Truth vs Lies: Success, Happiness and Money

  • Published on December 5, 2016

The good news is that happiness and success are not age or gender dependent. Male or female, you are never too old or too young to achieve them both in your life (personal or professional). The same principal holds true for money. The world is full of happy people, successful people, money moguls- young and old. We hear the words: money, happiness, success and assume they must all be tied together like bows on a pretty package sitting under the Christmas tree. The truth behind the complicated interaction of these three variables involves how we define happiness, measure success and value money. 

The link between money and happiness has been the topic of ongoing global academic debate for years. Time and again, research shows that money has little to do with overall happiness.

Happy moments tied to money are exhilarating in the short term. The happiness paradox, as it is known, exposes a truth: that as peoples incomes rise, so do their aspirations. More wealth creates more want. When incomes fluctuate or fall, the aspirations often times do not. Happy moments morph into unhappy moments. While on the surface it appears that people with higher incomes are happier than those struggling day to day to get by, surprisingly when you dig deeper and get beyond what it appears to be vs what it really is, this does not always hold true. Additional research has found that when measuring overall happiness, what matters more than earning a big dollar income is how the money is spent. The good feeling derived from spending money on material goods leads to fleeting happy moments. In direct contrast, the feeling you get reliving the memory of a life enriching experience or helping people in need will becoming a bigger part of what defines your core values and will reinforce internal happiness. So it is safe to say that spending money on life experiences or for the greater good (vs money spent on tangible items for oneself) will leave a lasting positive impact on your life. While there is no doubt that money can make life easier on some levels, we have seen how it complicates life on many other levels. More money does not lead to more happiness. Certainly we know that money won’t guarantee either happiness or success.

From a young age we are taught that success is measured by achieving traditional milestones. These can include but are not limited to: getting good grades in school, being accepted into a perceived great college, a prestigious career in a notable company, earning a 6 figure salary, having a certain amount of money in the bank, living in a big house in an exclusive neighborhood, marrying the right person, driving an expensive car. It extends to having talented well behaved and high achieving children, who excel scholastically and athletically, owning a pedigree dog, etc. The list is endless. Its enough to make the shakers and movers feel unsuccessful. The truth is that none of these things are an indicator of real success. Let looks at how the notable thought leaders and influencers defined success:

  • "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." - Maya Angelou

  • “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” - John Wooden

It is apparent that neither one of the definitions are tied into attaining popularity or prosperity through the achievement of traditional milestones. Conversely, both definitions reflect internal satisfaction with the person you have worked to become. Ultimately how success is defined will be the major factor in the overall happiness equation. It is important to examine the goals you set and achieve including their timelines, and how they tie into the traditional definition of success in this fast paced modern world, where immediate gratification is expected.

You may be left asking, “How then is Happiness defined and how does it relate to money and success?”. Happy moments when traditional success is achieved is not to be confused with happiness. True happiness at its core is much larger, deeper, more fundamental and ties into a personal value system. It is not related to setting or achieving goals. It reflects a state of mind that allows you to appreciate the moment, it provides purpose and honors your core values. Research has proven that happy people have a higher level of confidence, optimism and energy. They are driven to undertake new goals that reinforce positive emotions and happiness which ultimately leads to a feeling of being successful. Additionally, happy people are more likely than their peers to foster fulfilling marriages and relationships, earn higher incomes, exhibit superior work performance, be committed to a cause, be involved in their communities and see the importance of a heathy lifestyle. Happy people use their strengths to meet challenges faced in the workplace and at home with optimism, gratitude and kindness combined with hard-work, while remaining focused on the purpose.

In the lie we have been led to believe, the equation is unbalanced. The premise that making money leads to success which ultimately leads to happiness is false and part of a vicious cycle.

The truth lies in years of research and is the direct opposite of what has been passed down for generations. We now know that it is happiness which leads to success, which then leads to the ability to earn more money, which can be used to enrich one’s life and the lives of others who are rising up from behind. A positive cycle.

You’ve heard the lies and now know the truth. Life is a circle of choice. Who you are and what you bring into your circle continuously comes back around to you. Choose carefully!


