Sweet and Deadly… Sugar is Making Us Fat and Sick

Blog tester, Scott, muses on his battle with his favorite addiction: sugar. | Read the post that inspired this Blog Theatre™

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My Top 4 Tips to Successfully Make a Dietary Change

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
(Ernest Hemingway)

If you are like me and most other Happy Living readers, I assume that you are an intelligent and conscientious person who desires to improve your spiritual, mental, physical and financial health. I suspect you take in lots of great information about what changes could be beneficial in your life, and that you may even have attempted to implement some of them. And, I’m guessing that the attempts haven’t always been successful, because I’ve never met anyone who is always successful at every self-improvement effort. (If you’re that rare unicorn, I’d love to meet you so the streak can be broken!)

Making changes can be difficult in all areas of our lives, and this is especially true when it comes to shifting our diet.

Presuming that my assumptions are accurate, you haven’t always been as successful as you’d like at making better choices about the food you eat. Because let’s face it, many of us know what we should be doing, but sometimes we have a hard time doing it. At the same time, we know that change is necessary to be our healthiest selves, and a change can’t help us if we can’t implement it and stick with it.

So, here are my top four tips about how to achieve and maintain healthy dietary habits, no matter where you are on that journey:

1. Make each change small enough that it’s sustainable, and build on the changes over time.

Many people get frustrated when they attempt to make a big sweeping change and then find it too difficult to sustain. As such, I always encourage people to start with a change that’s small enough that they are pretty confident they can be successful. A good test of this is to ask yourself: on a scale of 1 to 10, how successful can I be with the change I want to make? If your answer is anything less than 7, you need to reevaluate and make the change more manageable. For example, if you want to stop eating sweets because you know sugar is bad for your health, but you have a sweet tooth, don’t try to cut sugar out of your diet entirely. Instead, commit to having sweeteners only in your desserts and not having them in any non-dessert items like cereal, ketchup or beverages. Once you’ve successfully made that shift, the next step could be having dessert only on weekends or only having dessert when the best possible version of that dessert is available. If you’re not sure what change to start with, check out my suggestions.

2. Choose a change that fits with your lifestyle.

This may seem obvious, but often people want to jump into a huge diet change that simply doesn’t fit their life. For example, if you work out in the morning, take the kids to school, and get to your desk by 8 am, deciding to eat a home-cooked omelet every morning probably isn’t going to work. Instead, pick changes that will fit with how you’re already living. If eating out is your thing, commit to choosing the healthier items at your favorite restaurant or finding a new restaurant that specializes in healthier choices. If you’re always on the go, focus on switching to healthy, hand-held snacks and carrying a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. In the future, you might find that bigger, more radical changes fit with your life, but until then, picking changes that work with your life today is crucial to success.

3. Focus on the things you can do rather than on the things you choose not to do.

When we focus on the things we like to eat that we are giving up, it’s easy to feel deprived. Instead, focus on the things you want to do… like drinking enough water or eating enough vegetables and fruits. If you still have room for a soda after you’ve had your 70 ounces of water, have a soda. If you still want a cookie after getting your 6 servings of produce, have a cookie. This way you’re sure you’re getting in the things your body needs, which is actually just as important as taking out certain things.

4. Use the words “I choose to” instead of “I have to” or “I can’t.”

If your goal is to eat healthy, research has shown that expressing your choices from a place of empowerment rather than victimization will make you more likely to achieve those goals[1]. A simple way to do this is to say, “I don’t eat <insert food>” rather than “I can’t eat <insert food>”. After all, it’s always a choice, and acknowledging that will make you feel empowered rather than constrained.

Making changes is rarely easy. That said, by following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to achieving the healthy life you want and deserve.

Sources:

1. Vanessa M. Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt. “I Don’t” versus “I Can’t”: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior.

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Your Voice: Life is a Roller Coaster

“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”
(Vince Lombardi)

The Your Voice series is a celebration of you, our awesome readers all around the globe. We know you aspire to a better life for yourself and for those you love. You believe, as we do, that a better self is always possible, today, every day, for the rest of your life.

