Igniting Happiness Despite The Challenges With Scott Sullivan

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Igniting Happiness | LYP 32 | Scott Sullivan

Traumatic experiences, especially from our earliest childhood years, can put us in a box, push us to hate ourselves, and make us feel bitter towards the world. By igniting happiness and understanding our purpose in life, we can overcome this feeling of being stuck and start achieving great things beyond our expectations. In this episode, Darrin Tulley sits down with Scott Sullivan, who shares how he got through childhood trauma and the many hurdles of his challenging life. He presents the importance of finding the right support system, embracing mindfulness practices, reconnecting with nature, and finding joy in serving others. Scott also discusses how self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-care allowed him to understand his own idea of joy and spread it to others in the most meaningful ways. 

Listen to the podcast here


Igniting Happiness Despite The Challenges With Scott Sullivan

Our guest is Scott Sullivan. He is a community connector who builds authentic and trusted relationships that help people, communities, and workplaces thrive. His compassion for others and loyalty to following through by being there for people are palpable. Scott vulnerably shares a compounding set of traumas he experienced throughout his life and how he could keep the pieces together and remain resilient with a positive outlook.

Sit back and read his stories with the compassion he would give you. Read the life skills he points out as possible to all of us, and create an environment where you can overcome the setbacks that show up in your life. The fact that he believes in their greater good in serving humanity after all he has been through absolutely blows my mind.

He highlighted on the show happiness is possible for everyone, even if you’ve had challenging things happen in your life, it’s always there for you. Just like the sun is above the clouds, we may have to get up every single day through the hard times and choose it every day. He is definitely living proof of this now. Enjoy the show and remember it is your choice to live your possible or not.


Igniting Happiness | LYP 32 | Scott Sullivan


Scott Sullivan, how are you doing?

Doing well. Thanks for having me.

Welcome to the show. We’re sitting here in a restaurant in West Hartford, Connecticut called The Artisan. What do you think of the environment?

I love this porch, how it’s lit and decorated and what have you. It’s super peaceful and a great spot for us to have a good convo.

I’m looking forward to having this conversation with you. We met, I think it was a SIP session that was held by Brent Robertson and that whole group that meets monthly. It’s pretty special because I love how you show up at these sessions where we get to play and learn new concepts and we actually challenge each other, give each other some ideas, and have a little fun. I always feel like you show up big with your heart.

They’re very special to me. I feel like the group of individuals who show up are committed to themselves. They’re committed to the community. They support everyone who’s there. A lot of people are in touch outside of the SIP sessions and what have you. It’s a community that supports people’s highest beings.

It’s a special time. People should join there in person if they’re in Connecticut.

I would recommend it, too. I’d love to see them there. It’d be great.

You’re an auto loan manager at AAA. You’ve been there many years. Talk about loyalty.

I’m in my fourth job there. I started in the mail room, moved into personal lines insurance, then went into the travel for a short bit, and then since October of ’93, I’ve been running their finance division.

What is your passion right now?

My passion has always been cars and motorcycles and so I’ve ended up making that my living. I’ve been able to now be a part of a few organizations through investments that are in that space, which is super exciting to me. Motorcycling is my favorite passion. I ride as off as I can as the season allows. It’s my true happy space. I feel fortunate that I was able to carve out a piece of my biggest passions and make a career out of it.

I want to hear more about that. Maybe some rides you’ve taken at some point.

I would love to share that with you.

I’d also love to dive in quickly as an overview of what your intentions are. What would you like to share with the audience so we can make sure we cover that?

For me, what I’d love to share is about igniting happiness and what you’re doing with your mission, that happiness is possible for everyone, even if you’ve had challenging things happen in your life. It’s always there for us just like the sun is above the clouds and may have to get up every single day through hard times and choose it each day, but it’s there for us to choose. There are resources that can help us find it when we can’t find it on our own. Most importantly, everybody deserves it.


Igniting Happiness | LYP 32 | Scott Sullivan


It’s a pretty cool picture. The sun’s always out if we choose to see it, feel it or look for it.

The moon’s there to light the darkness for us.

I’ve heard that about you, too. You’ve been referenced as a lighthouse for folks. You’ve been referenced as a light for other folks. We’ll get into that, too. What I was hoping we could do is go through your journey a bit. I know you’ve been through a lot in how you got to this point where you share your passion and how we talk about your intentions and how you’re showing up at these different events and how you show up every day.

