Through New Eyes, Story Nine
Scott Simon, Co-Founder of Thrive Cleveland
Photo Credit: Greg Murray
We are all on a journey, a journey that, no matter what part of the world you live in, no matter what language you speak, what religion you practice, what your sexual preference is, and what economic bracket you fall into, each and every one of us is taking the journey together, whether we are cognizant of it or not. Social barriers and norms crumble to the ground when the journey is recognized, and prejudices and discriminations are blown away like dust in the wind when the journey is acknowledged, purely because it is felt by all.
It is a journey, an expedition, that we are all familiar with but yet fail to pay tribute to on a less than daily basis. Maybe it’s because the busyness of our everyday lives seems to distract us from the true meaning of why we are keeping ourselves busy in the first place. The journey that I am speaking about, the journey that all of us share, is of happiness. We all want happiness, we seek it, reach for it, strive for it, in everything we do, but do we really know what “it” is? Do we know how to control it, do we know how to make it ownable to each of our own lives, and do we really feel like we have a say in it?
Now, I know this is a topic that I write fairly often about; in a way, you could say that it is a topic close to my heart. While it is a topic that can be talked about and written about for lifetimes on end, I choose to write about the topic of happiness simply because I have met too many people that are leading lives they do not seem to be proud of; lives that they portray as empty, as hollow, with no way of knowing how to fill that void and enrich the very thing they have been gifted with; the gift of leading an amazing life.
It’s time we change that.
Meet Scott Simon, the co-founder of Thrive Cleveland,, a new boundary-expanding happiness incubator. Incubator, you ask? No,we are not talking about raising chickens here. Rather, we are talking about raising UP people; pushing them, encouraging them, and pouring love and support within them.
Scott Simon, Co-Founder of Thrive Cleveland
Of course we are all familiar with the term “happiness”…happiness is eating our favorite ice cream on summer’s hottest day, happiness is sitting amongst family and friends and feeling that level of comfort and acceptance that we don’t feel around anyone else, happiness is jumping on an airplane to a destination we have never been to, excited to meet people we have yet to meet. But, what does it really mean?
Happiness lives at the corner of pleasure and meaning; when we feel purpose and joy in the things that we do and in the impact that we have.
Broken down, 50% of our happiness is embedded in our genes. It’s why some people always just seem to be happy, and others, maybe not so much. After our basic needs are met, only 10% of our happiness is based on those things that we would think would normally make us happy… our level of education, how much money we make, where we live, etc. That leaves 40% of our happiness owed to our thoughts and actions…things that we can control.
Thrive designs shared happiness experiences that gets people to exercise that 40%. They aim to create “Wow” memories that bring people together under the shared purpose of stimulating simple, pure, happiness.
One look at Thrive Cleveland’s website and you will quickly realize that this is an organization that thrives on the simple high of making people happy; of pushing people to be the change they themselves have always wanted to be by unifying them with the common thread of plain, simple, happiness.
Curious? Intrigued? Evoked?
Read Thrive Cleveland’s story, through Scott’s eyes.
1. In your own words, describe Thrive Cleveland
Within their deepest, trust selves, people’s greatest desire is very simple: to be happy. Thrive’s mission is to help empower people and communities to be the happiest they can be. How you ask? Thrive creates experiences – which are rooted in the science of positive psychology – that are designed to push our happiness buttons. Our experiences are really compelling – but at the same time they connect people, push boundaries, get people into “flow” and help people get healthier and more active. In a very real way, THRIVE CREATES HAPPINESS.
2. Give us a little background on the concept of Thrive Cleveland…why it began, when it began, and who was apart of the initial concept.
I was totally blown away when I met a professor at Harvard – Tal Ben Shahar – who had the largest class in all of Harvard: the science of happiness. In meeting him, I realized that happiness wasn’t about rainbows and smiley faces … Rather it is deep, important human quest which can be enhanced in scientifically ways. That blew me away, because I was used to the who pop psychology thing (10 quick steps to self esteem). Here was a total science of high performing, optimistic, high achieving people. I wanted to know : What made them tick? And could we learn from them to make others happier? That was the simple but powerful premise of Thrive.