We celebrate you by bringing your voice to life on our pages at Happy Living. Whenever you feel inspired by one of our posts, booksblog theatre™, talks, or podcasts, we want to hear from you. And when we do, we hope your voice will inspire others, so that together, we can improve the health and wellbeing of the world, one person at a time.

Today, we are proud to feature the voice of T-Bear from the United States. T-Bear writes about how he could not put down The Greener the Grass until he finished the book.


Started reading this late one evening with eyes half asleep, but couldn’t put it down until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed going through the ride of small-town to big-time, being on the ‘inside’ of the big leagues, and feeling the emotions of the writer/character along the way.

Who knew that a big time ‘jock’ had similar doubts and fears (and voices in your head!) as the average Joe (not Namath!) with a big dream. There were some edge of your seat moments, and I found myself hoping for the call, the historical pass, the miracle, the paycheck, the acceptance, and the future!

Life is a roller coaster and this book was a great example of one undulating ride. I also liked the writing style once I got into the poetry of it. And, like some other readers… I wanted part 2 asap!

(T-Bear)

PS: I’m from the pocket protector world, so did appreciate that character too.


Thank-you T-Bear for your poignant words and review. You, dear reader, inspire us to write and to live by the words we write too. You are our purpose at Happy Living, and we are so grateful to you. It is both humbling and incredibly gratifying to hear the voice of readers like T-Bear. Thank you for sharing the journey of Happy Living with us.

To lend your voice to Your Voice at Happy Living, just click here to share what inspires you!

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The Benefits of Exercising With Your Dog

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
(Roger Caras)

“We believe that dogs add value to human lives, from companionship to health,” says Genevive B, a community manager at Rover.com, the nation’s largest dog-sitting network, “and exercising with a four-legged companion makes this important ‘chore’ fun!”

I couldn’t agree more.

My dog Barkley supports my wellbeing in so many ways. He’s my primary hiking partner, he offers unconditional love and affection, and he keeps me connected to my seven foundations of health. In other words, Barkley brings health and wellbeing into my life, just like Skye, Duke, Hummer, Nutmeg, Yampa, Desi, Maggie Mae, Aussie, Odin, Delta, and Dillion improve the lives of their owners, all members of our Happy Living community who sent pictures of their pups (see below) to be included in this post.

Genevive introduced me to today’s guest writer, Chelsea Alvarez. Chelsea lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the coffee is good and the dogs are plentiful, and she writes as a contractor for Rover.com. When she’s not writing or teaching yoga, she can be found biking with her kids.

I am very pleased to introduce Chelsea and to share her post in celebration of dogs!


For people looking to bring more joy and health into their lives, dogs are an invaluable resource.

Canine companionship has been scientifically proven to be beneficial to one’s health for a number of reasons, including but not limited to lessening anxiety and depression, improving heart health, and decreasing likelihood of allergies and eczema in children.[2]  According to scientists at the University of Missouri, taking care of a dog may, in fact, lengthen one’s life span.[3] Not only is the emotional bond with a dog good for your heart, but dog owners have also been found to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and to visit doctors less often than those without a furry presence in their lives.

One of the most obvious health benefits of life with Fido is that dogs are excellent workout buddies. What could be a better reminder to get out and move around than your best friend standing by the door, leash in mouth, expectantly wagging their tail at you?

Bodies and brains are most responsive to exercise programs that are routine, which is great for dog owners, because they tend to build daily exercise routines into the structure of their lives. Want to ensure you’ll stick to that resolution to walk or run every day? Get a dog! You’ll want to research breeds, selecting a dog whose exercise needs track with your fitness goals and lifestyle.[4]

Sometimes, sticking to a routine isn’t entirely under our control, but rain or shine, human beings need movement… and so do dogs. So, what is a pet parent to do during inclement weather?

