Make time for some physical activity each day — walk, exercise, yoga, etc. Physical activity is often overlooked as a simple solution to mental positivity (and eating is often overused in hopes of feeling better). I, personally, use yoga and try to spend 30 minutes a day at least 4 days a week doing yoga. However, different things work for different people. Some people like going to the gym and others enjoy walks outdoors. Find what works for you and stimulates your desire to be active. It only takes a little time a few days a week to make a difference.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc S. Fussell, Co-Founder and Lead Developer of Happiness for Take2Minutes.
Marc started his career over 25 years ago as a software developer and technical architect working for multiple Fortune 500 companies in the financial and healthcare industries, focusing on architecting autonomous solutions. Marc began practicing yoga and daily meditation about eight years ago to create a greater sense of balance. His passion for spreading messages of positivity has helped inspire what he has created with Take2Minutes — a free web- and text message-based service that provides subscribers with daily positive messages, gratitude exercises, guided meditations, and more at the exact moment they would like to receive them.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ever since I first began using computers as a kid, I’ve wanted to create something that could help people — something they would want and need. After investing time in a few projects that didn’t quite hit the mark, the idea of Take2Minutes blossomed out of seemingly nowhere, although a few key events fueled the flame for its inspiration.
It began in 2014–2015. My older son was in high school at the time and was dealing with “typical” teenage problems — issues that just about all of us can relate to. Often he was down and sad — depressed, even. Seeing him go through these trials reminded me of my own time in high school, and I wanted to do something to remind him that he wasn’t alone. I started texting him a positive message every day. At the same time, I started sending my younger son off with a positive message whenever I would drop him off at school. In time, others became interested and asked if I would share positive messages with them as well. I wrote an app that would do this, and Take2Minutes was born!
Thinking about it now, I feel that Take2Minutes was the solution I always wanted to create. So many people seek out activities that bring them joy, serenity, and a sense of peace in their lives. Take2Minutes acts as a bridge to connect users to positive change through our various activities. These same users also recognize the importance of leading a healthy, more mindful life and use the tools we have to respond — not react — to challenges that appear before them each day.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
While my career has certainly been full of exciting stories, there’s one that stands out to me the most. Once I led a team of architects; they were needed to enforce standards and create systems, but they had a habit of frequently saying “no” to solutions. I helped shift their mentality to become both helpful and trusted, and they grew from being reluctantly obligated to becoming willing allies. With my guidance they began to move away from simply saying “no” to working together to find the right solution.
Here’s another interesting story: after a CIO had abruptly quit and took his team, we were left with six network appliances around the country with passwords no one knew. I got to work and constructed a password-cracking rig to solve the problem. It was incredible; the machine I made could achieve about 36 billion password crack attempts per second — in a previous article I misquoted this number as 40 million, it was actually billion. When you talk about attempts per second in a number that large, you believe anything is quickly crackable. However, the reality is that a 12-character password can have roughly 612 sextillion combinations (612,709,757,329,767,363,772,416 combinations). Meaning that feat of 36 billion attempts per second would take, roughly, 539,691 years to brute-force crack a 12-character password. Because of this, I had to dive deep into researching human-use password patterns and make attempts based on common patterns. Ultimately, it took about 3 weeks of my server running at 100% for me to successfully crack the password and gain control of the company’s devices.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
There will always be times when we need to do things we don’t want to do. After all, if every day were smooth, then it would be easier to take good days for granted. Changing your perspective and seeing the good in everything, however, can help change your outlook. Take the story of three different bricklayers: the only one who finds joy and contentment of the three is the one who sees his task as building a cathedral, not just laying bricks.
Most importantly, be sure to make time for yourself. You might think you’re being selfish, but you’re not. In fact, you can think of it as preemptively caring for others. When you take care of yourself first, your relationships with others will improve, you will perform better at work or school, and you can make a more positive impact on the world around you. When I make time for my morning yoga and meditation, I find that I’m in a better mood and am more productive. Find what brings you joy and do it, whether it’s running, long walks, or engaging in a creative hobby. Do give meditation a try as well; Take2Minutes offers a new guided meditation each day to our subscribers. Also, daily journaling is another helpful exercise that can align your focus on the positive!
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Trust your employees. Hire those whom you feel confident in and once you choose those people, let them do their job. Along these lines, try not to micromanage everyone. Instead, communicate your goals well and empower people to work alongside you to accomplish those goals. Everyone should be part of the same team and working toward the same goals.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
With the growth of Take2Minutes, I have really been doing much reading about positive psychology. I do not have a specific book to share besides the importance of learning about positive psychology, especially in our current times with COVID. I read, and I am introduced almost every day, to more and more statistics and stories around anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide, especially in younger generations. I am also presented more and more through Take2Minutes to people whom our activities have helped.
The idea of positive psychology is not new, but the importance is ever growing. The ones who are struggling need help finding ways to improve their mental wellbeing. With COVID there are more and more reasons to feel overwhelmed and anxious. But at the same time, COVID has allowed for more opportunities for virtual counseling. I have met many counselors and therapists who use one of the many available tools to perform video counseling sessions.
Our minds are hardwired to focus on the negatives. Unfortunately, much of social media and news outlets target those simulations of negativity. Add to that a global pandemic and there is plenty of negativity to go around. But through positive psychology, one can learn to focus on the present moment, easily find the positives, and look past the negatives.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Your mental wellness is essential, and like everything, it takes an effort to improve. If you want to get in physical shape, you do not work out only once; it is a continual process. Similarly, to improve your mental wellbeing, you need to practice positive activities repeatedly. These five steps have been proven to help calm our minds, focus on the present, and increase our happiness.
