Harnessing the Power of Joy at WEC Grapevine

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Harnessing the Power of Joy at WEC Grapevine

By Maria Lenhart | Feb 17, 2020

“How to Harness the Power of Joy and Lead with Authenticity" is 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. on Nov. 4 at the MPI World Education Congress in Grapevine, Texas. You can also join live as part of the WEC Digital Experience. Sponsored by Discover Puerto Rico. Shabnam Mogharabi presented by Gotham Artists.

SoulPancake, an entertainment media company that has touched millions of viewers with its inspirational short videos telling quirky stories of kindness and positivity, has found success by completely bucking the trend of online trolling and negativity. How its principles can work for meeting professionals seeking to engage attendees with authentic experiences will be the focus of Shabnam Mogharabi’s upcoming presentation, “How to Harness the Power of Joy and Lead with Authenticity,” at the MPI World Education Congress, Nov. 4 in Grapevine, Texas (WEC Grapevine).

“Authenticity in any experience requires a level of vulnerability that can be difficult to exercise and put into practice,” says Mogharabi, co-founder and general manager of SoulPancake. “During my presentation, I will be encouraging attendees to think about the principles of positive psychology, including the discomfort of vulnerability."

In her own life, Mogharabi has learned the power of meaningful connections. As a young journalist, she increasingly found herself dissatisfied with her life and work and yearned for a deeper, more fulfilling purpose. In graduate school, she had written about her desire to “do something to make spirituality cool.”

The chance to actually do this came when she heard an interview on National Public Radio with comedic actor Rainn Wilson, whose credits include the hit TV shows The Office and Six Feet Under. Wilson spoke about his plans for founding a digital media company creating uplifting content that would be a positive contrast to what is often found online. Mogharabi was so motivated by what she heard that she headed cross-country to Los Angeles to find Wilson and help move their shared vision forward with SoulPancake.

I was not expecting to leave a life in journalism to become a media entrepreneur, but it was the best thing to happen to me,” she says. “It reminded me of why I got into journalism—to tell stories that change minds and hearts and connect with people. SoulPancake does that every day. We focus on irreverent, vulnerable, funny, positive storytelling that speaks to the universal truths that affect all human lives.”

Providing content that has amassed over a billion video views, SoulPancake has partnered with a wide variety of brands, among them Coca-Cola, Visa, Purina, General Electric and Strayer University. For Northwestern Mutual, SoulPancake created a video tackling the difficulty people have in talking about money, doing so in a humorous but affecting way.

In 2012, the company launched SoulPancake Television, a YouTube channel airing a wide variety of videos “exploring what it means to be human.” Among Mogharabi’s personal favorites is “Get a Compliment, Give a Compliment,” in which pairs of unsuspecting people on the street are invited to step inside a phone booth and give each other compliments. Among them is a daughter telling her mother that, “If I end up just like you, it would be the best thing to happen to me.”

Others include a series called “My Last Days,” which profiles people, usually young, who have only a short time to live but are making the most of the time they have left. One about singer-songwriter Zach Sobiech, who died in 2013 of metastatic osteosarcoma, inspired millions of viewers to donate money to medical research.

According to Mogharabi, people are craving stories that remind them of their humanity and show that they are more alike than they are different. She believes this concept is needed now more than ever.

“Human beings today are the most anxious, stressed and depressed they’ve ever been in history,” she says. “We face existential crises as a species and planet. And yet, our attention spans are shrinking as we get bombarded with information and misinformation every micro-second.”

In such a world, intentionally choosing joy is an “act of rebellion,” she says, adding that the principles of positive psychology are critical to help sharpen intellect, think more clearly and approach even the most difficult of circumstances with grit and resilience.

“Without a baseline positive perspective, it's impossible to inspire people around you to want to work together to achieve greater good,” Mogharabi says.  

While she believes in embracing joy, she also says it doesn’t mean having to be happy all the time.

“Joy is a tool that helps us shift our perspective and view every situation—good or bad—through a different lens,” Mogharabi says. “I have seen firsthand the efficacy of this. I joke sometimes that I’m a ‘recovering Eeyore’ and that it has taken years of work, dedication, practice and habit-building to institute regular expressions of gratitude and vulnerability in my life, but I find that the work is worth it. My relationships are more meaningful, and my work is infused with greater purpose as a result.”

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Maria Lenhart

Maria Lenhart is a former editor of multiple meeting and event industry publications, and has won numerous awards for travel writing, including a prestigious Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers.