top of page

How can they be happy? They have nothing.

The other day I was talking with my parents about our recent trip to Nicaragua. I shared many reasons why I loved the trip and continue to be impacted by it. One reason was that the people from Nicaragua are so happy. Always smiling, waving, generous, and great hospitality.

I shared a random example that one of my daughter’s favorite activities in Nicaragua was to say ‘hola’ to people as we walked by or waving to people as we drove by. Seeing the Nicaraguan’s responses, plus Kiley’s giddiness, I had to jump in. It was awesome! It was crazy how everyone said ‘Hola’ back or waved with a huge smile. I know our hello and wave impacted them, but I can tell you my heart was filled up. Maybe even more!

Since our return to Cincinnati, Kiley and I have tried the same thing. Not at all the same response. Nothing. Blank stares. I even walked by a woman last night at the gym, waved at her, said hi, we made eye contact and she said nothing!

As I shared this story with my parents, they mentioned I said the exact same thing when my wife and I returned from India a few years ago. (We went with Aruna, an organization that I am on the board for. Check out their website to see what they do…plus buy one of their bags!)

Why are the people of Nicaragua so happy?

A common paradigm from the United States is we believe people from poorer countries can not be happy because they are poor.

However, I would argue they may be poor in what the United States culture values, yet they are rich in what God values.

If you read my blogs or have read my book, Win at Home First, a framework I believe completely in, is the five capitals. You can read more about the five capitals in my book or even take the Prioritized Life assessment here to see how your five capitals rank.

In short, the five capitals is a framework created from a couple of Bible parables, and in response to what Jesus said in John [10:10], ‘I have come to bring life to the full’. What would a full life look like?

The five capitals are:

  1. Spiritual – Your relationship with God. Your purpose.

  2. Relational – Your relationship with others. Your people.

  3. Physical – Your time and energy to invest. Your pace.

  4. Intellectual – Your insight and ideas. Your perception.

  5. Financial – Your money to invest in others. Your profits.

If you are enjoying this blog, subscribe here to receive leadership lessons weekly.

These people have their five capitals in the right order.

As you look at the five capitals, you can see why the people from Nicaragua and India are so happy. They have their five capitals in the right order.

The communities we were involved in had a relationship with God. They prayed numerous times during the day. They acted like Jesus by serving us food or water. Getting in the ditch and helping us dig.

Relationally they had strong family units. They were multi-generational families living either on the same plot of land or nearby. There were numerous community activities. Lots of pick up soccer games.

Physically they had a healthy pace. A common phrase we were told by our partners, Amigos for Christ, was ‘relationship over task’. We worked hard, but we rested. Nicaraguans were adamant about getting in their full hour lunch. They also would take 10-minute breaks. They had phones and internet, but they were not glued to their phones. People were the entertainment, not the phones.

Intellectually they were open to new ideas. The ones we worked with asked about our life. Our family. Asked about the USA. Intellectually open people want to see the world through other eyes, as opposed to us, where we want everyone to see the world through our eyes.

Financially, they didn’t have a surplus of anything. However, they had the bare essentials. Clothes, shelter, and food.

Then why are WE so unhappy?

I have a few clients right now that are not happy. No joy. I have been in the same funk before. When asking questions to these clients, the five capitals are in the wrong order.

Financially these clients are very doing very, very well. By worldly standards they are wealthy. Have money coming in, money is being saved, a surplus each month to buy any need or want they have.

Intellectually learning all the business stuff they can. Filling every blank moment with noise from books or podcasts, and never time for solitude or good.

Physically there is no rest. Early to work in the AM and laptop on the lap in the evening. Working most weekends. No time for the gym because trying to keep up with work.

Relationally they are dried up. Do not have time to spend with friends because always working. Even when they are at home, these executives don’t have much to give, because their tanks are empty.

Lastly, their Spiritual capital is weak. Do not make time for journaling, praying, or even just solitude.

Great news, you can recalibrate!

These executives, and maybe you as well, can recalibrate if you find your capitals in the wrong order.

Work to get the spiritual capital back to the top. Read scripture. Practice gratitude by journaling in the morning and evening what you are grateful for. Serve others. Love others. Acting like Jesus brings us closer to Him.

Spend some time with friends. Grab a beer or lunch with a buddy. Go on a date with your wife.

Physically go break a sweat. Work out. Do yard work. Also, change of place and pace, bring a new perspective. So take a long weekend and go somewhere. Drive a different way to work.

I have been sharing this short video with clients and in my talks. I love the quote in this video: ‘Routine is the enemy of time.’ I completely agree.

Yes, it is important to read books and listen to podcasts, but don’t fill up every waking hour by trying to fill your brain with knowledge. You are forgetting more than you are remembering. Plus, wisdom cultivated from what you have already read or heard and mixed with solitude and prayer, will beat out any new knowledge you bring in.

What are the next steps?

Recalibrate. As each day progresses, try and get them in the right order. Day by day, week by week. If you take a step backward, that is OK, you can recalibrate again. Don’t stay in the funk.

If you are enjoying this blog, subscribe here to receive leadership lessons weekly.

Thank you for reading,

If you enjoyed this blog, please share with others! No better way to grow in your relational capital than to share!!!


Popular blogs to date:


bottom of page