Evan Sutter, The Happiness Compass

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You could say that Evan’s defining moment was visiting his monk brother at his home in a Monastery in the South of France. Living in a small rundown hut with no electricity it forced him to examine a life that he had rarely even contemplated. He saw how his relationship with drugs, alcohol, sex, desire, cravings, technology, ego, status, competition and society in general had him stuck in a pleasure trap that was a never ending circle of chronic destruction.

His eyes were opened, his heart softened and his mind liberated.

When he got home he realised where he had gone so wrong and saw the same issues causing problems all around him. He knew that there was a need for change. He wrote a book he titled ‘Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World’ and continued to question all matters of his own life. He wondered what it meant to live a good life? What is happiness? What is success? Why are we here? He started asking what he could do to make a difference? What he could do to challenge established ways of life?

 Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

 It was never really a plunge so to speak. It came about pretty organically. I had written two books on all things life and happiness, the most recent one about living for three months in a hut in the forest and how stopping, exploring and getting to know ourselves is so crucial to finding meaning and in turn happiness. Further to this, I started scribbling in a book on a train ride to visit a recently divorced friend about how we can cultivate happiness. I showed a friend, Steve Mitchell (Co-founder), who I’d catch up with regularly and chat about philosophy, society, politics and all things life and fulfilment. He liked the piece and the idea of breaking down this idea of happiness into simple foundations that we can all use to take greater control of our health and happiness. We wanted to make it more than just some information to read but include a range of practical exercises that we could all do to learn new tools to explore and find more meaning and purpose.

What was just a contemplative piece of writing led to creating this unique and all-encompassing program, soon to be digital, capturing mindfulness, emotional intelligence, positive psychology and resilience. We knew that there was a need for something that was fun, engaging and relevant that could help people, of all ages, find peace of mind and meaning, transform their attitudes and their relationships and essentially their lives.

Can you explain your business model to us? 

Taking something like this program from a non-digital space, where we had a range of companies in Australia and the U.S participate in a 30-day pilot, to digital takes time, and costs money, and certainly doesn’t bring in money right away either. So we created a few different avenues to make money alongside all our free community events like soft-sand walking meditations and ‘Be’ Talks. These include The Happiness Blueprint, a digital magazine featuring unique content and philosophies along with printable affirmations and practices. The Happiness Compass T-Shirts, where people can choose from a range of quotes to be printed on their organic bamboo shirt. The big thing we are launching right now is The Happiness Initiative Workbook, The Happiness Initiative is a workbook, journal, notepad and an all-encompassing blueprint to empower you to take greater control of your health, happiness and well-being. So you can learn the tools to flourish and live full and vibrant lives.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

We are launching a Kickstarter for The Happiness Initiative Workbook this week; we want to make the world a little bit happier. We think life’s far too short to not be really happy and content. That’s why we’ve created this engaging and innovative program. We are so passionate about spreading the skills of happiness that every workbook that is purchased, we will give one to a 16-year-old (we think that is a great age to start flourishing). Through your purchase, we help provide happiness for people all over the world.

We know from personal experience that we can train ourselves to be happier, healthier, freer and more fulfilled. That’s why we’ve been working on The Happiness Initiative and The Happiness Compass for so long and we are so excited that the time has come to share it with you on Kickstarter!

 We have also just finished working with a UX developer and the prototype for the program is complete. We are excited about seeing this being implemented in workplaces, schools, sporting teams and with individuals over the next 12 months. On a social level we are super proud to launch The Kids of Bogota and later The Kids of Mumbai and The Kimberley, a unique and super creative initiative to break the cycle of poverty by engaging lifelong learning in the most disadvantaged communities around the world.

How do you make ideas happen?

They are all born from passion and curiosity. If they don’t make us inspired for some bigger reason it never really makes the table. All of our ideas organically fall into the vision of The Happiness Compass. Do more and be more. Make a difference and so on.

 What role have mentors played in your business life?

I think, to be honest, mentors outside of my business life have had a greater impact. Those mentors that inspired the books and the contemplation which led to the birth of The Happiness Compass. But I do love guys like Vyon Choinard, the founder and owner of Patagonia, his book ‘Let my people go surfing’ is one of the best books on business I’ve ever come across and his passion, vision and curiosity is awe-inspiring.

What does your typical day look like?

Hot apple cider vinegar to start. The ocean. Meditation. Movement. Work. Some time for an afternoon coffee, a walk, some reading. Work.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing an organisation in Australia?

The biggest challenge I think is always internal. Staying motivated and inspired and finding the balance between working on something without bringing in any financial rewards immediately. That can be tough.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

 Happiness – I give it away at Bondi Beach most months for soft-sand walking meditations, on our website with free guided meditations, fresh content and our ‘Be Talks’ where we group together inspired free-thinkers and discuss the world.

What people do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

I love what retired UFC fighter James Te Huna is doing with this talks around bullying, mindset, purpose and happiness. He’s packing more punch outside the octagon.

What about internationally?

I’ve always loved Vyon Choiunard and Patagonia. 1% for the planet, let my people go surfing days, a Bcorp. Always innovating and always forward -thinking.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

They can’t just play a role – they are the critical component.

Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?

I love what Common Goods are all about. They are pretty new and will go into full launch soon, but they are going to forge some much needed change and impact where we spend our money. Keep an eye out for them.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?

We are always open to collaborating with inspired people. We are looking for funding, and if we could certainly benefit from some curious interns. So Yes!

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, what would it be?

This is great and exactly what is needed in Australia. How is the startup community looking in Australia? Where are the main hubs? Is there a network for collaboration and support?


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