Jim Estill promised graduating students of the University of Guelph’s College of Business and Economics that he would share with them the secret of happiness, but they would first have to listen to a convocation address about success.
Estill is known as the current president CEO of Danby Products, Ltd. and for receiving the Order of Ontario in 2017 for his efforts to sponsor 61 Syrian refugee families.
During the ceremony on Tuesday, Estill received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Guelph.
“A friend pointed out to me that I am the last person who should get a doctorate of laws, because I hate long legal agreements. I always tell the lawyers, ‘make this into one page on a font I can read,’” quipped Estill.
Being able to define success is the first step to achieving it, Estill told the graduates. Once you figure out what the goal is, the next step is to determine the tactics you will need to achieve it.
“We tend to overestimate what we can achieve in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade,” said Estill. “If you eat 10 more calories in a day, you will gain one pound per year and in three decades, you’ll weigh 30 pounds more. You can counteract that by walking 160 steps a day.”
Over the years, Estill has picked up a number of what he called ’success habits’ which he has used to achieve his goals, including learning to be still, to meditate, to believe in continuous learning, continue to read, networking and never taking a shower without breaking a sweat first.
“I can break a sweat in less than two minutes doing some jumping jacks or some burpees and I am sure those little two minute spurts have contributed to my health,” he said.
At that point in his address, Estill pointed out to the students that so far he hadn’t spoken about matters of money.
“The reason I left that until later is health trumps wealth every day of the week,” said Estill. “If you don’t have health, wealth doesn’t mean anything — so look after your health.”
Estill then shared what he called the secret of finance.
“It’s the same applies to business, applies to government and personal — spend less than you make, it’s pretty simple,” he said.
Estill said he already practiced what he has determined to be the secret of happiness, but learned more about it through his Syrian refugee project.
He recounted the story of one of the refugees, who one day showed Estill photos of his large house and Mercedes in the driveway back in Syria. The man told him he was a lawyer, but without a grasp of the English language or knowledge of the Canadian legal system, he is unable to work as a lawyer in this country. When Estill asked the man what he could do in Canada, the man asked for a job as a janitor.
"I have huge respect for some of the people who came here from Syria and I saw the ones who were happy and I saw the ones who weren’t happy. The ones who were happy were the ones who were grateful for what they have, not ungrateful for what they didn’t have or what they have lost. That is truly the secret of happiness,” said Estill.
“Be grateful. Have an attitude of gratitude,” he said.