253: Getting Beyond The Glass Ceiling, With Erica Anderson Rooney

March 7, 2023

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Dr. Pelè (00:00):

Hello, happy people. Welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast.

Dr. Pelè (00:07):

Hello everyone. This is Dr. Pelè with the Profitable Happiness Podcast. And today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a people officer, chief people officer by day and author, thought leader, great thinker and teacher all the time. <laugh>, how are you, Erica?

Erica Anderson Rooney (00:29):

Oh my gosh, I'm fabulous. How are you?

Dr. Pelè (00:31):

I'm doing very well. You know, we were talking about some of your ideas and I have to tell you, um, what I appreciate the most about your ideas is, uh, there's a little saying, A leader is one who g knows the way, goes the way and shows the way you aren't just talking about concepts that you dreamt up last night. You are living, walking through and, and experiencing these things, um, as a chief people officer and I would love to learn more about those concepts. But before we begin, can you tell us how, as a chief people officer and as a thought leader, you focus on what problems can you tell us what problems you are dealing with in the world? How would we get the listener or viewer to immediately focus in on the things you help people with?

Erica Anderson Rooney (01:17):

Oh my gosh. Well, first of all, there's all the problems, right? <laugh> and I could look at it that way, which, you know, a lot of people in HR kind of do. It feels like a dumpster fire all the time.

Dr. Pelè (01:28):


Erica Anderson Rooney (01:29):

But what I really like to focus on when I am coaching inside organizations and then also in my executive coaching practice is like, how can we level up what is within our control to do better? And it's really focusing in on that growth mindset piece. Hmm. And the power of reframing our mind, looking at situations differently and approaching every project, action problem, whatever it is, with a sense of curiosity, right? Because we live in complex times and nothing is simple. However, our brains are engineered to think that we are right before thinking through a problem. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> versus thinking through a problem and then saying, okay, now I'm right. So I really work with people on inviting curiosity and looking at their thoughts as a hypothesis in which to be tested versus this is the way we've always done it, this is what works. I'm right, let's go.

Dr. Pelè (02:35):

Yeah. Yeah. Wow. That, that's, that's interesting. So you focus on really helping people in, in increase and improve business performance by these kinds of, uh, I guess behavioral and, and maybe thinking and innovation strategies. Is that what I'm understanding?

Erica Anderson Rooney (02:54):

Absolutely. And it not just helps with business problems, but it also helps with like team connectivity. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Cause it is giving me a sense that when you ask me these types of questions, you are trying to learn me and understand me and see me, right? That my thoughts are valued. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and it's c constantly reciprocal because then that invites me to ask you more questions so that I can hear you learn, you see you, and then collectively together we can take the next step forward.

Dr. Pelè (03:28):

Hmm. In Interesting. Now before we actually get into the details of that, tell us a little bit about how being a chief people officer has informed where you are right now and the perspective that you have. And if you don't mind, just take us way back to maybe a little history of Erica so we know how you got here, uh, in the first place.

Erica Anderson Rooney (03:49):

No, and I mean I love telling this story because it's got a lot of interesting, like pinpoints that I'll point out. But I, like many HR people would never have thought I would've ended up in hr, let alone as a chief people officer. I actually started my career in fitness and wellness. Um, and I thought that was where I was gonna end up. I was like, this is it. I'm retiring. I thought the very first job I had when I was 24, I was gonna retire from. Right. So like let's take that as a learning moment, number one. Yeah. And I got into fitness and wellness because I loved helping people. Mm-hmm. Originally I was in nursing school and I realized very quickly, like the whole blood and gut thing was not at my alley. And that's how I got into fitness and wellness. Mm-hmm.

