Ula Mikus – Founder of Happiness Academy

To bring an idea to life, do not focus on the main goal but think what steps you can take right now to start.

Apart from being a consultant for BMW North America, Ula has held strategic roles in Human Resources working for Fortune 500 companies like ZARA US and FedEx. She designed and implemented a number of training and development programs to increase stress resiliency and success at workplace.

She is the founder HAPPINESS ACADEMY, a NYC based school for top performance at work and in life with a focus of teaching people how to build resilience to stressful events and achieve success at workplace.

Her work, developing and leading Innovation Thinking and Mindfulness classes has helped hundreds of people achieve balance in life and a positive work environment in companies. She now dedicates her time to customize coaching and educational strategies for corporations, groups, and individuals.

Based on neuroscience and scientific research, these practices increase self-awareness, enhance focus and concentration, enable greater perspective, generate more thoughtful decision-making, and provide pleasure and fun.

Where did the idea for Happiness Academy come from?

When I first started my career, I was very ambitious, eager to succeed and thought I could change the world. Often exposing myself to stressful tasks with short deadlines and business travel that took a toll on my physical and emotional state. I took on roles and responsibilities I was not emotionally ready for, and at age 26 I crashed and burned.

My early childhood experiences were affected by the physical, economic, psychological and spiritual consequences of a single mother that was struggling with raising two children. I was not frequently exposed to kindness, praise, loving support, or healthy coping mechanisms. Deep shame about my circumstances created a lack of trust in others.  That led to an unwillingness to admit or examine my experience with anyone who was in a position to help me. For years I’ve been researching on personality formation, studying behaviors and techniques that can transform the mind. This opened a doorway to learning and growing, from embracing the growth mindset to applying design thinking methods for my personal problem-solving. I believe I’ve developed a universal formula for a real breakthrough on purpose, love, and success.

Although we expect from our jobs, families or communities to provide us with happiness, meaning, material success and security, we alone are responsible for creating our own experiences.  It is why I dedicate my time to encourage others also to build their awareness, inner strength, and courage- and help create healthier environments.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Forming habit is the key to success, and it is crucial to stay focused and on track. Coming from a mindset that believes how weekends are sacred, and no work is to be done outside of work hours, I was able to transform into a person I’ve looked up to regarding focus and productivity. How? I had mentors I respected and was determined to become like them. At first, it was painful, but I started small. I started with making Sunday a blogging day, and the rest is history.

7:00 – 30 min run with an audiobook + 10 min meditation

7:40 –  Make a cold pressed veggie juice
8:00 – Morning routine and commute to work
9:00 – Work from my office – I plan a week in advance for my time and tasks
6:00 – Tai-Chi Session
6:30 – Work from home on content
8:30 – Family time
10:40 – 20-minute Meditation
11:00 – Bedtime


The way I make myself productive is to stay on track with habits. Every day I meditate before bedtime and also read for 45 minutes during my train commute and run. Also, when I feel distracted, I recognize it immediately, and I watch an inspirational video that pushes me back on track.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I start small. Ideas come to me every day, and I used to daydream about them, as it was terrifying to start anything. Now I don’t even focus on the general idea, but I break it down into small tasks, and I focus on doing things that can contribute to the goal. For example, I had an idea to do an IdeaMensch interview. What I did first is, saved the link on how. I’ve added it to my calendar as a reminder. When I had time I read other people’s interviews, and I felt motivated to write my own. I’ve set a time to sit down and write, and here I am, hoping the interview will get published.

Same thing with my company, I started with writing a blog, continued with free events on personal development and my classes went live, as a result of positive feedback from the audience.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Mindfulness that is definitely on the rise. The World is becoming more aware that there is a different way of thinking, acting and reacting, than the one we have been taught in school or that has been advertised to us.