When you’re stuck in the house due to the weather, you and your dog can get exercise with a long game of tug, running up and down stairs together, or any playful activity that gets you both moving. Another strategy is to gear up and brave the elements. Sierra Trading Post is a great source for discounted weather gear for dogs and humans alike. During hot weather, seek out shady parks, woodsy trails, and dog-friendly beaches. Be sure to bring along water for yourself and your dog.
Regular exercise is integral to the health and wellbeing of both humans and dogs, and routinely exercising together can be a powerful tool for creating and strengthening the bond between you and your pooch.[5] So get moving! Grab the leash, get outside, and explore the world! Your dog will thank you, and your health will too.

If you have a canine best friend that adds joy and happiness to your life and you’d like to join our celebration of dogs, post a picture of your dog on our Facebook page.

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_A._Caras

[2] http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets#1

[3] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3552335/Want-live-longer-dog-Bonding-canine-makes-people-happier-healthier.html

[4] https://www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-current-campaigns/why-weight/keep-your-pet-healthy/how-much-exercise-does-my-dog-need ).

[5] https://www.rover.com/blog/bond-with-new-dog

Can a Conference Change Your Life?

“Each tribe has its characteristics, it is true.”
(John Hanning Speke)

Can a conference change your life? Matt reflected on this topic and the inspirations he had following last year’s Paleo F(x), which is the world’s largest Paleo Conference.  A year later I, am headed back to Paleo F(x), which has caused me to reflect on the excellent weekend I had in Austin.

I’ve felt some resistance to the concept that one moment or singular event can change a person. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never palpably felt inspiration guiding me to my next step. Or perhaps I have a misguided jealousy…an envy of those who seem so open to inspiration in their life. All that said, I’m open enough to the idea to explore it.

When I began working for Happy Living in early 2016, I discovered I would be attending a gigantic paleo conference. I’d heard of being “paleo” before, but I wasn’t totally sure what it was all about. Like any good student, I did my homework diligently, and by the time the conference arrived, I felt prepared.

Stepping onto the convention center floor in Austin, Texas, I knew I was somewhere special, and I immediately knew I wanted to come back in the future. It is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but there is a powerful and palpable energy at a big conference; this must be what happens when you stick three to five thousand people under one roof, all of whom are looking to better themselves. It was fantastic!

There were two things that really stuck out. First, the average fitness level of attendees was staggering; it seemed that most people had found a nutrition and workout balance that really worked for them. Second, most everyone was, simply put, happy. I think this joy stems from  knowing you’re amongst your people. Feeling like you’re with people who understand you allows you to relax and be really real.  For most people “being paleo” is something that they must explain repeatedly, and it sometimes feels like a burden to try to eat right, striving for health in our tv-dinner, on-demand culture, especially when you’re continuously having to explain to others what it’s all about. Once surrounded by your community, this feeling of burden slips away and allows you to be more open to new inspirations and information.

After three days at the conference, I was totally amped up to live a healthier life. I had already started cleaning up my diet, but Paleo F(x) was a powerful catalyst to continue. Was it life-changing?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve struggled with the concept of flashpoint inspiration that people so often talk about when discussing conferences, and honestly, there isn’t one moment from the conference that really sticks out to me. What did have an impactful effect on me was the culture and community at the conference… what many people call “the tribe”.

Until attending Paleo F(x), I had never been surrounded by so many positive, upbeat and healthy people. Clearly, this tribe is on a powerful path to health and wellness. Before the conference, I’d been skeptical of the “real food” movement. But after meeting countless people who have turned their life around by eating real food, I began to feel a deep shift. I didn’t consciously make the decision, but after Paleo F(x), I quit drinking soda, started cutting added sugar out of my diet, and began trying to eat only real food (which means checking nutritional labels religiously or better yet, buying something that isn’t labeled, like produce). Only upon reflection did I realize the true impact Paleo F(x) had on my life. A year later, I’ve gone from avoiding vegetables at all cost to having vegetables for every meal. I have been more open to trying new things that are counter to modern day norms, like using a standing desk, drinking butter coffee, and making bone broth a staple in my diet.

So, can a conference change your life? Short answer: I have no idea, but it might. I am not sure if was Paleo F(x) or if Paleo F(x) was simply the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of getting serious about my health, fitness and wellness. What I do know is that finding your “tribe” is an incredibly powerful experience, and the energy I received from the tribe at Paleo F(x) helped propel me to a healthier and happier life.