Photo credit: Daniela Balzano, multitalented folk artist and mother of two, resides in Guilford, Connecticut. She believes in kindness and compassion, eating chocolate at least once a day, and celebrating life through arts. Her work may be viewed 

Embrace the Disruption: Why Change Is Necessary.

  • Published on November 29, 2016

“Its a dogs life” is a phrase that had it’s origin in the 16th century when dogs were expected to guard the home and surrounding community. Their lives were short due to the fact that they slept outside and were fed scraps of food. Life in those days for dogs was not good. It was far from the life of the present day canine friends we know and love. Today’s dogs are house pets. Well fed and groomed they sleep inside, often in our beds with us! They are treated better than they were centuries ago and live longer lives, indicating a big shift which involved embracing change. If someone now states that you have a “dogs life, it conjures up images of breakfast in bed, being pampered, laying around the house all day and in general living a good life. Change is not always a bad thing you see. Sometimes change can be downright necessary and great!

How we adapt to change is a different story. In Darwin’s words, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

To put it in human perspective, change is necessary when people face a discrepancy between what is expected and what is actually happening. This is called disruption. In order to properly adjust to this change, new expectations must be formed to suit the current conditions. It takes time and energy for these adaptations to occur and it is best accomplished when your mind, body and spirit are in alignment. You must Mentally acknowledge the situation and best practice of response. You must deal with the Emotional components of change such as anxiety, despondency, happiness, elation, fear, relief, etc. Physically your body will deal with the effects of stress, which may evidence itself in the form of headaches, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, tiredness, and nausea, to name a few. 

For change to be beneficial, the people involved must possess sufficient energy to absorb and incorporate new behaviors and accompanying mindsets. This is referred to as the capacity necessary to absorb the disruption. There must also be resources available to implement the change. When the demand for change exceeds the ability to adapt, overload occurs. It often evidences itself in the form of dysfunctional behaviors. On a personal level this may equate to a breakdown in marital or parent-child relationships. 

For an organization, staying relevant in today's complex, dynamic and innovative marketplace requires new innovative, adaptive behaviors which embrace change.  Change is important for any organization if they intend to retain their competitive edge and meet the needs of their steady customer base. To do otherwise would constitute failure. Organizations and people that embrace change, will weather the storms and make it through tough times. Those who are not resilient, will fail in the face of adversity. 

Resiliency can be defined by the ability to effectively innovate, adapt and perform through a hardship. When stressed, resilient people and organizations may bounce back stronger instead of being hindered by their own inability to change. There are common characteristics of those that are resilient:

  • They tend to be flexible and open to new approaches and ways of dealing with the situation at hand. 

  • They remain focused and are committed to open lines of communication.  

  • They foster a proactive climate which offers opportunities to learn and improve. 

So before you go grab the proverbial bone, jump on the couch and curl up under the blankets remember one important thing: The days you are most satisfied are not the days you laid around and accomplished nothing. They are the days you rose to the challenge and accomplished great things. 

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” -Paulo Coelho 

Change is the only constant in life. Embrace it!


Photo credit: Daniela Balzano, multitalented folk artist and mother of two, resides in Guilford, Connecticut. She believes in kindness and compassion, eating chocolate at least once a day, and celebrating life through arts. Her work may be viewed at 

Optimize Your Probability of Success

  • Published on November 23, 2016

Success is commonly defined by the accomplishment of specific goals. While goal setting is important, it is critical that the process involve reasonable and realistic expectations. Goals provide purpose, direction and can lead us to push personal limits to attain a level of unprecedented accomplishment. However, setting goals can be as confusing as Grand Central Station in the middle of the Holiday season! People who are successful at setting and achieving their goals have the innate ability to understand their own capabilities within the context of the desired result.

“Think Big” is the new buzz word being shared by industry thought leaders and influencers throughout social media. Buying into this concept with blind ambition can actually lead to failed attempts at success. The brightest professionals can get caught up in the competitive trap where the pressure to achieve at unrealistic levels drains them of their energy. In sheer exhaustion, they abandon the goals and are left feeling like they failed.  

