America's CU Conference

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die

Relationships are the key to happiness—and the lack thereof is the most common regret.

June 20, 2012

A visit with some tribal elders in Tanzania led John Izzo to a revelation that changed his life and led to the book, “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.”

The elders talked about how when they reached a certain age, they joined a council where people came to them for advice, Izzo told America’s Credit Union Conference attendees Tuesday afternoon.

“They asked how this worked where I came from and I told them we didn’t have these councils because we’re more of a youth-oriented society,” he said. “The chief told me in no uncertain terms, ‘You must form a council of elders.”

Izzo didn’t follow the chief’s directive to the letter, but he did embark on a quest of sorts to interview 250 people age 60 to 106 about life lessons and the keys to happiness. The only common element was that they had to be nominated by someone else.

The result was this list of five secrets:
1. Be true to yourself. Know your definition of success and find your true calling.

One respondent recalled a watershed moment from his youth where he turned down a full medical school scholarship to become a chiropractor against his family’s strong objections. “When I said no to someone else’s definition of my life, I said yes to my own,” the man said.

“One practice that 90% of the happiest people do every day is self-reflection,” Izzo said. “They think each day how they’d like to live their lives differently. Happy people slowly navigate toward a happy life.”

2. Leave no regrets—and don’t live in regret. Forgive the mistakes you make.

“One woman told me ‘it’s only a mistake if you do it over and over again,’” Izzo said.

He assumed people would regret their mistakes, but instead they regretted the things they didn’t try.

3. Become love. The top factor for happiness was having loving relationships—and the lack thereof one of the most common regrets. That was especially true among men.

“Women didn’t have this regret because they spent more time developing relationships,” Izzo said. “Men were more likely to regret not spending more time with their families. The secret to getting love is becoming a loving person.”

4. Train your mind for happiness. People can do this by living in the moment, realizing that life isn’t a contest, and being grateful.

“Don’t try to keep up with the Jones',” Izzo said. “As soon as you do, they’ll refinance.”

5. Give more than you take. Izzo recalled an interviewee who was a banker who said he loved his corner office. But what made him most happy was watching those he helped along the way succeed in their careers.

Izzo admitted his list might be construed as mere common sense. “The real secret is really living all of these secrets.”