Pursuing happiness the Paul Ridilla way.

In 1776, our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence to give us the freedom to choose, including the following words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

On Aug. 16 of this year, I will be 76 years old, and that spirit of ’76 is still opening doors for me to do whatever I like, whenever I choose. This is what the word “liberty” means to me.

My motto has always been “Make a Good Life, Not Just a Living”; otherwise I would have been a confirmed workaholic because this great construction industry will take all of the hours you will give it.

Naturally that motto played the biggest role in my pursuit of happiness. I learned at a very early age that you cannot enjoy happiness unless you share it with the people near you.

I hope that spirit of ’76 is alive in all of you readers and your acquaintances. But it doesn’t just happen. You have to make that same “declaration of independence” and do what it says! I’ve always subscribed to the words of Frank Sinatra’s hit song “My Way.” I especially leaned on the phrase, “regrets, I’ve had a few, but too few to mention.” That gives me the confidence to try it without the horrible fear of making a mistake.

I know, although our Declaration of Independence doesn’t specify, that “men” includes women, as well as people of any ethnic background, age or religion: That no one because of race, color or creed can or should be discriminated against in America. That means we all have the same rights.

However, it doesn’t mean we share equally in our talents and abilities. They are not equal. I lived in a very large family as a boy, and raised eight children of my own. None of us were “equal.” I have also worked with thousands of good people who were not equal either. Each one of us is an individual with different attitudes, wants, abilities and energy.

Tips For Pursuing Happiness

God did not give me a body and strength to compete in sports nor the ability to sing,  dance or play a musical instrument. I tried very hard to do all those things and always admired any with that ability, talent and ambition.

However, I was born to build and thank God I was born and raised in a building contractor’s family! Let me share some of my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness tips for others in our great construction industry. Perhaps you can use some of these ideas and share them with your own family, employees and friends:


  • Always wear a smile and speak to everyone you see. Your smile is contagious and very effective body language. Some of the people you speak to may not answer back, but most will appreciate your greeting.


  • Help everybody you can. They may or may not return the favor, but you will feel great for doing a good deed. You need to go out of your way to help all of the other trades, the general contractor, the design team and onsite inspectors. We always called that “horse trading” and everyone benefits. In addition to the financial savings ftom this cooperative horse trading, you also will enjoy the happy and productive morale of all involved. You should always document what you give and what you get to eliminate any future misunderstandings.


  • Do what you like to do! This is called momentum.
      1. You like it because you are good at it.
      2. You are good at it because you like it.
      3. You will do more because you are good at it.
      4. You will make more because you do more.
      5. You will enjoy it more because you make more.
    You can easily see how this momentum will reverse itself when you are doing what you do not like. Keep in mind, there will always be some small negatives in just about everything you may choose. You may love raising a family, but you will have to change dirty diapers, etc.


  • Establish realistic long-range and short-range goals. This will keep your pursuit of happiness on a positive track to get you where or what you desire.


  • Each of your employees also has those rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You need to get involved, without interfering, with their pursuit of happiness:
      1. You should begin with an orientation checklist to be sure that you learn about them and they become familiar with your policies and personnel. Have them complete your skills inventory to establish what they can do and what they would like to learn.

      2. Assign a 90-day mentor to guide and assist them. This mentor can be the employee who recruited them, an employee who travels to work with them, any employee familiar with their job requirements, or a retired or light-duty individual qualified in those tasks. This mentor’s primary task is to help the newcomer earn more money and progress to whatever position he or she might desire. The mentor also will help combat any negative peer pressure (such as brown nose, company man) and invitations to smoke, use drugs or booze.

      Naturally, you want to monitor and document your mentor’s progress. In addition to accelerating your employee’s progress, your mentor will help maintain a happy and productive morale.

      3. Maintain an up-to-date performance file on every employee. You need only discuss privately any above- or below-expected performance when it occurs and document that in employees’ files for wage reviews as needed. This eliminates those “loss of memory” evaluations.

      4. Provide reasonable assistance with employees’ personal financial struggles. Some contractors will loan money, give payroll advances, help the employee to obtain financing for a car or home, or allow employees to purchase personal items from their supplier with the company discount.

      We always encouraged what we called “Amish barn-building” - Whenever an employee needed work done at his or her home, the other employees volunteered weekends or after-work hours, knowing that the same situation would occur if they needed help. This helps maintain a happy morale and productivity.

      5. Since each employee is an individual with different wants, needs and dreams, you should always provide options for their pursuit of happiness. When you ask employees what they would like to do rather than tell them, they will strive to make it work. Do not forget that they chose to work for you and they have an option to quit and work for someone else. Even start their own businesses. Your personal involvement will minimize those options.

    The most appreciated option you can provide is flex-time. Simply ask each employee what days of the week and what work hours would satisfy their personal lives. You can offer 4-10s, 3-13s, double 3-13s, night shifts, etc., to meet your needs as well as theirs.

    Another great option is the virtual office concept where your office employees work at home. IBM and other major corporations save millions of dollars each year with this concept. With today’s computers, fax machines, conference-call capabilities and cell phones, your employee can enjoy that “good life” and efficiently get your job completed in a timely fashion.

    You can offer your management team a salary rather than an hourly wage. The same applies with a company vehicle rather than a mileage reimbursement.

    You should advertise each new opening for hiring new help or promoting to a new position with a note in every employee’s paycheck. Likewise with after-hour training opportunities.

    Eliminate those negative words, “indentured apprentices,” by calling your trainees “interns.” An intern is a professional practicing his or her trade under the guidance of a seasoned professional. This will add critical pride to his or her work and pursuit of happiness. Be certain that he or she always has the proper tools to do a professional job.


  • Forgive and forget. Do not cloud your memory with all of those negative situations that happen in our complicated world. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you make or made without those negative thoughts of “I could have” and “I should have” and “If only I had.” The past is water over the dam and you need to concentrate on what is upstream!

    America’s Declaration of Independence was adopted 231 years ago, but that spirit of ’76 is still providing me with inalienable rights to a good life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Fortunately, my pursuit is successful. I found and have nurtured that happiness in my work, with my family, and all the people I have enjoyed the pleasure of knowing. That spirit of ’76 is very much alive in this 76-year-old, proud American.

    I wish the same for you.

  • Links