But again, that, that root cause of helping people was there. Now I could have stayed happy as a CLA in fitness and wellness if it weren't for the fact that I have a growth mindset and I am not happy if I am not learning. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I am that person that I am always looking for the next best thing. Like what can I learn? What can I add to my toolbox? What certification can I get? I once had a college mentor after I got my master's degree. I was like, great. Gotta get my PhD now. And she's like, yeah, but why Erica? And I was like, well, I don't know because you just like, people will have to call me Doctor <laugh>. And she,

Dr. Pelè (05:17):

Hey Dr. P, you know,

Erica Anderson Rooney (05:20):

And she said, Erica, are you gonna teach at university? And I was like, no. She was like, are you gonna do research on this? And I was like, probably, no. She's like, then you don't need a doctorate. Like, don't spend thousands of dollars in education and time, like get out there and start your life. And so I was like, okay, fine. So I got out there and I started my life and in fitness and wellness, you can only go so high before you kind of hit this ceiling. And I was at that ceiling in my twenties and I was like, this cannot be it for me. What else can I do? And I tried a bunch of different things, just thought all over the place, what was it? And I landed on HR because I saw how I could help people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and that was what translated so easily for me.

Cuz I went from helping people reach their health and wellness goals to helping people reach their career aspirations and goals. So it's a very easy transition. And again, that growth mindset kicks in and I climbed all the way to the topical ladder within 10 years, like very quickly. Yeah. And I love it. Do not get me wrong. But now my shift has also moved away from helping individuals to helping organizations, right. To focusing on strategy in EBITDA and profit margins, which again awesome mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but I really missed that connection with the one-on-ones mm-hmm. <affirmative> and like feeling the change that I was helping people with. And that's what got me into executive coaching. So here I was at the top of my chief people ladder and I was like, I'm going all in, I am getting an executive coaching certification. Did that started keynote speaking, did that book, you know, started writing that? It's still in the works, almost done All

Dr. Pelè (07:05):


Erica Anderson Rooney (07:05):

But all these things, you know, I like, cuz that's just my mindset. Yeah. You know, so here I am at the top of the ladder, but I still wanna do more, you know? Mm-hmm.

Dr. Pelè (07:14):

Mm-hmm. You know, that is such a powerful story. As you were sharing the concept of having a growth mindset being sort of almost a theme in your life, I couldn't help but look behind you and see an exercise bike of some kind. Ah. Is that what that is?

Erica Anderson Rooney (07:30):

If you look closely, there is a bike and a treadmill. That's my little gym area.

Dr. Pelè (07:35):

Yeah. And I'm thinking to myself, what I appreciate about your type of growth mindset is leave nothing behind. Even though you left, uh, the fitness world, you learned so much from it. And here you are, um, using I'm sure everything you learned in that world, in the worlds that you're creating going forward. So now that we've gotten to know you a little bit better, now, let's get back into that problem. Okay. All right. So <laugh>, describe for us again the problem, and specifically this time, how you approach it. You know, I, I was intrigued, um, by something you said. You know, you said that we human beings have more control over things than we realize, and I think it's so easy to get into our negativity bias or fears or whatever, and forget that. So give me a sense of how that all works in, in the way you approach things.

Erica Anderson Rooney (08:25):

Yeah. So I'd love to frame this as glass ceilings and sticky floors. And this is not just corporate America speak. Right. Glass ceiling is very specific to the individual. Yeah. It is just the term that I enjoy using. And sticky floors are all of the things that are within our sphere of control. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So those are the limiting beliefs that show up in our lives that keep us stuck. Right. Imposter syndrome, perfectionism not gonna apply for this job if I don't meet all the criteria, the fear of what other people will think, right? Yeah. Like, if I wanna quit my job as a chief people officer and become a, a yogi on the beach, aren't they gonna judge me for it? Like belonging is a real thing mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but it's also toxic behaviors, toxic relationships. Right. Those wine Wednesdays that turn into every days that delay our progress and hold us back to potential relationships that might not be supportive.

Right. A lot of people have gone through this in their life where they have a friend that is constantly dragging them down, questioning their, you know, goals and their aspirations or maybe a spouse that isn't supportive. Yeah. All of those things are within the sphere of, of our control. And there are real issues out there that are not within our control. Right. Racism, sexism, ageism, all of those isms, those are real things that weigh us down further in our sticky floors. But there is so much that we can do that we often don't because of the fear. And it's up to us to break free from those sticky floors so we can bust through those glass ceilings of our lives.

