Video Transcript

00:13 Ted Leonsis: As I made that list I started to really realize that we as a society had gotten it wrong. I was programmed to be successful and I went with my son on a school trip to the Library of Congress where I implore you to go to read the Declaration of Independence. They have every red-line draft of the Declaration of Independence and the only line that wasn't edited was "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". One person said, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of property," and Thomas Jefferson said, "Over my dead body." And so, our economy, our business was focused on being happy. And I never really put that together that really your life should be enabled by happiness. And the second part of my career has been about making businesses happy, and that this process of reckoning and life-lists, and then these tenants that I'll outline to you on what makes for a happy life is what our business is all about.

01:37 Leonsis: So I'll give you the crib sheet through 20 years of study, regression analysis at AOL with a 400-panel family that we talked about what makes for happiness? How do you improve the relationships that you have? How do you get longevity? How do you increase the productivity of your units of work? And it comes down to five simple things in your life but I'm gonna talk to you about how you integrate that into your business.

02:15 Leonsis: So the first is that you're an active participant in multiple communities of interest. Sounds simple, but being the connector, being someone who's comfortable in many, many communities and interacting with them, vital. There's a reason that if you do something really bad, your punishment is solitary confinement. We are very, very social beings. From a business perspective, the most successful product I was ever involved with at launch was AOL's Instant Messenger, AIM. It really invented social media and viral marketing. We never spent a dollar marketing AIM. It was all about communities of interest and being able to manage your friends and your businesses.

03:12 Leonsis: I was with one of the founders of Twitter. Twitter's fantastic, beautiful, young company. And one of the founders said, "We created Twitter based on a feature in AIM, status messaging." I'm online but I don't want to be disturbed. I'm studying but I want to go and meet people afterwards, and another great social business was founded on it. What's the most successful company around today? Facebook. What is Facebook all about? Communities of interest.

03:48 Leonsis: I was an early on investor and Vice Chairman of Groupon. We brought Howard Schultz on to the Board of Groupon. "Howard, what business are you in?" "I'm in the community business." And so personally being active in multiple communities of interest and activating communities of interest in your business, one of the key building blocks to being happy.

04:11 Leonsis: Number two, that you have high levels of personal expression. We want our voices to be heard. I blog every day, Ted's Take. There's a reason there's about a quarter of a billion active bloggers around the world. I've been married for 25 years. I love my wife totally. The only time we get into a fight, do you know what my wife says to me? "You're not listening to me." Companies that allow their employees or their customers to have high levels of self-expression do very well. Come to a Washington Capitals' game. See how we celebrate and activate our fan base to be creative. If you've come from DC and you go to game, you'll see the Capstronaut. I don't know why a guy shows up at games wearing a space-suit, an official NASA space-suit.

05:14 Leonsis: We have kids who come in red prophylactics. We activated the first and now the biggest blogosphere around our team. The more bloggers we have, the more self-expression we have, the more tickets we sold. We've sold-out every game for the last four seasons. We have the most season ticket-holders of any North American team in hockey. And so activating self-expression is why I made movies. I needed to exercise that part of my personality, the creative side, because I had become defined as being a business leader. And so, you must find ways to self-express and helping your employees and your customers self-express very, very high.

06:07 Leonsis: The third, having high levels of personal empathy. I'm gonna give you one really quick example of that. About 18, 15 months ago, I had the opportunity to buy out the rest of the Washington Wizards in the Verizon Center from my partner who passed away, which I did. And I was real excited about listening to the fan base and coming in the right way. And so we went out to the fans and said "Tell me what you don't love about the team, the building." And we published a list of the 101 things to do, to make you fall back in love with the team.

06:46 Leonsis: And that was a very good exercise. We allowed people to self-express, and we held the mirror back up to them, and we activated that community. And so one of the things I did was I talked about... I want the building to be the best building in the world, the most powerful city in the world. And I want it to be clean and high tech. And as soon as I said that, I knew I had made a mistake 'cause the newspapers would write "Leonsis wants a cleaner building." And I had never met with the cleaning staff. And so the next day, I came in and I called the people who cleaned the building and I said, "Look, I apologize. I've never walked a mile in your shoes. I need to know what you do."

