The Happiness Hall of Fame Event at Stanford


If you’re not familiar with the Happiness Hall Of Fame, it is an initiative started by Mike Duffy who spoke on our TEDxBerkeley stage last year, a man whom I truly admire and respect. It seemed perfect to have him close our event, leaving attendees with a feeling of joy and hope about how to invite more happiness into our lives and others around us on a daily basis.

I love helping others find their inner joy and purpose — it brings me a sense of serenity and happiness. And, research doesn’t lie — ‘gifting’ and contributing to something bigger outside yourself and to others is key to sustainable happiness.

Happiness Hall of Fame

Seeing people for who they truly are is one way to deliver happiness, for it is in this gift, you set their hearts free and allow them to show up with their spirit and soul leading the way.

Mike Duffy, Founder of Happiness Hall of Fame

Mike Duffy, Founder of Happiness Hall of Fame

Happiness Hall of Fame Vision

The Happiness Hall of Fame celebrates people that make other people happy and on this mission, they hold events from time-to-time. I had the opportunity to attend their inspiring red-carpet award ceremony on November 3rd at The Stanford University Faculty Club.

Inspirational speakers brought their life work and visions of happiness to the event, including 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, her mom, award-winning teacher Esther Wojcicki, who has also spoken at TEDxBerkeley, student Eleanor Collier, Stanford professors Dr. Fred Luskin and Carole Pertofsky, speaker coach Lynn Kirkham,  Sister Marie Benedicte and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Mark Victor Hansen.

Ann Wojcicki left us with many important messages, however the theme largely revolved around the ability we all have to control how we show up in the world, regardless of what is happening around us. “I can control myself, but I can’t control my surroundings,” said Ann, who talked about her humble beginnings and growing up in a thrifty household.

Think about it, isn’t it easier to stay happy than mad? Make a relationship work than to constantly fight? The latter and less evolved path is always more draining and stressful on the body, however so many of us don’t realize it.

Happiness Hall of Fame Anne Wojcicki

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki

She asserts that so much reconciliation in a situation is the role we proactively take, which is how she runs her business and her life. From growing up being frugal, she learned how to be independent and save her money, resulting in the ability to make smarter choices and say no to jobs and situations that didn’t serve her best interest. “By not needing or wanting,” she says, “I could be free. It also allowed me to be more creative.”

Esther Wojcicki took the podium next, who shared her life story and why how she was raised led her to being more flexible, creative and assertive when it came to changing the rules about how she taught early on in her career.

Challenging the status quo is integral to how Esther lives her life and has raised her kids. Debate was always part of their household as a healthy way to see a balanced side to any situation. Not unlike Ann’s message, she asserts that you can’t control your life but you CAN control your reaction to what shows up.

Happiness Hall of Fame

Journalism Teacher Esther Wojcicki

As an advocate of education change and the importance of being a role model for students, she says “every student needs a champion to believe in themselves.” In her classroom, there is no failure. If their writing is off, she just asks them to write it again.

“If you believe in yourself, you can do whatever you want.”

Her approach to teaching is what she refers to as “passion-based learning.” She encourages her students to lead from their passion and place of purpose, and to work with life the way it is and not let life “get to you.” We always have a choice. Hear hear!

I loved the not just the energy of Stanford professor Carole Pertofsky, but her presence on stage, her authenticity and her sense of humor. Before the program began, I kept running into people who were part of Carole’s posse. I began to wonder: does everyone in the audience know Carole?

I could easily see why she had so many fans, from friends and other faculty members to students. She spoke of Awakening Joy and how the brain responds to joy, especially over time. How the brain can be wired for happiness.

She addressed the growing issue with Millennials who have growing pressures from social media acceptance and beyond that former generations never dealt with, always asking the internal question: Am I enough? Carole asserts that we must tap into resilience, compassion and gratitude, so we can give to the greater good.

Love is the Force That Connects Us.

With love as the driving factor for all humanity, she says we need to find the sanctuary of love inside ourselves, so we can better give to others.

Happiness Hall of Fame

Carole Pertofsky, Stanford Professor

The very humorous and witty Deb Heisz brought her authentic soul and a whole lotta truths to the table as she spoke about living a life of purpose and mission. When you serve someone else’s vision and goal, it’s hard to be true to who you are until you’re filled up first.

She started her career as a leader across a number of Fortune 100 companies and thereafter getting experience in the publishing industry. It wasn’t until she started her own initiative as founder of Live Happy Magazine where she found her true purpose.

Happiness Hall of Fame

Deb Heisz, co-founder of Live Happy Magazine

From pointing to useful stats, such as the research behind living longer and having healthier relationships if we have purpose in our life, to the power of fun, she talked about how important it is to love what you’re doing each and every day.

“You Change the World by Changing People.”

She’s working on getting this important data beyond the world of social scientists, psychologists, teachers and technologists. Living happy, she asserts, is grown out of science – there are stats to back up the powerful results of being happy.