Dr. Pelè (10:05):

Wow. Um, so, so we've, so you've covered the idea of a glass ceiling now, just so that I feel like I fully understand a glass ceiling could be different for a different demographic or a different individual, right? So it's, it can be really personalized down from, you know, men may have some glass ceiling of some kind. Um, uh, maybe there's a racial, uh, glass ceiling or there's a gender one. Give us a sense of how you address either all of them, or if you're just focusing on one of those, how do you actually help people get through all that?

Erica Anderson Rooney (10:42):

Yeah, so le let's be very clear, there are glass ceilings that affect every single person except for like that mediocre white man, right? <laugh>. And they are real. It is going to take 132 years for gender pay equity according to the World economic forum. But that's looking at like a generalization, right? When we look at equal pay, the white woman makes less than the white man, but the person of color makes less than the white woman. And it continues, right? So like there are different glass ceilings that we still have to break through, and it is going to take generations and decades before we can truly get there. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't make a dent in them where we can. Right. And that is the biggest thing that I try to focus on people because we have the opportunity to look at it and say, well, I mean, that's what I'm gonna make.

That's all I'm gonna make, so I'll just make that and it'll be what it is. Yeah. Or we can say like, no bump that like, I'm gonna do everything in my power to prove that person wrong or that system wrong, and I'm going to do the things that are within my scope of control. I may fail 10,000 times, but I may succeed one. And that's all it's gonna take. I specifically though, I love working with women because I am an executive woman. I am a mom. I think it is very challenging to be a working mom and live up to all of these air quote, societal expectations of mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what is a good mom, right? Yeah. Like, I live in the land of suburbia. Most of the people in my cul-de-sac, they're, their moms don't work, you know, which is great. Everybody, you do you right?

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but like, I work and so does it make me not a good mom because I never go volunteer for lunch at my kid's school? No. You know, does it make me a bad mom because I order my kid hot lunch and I don't pack in like a five star organic meal with cute little cucumbers cut out also. No, it just looks different. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's really working with those women, these women who feel these societal expectations, but have career aspirations and life goals that they want to accomplish, that they can have it all and do it all.

Dr. Pelè (13:03):

You know, I can imagine anyone listening to this, uh, who finds this fascinating as I do might ask, how exactly do I navigate the politics of these situations? I mean, there's so many different things that are going on. And do I have, do I need to become a better political operator, more savvy, uh, you know, better at making my leadership feel disarmed so they like me? I mean, what do I technically, physically have to do on Monday morning to to break through this kind of a glass ceiling?

Erica Anderson Rooney (13:37):

Oh my goodness. Right? Like, that's the million dollar question. That's

Dr. Pelè (13:40):

A big question, isn't it, <laugh>?

Erica Anderson Rooney (13:43):

And when you ask me that question, it takes me down to one of our basic human needs is to feel like we belong and to feel seen and to feel heard. And that is the basic requirement for that is a psychological safety. Right? Like, you can't talk to me openly about your concerns. If you don't trust me, you as a black man can't come to me and talk to me about some of the issues that you may have. If you don't trust me, <laugh>, I as a working mom, cannot come to you about my concerns about being mom if I don't trust you. So you have to create that layer of trust, and you have to recognize that every single person, regardless of how old they are, the color of their skin, their gender, whatever, they look through life, imagine it like a sunglasses. They have a different color lens than you do. We all have different color lenses because of our life experiences and what we have lived through and what we have gone through. And that's what really kind of takes me back to this idea of curiosity. Mm. Because I may not have experienced what you have experienced. Mm. Right. But I can seek to understand mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I can attempt to look through your sunglasses mm-hmm. And see it the way you see it to help me belong and help us all belong.

Dr. Pelè (15:15):

You know, I I I had a light bulb go off in my head when you, when you went back to curiosity, because I can see how curiosity can lead to greater empathy as you've described, um, a greater sense of being interested in other people, which, uh, you know, these are some universal powerful things that any of us can do to build, uh, trust. What, what have you seen out there as you've begun to gather your data, you're writing your book and, you know, you're, you're, you're really putting this together. What have you seen as some of the mindset challenges and blocks that stop people before they even get started? Like, uh, is there like a shift, a fundamental shift that you believe people need to make before they're even ready to start <laugh> doing the things you're, you're, you're proposing?

