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Be Very Happy People

Successful companies invest time and money to create a motivating culture and develop leaders through training. Then why is it that at a personal level, we don’t follow the same principles to improve our families? There are no models or training to help individuals come up with guiding principles or values as a family; the credo.

There are no models to help individuals develop guiding principles or values as a family……

About ten years ago, my husband and I got to thinking about it. We wanted to develop our set of values that would help us raise a happy, engaged, and successful family; one that we could pass on to our kids. We started with what we both believed to be our individual core values and then we developed our family motto (Be Very Happy People). We put it on a whiteboard in our family room so it’s always top of mind for all of us in the family.

Our Family Values

The process to come up with this set of four values was not without challenges. Over the years we both attended a lot of leadership training that taught us various models. When we tried to apply the same principles at a family level, we found all models don’t translate well.

For example, “empowering teams” is great for a work setting but when your team includes a seven- and an eight-year-old, the models don’t always work. Another one that I use with my teams but couldn’t with the family was “self-improvement”. As a parent, it’s one of our responsibilities especially for younger kids and we can’t put that onus on them completely, as we can with our team members.

The initial acronym for our credo came about in a funny way. When Sri (my husband) and I were discussing what matters to us as individuals and as a family, we identified the following four principles: Big stone philosophy, (not a) Victim attitude, Hustle, and Perseverance. Sri then came up with BHPV as it also happens to be the acronym for the institute where my uncle worked for over forty years. So, it’s extremely easy for us to remember. However, we quickly realized that my kids, who were born and raised in the U.S., could not relate to the acronym. We changed it to BVHP (Be Very Happy People).

Each letter represents a specific value.

B stands for big stones: At one of the leadership training in one of my companies, the facilitators gave all of us a big jar, some big stones, sand, and some small stones. The goal was to fill as many things as possible into that jar. This was an exercise to highlight prioritization and time management. People who started with big stones followed by the small stones and in the end put sand were able to get the most into the jar.

This represents life in a way. People who identify and tackle the most significant issues first are more successful. This struck a chord with me. Many times we were faced with multiple challenges as a family and we worked to identify our key issues and tackled them first.

In 2018, my mom, who was living in India, became ill. The same week I received the call, one of my daughters had her SATs and the other one was training for a national triathlon.

I had to leave with my husband for the airport within three hours and didn’t know how long we would have to be out of the country.

My daughters came up to us and said, “Ammama’s health is the big stone, Mommy. Don’t worry about us, we’ll manage.” That perspective from teenagers is what we were always striving for with our family credo.

That day was a very emotional one for me. On the one hand, I was concerned for my mom and the unknown, but on the other hand, I was happy to see such maturity in our daughters.

V stands for Victim-NOT!: Another important principle is the attitude that we are never the victims of any situation. Situations, where we have the choice to either feel sorry for ourselves and give up, or look at it as a set of bad cards, and move on.

My younger daughter has always been interested in Computer Science. She started taking advanced computer courses at the middle school level.

When she got to her Junior year in high school, she had the opportunity to take courses at Princeton University, however, she was denied the opportunity due to a prerequisite that she had taken out of school. She had to repeat the same course in HS.

With our “V” value, she quickly looked at it as an opportunity to use the extra time to pursue her passion for photography and editing.

That year she edited the winning video for the La-La-Land cover song. She received a signed poster from all the La-La Land actors along with a three thousand dollar Seaboard Grand synthesizer Roland Lamb, the same model that Ryan Gosling plays in the movie.

H for hustle: I am a big Shark Tank fan and I have noticed that the entrepreneurs who are hustlers are the ones who get the best deals. They show the passion behind what they do, they know their business inside out, and they come across as people who will put 110% behind their initiative. I connected to this philosophy late in life, but I think that’s a skill that we all should be learning from the time we are in elementary schools.

We wanted to include this value since it’s so important for pursuing your dreams. My daughter has wanted to be a singer/songwriter since she was ten years old. It is a very competitive field where you have to put yourself out there. We felt that for her to succeed she needs to learn to hustle.

This value has helped my daughter represent the US in the world triathlons in 2019 at Lausanne, Switzerland. 2019 was also my daughter’s high school senior year with her focus divided between SAT, college admissions, her Indian classical music undergraduate level degree, and the world triathlons preparations. She went to our gym every night at 9 pm so she could train until it closed at 11 pm for 7 months, rain or shine.

P for Perseverance: Last but not least, is perseverance. If you persevere, success is a matter of time. You have to have faith in your capabilities, patience, and grit. We have seen this time and time again with various examples within the media, within our own family and friends, people who persevere are successful.

Despite rejections, last-minute appointment cancellations, unkept promises by event managers my older one kept hustling. It helped her to pursue opportunities and open doors. She didn’t let the initial rejections from local coffee shops, restaurants, and even her school talent show keep her down. With a dogged mentality, she managed to get opportunities to perform at Communiversity at Princeton, World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, and the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. She just released her first single on Spotify which got more than 700,000 plays in less than 2 months.

Another example that comes to mind is the middle school graduation for my younger daughter. She was one of the speakers at the graduation ceremony and her speech was based on how guitar notes make music. The guitar was an essential part of her speech.

Four days before the ceremony, she was told by her teacher that they can’t accommodate a guitar on stage.

This did not stop her from trying to make it happen. She went to the venue, Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University, and met the stage manager. She explained the issue to him. It turned out that setting up a guitar was not a big deal given the stage layout and he accommodated her request.

After five years, she still gets compliments on that speech.

My family and I have lived by these four values for the last ten years now. Having a set of values that we all stand by, has helped us navigate the ups and downs of life together as a family and connect better with each other.

So Be Very Happy People ….

Would love to hear if you have any specific approaches to life that have helped you.

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Divya Yerraguntla

Divya Yerraguntla

An established leader and influencer in the Pharmaceutical industry for more than 20 years, Divya is a triathlete, marathon runner & classical Indian vocalist.