Hippo Rage
 by: David Leonhardt a.k.a. The Happy Guy


(text of a mini-keynote speech by David Leonhardt,, a.k.a. The Happy Guy which brought the house down in Gatineau, Quebec, April 21, 2002)


Has anybody here ever been stuck in traffic for a frustratingly long time? Put up your hand if you have.


Oooh! Don’t you just hate that? And some people don’t mind showing us how much they hate it. We call it road rage.


Has anybody ever waited in a ticket lineup or a checkout lineup for a frustratingly long time? Let me see those hands.


Believe it or not, some people don’t like that either. We call it lineup rage.


Has anybody ever been stuck waiting in a doctor’s office for a frustratingly long time? Let me see those hands.


And then you see somebody suddenly jump up and tear his hair out and scream, “Let me out. I’ve been here three hours. Three days. Three months!” Well, I really should apologize. I didn’t mean to scare your kids. I was just demonstrating waiting room rage.


Let me tell you a story about the Lwangwa River Valley – that’s in Africa, you know. The dry season there gets very dry. My throat is getting dry just thinking about it. The Lwangwa River stops rushing. It slows to a trickle. Finally, it stops flowing. And all that are left are pools of water, here and there.


One by one, the animals head to higher ground. To forest cover. To other water holes. Anywhere they can find food or drink. Just like we will all do late. Did I say all the animals? Not all. Not the hippos.


The hippos stay in their river at it slows to a stream. They stay in the stream as it turns into pools. They stay in the pools as they shrink into puddles. As the puddles shrink, the hippos get more crowded. As the hippos get more crowded, they get surly. Cranky. Grumpy. They gnash their teeth. They poke at each other. They pick fights. It’s river rage!


Has anyone ever come face to face with a raging hippopotamus? Don’t be shy. Go ahead, put up your hands. Sure, when we’re young – I’m sure you all remember this as I do – we’re taught that they’re slow, cute, and cuddly. They might even be pink or purple and do those dances in tutus like in Fantasia. But in the real world they have teeth the size of your head. They can run faster than anyone in this room. And they weight upwards of 5,000 pounds. I mean, they are BIG! If you’re ever at a cocktail party and a hippopotamus starts, you know, flirting with you, whatever you do, do not let him sit on your lap.


Rage is all the rage these days. Road rage. Lineup rage. Waiting room rage. Even river rage. You may also have heard of parking lot rage, elevator rage and airplane rage. What gives? Is the world getting angrier or just more crowded?


Both. It’s a fact that as our space and time grow increasingly crowded, our stress levels rise.


When it comes to space, we are cramming more people into more crowded cities, elevators, airplanes, stores. Our patience diminishes. Our good will diminishes. Our tolerance diminishes. Has anyone noticed they place the chairs at conferences – you noticed! -- so close together that even skinny people get to know each other well. My theory is that the hotels are trying to develop their own niche rage market: conference seating rage.


Let’s look at our schedules. What are we trying to do? We’re trying to see how many items we can squeeze onto our “to do” list, and how many activities we can cram into a day. And the stress, where does it go? Right up there, exactly.


I want to share this one little thought with you. We are in the process of moving, so we actually have two homes. Stress that builds in my stacked concrete box apartment they call a condo, I can’t get rid of. It sticks. I can’t shake it off. It won’t go. It sticks. When I’m at my farm house just a few miles south of here, surrounded by grass and trees, it’s amazing how quickly I can just excommunicate the stress. Can I say that? Excommunicate? Why not?


OK. What have we learned today? Three lessons, so please take note.


Number one, don’t let your space get too crowded.


Number two, don’t let your schedule get too crowded.


Number three, and this is the most important of all, don’t ever, ever let a hippopotamus sit on your lap.


About The Author

David Leonhardt is The Happy Guy, and author of Climb your Stairway to Heaven: the 9 habits of maximum happiness.
Visit him at http://www.TheHappyGuy.com


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