Erica Anderson Rooney (16:02):

Uh, I think everyone needs to get very comfortable being uncomfortable. Hmm. And then I love to also break it down into what I'm gonna say next, which full disclosure, I work on this every day and what I'm about to tell you should not be easy for anyone, but it is to run towards the fear.

Dr. Pelè (16:24):


Erica Anderson Rooney (16:25):

Right. Run towards that thing that you were like, oh yeah, I don't know about that. Whether it's applying for the job, you know, whether it's saying like, screw all of society's expectations. I'm gonna teach yoga out of a van, or like, I'm gonna love who I wanna love openly. I'm gonna do what I wanna do openly run towards the fear

Dr. Pelè (16:45):

Because fear gets smaller. It's the only thing that gets smaller as you approach it. Right. <laugh>, I love

Erica Anderson Rooney (16:50):

That it gets smaller as you approach it. And by doing that, you're taking the power back, you know? Mm-hmm. That power that you don't think you have, you are taking it back. Mm-hmm.

Dr. Pelè (17:02):

I love that. I, I know that, uh, there are people who might think, well, it's easier for you to say, take back the fear, or, you know, take the power back, uh, run toward the fear. I'm scared, <laugh>, I don't, I don't wanna move forward right now. But, but, um, you know, let's see here. Is it possible that a person can try, try, try and fail? And is that okay too? Is there a place to say, here's a methodology that works, here's what you should try, but just in case you don't make it, then what <laugh>

Erica Anderson Rooney (17:37):

And you might not. Right? Like fricking Hillary Clinton did everything in her power and she did not get the presidency right. But I, I challenge everyone that I work with and everyone that I coach to not look at them as failures. Right. Because there's always a lesson in that failure mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and sometimes that lesson is life is just not freaking fair. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and that's, that's a reality that we all live in, you know, but every, every failure there's a lesson mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Like, I always love to ask the question, like, what's the worst that could happen? And let's go back to Hillary Clinton, right? Like, the worst that could happen is you don't get the presidency mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then what? Okay. She's still living in a nice house somewhere, <laugh> protected by Secret Service, like hanging out with her grandkids. So even though she did all of that and didn't get what she wanted, I don't know every single lesson that she learned, but I'm sure she learned a lot, y'all. And she is still sitting Brady somewhere probably, I think she wrote a book. I can't, you know, say for sure, but there's always a lesson. And like, those are the things that I'm talking about. You can't control those, but it doesn't mean that you shouldn't try,

Dr. Pelè (18:52):

You know? Um, Erica, can we take your whole attitude and put it in a bottle and sell it?

Erica Anderson Rooney (18:57):

<laugh>, listen, I'm very extra. E is for extra is what I tell people. <laugh>, I know it. Like I'm, I am that positive poly person. But I will tell you, like, that's my general nature, but it's not all the time. And there are a lot of times that I have to reframe my mind and how I look for things. Mm. But what I love about like, science today, and I'm a science person mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, let's go to When The Secret came out, everybody knows the book The Secret. Yep. I read that book and I was all like, all right, this is a little woowoo, it's a little fluffy. Yeah. But like, I'm here for it. Why not try it? You know? Mm-hmm. Like mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they say that if I think about money and that I'm rich, that like money is gonna come to me. You know, I will tell you that I was like single living in a town home, barely making my ends meet with my job.

And I was like, money, money, money. I'm gonna manifest all the money. Right. <laugh>. And apparently I had been overpaying in like my garbage tax or something, and I got a random check in my mailbox for $800. Whoa. So I was like, well, I'm not gonna say no to that, you know, <laugh>, which again, all said and good, but I can think about a million dollars all day long. It's not gonna end up in my mailbox. Right? Yeah. Yeah. But the neuroscience shows that you can train your brain to look for the positive and look for the happy. And y'all, let's be clear, wouldn't you rather be happy mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it takes a lot of work to like focus on the negative. Yeah. And I think so many people don't realize that that's your own doing. You've trained your brain to look for the negative. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you've trained your brain to look for the ways it's not gonna work out for you. Yeah. Right. You gotta start training your brain to the what ifs.

