How to Recover From a Broken Campaign

happy-couples-bot-cover-imageThis post is not about the U.S. election, although in many ways it is. It’s about what happens in business when you do everything the way you’re supposed to and forces outside your control knock you completely off your game. It’s about rapid pivots and steep learning curves.

The Inception

I’ve been working on the Happy Couples Bot since May of this year. The idea came to me while helping a friend open up the lines of communication with his significant other. I realized that people in committed couples want to do things that make the other person happy, they just often don’t remember to, or even know what that would be.

Having run a successful happiness brand for the past 3 years, with research heavily focused on brain science, I set about designing a tech product that would solve this problem. I also knew apps were a dying sector, as people don’t want to download anything on their phones anymore, and bots are starting to explode. This gave birth to the Happy Couples Bot. Everyone I described it to got excited. Everyone wanted to be part of the company in some way. More importantly, they all wanted to use the product. Right away. Yesterday.

That’s when I looked in my network for an exceptional developer who might want to come on board as a CTO and Co-founder. Enter Tracy Greene. We hit the ground running and started building both the company and the bot. It was awesome and we were speeding along.

We started exploring funding strategies that included angel investors, VC, equity crowdfunding and rewards-based crowdfunding and decided for strategic reasons to go with the latter while rolling out the beta (which will be early next week), then go to other sources. We knew we could raise enough through Kickstarter to cover our costs and generate excitement.

The Campaign

While neither of us had personally run a Kickstarter campaign before, we both had helped several friends through theirs. Add to that the researcher in me spending days absorbing everything anyone’s written about it, and we had a great plan. We lined up our influencers, contacted friends and family, made numerous videos to release throughout the campaign, worked backwards from the date at which we needed the cash infusion, and put it out there.

We knew November was a risky time for crowdfunding, but we figured we could get ahead of the holiday shopping curve. We also chose to have our biggest push after all of the political campaigns stopped asking for money every day. So we rolled out quietly on November 4th, hitting the 25% mark in the first 24 hours, as planned, and prepared for the following week to be huge.

The Gut Punch

We didn’t anticipate what news the following week would bring. November 9th was the day I was going to send the link to the Kickstarter campaign to my entire mailing list. Instead, I had to write a post about maintaining happiness in the face of unexpected outcomes. The first video that was going to go wide, with all sorts of pre-arranged community support, included me saying, “Now that we have our first female President.” I’m a female CEO of a tech company, a former lawyer, former investment banker, former Hollywood screenwriter. Tracy is a female programmer and active in the LGBT community. You can imagine who makes up most of our networks. Regardless of who you supported in this election, everyone can at least acknowledge that people were reeling. Our tribes were reeling.

It didn’t even take until noon on Wednesday before the first influencer who had agreed to blog and tweet about us sent me a note saying, “You know I can’t do this now, right?” I did know. I understood. Hell, I was trying to figure out how I could still do this without seeming completely tone-deaf to my entire community, and it’s my company.

The Pivot

I knew a man — a friend of a friend — who saved for years to quit his job and start a tourist-based company in New York. He opened his doors on August 1, 2001, and somehow, through sheer force of will, stayed afloat. Believe me, I know there is no comparison. I’m not even trying to say there is. We aren’t in that place, or anywhere close to it, but I take his accomplishment as a huge inspiration. Guess what? Sometimes, things don’t go your way. Sometimes people have much larger, deeper concerns than the product you’re offering. Sometimes the road you chose, which seemed tough enough when you picked it, was the easy way and now, there is work to do. Next!

So Tracy and I regrouped and mapped out a plan. As Sheryl Sandberg says, when Option A isn’t available, you have to kick the shit out of Option B. We told our backers (who were mostly friends and family, still) that we would need extra help from them and one issued us a challenge — she said she’ll double her contribution if we can hit 1,000 pledges before the end of the campaign. Given where we were that day, and where we still are, it was a low-risk offer, but we took it!

We shot a quick extra video which we put out today, and will be making 5 more over the holiday weekend, three thanking our current contributors (like the ones we already sent where we badly sing, badly dance and badly lawyer), and the other two letting people know what it means to join our campaign. How much of a difference it might make to the world to have a tech company with only female founders succeed.

Of course, that’s not why we’re doing it. That’s not why I started the company, nor why Tracy joined. We did that to build amazing products that will amplify happiness in the world. But at a time when so much seems broken, it makes us happy to know that we are contributing to all that is good, and setting an example for what is possible. I’m still hoping those who were supporting us when we were all in our happy place will come back on board, but if they don’t, we’ll be okay. We have others who’ve seen the product and are asking to help, so hopefully in the two weeks left of the campaign, we’ll have their enthusiasm to add to our own.

For the past week, campaigns all across the country have broken in unexpected ways and unexpected places, but like a bone healing after a fracture, they will come back much, much stronger. We’re already on our way…

Here was our first pivot:

Click here to join the Happy Couples Bot campaign.

