Most experts throughout history agree that happiness is in our own hands. But we can’t just wait for it to come to us, we have to get out there and grab it.
“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times,” said the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus. Or as William James, the father of American psychology, put it more than a century ago, “The greatest discovery is that a human can alter his life by changing his attitude.” It’s this philosophy, that we can improve our mood with purposeful action, that remains central to most of the guidance we receive today about how to seek and embrace joy.
Helping our community to lead happier lives is fundamental to our mission at Mr Feelgood, and we are always searching for people, wisdom, and ideas that can help us all achieve that goal.
So we are delighted to have teamed up with our friends at Orlebar Brown, a brand that puts the quest for happiness at the heart of everything they do, to examine what it is that brings that vital light to our lives. Orlebar Brown’s new collection, Happy, features our co-founder John Pearson photographed in the campaign, and is a collection of resort and beach classics designed to bring that sunshine we all cherish.
We asked four men we admire, all acclaimed in their fields, what happiness means to them; when they feel it, where they seek it, and how they change their actions to ensure they’re ready to embrace it. Architect Nicoló Bini, restaurateur Kris Yenbamroong, actor Zack Calderon, and modeling agent Omar Albertto are all at different stages of their lives, and have experienced their own unique challenges, but have all found happiness and success on their journey. When discussing their personal key to unlocking joy, powerful and assertive words like “intention”, “adventure”, and “passion” were on their lips.
Check out our video below with some highlights from our conversations, and keep scrolling for the photoshoot and print version of the interviews. The pursuit of happiness unites us all, yet what it means to be happy is different for each of us, and we all look for it in our own unique places. We hope you find insight and wisdom in these four men’s stories to inspire you to choose happy.
Nicoló Bini, Architect
Whether designing his next architectural masterpiece, or waiting for a wave in the ocean, Nicoló Bini is a man of intention, and he believes that having a clear purpose is the key to a fruitful life.
“Dalai Lama said good intention is the most direct way to happiness,” he explains. “Part of that is having good moral intention, and part of that is having a goal for yourself, and pointing yourself in that direction.”
Nicoló, 55, applies the same philosophy whether seeking fulfillment at work or at home. He worked for prestigious architectural firms in London, Rome, Florence, and San Francisco before founding his own Los Angeles-based practice, LINE, in 2005. His clients have included Robert Downey Jr, Cara Delevigne, and Usher, while his work has appeared on the cover of Architectural Digest and Dwell. As for his downtime, the thought of simply hanging out with his wife, two daughters, and dog is so joyful it brings tears to his eyes.
“People who are really close to me mockingly say that I design my life as if it were a project,” he says. “And maybe that’s not so bad. I believe in the power of design. I believe that we have intuition, especially if guided by nature, to get us out of all sorts of trouble. So I definitely look at life as a design opportunity, and I like to look at the horizon and see where I would like to go.”
And while he has found great professional success creating beautiful buildings for people to live and work inside, it is outside that Nicoló finds his most powerful influences. “I’m at my happiest in nature,” he says. “I think nature is an extraordinary teacher and an inspiration for how we should be, how we should design, how we should move, how we should think.”
Kris Yenbamroong, Restaurateur
For chef Kris Yenbamroong, happiness is about freedom. Freedom to travel. Freedom from his cell phone. Freedom to smoke an occasional cigarette if the mood takes him.
“I’m at my happiest when I’m on the road, when I’m getting into trouble, having adventures, meeting people,” Kris says.
“Most of the good stuff in my life has come about because I’ve gotten off the couch, left my house, and I’ve gone to a new place. I’ve always ended up meeting new friends. So now, I have a great group of friends all over the world. And that’s probably what I value most.”
Kris, 40, founded NIGHT+MARKET in 2010, and the Thai restaurant quickly became one of the most popular in Los Angeles, with celebrity fans including Gwyneth Paltrow, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Daft Punk. He’s now got three LA locations, has recently opened his first in Las Vegas, and is cooking up plans for worldwide expansion.