Dr. Pelè (20:50):


Erica Anderson Rooney (20:51):

What if it does work out for me? What if I do get the job? What if I do win the presidency? Right? Yeah. Versus all the other reasons why it won't.

Dr. Pelè (21:00):

Yeah. You know, I'm, I'm like you, I'm very much a, a believer in science and a believer in one word you used over and over there, which is train your brain, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I have to say, you and I share an analogy from different directions, and I'm gonna introduce it to you right now. Let's hear it. When I talk to people about training their brain, I use the analogy and the me the, the metaphor of music. Because every musician is an expert as at this thing called practice. Hmm. We, we know how to focus, sit it, sit down, and through repetition and different approaches get good at playing an instrument or something like that. Now, in your world, I wonder, do you use your fitness background as an introduction to the idea of science, right. Training the brain to, to, to think these positive thoughts that can break these glass ceilings?

Erica Anderson Rooney (21:54):

If you go listen to my podcast, you will hear me talk about fitness so much <laugh>, and I was even thinking about it today when I was on my Peloton and I was going up some god awful hill, right? Yeah. And I love these Peloton instructors because they also have this very positive mindset and they're encouraging and they're your coach. Yeah. But one of them is, they have a saying and it's always, we take the hill. Mm. We take the hill and that is all I need to hear, to be like, Erica, get your ass up that hill. Like, let's go. There's, there's a downhill on the other side, you know? Yeah. So I use my fitness analogy all the time, especially when it's about, about going after big goals. Yeah. So I love running half marathons. That is like the chef's kiss sweet spot for me, yet you won't catch me doing 26.2, but I will do 13.1. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, those are still hard. Right? And I was in Charleston not too long ago, running a half marathon, and around mile seven is when it gets real hard. When you're like halfway through, you can't stop, you know, but you're nowhere near the end. I am not lying when I tell you this route at mile seven took me right past my hotel. Ah. And I was like, I could

Dr. Pelè (23:15):


Erica Anderson Rooney (23:15):

Just slide right on up to that room and like, call it a day, nobody would know I've already done seven miles. That's enough. You know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but like I would know and I had to have that internal dialogue with myself of like one foot in front of the other. Keep it moving, keep it moving, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like every step you get closer and there is so much in the fitness mentality in industry that you can apply to just your life

Dr. Pelè (23:43):

And to business

Erica Anderson Rooney (23:43):

And doing hard things. Yes. Yeah. I say to my son all the time, we do hard things. Yeah. Running a marathon is hard, right? Yeah. Achieving a goal is hard. Yeah. You know, but we talk about the more you train, the more you do it. So quite honestly, when I do work with people, I really also encourage them to get physically active if they aren't already. Because you can at least see through that avenue, right. If you can't quite believe in yourself enough yet in the business sense, you can see in, in the physical world, like, okay, I could run that mile now. I used to not be able to.

Dr. Pelè (24:18):

Yeah. Uh, and that's exactly what I tell people when it comes to, you know, the power of music and just training that brain and building new habits and you know, I can tell you whenever I take my walks, because that's my thing now, I can't tell you enough how happy I am at the end of every walk. It's just something happens when the biology is, is in tune with, with everything. So I totally get where you're coming from and I appreciate it. You know, I have a, well,

Erica Anderson Rooney (24:43):

Lemme lemme tell you this real quick about the brain in neuroscience. Yeah. Yeah. Cause for all these people listening who are like, yeah, like train your brain, whatever, right? <laugh>, there is a system in your brain called the reticular activating system. Okay. It acts almost like a hair net over your brain. Okay. Think of it like the bouncer of a nightclub. And it is the system that allows which thoughts go in and out of your brain. Mm-hmm. Because we see and interpret so many things, right? Lights, color, shape sounds, your brain has to be able to determine what do I need to pay attention to, right? Yeah. Do I need to be paying attention to the fire that's going on next to me or like a pretty flower? Yeah. So that is your reticular activating system. Okay. Keep that in your mind, right? Yep. Now, have you ever been in the market to buy a new car? Yep. And you're like, you know what? I need a new bmw. And you go online, you do the research. You've never seen these BMWs before, like really out on the road, but like you're doing the research and then all of a sudden you start seeing these BMWs, right? Like you see it at the grocery store, you see it on the interstate, you park next to one, like they are showing up everywhere.