Getting to Happiness on a Difficult Day

Today, either you’re celebrating or you’re heartbroken. There seems to be no middle ground. I’ve strictly avoided politics on this site (and will continue to do so), because I believe happiness can be the core of your being, regardless of who wins or loses a single election. Yes, it fluctuates with the outcome, but it never diminishes permanently. 

However, on this day, I feel a need and responsibility to do what I can for those who are hurting. Never in all the years that I’ve been working to promote and increase happiness in the world have I had a day like today — a day where so, so, so many people reached out and cried, “Help!”

If you are not one of them, then I ask you, as a favor to me, please reach out in kindness to those who are. Happiness is like health, equality and education — it’s better for everyone when we all have it.

If you are heartsick, mystified, feeling betrayed, then I will share with you my Count to Five — the five things I counted this morning that make me happy in this very moment:

  1. Nothing is permanent. This country has had leadership that some have loved and others have hated for as long as we’ve been in existence and it always swings back to the other side in due time. That’s how we stay in balance while always moving forward,
  2. We have no idea what the ultimate outcome will be. Yes, a lot of very ugly things were said, but that was for a different goal — to get the job. Now, the goal is to do the job, and for all we know, positions that were feared most will be the ones abandoned first. Unlike any other figure in my lifetime, this is one we can most predict to be unpredictable.
  3. The people you love are still the people you love and they love you. Hug them extra tight.
  4. We are starting a national dialogue about things we had long ignored. New bonds are being formed. New passions ignited. Maybe the first _________ President (fill in the blank) will be one who was inspired to get involved by last night’s outcome.
  5. We are safe. We’re not refugees, aren’t being bombed, no one will come to our homes in the middle of the night and slaughter us for who we voted for. Democracy marches on. We still have a say in our governance. We still have the power to change the things we cannot accept. We can still fight for one another’s rights. That’s an incredible gift! And we can still honor those who bled and died for this truth by never taking it for granted.

It’s okay to feel the pain. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to give yourself a few hours or days to wallow in it.

Then…Count to Five.

And to those who say that focusing on restoring personal happiness at a time like this is frivolous, selfish or wasted, I defer to the founder of Taoism: 


In love, peace, happiness and democracy,

The Big Kick-off is Here!

It’s been a while since I posted, Happiness Fans, and I’m so sorry to have been MIA, but when you see why, I hope you’ll say, “Oh, Cool!”

I launched a tech company! We build communication tools to amplify happiness. Our first product is the Happy Couples Bot and you are going to love it. It helps couples who want to make each other happy communicate in a simple, direct way.

You can learn all about it in this happy video. And if you want to help bring this awesome product to the market, please contribute to our Kickstarter campaign.

Such great things to come! Can’t wait to share them with you!!

What the Olympics Can Teach us About Happiness

I am obsessed with the big O! That’s right, I am a certified Olympiphile. My first professional haircut was a Dorothy Hamill. I remember the elated phone call from our neighbors in 1980, screaming that we had to turn on the TV to see what the U.S. hockey team was doing. In the summer of ‘96, when I was practicing law, working 80 hours a week, I still watched the games on tape every night when I got home, even at 2 a.m., and will never forget seeing Kerry Strug land on a sprained ankle to win gold for the U.S. team. My eyes are watering just typing that.

And one late night, during the midnight-to-2 a.m. broadcast of the 1996 games, the discussion on NBC turned to a paper that had been published a year earlier by the American Psychological Association, titled, “When Less Is More: Counterfactual Thinking and Satisfaction Among Olympic Medalists“ written by Victoria Husted Medvec, Scott Madey and Thomas medals

Contrary to the obvious, this study showed that happiness among Olympic medalists is not as ordinal as one might think. The natural assumption would be that gold medalists are the happiest, followed by silver, then bronze, but it turns out, bronze medalists are significantly happier than silver medalists. Significantly.

The reason, the researchers concluded, was that a person’s happiness is relative to the alternate outcome. For a silver medalist, the alternate outcome is winning gold, but for a bronze medalist the alternate outcome is not winning a medal at all. This plays out over and over as you watch the games — the bronze medalists just look more jubilant.

In fact, this can also be seen comparing the unexpected bronze medal, like what the Swiss gymnast won on the vault, to the expected gold, like that of expected-victor Simone Biles, and worse, the slight disappointment of silver medalist, Maria Paseka. Yes, Biles was happy to win gold, but did you see Giulia Steingruber celebrate? That was the picture of pure Olympic joy! Winning her country’s first medal ever in gymnastics was far more rewarding for her than simply achieving what was assumed.

Somehow, bronze medalists see themselves as being one of the top three in the world, which is an amazing feat, but silver medalists see themselves as losing to just one person, that maybe on a different day they could have beaten — should have beaten.