I’d love to talk through maybe your early years to the years when you became an adult and then basically adulthood to now. If we could, at a high level, maybe go through your journey and talk about some of the highs and lows and challenges that you’ve gone through and how you’ve overcome them. Also, think about how that shows up for you in different ways. How does that represent you? How does that inspire you in what you do? Maybe we could start there. Maybe tell us a little bit about Scott Sullivan in the early years.

I’d be happy to share that. Some of the things that I’ve shared with people in the past have been the things that have happened to me and I seem to have made that my story. If someone would say, “How are you? Who are you as a person?” I would share some of these things that I have been through that are challenging, like this is who I am and deliver it that way.

As I’ve gone on in life, I’ve realized that the things that happened to me were completely out of my control. They were not my decisions. They were not my wishes. I don’t believe any of them were intentional. They were circumstantial things that happen in life. I wouldn’t change my life with anybody else’s. I wouldn’t wish it on someone else. I have gone through a lot of very challenging things in my life and very repetitively as well.

I identified it as compounding traumas. Every time I felt like I was coming up for air and could see the light, the next wave would hit and take me under. Instead of living, there were feelings of needing to survive. That became a theme for me as well. Looking at ahead to days and weeks ahead of me, I would tend to plan, instead of saying, “How can I enjoy this,” it’s, “How do I get through this?” Through some shifts that I’ve made in my life, I’ve been able to be present, be there in each moment, find things to look forward to be able to make choices instead of having decisions made for me and what have you.

It’s been a lot of work, a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of willingness to dig deep into yourself and understand what you bring to things. It’s allowed me to get to much higher ground. It took a long time to do, but it’s so worth it. There’s no timeframe in which people need to do that. It’s making a choice for a better life and a better way for yourself and finding support mechanisms and ways to move forward and live your best life.

There is no time frame for choosing a better life and finding support mechanisms that will make it a reality. Click To Tweet

I’d love to break that down a bit because it sounds like there were stages that you went through to get to that place where you recognized you needed to take different steps, self-care steps and actions. There were some elements you talked about with trauma and I believe you’ve had some throughout your life as you mentioned, and you said compounding. What are some examples you’re comfortable sharing, if you don’t mind, in your earlier years that set the stage for you?

One thing I’ll share that started things, it was a very formative time. I was four years old and my oldest brother lost his legs in an accident. He was hit by a truck in 1976 and lost his legs. That was very hard for many reasons. He was my oldest brother and someone I looked up to so much. It also affected my family and my parents in a way that nobody could understand was possible.

To have a child go through something of that magnitude he required many surgeries over seven months to save his life and preserve himself for his best life ahead of him. While parents give everything they can to that, it takes a lot away from them and their ability to manage their own lives. That became very chaotic at a very young age.

That compounded into challenges in the family that led to my parents divorcing and that was when I was eight years old. That was another thing that was very hard to understand and there was some relief there that that was happening because things were so challenging. Change in that way, hope it will be different and easier. In some ways, it was.

How did you feel for you at that time? I’m sure the focus was on your brother. That had to be awful, traumatic, scary, and sad for everybody. How were you feeling during those times?

I think very confused for the first few months after he was hit. We didn’t get to see him much and there were concerns that he might not even be alive. I think our parents tried to protect us a little bit, but that gave us some concerns about what was going on. I think I looked to my other brothers to support me. I’m the youngest of four boys and I looked for them to take care of me through this. Boyd was someone who, again, the oldest brother. You look up to him and he’s the one who lights the way for you.

Divorce happened, which is very common. It’s very painful. I’m a prodigy of divorce. I understand it. It’s painful. I don’t know where you landed. Were you with your dad or your mom? How did that go once that happened? This sounds like there’s still a lot of need for your brother at the time.

I ended up staying with my mother and that was at eight years old. She tried to maintain a stable household for us and a stable environment and manage four boys all at once. The three of us played sports and were into other things. It was very tough to juggle as a single mom, but she did the best she could. That brings in the next challenge where she suffered from bipolarism and some other challenges. That was when I was eleven years old. That was the next time when someone that you rely on to be there for you has challenges of their own that are completely outside of their control, but where you look for reliability and what have you and that’s not there sends things into a complete spiral again. It was very challenging.