He likes to keep an old-fashioned road atlas in his car as a reminder of the limitless avenues for travel and exploration. He also dreams of a future where we return to more traditional ways of interacting with each other and the world around us.
“What would make me happy, in terms of changes in the world, is people talking like they did before everyone had a device,” he explains. “My idea of joy is real communication with people. Getting out and meeting people. Having the adventures you could have if you weren’t buried in your device.”
Zack Calderon, Actor
Zack Calderon has found the light amid life’s darkest moments. He lost his father, Bob, aged two, then his brother, Josh, died three years ago.
“I very much feel like everything happens for a reason, whether we understand it in the moment or not,” he says. “I think we all go through crazy, horrible tragedies and triumphs all at the same time. And it’s those things that make us who we are.”
Asked to recall his happiest memory, Zack shares a story of experiencing a flicker of vital joy amid the sadness of his brother’s death.
“After my brother died, my family took a trip to New York,” he explains. “We were sitting at a table at this random Italian restaurant, and they brought a giant tub of chocolate mousse and plopped it on our plates. I remember my little brother’s face lighting up, and my family laughing, and to go from seeing immense grief and pain, to also seeing such joy and elation, is kind of the best feeling.”
Zack, a breakout star of the hit Amazon Prime series ‘The Wilds’, is now inspired to embrace all the opportunities that life offers so he can share those experiences with his late father and brother. He booked his first acting job just two days after Josh died, and believes his late brother was at his side on his trip to Australia to shoot the show.
“You live for the people who aren’t there to live with you,” Zack, 22, says. “Josh’s favorite band were The Beatles, and when I walked up to my makeup station on the first week on set, the makeup artist had, by complete coincidence, written ‘Let It Be’ in Sharpie on the mirror. They’re always there, whether you know it or not.”
Zack calls grief his “superpower” as he’s now better equipped to help others going through that pain. And despite losing both of his loved-ones in car accidents, he refuses to live in fear.
“If I am feeling unhappy, I usually get my car and drive,” he says. “I grew up on jazz standards and classics, so I usually put on something like that, and roll my windows down and just sing, and find a piece of myself again.”
Omar Albertto, Modeling Agent
Omar Albertto has lit up the fashion industry with his infectious happiness for decades. Known as a man of integrity within the business, he has represented and mentored hundreds of successful male models throughout his career.
He believes his positive attitude is inherited from his mother Dorine, who passed, aged 77, in 1999. Whether discussing his happiest memories, or the steps he takes to ensure a happy future, all roads lead to his mom, and the life philosophy that she passed on.
“I do not recall ever seeing my mother sad,” he recalls. “I found out later how many trials and tribulations she lived through to make sure that I was fine.
“She was this happy light in my whole entire neighborhood. She always looked like she’d just come out of a Chanel show. She was always well put together. She always kept it happy. She never bought any negativity into my life or to any of her kids. We never knew the hard times.”
Omar, 64, now passes on his experience of leading a positive and purposeful life to the next generation, encouraging budding young models to find happiness by taking control of their journey, and enjoying that process, instead of focusing on the destination.
“The first thing I tell young people these days is to find your passion,” he explains. “If they say to me, ‘I want to be a model.’ I say, ‘Tell me something that you have control over. Being in a magazine is not up to you, it’s up to someone else.” Because if you know what you’re passionate about, that will bring so much joy and happiness to your life.”
All four of these men have have experienced twists and turns in the road, but have used their positive drive to keep heading for happiness. “You have to take care of yourself before you can give happiness to someone else,” Omar says. “If you have demons, that’s okay. But just come to terms with them, keep it moving, and keep it happy.”
Orlebar Brown’s Happy collection is out now.
Video Direction – Alex Loucas
Grooming – Ric Pipino
Fashion Assistant – Margrit Jacobsen
Thanks to Dish Studios LA