07:35 Leonsis: And so, I said "I wanna clean the building with you." And it was the summertime, and the Mystics play in the summer. So, we picked a Sunday to go clean the building after the game. Make a long story short, a couple of days before the game, the White House calls. And they said "President Obama and his daughter would like to come to the game. Would that be okay with you?" I said "Yes, that would be wonderful." President comes, daughter, 300 secret service agents, they shut down the city. I meet the President, I bring him to his seats, he grabs me and says, "Sit with me." And now for three hours I'm sitting next to the President of United States. By the way, you run out of things to say to the President of United States pretty quickly. The only thing I remember him saying was, he says "I've read about you a little bit, Ted, and I know you're ethnic and Greek. And I bet you, growing up, your parents and you... You wanted to be President of the United States." I said "Yeah that's kind of the immigrant dream."

08:38 Leonsis: He said " Well, when I was growing up, I always wanted to own an NBA team." So, I thought that was... [laughter] I just thought that was nice. And they take pictures and ESPN puts live, President of United States, WNBA game with Ted Leonsis. I mean, it's great. The President leaves, and I have to go clean the arena. [laughter] I clean the ladies' bathrooms, guys. I clean the steps. Public space, the only place in the world where someone will drop nachos, pour their soda out. One guy clipped his fingernails and his toenails. It was backbreaking work. It really taught me a lot. So, 18 months later, there's not a single employee at Monumental who talks about the President of United States coming and visiting and sitting with me. They all talk about my cleaning the women's bathroom at the arena. And so empathy and tuning up your ability to relate to situations, as a leader, as an entrepreneur is really, really important.

09:52 Leonsis: I'll talk in a minute about a company that I just founded a couple of years ago that's been very, very successful based on empathy. The fourth trait is that you are grateful, and you give back. That the act of service, that the act of giving back, really moves you up in happiness. I'm still not very religious, but the number one happiest group of Americans are evangelical Christians. They're the wealthiest people, they have the lowest incident of divorces, and if you think about it, they follow most of these rules. Our President got elected based on some of these initial instincts. What was our President's job before he was a Senator? He was a community organizer.

10:55 Leonsis: And when you read my book, you'll see that, as we were writing it, the campaign was underway. And we said "Who's showing the highest levels of empathy? Who's really good in bonding and connecting with organizations? Who has the highest levels of personal expression? Who looks like he would give back, and he'd be here in service?" We said "This young man named Barack Obama. He is gonna win." And we called it based on this metric.

11:26 Leonsis: The fifth is that you articulate and believe that there is a higher calling. Not many people know what their personal incidence of a higher calling is. The Dalai Lama came to Verizon Center. We let him play there for a week. And I had the honor to meet him and spend time with him. And he gave me one of his books, and it's called "Rock and Scarf," and I gave him my book 'cause I read a lot of the Dalai Lama's preachings which is essentially that your journey is to find happiness.

12:09 Leonsis: And so he really enjoyed our conversation, because it was the first time he had heard that business people can be about happiness, and that happiness generates lots of revenue and lots of values, that companies that activate the most happiness do so. I'm in the process of creating a happiness index and I got the idea... I wrote an article in Newsweek. I was an early on supporter and investor in Google. And when AOL did the first deal with Google I went on the press tour with Sergey Brin, one of the founders. This is a beautiful young man. He went to University of Maryland undergraduate and then Stanford, and they fled Russia.

12:59 Leonsis: His father was a Russian, immigrated to come to United States because of what was happening in the Soviet Union. And now Google is the dominant company or the biggest company, you can't say dominant about a company in Washington DC, they're a big important company, and they're doing business in China. And Sergey starts an internal debate, "I feel uncomfortable with our company having to put its servers in China because the government can listen in." That's a demand that the Chinese government makes of all tech companies, that if you're going to do business in China, your servers have to be there, and they will put people in your data centers to listen. They can arbitrarily look at any emails, any instant messages, anything that you wanna do.

13:57 Leonsis: And he said, "I can't be happy knowing that a student in China could get in trouble or arrested or worse, based on my technology. I'm getting us out of China." And Wall Street went crazy. And lots of people in the company said, "You can't do that. It's the world's biggest Internet market." And I said, I bet you, this company booms because he said "I can't be happy knowing that something personal, a student expressing, self-expressing can get in trouble using my technology." And just look at Google's results the last three quarters, that hasn't affected them at all. The morale in the company has gone up, and the respect level for that leadership group, because it wasn't about the money, it was about a higher calling.