Last Monday was International Day of Happiness, a day to celebrate simple pleasures and spread happiness around in big and small ways. And as a lifelong seeker of happiness, both in my private life and my professional one, I thought I’d jump on the occasion to talk a bit about Eat the Cake’s philosophy, which is very much centered around happiness, how to foster it and how to spread it.
It’s hard to talk about our philosophy without first talking about our name. “Eat the Cake Studio” is a very happy name, but chances are the first time you heard it you expected us to sell pastries, not immersive experiences. And it’s definitely not the name we expected to end up with when we started this adventure, but serendipity works in funny ways.
We’d been trying to come up with a name for weeks and nothing seemed to stick. On the rare occasion where we could find a name that all 3 of us liked, it was already taken. We were at a loss. And then I heard a story that stayed with me. A woman, nearing the end of her life, had been asked if she had any regrets. Her answer? She wished she’d eaten more cake. Such a small joy in life, but one she’d denied herself again and again, for a myriad of reasons. And now, on her deathbed, it was so painfully clear most of those reasons did not matter.
We knew instantly we’d found the perfect name for our studio. Sure, it said nothing about what we were doing… and at the same time, it said everything. Because that is what our immersive experiences are all about: indulge, embrace this small joy, take the leap, don’t overthink something that can make you happy. Dance like no one is watching, live life to the fullest… eat the cake, and never feel guilty about it afterwards!
(The fact that it aligned perfectly with the title of our first show, Let Them Eat Cake, was quite literally the cherry on top 🍒)
We fell in love with this name from day one, and the great thing is, other people keep falling in love with it too! Our name is something people mention to us a lot. It’s a name that makes people happy, and sticks with them thanks to its positive connotations. This is the kind of branding you can’t buy!
Going back four years in the past, we now had the perfect name. All that was left to do was to create the perfect working conditions to go with it.
I’m not the only one in the team for whom happiness is so important. Elena, Maddy and I are three very happy, positive gals, and it was clear from our first official meeting that we all wanted to create a company that would help this happiness and positivity thrive. After all, we were setting out to create experiences which would bring happiness to people - how could we truly achieve that if we were miserable while doing so?
Because if we’re honest, creating immersive experiences is a lot of fun, but it’s obviously also a lot of work and it would be very easy to let the daily grind drag us down and to lose the passion we have. So we make a conscious decision, every day, not to let it.
But how do you do that without turning a blind eye to problems just to pretend that everything is fine? Being happy at work is all the rage right now, to the point where big companies now have Chief Happiness Officers on their payroll to convince you that really, working here is so much fun, you won’t even want to go back home at the end of the day!
And let’s be clear, most of the time, this is just for show. When we got together, we’d all been burned by bad employers who placed more importance in pretending that everyone was happy than actually creating processes that would help their employees thrive.
We were very clear about what did not work for us, so we set out to define what would work.
So how do you do it? How do you reach the Grail, true happiness at work?
Well, first, you don’t pretend that everything is always going to be amazing. We reserve a space in all our meetings to just vent, talk about what’s going on in our lives (good and bad), and share what’s bringing us joy and inspiration so that no matter how we may have entered that meeting, we can leave it with things to look forward to.
We also meet up several times a year to examine our work processes, find what could be improved upon, share what worked for us and what didn’t, and try to put in place even better methods to keep us all thriving. Because that is another important thing to keep in mind: this isn’t a one-kind-fits-all deal. People do not find happiness in the same things, and what can be uplifting for me might not be for Maddy or Elena.
Another important thing for us, whether it’s in our personal meetings or our meetings with partners and clients, is the use of rituals. A lot of our meetings start with everyone saying one word that encapsulates how they’re feeling, or what feeling they expect to get from the meeting. And the meeting ends with everyone giving a second word to share how they’re feeling now. Often, those two words are not the same, and the results can be surprising. But it is striking how something as simple as taking those few seconds to connect with our emotions and accept the way we’re feeling in the present can have such a deep impact on everyone.
This is only a small sample of all the ways we try to foster happiness in our work. There’s also a myriad of tiny things, like sharing gifs and memes that make us laugh even in the busiest days, exchanging recs on shows and podcasts and books, and carving space out to spend time together not working, whether it’s to go test an immersive experience by another company or just an evening spent giggling around a glass of wine (or three).
We started this adventure as friends and for the past four years, we have worked very hard to keep this friendship thriving, through ups and downs, victories and disappointments, stress and exaltation.
And when there’s some cake to eat, we always take a piece.