The Heroic Challenge of Delivering Happiness

Today’s post is on both expecting, and delivering happiness. 

This first sentence is to entertain the algorithms. 🙂   Rest is for consumers and service providers alike.

If anything, the last few years have highlighted the value of choosing well, and of being happy. Our spaces shelter us, shape us and support us. They are sacred.

And because there’s so much at stake, happiness-or lack thereof-is felt viscerally.  

My entire career has been spent in the business of delivering happiness to people: In their hearts and minds, as well as for their spaces. IMO it all starts with clear communication. So my design-anthropologist self invites you on a semi-scenic route on how we can all get there. 

A few years ago at an Inman Connect event Brad Inman’s keynote address led with the tractor-trailer trucks he noticed while traveling, and how they seemed to forecast trends in consumer behavior and expectations. And yes, you betcha, I’ve been a watcher ever since. 

Good, Fast, or Cheap: you get to choose two.  This was the classic axiom for eons. But have you seen an Amazon delivery van lately? (Love the irony of this Prime delivery driver’s Reddit post!)

They confirm what happy Amazon shoppers live for, while eliminating any doubt about the one thing not on their manifest. (So yes, stop looking for that customer service phone number).

Fast and cheap absolutely have their place. There’s little debate: Socks or make-up, electronics or dog toys: stuff that just shows up fast is good. Even better if it’s for a little less. 

Forbes’ top two revenue-producing companies in the world are US retailers who do just that.  But not all consumers’ choices are so cut and dried, even for easily shoppable goods.   

Gas prices is a popular topic. So all things being equal, two adjacent gas stations, you’d choose the cheaper one, right? 

  • You were in a hurry, and the pricier station had no line
  • It gave you the same price for credit cards
  • It was full-service, and it was raining

There is nuance. And its more complicated when intangibles like skills and happiness are being sought. Understanding what makes up good, or happy; what’s behind consumer expectations is complex. Knowing how to deliver it, even more so. 

Established quality service providers and marketers know someone’s perception of good or happy can wax and wane. It can appear (or disappear!) immediately, or show up frustratingly way after the fact.   

Delivering happiness is exhilarating when you’re vested in that process. But please let’s all acknowledge it’s also hard. 

It’s an ongoing pursuit for those who take on the challenge. It starts with an internal commitment. Then, it requires investments in hard assets like infrastructure and tech, as well as higher levels of soft skills in their people. Expertise, listening and problem-solving skills, empathy are not innate. They need time to develop, and support.

It is a heroic challenge indeed. So back to the truck-watching thing.

Old Dominion, the nationwide long-haul trucking company has been reminding drivers as well as NY Mets fans for years that they help you keep promises. Helping someone keep their promises goes a long way to making them happy, right?

But recently I’ve noticed other companies’ vehicles go further.  They promise to deliver more, which encourages viewers to expect more. Work done with love.  Affirmations. 







They dangle prestige with perfection and YIKES even suggest you can relax and get busy having a baby with them on the job!







The design anthropologist in me is fascinated. As the owner of two companies firmly in the personal service sector, I am delighted. And for myself, my fellow providers, and the future of this sector as a whole I am SO. FREAKIN. INVIGORATED.

Time and money will always matter. But everyone calibrates value differently.

My gentle advice to consumers and all service providers alike: Know, and own your happy.  

  • Be clear about who you are, what you do, or what you seek. Like **ALL** these trucks, make it easy for others to understand what you’re about. 
  • Pick a lane, and stick to it…but if you have to change lanes, just like on the highways, give abundant notice, and be nice about it.
  • And local providers-whatever you choose to deliver, do it well, and do it consistently.  

Happy journeys all!!