We all do this, of course. We’re ecstatic about the 8 percent return on an investment, until we find out that the stock we didn’t choose did much better. Likewise, we’re twice as happy if we find out that the opposite is true, and the other stock tanked. Somehow, objective happiness — the pleasure we get simply from the outcome — is tainted by the potential alternate outcomes. “I could have done better” makes a great result feel mediocre, or even crappy, and “It could have been worse” makes an ordinary result feel like an immense victory.

I saw this recently while my husband and I were driving home from the movies. An SUV sped past us, not seeing the Highway Patrol car on our right. The red and blues came on immediately and tailed them all the way to the next exit, which happened to be ours.

The SUV exited, as required, but at the last minute, the CHP returned to the highway and sped off. We’ll never know if he got another call, or was just trying to scare them into slowing down, but as we pulled up next to them on the exit ramp (while they were waiting to get right back on the highway), there was sheer jubilation in that car. The driver and all the passengers were laughing, pumping their fists and cheering wildly, for obvious reason.

Even though they were slowed down, forced to exit and given a good scare, they were clearly much happier than if they had just been left alone to speed home. The alternate outcome they chose to see was getting a ticket, rather than the alternate outcome of just being free to drive on undisturbed, and in the face of that, they were seriously happy. What we compare our results to is always a choice.

So, with that in mind, the way to stay happy is to commit to looking at your end result as the best possible outcome, and think of the alternate as whatever would have been much worse. Never compare what you’ve got (like a silver medal) to what someone else got (like a gold medal), but rather, think of how astounding your final product is (like an Olympic medal of any color), and what it took to get there, and how happy it would make anyone else in the world who isn’t you right now.

In life, we should all go for gold, but enjoy it as if we won bronze. Or didn’t get a speeding ticket.

Go Olympians! Know that your whole country loves you, is beaming with pride, and will be happy with whatever you bring home, as long as it’s not the Zika virus.


Valerie Alexander is a keynote speaker and corporate trainer, and a former securities lawyer, investment banker and Internet executive. She now works with companies and organizations seeking to retain their top talent by making happiness in the workplace a priority and ensuring that female professionals are recognized and rewarded for their work. Her many books on Happiness, Success, and Success for Women can be found on, and she can be reached directly through her website,

Does Social Media Make You Happy?


Can you remember the days that your life was a complete mystery to your friends? Do you recall the days of recording your holidays by taking photographs and putting them into a physical photo album book? For a lot of people those days are gone, or for the younger generations have never existed. For many of us our everyday lives are uploaded onto the Internet. In this day and age where privacy is a different concept to what it was a decade ago we look at whether a person can be happy while living a very public life.


In many ways we are all mini-celebrities, our lives are up there on the web to be view, examined and, let’s be honest, to be judged. Every photo you post has become in many ways an advertisement of your life. The Huffington Post wrote how social media can hide signs of trouble. In their article they cite an ivory league student who presented the perfect life on her social media accounts but who unfortunately killed herself in 2014.


It is very easy to create a false persona on the Internet and maintaining the illusion of this identity can become an unhealthy obsession. In this case social media loses the social aspect of it and a person’s life becomes a glorified media advert. Individuals making a lot of money by making their private lives public haven’t helped this craze. This ranges from reality stars such as the Kardashians to Instagram users who make revenue through advertising.


The Independent recently touched on a study, which concluded that staying off social media sites such as Facebook made you happier. The researchers found that when asked to give a rating of their lives out of ten, the participants were happier away from Facebook.

It is not all doom and gloom with Facebook. There is research that does suggest that social media can make you happier. Time Magazine states that researchers found that positive posts on Facebook had a positive affect on people. James Fowler a professor of medical genetics and polities who ran the research argues that social networking is positive for our emotional states. Happy feelings can be spread.

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Facebook is the world’s biggest social media site and will be for the foreseeable future. How has Facebook been able to dominate and influence our lives so much that we feel compelled to keep on posting on it? Financial trading website FXCM states that Facebook has thrived because its “corporate culture is based on the ability to innovate and maximize creativity.” This creative culture has made sure that Facebook has stayed ahead of its competitors in the social media world and adapted to both technology and people’s needs.


The answer to whether social media can make us happy can only be answered on an individual level. For some people like Alex Bastiras who wrote on The Advertiser about giving up social media life, he got to prioritize other things in his life. He found that he had more time to concentrate on his grades and spent more quality time with his friends. For others they find social media a comforting part of their lives knowing that their friends are just a click away.

If you find yourself obsessing over every photo you’ve posted, or worrying what people will say, or how many likes, then we suggest taking a step back. But if social media is just a useful tool to connect with people you care about then use it to make your life happier.



This is a guest post by Tom White. Tom is an online blogger who believes that maintaining a happy life is the key to living a successful and fulfilling life. His belief is that we need to adapt our lifestyles in a positive way to the modern world.