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Your Voice: A Simple Path to Transformation

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”
(Jim Rohn)

The Your Voice series is a celebration of you, our awesome readers all around the globe. We know you aspire to a better life for yourself and for those you love. You believe, as we do, that a better self is always possible, today, every day, for the rest of your life.

We celebrate you by bringing your voice to life on our pages at Happy Living. Whenever you feel inspired by one of our posts, books, blog theatre, talks, or podcasts, we want to hear from you. And when we do, we hope your voice will inspire others, so that together, we can improve the health and wellbeing of the world, one person at a time.

Today, we are proud to feature the voice of Gary from the United States. Gary writes about how Turning Inspiration into Action was “interesting, thought provoking, challenging and fun.”


Interesting, Thought Provoking, Challenging and Fun:

Matt’s book, ‘Turning Inspiration Into Action’, grabs your attention, and keeps you turning pages until you exhale and realize you’re done. I like the honesty of the ‘simple, but not easy’ path to personal transformation.

Keith Norris’s foreword sets the bar…’the journey, magical though it is, does not come cheap. Nor is it easy. You’ll have to work, and you’ll have to be dedicated to the outcome.” Now, if you accept personal responsibility for your life, your success and your path, keep reading. This is your kind of book.

Matt provides a process to guide you through answering the age old problem…of getting excited and inspired one day and then dropping back to your pre-inspired life….

The key to Matt’s whole approach is using questions, three in particular:

  1. WHAT inspires you?
  2. WHY is it important to you?
  3. HOW will you bring change into your life?

Matt then opens up and shares the deeply personal ups and downs of several transformations in his life. His conclusion was simple and to the point: “What matters most is that you focus more on the ups, don’t let the downs get you down, and keep moving forward on your journey.”

Now, the book turns its focus on you…”the key to a better life is through creating a better you.” Again, the process is simple and focused, easy to understand, yet requires time and focus to execute:

  1. Accepting Personal Responsibility
  2. Kaizen – continuous improvement
  3. Carefree diligence – relaxed movement/progress

Matt then fleshes out how this transformation looks and feels as you walk through your own journey. He provides insight, support, inspiration, and actionable advice. There is much to this book. Take the time to read it, reflect on its insights, and act!

Then, you too will be able to Turn Inspiration into Action!


Thank you, Gary! You and all of our readers, inspire us to write and to live by the words we write. You are our purpose at Happy Living, and we are so grateful to you. It is always incredible to hear the voice of readers like Gary. Thank you for sharing the journey of Happy Living with us.

To lend your voice to Your Voice at Happy Living, just click here to share what inspires you!

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Which Character Strength Can You Use to Improve Your Health?

Scott explores the connection between his health and his character traits and the positive impact of social interactions on his health. | Read the post that inspired this Blog Theatre™

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What I Have Learned… So Far – About Fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
(Nelson Mandela)

I used two literary devices throughout my book, Turning Inspiration Into Action. One called Lightning Bolts and the other MBG Life Lessons. Lightning Bolts are those moments of sudden inspiration that led to the significant transformations of my life. MBG Life Lessons are the most important things I have learned along the way. I use my initials (my full name is Matthew Brian Gersper) to highlight the fact that these are my life lessons and I do not presume that they should apply to you or anyone else.

Today I share, What I Have Learned… So Far – About Fear.


MBG Life Lesson: Take the risk, act when you’re scared, it’s unlikely that you’ll be eaten today.

There was a nearly daily clash of cultures going on at the new company after the acquisition. Two years later, as I was sitting in a conference room on the executive floor of our company’s headquarters in Atlanta, one of my colleagues called me an iconoclast. I had to ask what it meant. He said an iconoclast is a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. He was right – that is what the report I was preparing for the CEO would do.

There had been a growing friction between the fundamental strategies of the two companies ever since my previous employer was acquired. My old company and I thought that the person with the closest relationship to and knowledge of the client should be the final decision-maker for all client matters. We believed it was headquarters’ role to develop technologies, processes and services that would enable leaders in the field to conduct their business better, faster, and more cost-effectively. It was our view that headquarters existed to serve those doing the work in the field.