 Lets take a moment to understand how we sometimes undermine our personal success by setting unrealistic goals. Often, we are our biggest critic. The self doubt which looms in our minds after unsuccessful attempts at goal-accomplishment can lead to negativity and internal stress. This in turn causes us to be our own worst enemy. The vicious cycle which ensues revolving around culpability and shame is the number one reason why people repeatedly fail at attempts to be successful. 

Then how best to set realistic goals which elevate success? The answer does not need to come from abandoning big dreams. Instead it is imperative to take these dreams and break them down into incremental, achievable goals. As each smaller goal is accomplished be sure to take time and basque in the pride of the achievement, pride which comes from properly acknowledging the individual success. In this way, you are able to turn the vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle. Commit yourself daily to work both smarter and harder through personal improvement. Surrounding yourself by like minded individuals with similar aspirations, you are able to leverage the existing collaborative power. 

You can optimize the probability of success by developing an action plan which outlines smaller steps over a specific but reasonable time-frame. Remain positive and avoid the perception that smaller steps equals lessened expectations. A strategy which involves having multiple smaller achievements under your belt is one that is scalable to accomplishing larger goals, which ultimately leads to the assurance that next year will be better than your last! 

Carl Gandolfo is a talented photographer specializing in beautiful landscape and wildlife images from his many travels around this country. For more information on the photographer: Carl Gandolfo Photograpy

The Courageous Ruby Bridges- blazes a trail.

  • Published on November 15, 2016

Today marks the anniversary of Ruby Bridges' historic first day of school in New Orleans. The year was 1960 and racial tension was rising in the southern United States. Accompanied by 4 Federal Marshals, a brave little 6 year old girl with school books in hand crossed the line of segregation past angry, hate filled protesters and opened the doors for black children to attend school along side white children in the south. 

Here is a picture of Ruby Bridges on the anniversary of her historic first day of school. Beside it is a picture of another little girl in the 1960s on her not so historic first day of school, escorted by her faithful collie dog. Side by side pictures of two little girls on their way to school, each in search of an education. Diminutive in stature, they walk tall and proud. Wearing dresses with ankle socks, hair bands on their heads, book bag and lunchbox in hand they set off to begin their life of learning. Both will grow up to be caring women, #activists in their own right. They could have been bookends in the many ways they were similar. Instead they were judged by their differences. 

That little girl in the picture to the right is me. 

So lets think about this. It wasn't about Ruby the person or Elisa the person back in the 1960s. It was about the world we lived in at that time in history and how we were perceived. The perception was that we were in fact different and should be treated accordingly. 50+ years have come and gone and still we are trying to make the world a better place. Perception seemingly remains incorrect.

Lets not succumb to the fear that is paralyzing our nation today. Instead we all need to follow Ruby’s lead and not match hatred with hatred. In her words "Don't follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail. When you start a new trail equipped with courage, strength and conviction, the only thing that can stop you is you!" Wise words from a courageous woman.

Finding Hope at the Bottom of Pandora’s Box.

  • Published on November 15, 2016

We’ve all experienced the ecstasy of thinking were on the path to personal and professional success, only to have an obstacle drop into our journey and cause a major roadblock. What can you do when you unexpectedly hit a wall and find yourself staring into a seemingly dark empty box? 

We know from Greek mythology the story of Pandora's box.   According to the legend, Pandora was the first woman on Earth, created by Zeus. She was endowed by the Gods, graced with beauty, talent and eloquent speech. As a gift she was given a box which contained all the evils of the World and was ordered not to open it. However, her curiosity got the best of her and she lifted the lid. Suddenly, the contents of the entire box spilled out into her World…. or so Pandora thought.  

The lesson regarding Pandora's Box refers to getting yourself into a helpless situation, one in which you ultimately have very little control. But what happens when we are not the one opening the box? When obstacles we can’t control are placed in our path?

The answer is one and the same: You just have to look closely through the darkness into the bottom of the box. There you will find Hope, just like Pandora found. Her box was not totally empty although it appeared to be at first.

