr. Marshall, I'll keep trusting you.

  • Posted by: Alcuin - Jun. 05, 2019 10:52 AM ET USA

    It seems like it's really hard for anyone to stay sane and balanced this year. I imagine you must pray before you write each article and let everything sit for a day or two anyway. Thank you! As Jesus says: 'And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? ... Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jun. 05, 2019 10:40 AM ET USA

    "Dearly beloved, be prudent, and watch in prayers. But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves; for charity covereth a multitude of sins." Epistle from Sunday after Ascension EF. It's important to realize the laity did not cause the surreal conditions in the Church. Peace. It is clear that Catholic tradition has not been prioritized among most prelates for decades. Many, including the current pope, consider this a badge of honor. Sadly, what little might be left.

  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Jun. 05, 2019 10:15 AM ET USA

    MWCooney: No, that's not quite right. I didn't smear Marshall by comparing his method with McCarthyism. I used McCarthyism as an example of the same thing that I thought would help readers grasp the point—conclusions about conspiracies with no real evidence—and then I proceeded to explain in considerable detail why and how this was the case in Marshall’s book.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 05, 2019 2:13 AM ET USA

    Am I reading that right? I'll clean my eyeglasses. The day the USCCB decides to "adore" the Republican (i.e., Democrat in disguise) Party is the day I'll revise my position on the political persuasion of its membership. The Republican Party at large is every bit as "Establishment/Never Trump/Deep State" as any rank-and-file Democrat. The "issue" that unifies them? One person: Trump, the leader of the forces of cultural revolution in this country. A revolution of life, justice, honor, and truth.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jun. 04, 2019 11:57 PM ET USA

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  • Posted by: man961983010 - Jun. 04, 2019 6:02 PM ET USA

    I don''t understand why you are so proud of your position, but I have lost confidence in your judgement completely.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Jun. 04, 2019 5:55 PM ET USA

    I don't know who between you and Marshall is more correct regarding the history in question, but I am a bit disappointed in your subtitle, followed by your own lack of rational commentary. You accuse him and his fellow "far right" Catholics of just what you do yourself: painting those who oppose you with ad hominems, such as "McCarthyism," which, like "Nazi" and "racist," is designed to do nothing but shut down discussion. I had come to expect better of this forum.

  • Posted by: jackbene3651 - Jun. 04, 2019 3:30 PM ET USA

    Hang in there, Dr. Mirus. I appreciate your work.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Jun. 04, 2019 2:12 PM ET USA

    When I read these accounts, I am reminded of the phrase from Dr. Seuss's book "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish": "From near to far, from here to there, funny things are everywhere".

  • Posted by: - Aug. 18, 2010 8:06 AM ET USA

    Interesting that he puts prayer in the "personal expression" category in which God is the "single listener". How utterly modern. God is there to listen to ME, not me to God. I think he's got it backward.

  • Posted by: jtuturic3013 - Aug. 03, 2010 5:52 AM ET USA

    From your mini-review, this book seems to be like a lot of other secular self help books. They hit on many common sense points emphaticly, but when it comes to certain points of morality or religion they chime in rather ambiguously so that as many people as possible might "get something" out of the book and buy it. The almighty dollar trumps truth ... or so they think. Interestingly enough, I've found the advice that is clear to generally be the best ... and most popular.