Says Deb, “the current education system is designed to make children adequate rather than excellent. We want to create excellence.” We learn about her latest effort, which is the upcoming International Positive Education Festival next June in Fort Worth Texas, which is bringing in policy makers, teachers and other thought leaders from 47 countries, aimed at helping kids truly find their voice. BRAVO!

I love the heart of Lynn Kirkham, who as founder of The Inspired Heart Foundation and Yes, You Can Speak, lives her life from a place of presence, joy and serving others.

She found her voice on a trip to India where she spent nearly three months at an orphanage finding joy and happiness with an entourage of little girls who ended up calling her Mama within days of her arrival.

I know Lynn personally so can vouch that the heart you see on stage is as prevalent in her day-to-day life. She teaches presence at her teaching seminars and how showing up present in every moment, not only transforms us as speakers, but everything we do in our lives.

Our biggest need is to be seen and heard and yet our biggest fear is rejection. She asserts that when we truly see people for WHO they are, not what they externally present or their personality delivers, we can bring them a powerful sense of inner joy, purpose and happiness. And, the ripple effect is contagious.

Lynn Kirkham, Happiness Hall of Fame

Lynn Kirkham of Yes, You Can Speak

She gave the audience ways we can show up every day and be present with those around us. Whether it’s our children, our partners, colleagues at work, someone standing in line or the guy behind the Starbucks counter, when you truly “see” them for who they are, you acknowledge something in them that rips their heart wide open.

“Give the Gift of Seeing Others For Who They Truly Are.”

In this moment, you also rip open your own heart and empathy, compassion and gratitude flushes in and changes how you view yourself and everyone around you.

Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the infamous book Chicken Soup for the Soul, started his talk with humor, asking all of us to write a smiley face on the index finger of our neighbor, which we all did. It brought a smile and some people even high fived each other. I know he does this in some of his workshops and seminars.

He asserts that we are all here to be change agents. He says, “the greatest gift my mother gave me was poverty because it made me work that much harder growing up. I wanted to move beyond poverty.”

“Your Happiness & Life is in Your Hands.”

“You can’t change your genetics,” says Mark, “but you can change yourself. Decide on YOU.” As he says this, he asks all of us to point to ourselves and state: “I Choose Me.” By filling up our own selves, we have the ability to better show up for others. If you come from an impoverished place, you can’t be a light for others.

Happiness Hall of Fame Mark Victor Hansen

Award-winning author Mark Victor Hansen

We also heard from winner of the First Annual Happiness Hall of Fame Student of the Year Scholarship Eleanor Collier, Dr. Fred Luskin, Stanford Professor and author of Forgive for Good and Sister Marie Benedicte, Fraternite Notre Dame soup kitchen.

The soup kitchen is doing such powerful work each and every day, by not just feeding the homeless but families who don’t make enough to pay for their expensive San Francisco housing as well as food for their kids.  I applaud their efforts and encourage you to give what you can to keep their work going. Head on over to their website for more information including how to donate.

Artisan food, local wines, craft beers and specialty drinks, like the Happiness Cocktail, was served on Stanford’s Faculty Club’s open-air veranda.

The hall honors notable philanthropists, athletes, authors, teachers, coaches, business leaders, artists, job creators, entertainers, charities, organizations, doctors, innovators and people that inspire.

Who’s in the Happiness Hall of Fame?

The Happiness Hall Of Fame has inducted: Muhammad Ali, Deepak Chopra, Mr. Reggie Jackson; Dr. Wayne Dyer, Serena Williams, Derek Jeter, NFL Hall Of Famer, Roger Staubach; Taylor Swift, Olympic gold medalist, Kristi Yamaguchi; The San Francisco Giants, The Golden State Warriors, Dolly Parton, Carlos Santana’s Milagro Foundation, Tom Petty, Robert Plant, David Byrne, Greg Allman, and Saint Mother Teresa’s Missionaries Of Charity.

Also on the list has been Olympic Dream Team member and NBA Hall Of Famer, Chris Mullin; Make-A-Wish, The Ronald McDonald House, NFL Hall Of Famer, Coach Mike Ditka; The Wounded Warrior Project, Saturday Night Live alumni, Molly Shannon; Emmy Award-winning chef, Michael Chiarello; NBA Hall Of Famer, Bill Walton; NBA champion, Draymond Green; NBA star and founder of The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, Jalen Rose.

Happiness Hall of Fame Mike Duffy

Mike Duffy

Other include Steve Kerr; Lucile Packard Children’s hospital, The Pro Football Hall Of Fame, Academy Award-nominated director of the movie Happy, Roko Belic; authors of Chicken Soup For The Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen; Food Network chef Tyler Florence, Star of Modern Family, Julie Bowen; author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin and Stanford professor and author of Forgive For Good, Dr. Fred Luskin.

Head on over to the Happiness Hall of Fame website for more about their world. Also be sure to read about my trip to Miami last year to cover the World Happiness Summit, which was held for the first time in 2017.

Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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