3. What kinds of events does Thrive Cleveland organize?
If you came to a Thrive event, you would never know it was grounded in science. You would just have a blast. We do healthy noontime silent discos, mindfulness tea ceremonies, tribal drum experiences, huge gratitude murals, food experiences, random acts of kindness, and more. One of my favorites was an event all about stress release, and we encouraged people to do yoga and then to smash plates, cups and China against a wall. It was both hilarious and awesome simultaneously.
4. When you are brainstorming these events that are geared around happiness, what is your first overarching goal when planning such events? What do you want people to ultimately get out of the event?
Ok, so here’s the thing about happiness. It’s a PRACTICE, not a state of being. So what we want our events to do are to inspire people to take on happiness practices and give them the experience to know they can do it. That is our secret sauce.
5. Out of all of the events that have been put on by Thrive, which one has impacted you most?
Our last event, which was a “pop up wedding” probably hit me the hardest. Our theme was LOVE which is obviously a huge driver of happiness. But sometimes people can get cynical and downright negative when it comes to love. So we wanted to really hit home how truly powerful and inspiring true love can be. The event was pure, surprising, powerful. It was light love lightning In a bottle.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Beckwith
6. There have been numerous Thrive events recently that have sold out in a matter of days. Why do you think Cleveland has responded the way it has to Thrive?
I think in Cleveland it’s all about trust. If people know that you will give them something amazing and transformative they will follow you anywhere.
7. The people that are involved in the organization of Thrive all come from a variety of backgrounds, careers, and skill sets. What is it about Thrive that has attracted people from so many different walks of life?
Great question. Because happiness is the great unifier. No matter what you background, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender … We all equally want and can access happiness. That said, our Thrive crazies are a special breed. They want to blow people’s minds just as much as they want to make people’s lives better. They get off on making people smile. I love that.
8. Why do you think Cleveland needs an organization like Thrive Cleveland?
Honestly, I think EVERY city needs a Thrive. Every company needs to be touched by Thrive. Every family needs to learn from Thrive. But Cleveland has been an incredible launching pad for us. It is home for us, and Cleveland has a great history of civic pride and activism. We love our city with a passion. And if there are people who want to make it better, we support them. That’s just how we roll here.
9. In your own opinion, what do you think is the number one factor in people not reaching complete and utter happiness?
Believing that external things – money, a new car, a promotion at work, keeping up with the Joneses – will solve our problems and make us happy. Society reinforces this every day – every second. “Just buy our product, and you will have love, happiness, self esteem.” But that is a load of CRAP. the inverse is true – happiness comes from the inside out – the work we put in to be healthy, giving, optimistic, compassionate, adventurous, courageous.
10. Along the same lines, when asking people what makes them happy, what is the number one response?
That’s easy: the relationships they have with family and friends. That’s why being happier is so powerful – because when we get happier those we love get happier too. It’s proven. So it multiplies and multiplies the impact. That’s why we are bizarre enough at Thrive to think we can change the world.
11. What has been the most thought-provoking response?
I love the concept of the beautiful ANTICIPATION we feel when waiting to give a gift to someone we care about, Sure, it’s awesome to receive gifts on our birthday … But when you buy or make an awesome gift for someone and you are quietly waiting to give it to them: That is a BEAUTIFUL human space to inhabit. We totally underestimate the happy power of giving to others.
12. There is a documentary on Netflix (and is actually my favorite as well) that is titled “Happy”. It tells us the story of how people across the world define happiness and what it means to them. What does happiness mean to you?
Well, that is my favorite movie as well. It so clearly explains what we do at thrive. But to be specific, we view happiness as the intersection between meaning and pleasure. It has both short term, joyful qualities, and long-term meaning qualities. When you can nail both, you are in the zone.
13. Ten years from now, where do you hope to see Thrive Cleveland?
Honestly, I believe there will be a thrive in every major city, and we will be connecting people and communities to happiness in all kinds of ways that we can’t even conceptualize now. I also think we can revolutionize the way workplaces operate, focusing much more on the happiness and engagement of employees instead of just focusing on productivity and profit. The skies the limit, and I can’t wait to see our role in it.
“We design experiences that spread happiness. We inform our design with the “science of happiness.” Thrive experiences create the optimal conditions for people to be their happiest, together.”
Dia de Noquis (Day of Gnocchi)
Photo Credit: Kimberly Shuck Cowan
For more information on Thrive Cleveland, check out their website: