Alexis Ohanian has his plate full--not only is the Reddit co-founder navigating fatherhood and marriage to tennis star Serena Williams, but he's also cemented his name as a philanthropist and investor. But in an interview with Glamour.com, Ohanian revealed a simple but incredibly powerful mantra that encapsulates how to find real success.

"As an entrepreneur," Ohanian told Glamour, "my big mantra is to surprise and delight. I guess I applied that in some way to romance, and if I can think of a way to top myself, I'll keep pulling out the stops."

Aiming to surprise is significant because it shows an internal drive to break the status quo and do something other than what others might expect. It shows a willingness to accept that there might be a better, alternative way of approaching something. That's a fundamental idea behind innovation.

But it's often a struggle for entrepreneurs, because doing what is "normal" can feel so safe and comfortable. We can buy into the lie that there's a script that must be followed, because of everything society has told us is acceptable. And if that happens, we don't push and challenge ourselves. We don't see any need to disprove that what others expect for us is a woefully low bar. So then we never really stand out.

But aiming to delight is transformative too. It means that your focus is making yourself and others happy. This isn't just sentimental, New Age drivel. When you aim to make yourself happy without the bonds of egocentricity, you build an awareness of who you are and what you want. You have dignity and self-respect. That gives you the confidence to grab a distinct path, lead, and take action.

To turn this toward others, multiple studies are showing that today's workers are, to be blunt, miserable. Seventy-one percent of surveyed workers say they're looking for or are thinking about looking for a different job for reasons such as lack of recognition--63 percent of workers say job stress has a significant impact on their mental and behavioral health. If you aim to make others happy as you still respect yourself, you recognize this epidemic and can make a difference in conquering it.

The benefits of making others happy extend beyond basic quality of life and show up in your company's bottom line. The happier the members of your team are, the more productive they'll likely be. In fact, research indicates happy employees are 12 percent more productive, and companies with happy employees outperform competitors by 20 percent. Happy workers also take 10 times fewer sick days. And, as Millennials reveal that a sense of purpose is what they're after, research indicates that a sense of purpose predicts greater income and net worth. Job security, the chance to use skills and abilities, and the financial stability of your company are the biggest factors influencing worker joy, but plenty of other areas--for example, the ability for everyone to voice thoughts without criticism or judgment--matter too.

Taking one final look at Ohanian's comments, don't miss the last gem of wisdom. He says that if he sees a way to top himself, he'll keep pulling out the stops. When you strive to defy others' expectations and make life better, you can't just say, "Well, I did that yesterday. I guess I'm done." You have to go back and evaluate what you did and achieved, and you have to be willing to improve on the foundation you've laid every single day. It is a continual labor that has continual results, not a notch on your belt or box you get to check off.

So ask yourself: Are you aiming for the status quo, or do you reach for something completely and beautifully unrecognizable? Are you doing what's safe, or what you know is possible? How do you work to give yourself joy and spread it to others, even within the dictates of operational practice? And do you really get done at the end of the day excited to give 200 percent again tomorrow? Take stock, and if you're not happy with the answers, take heart. No one is ever stuck. Change can happen today, one small choice and commitment at a time, no matter what happens to be in front of you.

Published on: Feb 20, 2019
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