My new company believed exactly the opposite. They were developing technologies, processes, and services to pull more and more decision-making into centralized control. They believed centralization was the key to providing faster, more accurate, and more profitable services. It was their view that staff in the field existed to serve headquarters.

I had been tasked with a top-level assignment to visit service centers across the country, from both companies (old and new), and make a recommendation for a go-forward strategy directly to the CEO. During my field site visits, I uncovered a consistent and disturbing fact; our customers were growing tired of paying us to correct the same mistakes they were making year after year. They wanted us to help them fix their systems so they wouldn’t make errors in the first place.

This strategy would have revolutionized the company and the industry. It would have changed us from a service business to a software provider. We could have significantly reduced the numbers of employees needed in the company, dramatically increased profitability and, most importantly, given our clients what they wanted and needed.

It was during my impassioned sharing of this new strategy with my colleagues that one called me an iconoclast. All the others agreed with him. They warned me I had not properly understood my assignment. They said my job was to visit the field centers across the country to create a report that told the CEO what he wanted to hear. I was supposed to confirm that centralization was the way of the future. Then I could help convince the leaders from my old company to get on board or get off the train.

If I took my report to the CEO, my colleagues warned me; I would be fired.

I did it anyway.

And they were right.


Risking something you depend on (like your job) is scary. I had plenty of fear when I realized taking my stand could cost me my job, and it was even scarier when I got fired. But I had cultivated this life lesson teaching my children to act, even in the face their fears because it was unlikely they’d be eaten, even in the worst possible outcome.

The three-and-a-half years after the firing were a whirlwind of challenges. I started two different businesses and bought another. Each year, each business lost money, totaling more than $750,000 at one point! By the end of year three, a major business loan had gone into default. Times indeed had gotten rough, but I had not been eaten.

Today, as I look back upon those difficult days, I can say with certainty, taking that stand and getting fired was one of the very best things that ever happened in my professional life.

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Doing Less and Getting More Fat Burning Results

“Sometimes, less is more.”
(William Shakespeare)

On January 19, I began a new exercise program with the intention of training my body to use fat rather than carbs as my primary energy source. I did so because in the book, Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast!, authors Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns convinced me that by following this new workout plan, I could:

  • Perform better on endurance hikes
  • Reduce health damaging inflammation inside my body caused by over training, and
  • Become a fat burning beast

What’s more, they convinced me I could do all this while working out with less intensity! They say doing less intense exercise will produce more fitness.

What I’ve Done, So far

As instructed in the book, I have been doing nearly all my cardio training in the aerobic zone of 180 minus my age, which in my case means exercising at a heart rate of 180 – 55 = 125 beats per minute (bpm) or less. For me, that’s not working hard at all. In fact, it’s been so difficult to keep my intensity level lower than normal that I have to use a heart rate monitor to keep me under the limit.

I have also been walking every day, as suggested. In the four months since beginning this regimen, I have recorded 1,277,678 steps on my Fitbit. That’s an average of 14,040 steps (or about 7 miles) per day. I get about 60% of my steps on hikes through the woods with my dog or walking on a treadmill. The rest come from taking frequent breaks from my workday to walk around my home and neighborhood.

I have also incorporated what Mark and Brad call “Primal Essential Movements” to my nearly every day fitness practice. I aim for a couple sets each of push-ups, pull-ups, squats and planks, either during my walking breaks, at the gym, or both.

As recommended in the book I decided to take in a yoga class once or twice a month. To be honest, I was a bit afraid to return to the mat after a fifteen-year absence, but it feels great.

What I Haven’t Done, Yet

I haven’t started the practices of running fast or lifting heavy things as suggested to amp up the fat burning. I don’t think my body is ready for these. My current plan is to add them to my program in the fall.

How I Feel

I must say that on this routine I feel better than I can remember for a long time. I no longer have that daily exercise soreness. I find I have more energy than before. And, most of the time, I feel invigorated after working out. It felt a bit strange and was a little difficult to get used to exercising less intensely. After all, I have more than four decades of No Pain, No Gain in me and releasing that belief has been quite a challenge, in and of itself.

Results I Can Measure

Now for the big reveal. Does it work? Have I successfully trained my body to use fat rather than carbs as my main energy source? It’s difficult to know for sure after such a short trial, but here are some results I was able to measure so far.

What

January 19, 2017 April 20, 2017 Difference
Pull-ups 6 8 +2
Push-ups 28 32 +4
Squats 50 70 +20
Planks 2 mins, 30 secs 3 mins +30 seconds
Weight 183.7 181.1 -2.6
Waist 35” 34.5”

-0.5”

My upper body strength has increased with maximum pull-ups increasing by two and push-ups by four. I feel more stable with my leg strength improving by twenty squats. My core feels strong as holding a plank position has increased by thirty seconds. And my body size has decreased, 2.6 pounds less in weight, and 0.5 inches less in my waist measurement.

That’s enough for me to keep it going. The big test is going to be my 28-mile hike in the wilderness for the Wish Kids this fall. Last year, it wrecked me. I’m excited to see if I can make good on this training’s promise becoming bonk-proof[1] on endurance events.

What’s Next?

It’s summer time on the lake, and that means paddle boarding, hiking, and I intend to maintain my primal essential movements. My big Make-A-Wish hike is about four months away, so I’ll begin adding mileage on the trails, while taking care to stay below my maximum training heart rate 125 bpm, of course.

I’ll report again at the end of summer to share how I’m doing.

[1] “Bonking”. I wasn’t suffering because my muscles suddenly ran out of energy per se, rather it was that my brain ran out of the precious glucose it relies on to function and direct my muscles to work properly. 

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Your Voice: Moving Closer to Your Destiny

“Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny.”
(Bob Marley)

The Your Voice series is a celebration of you: our awesome readers all around the globe. We know that you aspire to a better life for yourself and those you love. You believe, as we do: a better self is always possible…today and every day, for the rest of your life.

It’s our intention that as we’ve inspired you, your voice will in turn inspire others, so that together, we can improve the health and wellbeing of the world, one person at a time. So, when you feel inspired by one of our posts, books, blog theatre, talks, or podcasts, we want to hear about it!

Today’s featured voice is Ayodeji Awosika, who says that The Belief Road Map has been an incredible resource for him. Ayodeji thinks that if you are motivated and open-minded this book may help you too.


The Belief Road Map will help you cultivate a guiding philosophy that will lead to a fulfilled, happy, and rich life. This book is aligned with many of the beliefs I have about life and the way it’s meant to be lived.

Me and Matt share several things in common:
• A commitment to lifelong learning.
• A yearning for significance.
• An introspective mindset.

He shares his views on ways to build a healthy lifestyle in several areas including physical, mental, and financial. He talks about his daily practices to create fulfillment. One of which is meditation. I meditate often myself and agree that it’s a great self-reflection tool. He shares his wisdom gained through experience as well as learning. He draws reference to several books and teachings that I’m familiar with.

One of the parts of the book that resonated with me the most is where the author talks about our “shoulds.” Oftentimes we get caught up in worrying about the things we should be doing as opposed to the things we’re meant to be doing.

I never saw the point in working hard to get straight A’s but people told me I should. I’m following my dream of being an author and entrepreneur. But most people believe that I should just settle on finding a safe and secure job and stay there until I’m 65. Instead of worrying about my shoulds I found my purpose and I work everyday towards making my dreams a reality.

This book is a great resource that has been useful in moving me closer to my destiny. If you’re a motivated and open minded person this book will help you do the same.


It is both humbling and incredibly gratifying to receive feedback about our work, and we’re so honored to share Ayodeji’s powerful voice with all of you.

You, dear reader, inspire us not only to write, but also to live by the words that we write. At Happy living, you are our purpose, and we are so grateful to you. Thank-you for sharing the journey of Happy Living with us.

To lend your voice, click here and share what inspires you!

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