It is Day 5 of my “Less things, more happiness” challenge.
As mentioned in previous days, I wanted to volunteer to experiment with this science-backed happiness-boosting practice. After many weeks looking for something I’d like, I finally went through with it.
I spent a good portion of a day volunteering my time for a beer festival. The festival was not charitable. If it was, they did not make it the main selling point. This was a good fit for me because I am selfish person.
Although I would like to think I am kind and selfless at times, I rarely do things outside of my own interest. I learned this by being brutally honest with myself and examining my behavior. Therefore, other volunteering events would have been too much of a stretch for me.
Serving food to the homeless just would feel like too much of a chore. I wish I was a bit more kind, but that is just how it is. Maybe in the future, I will try a volunteer event that is more selfless.
As for my experience during the event, I had a decent amount of fun. I was assigned to pour beer into people’s cups. There was a large truck parked behind me and around twelve taps of different types of beer built into the side of the truck. I enjoyed the process of seeing tangible progress. I probably poured over three hundreds glasses of beer that day. And as the day progressed, I got faster at pouring.
Looking back on the event, I am not sure if I felt happier after it. There may have been a slight increase in happiness, but I was definitely not overflowing with joy.
It may be because I knew the event was commercial and so the benefit I was giving people did not really seem like much. They had already paid for the event. Having said that, I did meet a nice elderly couple who volunteered with me. They said they had done this every year for years because they liked the community and wanted to give back. So maybe there is some value to volunteering for a corporate event.
The other volunteers I worked with were all friendly and upbeat. It was a cool little community. And it was fun seeing so many young guys so excited to drink endless beer, especially since I was the one who could give it to them.
In the future, I would like to try a purely selfless volunteer event like helping homeless people to see if there is a greater impact on happiness. I will have to work my way up to it though. I have done it before though and suspect there not to be a huge difference (at least in the short term). I did spend time with old people in a retirement home when I was young and I do not remember being that much happier having done it. I remember getting a bored after listening to one person talk for a reaaallly long time. Some of the old folk there really are bored.
When I get to that age, I want to make sure to be like Warren Buffett and other old entrepreneurs. They have a career, lifestyle, and network of friends that they love and love them back. They have so much fun, even in old age. They do not have to wait for someone to come visit them every few weeks.
The final notable was the mean lady. Towards the start of the day, I did not know you had to pour beer in a special way. You have to tilt the bottle almost sideways to let the foam pour out or 80% of the cup will be foam. I did not know this so I handed this lady a glass of foam. She gave me a nasty look and said something like, “You obviously do not know what you are doing.”
One of the volunteers kindly explained the process to me and the lady demanded that someone else pour for her. I would have felt a lot worse a couple years ago, but meditation, improving empathy, and studying successful people has helped. I understand how she might feel about poor service after paying real money for an event. I also realized this was a minor incident and I was still healthy. Nothing had actually hurt me unless I let the words affect me. I put my ego aside because logically, I was a beginner. Quickly, I moved on from it.
Hours later, I had gotten the hang of pouring to the point where one person told me I was the fastest beer pourer out of several volunteers. Another volunteer who just arrived thought I had been doing this for ages. The same lady came up in line and I tried to help her. She did not give me eye contact and told me she wanted someone else to pour for her.
This did not affect me that much (though it did affect me slightly). I am still not to the point of perfection where it does not affect me at all. I do not know if that is humanly possible, but it does seem like I am moving in the right direction and can improve even more.
After my reflection, here are the key takeaways (which might help you on your happiness journey):
- A change of attitude to enjoy and appreciate the mundane things in life more. After reflecting on my childhood visit to a retirement home, I was reminded of Dan Sullivan. He is a successful entrepreneur and podcaster. When he was young, he had a lot of time to develop his conversation skills with people who were over sixty years old. Rather than be the guy who clearly does not want to be there, I believe I can have more fun and improve myself even in boring situations. Don’t disregard elderly women, for example. Many of them used to be pretty girls at one point.
- Loosen your expectations. I think going into an event thinking it will be lots of fun or guarantee you lots of happiness can lead to disappointments. Unless you can consistently find stuff that tickles your fancy.
- Don’t let small things get you down.
- Feel out what is fun for you and move towards it. This event helped me feel out what I enjoy most and it taught me that I am probably not going to have the most fun in the world getting drunk based on my personality and interests. Nonetheless, I did have some fun and it was a lot more interesting than sitting at home bored.
- Selfless volunteering (that is charity based rather than commercial) may lead to more happiness?
- You may not see short-term results of happiness exercises, but they may come over the long term (months out)?
Fun facts of the day:
- I cut my fingers twice (on the outside) and hand them bandaged. I am not sure what cut me. The glasses I were handed were smooth with no sharp edges. It may have been from a ring someone was wearing since they were tiny cuts. It still remains a mystery.
- One guy kept calling me “THE MAN” because I was the one hooking him up with all his drinks (by default – since I am the beer pourer). Another guy told me I made a friend. A small confidence boost. I never saw him again after the event so it was more like a friendly acquaintance. Nonetheless, happy times.
- Another guy asked me if I would pour him a second round if he immediately shotgunned the first cup I poured him. I was not told I could not allow this so I did. And he chugged the whole thing like promised. He returned to the line numerous times and did the same thing. Some of these people really could drink. Surprisingly, I did not see any violence or really stupid behavior during the event despite there being at least 200 people there. Most of them seemed to be able to control how much they should drink.
- If you are wondering, the volunteers were not allowed to drink at the event. This does not bother me since I am not into alcohol that much (though I do respect the craft and all the thousands of variations there are).
Did Volunteering Help With My Happiness?
Yes and no. I think it did feel good helping out so many people in such a high volume, high turnover place. Overall, I was surprised that no fights or really rude people came about (except for that one lady) given such large numbers. I felt proud that I was able to re-adjust my emotional state when that lady got me. It’s an important part of happiness to celebrate your wins.
The reason I say this was so-so was because it was a “fun” event. I didn’t really feel like I was helping someone in need or in a worse off situation from me. The value I gave was low to medium. The amount of fun I had was also low to medium. I don’t drink much, though I did appreciate all the different varieties of alcohol that was there.
Ultimately, my experience was maybe a 6.8 out of 10 because I didn’t have that fun of a time or feel like I was helping someone worse off (which I feel may improve my happiness more). Though the studies that I found support this assertion say a simple thing like giving five dollars to a stranger has an effect. An arguably, volunteering my time for a few hours is worth more than that.
Maybe my attitude or outlook on the whole thing is the problem. Or maybe I need to just give a few strangers five dollars, preferably people who really need it. This was a fun experiment to run and maybe I’ll run these other experiments in the future.
Stay tuned for Day 6…
Hello Will, I have to tell you I think your articles are great! I love it when I see something new from you. You are a positive person in my life and I am trying to makes changes right now. I need it especially to let go of the small things that get to me. Thank you.
I’m glad to hear someone out there likes my articles. That means a lot.