Service Sunday: A Million Smiles
Happy #ServiceSunday everyone!
I am psyched to introduce this week’s world shaker. I first “met” Mike during my freshman year of college. We connected through the internet as people interested in happiness and smiling. You see, Mike runs an organization called A Million Smiles. Their photos and videos have been viewed by more than 25 million people from every single country on Earth.
He has literally brought Happiness to the world.
Combined, that is more than 25,000,000 minutes of view time on the videos which equates to about 20 years being spent watching videos about happiness. Needless to say, he speaks my language.
We chatted briefly and through the years we have occasionally checked in to keep in touch and share stories, advice, and progress.
I recently reconnected with Mike and despite the time zone difference (he lives in Australia) we were able to find some time to sit down with a video call. We took turns once again sharing stories, advice, and progress. I left the conversation feeling refreshed, understood, and inspired. I could talk about his incredible work for paragraphs, but I’ll let his work speak for itself. Without further ado, Mike Worsman..
Organization: A Million Smiles
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion: give me a “Happiness is!”
Mike: Happiness is being crazy, brave, and curious enough to find and follow what your heart, mind, and soul truly craves - which is ultimately a reason and purpose for your existence. This is in stark contrast to 'justifying' our existence through feeding our ego with status, wealth and material things.
To me day to day happiness is largely the result of treating our fellow human beings as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Kindly.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about your organization.
Mike: Our mission is to inspire a world free from suicide, poverty and war, where adults can smile as often as kids. Because right now, despite being wealthier and more ‘connected’ than ever, more of us are depressed and lonely, with most adults smiling less than 20 times a day, while children manage 400.
A Million Smiles hopes to inspire human beings to find and pursue what truly makes them smile. Because as we see it, if every person were to concentrate more on what really makes them happy - like love, purpose, appreciation, and family - rather than what we’re told will make us happy - such as money, fame, possessions, and power - then many of the current problems we face would disappear. From suicide, poverty, and war, to greed, climate change, and family breakdown, these things are merely an indication that our current focus and reality needs re-directing. So that’s what I'm doing.
The primary short term goals for A Million Smiles include creating a Hollywood feature film and series of best-selling books, while our much larger, long-term vision is about establishing a mass social movement that will support us in working with: Schools - teaching children how to find true happiness in life. Businesses - establishing a system for accrediting organizations that invest in the happiness of employees. Governments - to inspire and write policies for a happier world. Put simply, I hope to make the pursuit of true happiness the norm - the ‘it’ thing - within my lifetime.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
*Trigger warning: self-harm, sexual abuse, suicide*
Mike: To be honest, I wasn't always a happy person, take my teenage years for instance... aged 14, I remember looking down and seeing a pool of blood by my feet as I held a knife firmly to my wrist. I'd been a victim of sexual abuse, was watching my parents struggle through a mid-life crisis and spent my days grappling with a world that seemed to want me to be something I wasn’t... and it was nearly too much. What got me through this time was a firm belief that if my experience could help others avoid feeling as I had, then all of my pain would be worth it. At the time of course I never imagined spending my days travelling the world capturing and sharing stories that could inspire humanity to smile more, but I guess there is a purpose out there for all of us, and thankfully I think I've found mine. That doesn't mean life is easy, though. In fact, most people tell me that what I'm doing is impossible, but the great thing about people is, they're often wrong about a lot of things. In fact, not that long ago people thought the world was flat, women shouldn't vote and slavery was okay, but with enough belief and determination those 'dreamers' who sought to change these things eventually did - but they didn't do it alone. So right now I believe my greatest challenge and goal is building an audience big enough to inspire a global conversation about the importance of pursuing true happiness above all else - which has been and will always be a major focus for us.
Liz: What does “service” mean to you?
Mike: Our only true duty or 'service' in this life is to be authentically (free from ego) and unreservedly 'yourself' no matter what that means. In recent times for me at least, this has meant risking my life, quitting my job, selling my house and investing every ounce of time and money I have to bring A Million Smiles to life. But the funny thing is, to someone else 'service' could mean competing in the Olympics, acting in a Hollywood film or doing something else that may not necessarily be deemed as a 'service' by most people.
I guess I believe that the only way you can be of 'service' to humanity, god or who or what ever you believe in is to be you because surely that's why you are here, not someone else.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote? Or can you share the best advice you’ve ever received?
Mike: Wow! Where to begin... to keep it short and simple here's a quote I came up with, which I think is critical to living a happier life...
“Our greatest challenge is not to find the path, but to walk the path.”
I guess that's why I always say I want to not only inspire people to find what makes them smile, but also to then pursue it, because that's the tough part, we all know what will make us happy, but it can be very difficult at times to go out and chase those things.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Mike: The number one thing right now is the crowd funding campaign.
We're also always hoping people can upload their smile to our website and follow and support what we're doing on social media, especially Facebook.
Mike is doing amazing things that span across the entire globe. I encourage each and every one of you to spend some time on their website. Visit their Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube pages. If you have the means, make a donation to their Kickstarter campaign. It feels good to be a part of an amazing international initiative.
As for me, I’ll see you next Sunday as I highlight another phenomenal example of humankind.
Looking to nominate an individual or organization that you know? Reach out to The Smile Project on social media or by filling out the contact form here.
Bonus Question: Do any key points stand out to you as highlights from this journey?
I’ve helped a young man remove a bullet from his spine, filmed a four-year-old boy seeing his mother’s face for the first time, made a celebrity out of a bakery security guard in Sri Lanka and dined with the Prime Minister of the smallest country on Earth – Tuvalu – which scientists say has just 40 years until it disappears under rising seas. I’ve also donated thousands of dollars to charities and individuals I’ve encountered along the way and been able to share this incredible journey with more than twenty five million people, who have viewed our photos and videos.
But I’d still say with great confidence that the best is yet to come.