Meditation saved my mind and with apps like Headspace and many other programs like Happiness Academy as well; people are becoming more mindful, relaxed, and open-minded. I’m happy that it finally became popular and I feel like, in 5-10 years, meditation will be a part of every company program for stress reduction.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Besides meditation, I would say the growth mindset where you value effort over the result. The result may or may not happen, and it’s dangerous to attach success onto it, but the effort is something that cannot be disputed. With this belief, I accept the fact that there are people more productive than me, and that there are tools that can help. So I tried out many things and here are couple that is useful to me;

Headphones – Playing music without lyrics helps me focus

Trello – helps me to organize better
Freedom – blocks social media and the internet for a set period of time
Enjoyable rotating work environment – most of the times I work from the office, but when I have a big task, I go to a café where I don’t know anyone work from there.

Biking – saves the commute time in between the meetings.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would say, don’t worry it will all be ok. This is the life lesson you need to grow and make a difference. You are on the right track.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

When you really love someone, you are able to let them go and remain friends. In true love there is no room for jealousy, control, and conditioning otherwise, it’s not love you feel but the hunger for an external source of love coming from the lack of love inside of ourselves.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Fail only once and take the time to absorb it and change your mindset about “failing.” Every other time when things don’t turn how you imagined it, erase “fail” from your dictionary and replace it with “learn.” Look what you need to improve to be better next time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Being the best representation of my brand. If I walk into a room and people feel uncomfortable with my presence, is probably not the best way to run the business. I need to live and breathe my philosophy. When you make people feel good in your presence, they are more open to hear what you have to share, and this can be such a powerful tool for business growth opportunities. When you have good intentions and you help others without an agenda behind it, things start happening to you.  

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I first presented my product to a large mass of people and the feedback was not good, I took a couple of days to think about it. First what comes up to your mind are those defeating thoughts telling you to give up. The most important thing was to find the source of those thoughts and disarm them. Sometimes we all feel discouraged and have no will to do anything about it, but what I’ve realized from my experience, even after watching a short video, my mood can change dramatically. And this is what I needed to plant in my mind, in a moment of discouragement, to remember there are steps to take. After that one time, I never failed again. I just had many opportunities to be better.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Startup dress – as an entrepreneur, I have no time to shop or even spend time dressing up. But even if I did, as a very pragmatic person, I find better things to do than that. Most of the days, I would love to wear my fleece bathrobe to work, but I feel it would not be perceived well by my customers and clients, and I still don’t feel ready to change how the entire society works. I would love to have a collection of simple yet elegant items in different colors; you can wear in any occasion and spend minimal time dressing up.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It may sound like a cliché, but I gave them to someone that needs it more than me. Sometimes when I want to buy something I don’t need, I think of the ones that have nothing. I once had nothing, and for that reason, I love helping people.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Trello, I use it to track my tasks, deadlines and share progress with my team. It used to be difficult for me to organize myself but having everything in one place makes it easier.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Carol Dweck – Mindset, it is the one book I definitely recommend for IdeaMensch community. It based on decades of research in human behaviors, how the right mindset can take us far in life, and how our IQ can increase with training. Dr. Dweck writes about practical examples from real life about successful CEO’s and Athletes that have gotten far in life by having the growth mindset.

What is your favorite quote?

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Albert Camus

I love this quote because most of my life I thought things happen to me and external events affect how I feel. When in fact, it is me that chooses how to perceive the world. Will I find beauty in the rain or I will dread it? Will I judge or show compassion? And that gave me so much power over my life.

Key learnings:

  • To bring an idea to life, do not focus on the main goal but think what steps you can take right now to start. It can be as small as talking to 5 people about it or attending an event about a similar topic.
  • The key to success is becoming mindful. It teaches you how to cope with difficult situations and removes the stress out of our life. With only 15 minutes of meditation per day, we can increase IQ, improve focus and become more confident.
  • Whatever happens to us, there is a way to turn it into our own benefit.
  • The best sales tool for business is that tear of joy in your eye when you talk about your product; nothing can be more convincing than that.


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