Dr. Pelè (25:56):


Erica Anderson Rooney (25:56):

Let me tell you, those BMWs were always there. They

Dr. Pelè (26:01):

Were always

Erica Anderson Rooney (26:01):

There. They didn't show up because you started thinking like, I need to go and buy bmw. You just never saw them because your reticular activating system wasn't letting them through. Absolutely. Think about how many cars you see on an interstate day. Yep. Right? You notice the ones you wanna notice.

Dr. Pelè (26:19):

Yep. Yep. This is

Erica Anderson Rooney (26:21):

Powerful. So you don't believe in science. Go look that up.

Dr. Pelè (26:23):

This is powerful stuff. And you know, just so you know how violently you and I agree on things, I'm really enjoying learning from you. Here, I'm gonna show you something here. You see this, I actually made a model of the brain. Here's the five inputs and your reticular activation system. Here's your small conscious mind and here's your big con uh, subconscious mind, which is what you have to train. So that things become automatic. Your positive thinking is automatic, your new behaviors, blah, blah, blah. Dude, I need to, I'm telling you, we need to hold other episode <laugh> on just on

Erica Anderson Rooney (26:59):

Just the brain Yeah. About

Dr. Pelè (27:02):

This. I know,

Erica Anderson Rooney (27:03):

But like, I encourage people, I don't know if you've ever heard of angel numbers, you know, but those are those repeating numbers. Like, you know, when it's 1111 or you know, 3 33, they show up in receipts. They show up in tax numbers times. I always encourage people like, you don't believe me? Start looking for those numbers. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's, that's all I say, right? Because again, those numbers show up every single day.

Dr. Pelè (27:27):

Yeah. But now, now you're, now you're seeing them

Erica Anderson Rooney (27:30):

<laugh>, now you're seeing them. Yeah. And so it's just a small little thing of like, okay, maybe you're not looking for a new car, but like, what about this time? What about this number? You know? And then people start to see them. So it just goes to show you again. Always there. You just didn't notice them.

Dr. Pelè (27:45):

Yeah. Yeah. I'm just gonna, you know, put one more plug. Be, you know, if you're listening and you, you wanna say you've learned something today, sometimes there are million dollar ideas that that show up and you may not realize it. This is one of 'em, <laugh>. This is one of 'em. So Erica, what are you excited about right now? What are you working on? What's coming next and how can people get ahold of you? <laugh>?

Erica Anderson Rooney (28:06):

Oh my gosh. I just, honestly, I've got so many awesome guests lined up from my podcast and I love talking to women about their sticky floor stories and how they overcome them. Yeah. Because every single woman that shows up on my show has something that resonates with me. A little piece of information, a nugget that I love. So I would say I'm really excited about that. I'm really excited to wrap up writing my book. Um, it's gonna be called Glass Ceilings and Sticky Floors, and it's gonna talk about all these things that we talked about today on the show. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But if you are wanting to hear more, this was interesting to you. You can listen to me wherever you listen to this podcast. Yep. It's a podcast. From now to next, just log on there and, and listen up. And if you wanna reach out to me, I am super active on LinkedIn, send me a message, let me know. You heard me on, you know, profitable happiness and let's Chat.

Dr. Pelè (28:57):

That is just so fun and exciting. Erica, thank you so much, uh, for spending some time for bringing your bottled energy, which we're gonna sell <laugh>. Okay. <laugh>, thank

Erica Anderson Rooney (29:07):

You so much. If only,

Dr. Pelè (29:08):

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. I really appreciate it.

Erica Anderson Rooney (29:12):

Oh, thank you. It was fabulous.

Dr. Pelè (29:15):

Thanks for tuning in to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. For more episodes, visit dr pais.com. And remember, get happy first and success will follow.