I was so entranced with Valerie’s idea that happiness should be a “second language” that I couldn’t and wouldn’t resist sharing it. Her very clear “how to” learn this language and her lighthearted writing style makes it so appealing that you will want to assimilate this “happiness” into your spoken languages immediately. She shows you how to do that easily and with a smile on your face, that you will now know how to keep.
Since publishing my first book, Happiness as a Second Language, the question I am most often asked is how I got into the topic of happiness. I’m not a counselor, a researcher or professor of psychology, and as an ex-lawyer turned screenwriter, I guess it would seem like a stretch. So recently, when Dorene Lehavi posed the same question to me on LinkedIn, I decided it was time to actually answer it, as best I can. And since she inspired the reply, I’m sharing it exclusively here, on Dorene’s site.
In 2007, my union (the Writers Guild of America) went on strike. My husband and I are both WGA members, so he fulfilled our strike obligations and I went to work as the interim VP of Business Development at an Internet start-up. The CEO was…difficult (I could use a lot of other adjectives, but this is a public forum), and everything about the job was miserable. I quit early in 2008, two months before the strike ended.
Money was getting tight and at the same time, we were having a very sad time trying to start a family. One day, my husband commented about how happy I was all the time. He could not believe, given what we were going through, that I was just always happy. Never having thought about it, I replied how especially strange it was given that happiness was not my native language. That sparked the idea. Happiness could be learned the same way we learn to speak a new language, step-by-step, until all the pieces come together and the novice is fluent.
Using language textbooks as my guide, I wrote the book over the next two years, and in 2010, when it was done, gave it to a friend who immediately sent it to a big lit agent, (a man who specializes in taking people who are “brands” and getting them published) who signed me on the spot, with a 2-year contract. Unfortunately, there was a big disconnect, because I thought he was going to get the book published and help me launch the Happiness brand and he thought I was going to establish the Happiness brand so that he could simply pick up the phone and get the book published. When the contract expired at the end of 2012, I decided to go it alone and self-publish.
I have done just about everything wrong to date when it comes to launching a book, but things are coming around. I’m building more platforms, learning how to get reviews from influencers, and expanding into a Happiness workshop that is distinct from the book, but complementary. I also made a book trailer that really seems to make people happy, so that’s been good.
Regardless of the outcome, though, I stay happy. That’s the real message in the book, too. It was written specifically for people in any circumstance. If you can’t afford to take a “me day,” you can still do all of the exercises in Happiness as a Second Language. Also, my audiobook engineer described the book as “incredibly humane” and I think that’s an awesome word for it.
I want people to allow themselves the freedom to not be perfect in their pursuit of happiness, and not feel so burdened by getting it right. I read one article on the “15 rules for being happy” and one of them was “Don’t have negative thoughts.” I laughed out loud! Who are they writing that for?? I’m one of the happiest people I know and I have negative thoughts all the time, every day, because I’m a human being…just like you. Don’t have negative thoughts? Please!
Okay, this answer is way too long to a simple question, so please excuse the rambling. The short answer is that I got into the topic by being happy, and wanting to share that. Now that I think about it, there’s not really much more to it than that.
To read more, you can visit Valerie Alexander’s website, Speak Happiness, and follow Speak Happiness on Facebook and Twitter. For more detailed instruction in achieving lasting, permanent happiness, you can get “Happiness as a Second Language” on Amazon, and for added amusement, please check out the Happiest Book Trailer Ever.