In situations such as these it is important to use positive energy to retain the inner belief that change can and will occur. Remain proactive in your own life and do not hesitate to reach out to people in your network.  Remember that you are surrounded by good people who want to help. They just need to know that you need help. 

What can you do if you have a friend or colleague who is experiencing doubt or hopelessness in a situation? While there is no one correct answer, there are many ways to lend a helping hand. The best form of support comes from offering your companionship. In doing so, it is important to listen and remaining nonjudgmental. Providing validation to the situation at hand will foster a sense of acceptance for the person in distress. Through personal acceptance, a balanced perspective can evidence itself more readily, leading to greatly effective problem solving strategies. 

Offer your support without expectation. Helping your friend or colleague back onto a clear path will be the reward itself. In the words of Brian Tracy, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking ‘What’s in it for me?’ 

If you are on the receiving end of the support, be grateful but never be guilty. Most of us have been recipients of support in the workplace or at home and would be more than willing to pay it forward.

In the end, put the lid back on the box, step around the obstacle blocking your path and continue forward on your journey to success. You might even find a few friendly faces walking along side of you. 

Photo Credit: Carl Gandolfo Photography. Follow Carl at

COLLABORATION - How It Can Benefit Your Start-Up

  • Published on November 10, 2016

It all began with a vision and the old adage, “It is in giving that we receive.” How best to give back utilizing the skills I possess and stay true to my belief of living life with an Attitude of Gratitude? After some careful thought, it came together and Break On Through Inc. was formed. A community where Women could offer support and be represented in today’s world. Not focused strictly on working Women climbing the corporate ladder or struggling with a new start up company but ALL Women who wake up every day and face the unique challenges of balancing what they hope to accomplish with what they need to accomplish- in a day, in a week, in a career, in a lifetime.

How best could I represent the two distinct and often conflicting emotions that reside side by side in the female brain?  One being the realization that there will often be struggle in meeting work/life/family obligations and this will bring us stress. The other is our recognition that there is much to be grateful for within our families, our careers, and endless beauty that surrounds us in life and this will bring us joy. Balancing those conflicting emotions will be the key to any Woman’s success. This can be accomplished by surrounding yourself with good people who will lift you up and strengthen your inner reserve through encouragement, positive thoughts and actions. I call it #POWERLIFTING. By building a virtual community of like minded thinkers, Women of all ages could come together and share their experiences. This was my goal. The challenge was to make that inner vision outwardly visible for all to see.

I didn't have to search too far for the answer. It had been with me the entire time I mind wrestled it. Enter Daniela Balzano. Daniela has been part of my network for years. We’ve shared ideas and I’ve long admired her raw artistic talent. As an artist, but more importantly as a person, she exudes a creative energy comparable with my own. And so began a most rewarding collaboration. The fact that we lived hours apart in different states made no difference in our world of technology.

I couldn't be more pleased with the end result of our work together, an accurate representation of my vision brought to life. The list of reasons why collaboration is important is long and glorious. Some of those reasons were obvious as Daniela and I joined forces.

Solution: It makes you work together to solve a problem or find a solution. 

Self-awareness: Collaboration forces you to focus your thoughts and bring forward your goals by articulating your vision. 

Energy: The process becomes fun and exciting. It is energizing to work with someone who clearly gets the goal you are trying to accomplish. 

Knowledge of others: There is no better way to gain a true appreciation of another person’s talents and strengths than to work closely together with them on a project.  

Scale: More effective problem solving happens when you combine resources in talent and experience.

Creativity: Leveraging your differences brings a whole new level of creativity to a project that working alone cannot provide. 

Opportunity to Learn: Every opportunity you take to collaborate with others optimizes your ability to extend your comfort zone, grow, and stretch your boundaries. 

Would you like to Learn more about Elisa Grandizio and Break On Through, Inc. check out our facebook page

Image Credit: Daniela Balzano, folk artist and mother of two, resides in Guilford, Connecticut. She believes in kindness and compassion, eating chocolate at least once a day, and celebrating life through arts. Her work may be viewed at