1.) Make time for some physical activity each day — walk, exercise, yoga, etc. Physical activity is often overlooked as a simple solution to mental positivity (and eating is often overused in hopes of feeling better). I, personally, use yoga and try to spend 30 minutes a day at least 4 days a week doing yoga. However, different things work for different people. Some people like going to the gym and others enjoy walks outdoors. Find what works for you and stimulates your desire to be active. It only takes a little time a few days a week to make a difference.
2.) Practice meditating each day — even if for only 5 minutes. Meditating is slowly becoming more mainstream, but it still has a way to go, especially in the younger generations. I believe the key to someone taking interest in meditating is finding the style of meditation that they like. Some people prefer a guided meditation style and some people prefer a meditational story. There are also visual meditations which may interest some people. Not only is the type of meditation important for each individual, but also the person speaking. Again, there is not one solution for everyone. You must find what you like. Luckily, it is really an easy process. Try a meditation — if you don’t like it, try a different one next time. Keep going until one clicks. We offer multiple styles at Take2Minutes, and I am hoping to offer even more styles.
3.) Eat healthily. This has a huge impact on mental wellbeing. It was Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I could get on a soapbox about this topic. Unfortunately, the industrialization of food has left our supermarkets full of processed and preservative-ridden foods that lack nutrients and do not help our bodies heal. Further, without getting specific, through advertising some food companies have led us to believe certain foods are healthy even though they are actually processed foods. I tell my family for anything you pick up in the grocery store, look at the list of ingredients. If the list is longer than 5, maybe 6 ingredients, or if there is an ingredient that you cannot pronounce or do not recognize, then we probably should not be eating it. As a step further, try to do the majority of your food shopping in the fresh section(s).
4.) Incorporate one positive activity each day like listing three good things or engaging in gratitude journaling. This is where Take2Minutes really shines. We can text you reminders on the days and times you desire to work on your gratitude journal or complete your three good things activity for that day (along with other activities that increase positivity). Three good things is an amazing activity that has proven to help with cultivating a more positive outlook.
5.) Practice positivity to others by being kind. It really starts with you and your happiness. Each of us must be diligent in steps 1–4 first to ensure our own happiness. But once you achieve your happiness, begin reaching outward to help others, and that starts through simple kindness. There is a phrase I heard years ago that I cannot attribute to anyone, but it is one that I use often: Kindness is free — sprinkle some kindness everywhere you go and toward everyone you encounter.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
So many of us struggle with anxiety and struggling to calm our minds. But there are exercises we can do to help ourselves. One is a simple grounding exercise that is available on Take2Minutes.org. The idea is to become aware of your surroundings and the positive things around you right now. The exercise is meant to bring all of your attention into the present moment. Often anxiety arises when we are worrying about things to come, the “what-ifs” in life. So if you can stop those thoughts and focus your attention on things immediately around you, that can help you reduce anxiety. While doing the exercise, and with any positive exercise, it really helps to try. For instance, while you do the grounding exercise, instead of just listing things you see, try to also include how they make you feel. Or, when it asks you for things you can hear, even if you are in a silent location, spend a moment to really listen instead of typing “nothing.” Doing these little extras helps the activity be more effective. Ultimately, the goal is to help your racing mind focus on the present.
Short breathing exercises and meditations can help with calming the mind as well. We recently added over a dozen audios that are specifically focused on anxiety. They are ultimately short meditation audios, but they were written with anxiety in mind. A subscriber of Take2Minutes can simply text “I am having anxiety” to our number and the system will pick one of these meditations and send it to you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
There is a phrase I started using called “social positivity.” The idea is that your mood, your behavior, and even your facial expressions affect those around you. The idea around social positivity is expressed in many of our daily positive messages that are sent out through Take2Minutes. Going back to the five steps that we talked about earlier, you must first take care of yourself. But once you achieve that, it is so easy to spread some happiness through social positivity. This idea came to me years ago through a series of feedback that I received from many people on separate occasions. The basis of the feedback was people telling me that every time I visited their store, restaurant, or place of business, the entire place was in a better mood, even after I left. I realized that all I was doing was being kind to everyone, smiling, and “sprinkling some kindness everywhere.” That is all it took to positively impact others.
There is a great quote that I love by Zig Ziglar, the American author: “When you choose to be pleasant and positive in the way you treat others, you have also chosen, in most cases, how you are going to be treated by others.”
I practice thinking positively, and people who meet me today would probably say I am a positive person. I feel a strong sense of love and am optimistic about the world. It is no coincidence that my friends, family, and work associates are all similarly minded. I can see a world where the tools I build matter, and everyone takes time for themselves. With Take2Minutes, I am helping to create that world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Though it’s hard to choose just one, I would have to start a movement of taking time for yourself every day to promote positivity and happiness in your life. That is ultimately the meaning behind the name Take2Minutes. We all have 1,440 minutes available to us each day, so why can’t we take at least two minutes for ourselves? It is essential to do so!
These two minutes are not just for ourselves, but will impact other people in our lives as well. It is for our family, our colleagues, and for our passions and the causes that we care deeply about. The healthier and happier we are as individuals, the more present and supportive we can be as we interact with the world. Taking time for ourselves will help us create a more positive outlook and help us demonstrate love.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Take2Minutes.org has a presence using the name Take2Min on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I can also be found on LinkedIn as Marc Fussell. Subscribers to Take2Minutes can also reach out to me directly as my email address is available within the members area.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!