Are there examples of what that looks like for folks who might not know what that means or how that experience is?

It’s tough when someone deals with mental illness, but there’s a lot less stigma around it now, which I’m grateful for. If there’s any substance use and what have you, it’s considered dual diagnosis and that was very hard to understand at that age. Now that I’m older and understand these challenges of mental illness and how adding anything to that, you get confused by that. You get angered by that. The person is actually trying to dull the pain and confusion of their mental illness by relying on other things. It became the point that she was not available as a parent and had a lot of sleeping and unavailability. It made for a very confusing time.

That is confusing. It’d be tough. Did you understand it at the time that it was bipolar disorder?

Not at all. There was a diagnosis of sorts that she had some things going on, but at that age, I think you hang on to, “You’re my parent, I need you,” instead of having the capacity to understand there may be something going on that they can’t control.

We crave our parents to be the most amazing individuals of our life. They’re our heroes, no matter what. Knowing what I know of you, I could only imagine you took care of your mom and your siblings. How did that show up?

In many ways. I would make meals for her. We would do things together. It was very much a reverse role. At eleven, I was doing my own laundry and taking care of things. I was mowing lawns to earn money for myself so I could at least take care of myself and I could contribute in any way. The biggest way is there was a little garden in West Hartford called Towpath Gardens over near St. Joseph’s College. I would go to Bishop’s Corner a lot on my bicycle and I would have literally had a handful of change, very little money.

Every time on the way home, I would stop at Towpath Gardens and see the old gentleman who owned it and he would say, “Come on in. How much do you have today?” I would open up my hand, I’d have $0.74 or whatever it was, and he would take it and say, “Let’s see what we can put together for your mom.” He would put together an unbelievably generous bouquet for me to ride home on the bicycle and give to her. That was a very common way that I would try to show up from everywhere I was with something to bring her some joy and light. She loved flowers. The Rose by Bette Midler was her favorite song of all time.

You are such a caregiver. We will talk about this more at some point about the Healing Meals community project. It sounds like you were doing that back then. You were bringing healthy nourishment to the ones you love. That’s pretty cool.

My mom got me into volunteering in the community when I was eleven at Asylum Hill Church. I was a tutor there. To the best of her ability, she would help in the community. That’s one of the first things we did together, me tutoring there at eleven years old. I’ve always loved being of service.

Was that a sense of normalcy?

Absolutely. That was something that we did together on Sundays that she was able to commit to and stick to. It was something I would look forward to every week.

How did you go from there? You were making money contributing to the family with your mom and your siblings. How were you managing life? I guess that next chapter, like you’re coming through your teenage years, you’re starting to get into adulthood, you’re probably recognizing life the way it is. The moment isn’t what other kids are going through. Maybe you’re starting to compare, not that you ever compare at that age. We start to wonder what’s going on. Are there some stories or events that happened then that continued you wondering what’s going on or what’s up or what’s next?

Yeah, one of the biggest things I remember is food was scarce in my house. That’s something that I’ve worked through even in my adult life. I had two great friends, Aaron and Jeremy. I would go to their house one or the other after school every day. In one house, I’d have peanut butter and jelly. The other guy had tuna fish on Ritz crackers. That was a big thing for me. Not only to have food as a stable source at that time, but also be in a sense of family with two good families where the parents were home, it was stable. I would spend a lot of time at friends’ houses.

At school, how were you with your friends and were there any events where you showed up differently?

I think at school I was quiet and reserved and I think that’s where some of the survival mode stuff came in. I had a core group of friends that go back to the fifth grade. One of them, another guy I met when I was four years old who I could rely upon to be good resource, stable people to be around. I felt safe and supported by having those friendships.

It’s important. Obviously, connection. Having friends that we could rely on or teachers.

The teachers were great to me. I think a lot of teachers had an awareness of my situation at home and some of the challenges I was going through. In high school, I took classes that were the same curriculum as everyone else, but there were eight students per class to give me a little more personalized attention based on what they knew of my situation.

Were there other things that showed up for you that were out of your control? As people, we get judged if we come into school and maybe we don’t have the resources like some other people or we step in and try to help other people. Back then, I don’t remember that being welcomed as much. I don’t know if anything like that happened to you.

I wonder if people were aware. I think I tried to play it off like everything was fine. I think I learned at a very young age in my formative years that stay quiet, stay small, don’t make noise, don’t cause issues. I think I carried that into those high school times of everything’s fine, don’t worry about me. I don’t know that many people, unless they were super close to me who were aware of what was actually taking place in my life.

How did that weigh on you, just keeping that inside?

I didn’t know at the time that it would weigh on me, but in my adult life, I thought of it as creating adaptive tools that became maladaptive as I became an adult. The tools completely became ineffective and turned on me in ways that were completely unusable.

Do you have an example of that?

I think the point of saying that things are okay when they’re not, the weight of that and not getting the help or being heard, listened to, understood, supported, all the things that people would do for you if they knew you were going through something.

I feel like you’ve always been a pleaser. You’re always trying to help people succeed, which I think is super natural skills that you have. Some would say superpowers. About the lighthouse reference, you try to help people shine. From what I’m hearing from your story, I feel like those are elements that have come out of your upbringing. Have they held you back? Have they always been something that’s been energizing to you?

I think it’s always been energizing, but I’ve had to find a balance with it. I did a lot of people pleasing to make people happy, keep stable people around me and what have you. I think in many instances and for a very long time, I gave too much of myself to too many people. It was out of love and it came from my heart. It was pure as can be, but it was also a distraction from my own life. If I could help somebody else get through something or achieve something or what have you, I was making a difference, but it was also distracting me from the work that I needed to do on myself.

Did you benefit or do you feel like you gained from helping others?

I absolutely do. I’ve been asked many times in my life how I feel my life is and any fortune that I have as far as my health, wellness, any types of success. I attribute it completely to having the desire to help other people succeed. Putting good energy out in the world, doing everything I can do in the community brings me joy and makes an impact. It’s left me in a very blessed situation of having the things I need to get through my life as well.

You strike me as someone who would stop on the side of the road if someone’s pulled over, they need a tire change or someone is in the middle of an incident. I feel like you might be the guy that might step in. Very few people that I know would do that or be courageous enough to do that. Am I on to something?

I always stop. A great example of that is I was at an event at Healing Meals and after the event, I was coming down Nod Road and a family was broken down with a flat tire. I was riding my motorcycle so I pulled over to help them. Being a car guy and knowing how to resolve these things, I told them I’ll take care of it. I stepped off to the side of the road. I had parked my motorcycle with the hazards on and a few of the leadership folks from Healing Meals were coming down the road ten minutes later, saw my motorcycle and thought I was in an accident because they saw it on the side of the road with the flashers on in another vehicle. I was changing the tire for this family on their Honda Odyssey.

Sarah Leathers says, “Of course you are,” and drives off. I get so much joy out of that and there’s so much in that for helping people through such a simple thing that’s so stressful for them. They had their kids with them so that compounded how they were feeling. They were trying to get someone there to pick the kids up and to be able to say, “I know what I’m doing. I work for AAA. “I’m happy to do this for you,” and do it was a great feeling. To see the piece that someone else can get from you, trying to be helpful.

You are a special human being. Going back to when you started your adult days. You’re eighteen and older and you’re going through a lot. I think you probably started AAA back then at eighteen. What were you feeling as a sense of belonging or worthiness or did you have any fears coming through the years you’ve been through?

I did. One of those was compounded by an accident I had at sixteen where I was hit off my motorcycle during high school and there was some intention to it, which added another layer to it. It was very damaging. I ended up having several broken bones, being out of school for three months and then needing eighteen months of physical therapy to get back to normal life. That was one of the first times that I made me question why I am here. Do I belong here? Am I supposed to be here? That weighed on me for quite sometime after that. It was also a definitive time where, to your point, coming into adulthood and something like that happens, it can be a pivot point that you can either thrive and succeed from or it can take you down a different path.

How did you get through that?

My family was incredibly supportive. My mom went through that, which was tough because having a son lose their legs in an accident and having another son get that hurt was a very hard time for her. She was very present for me and able to support me through that. My brothers were as well, so I have great brothers who would give me rides to physical therapy and hang out with me. I became a Nintendo professional because I was bedridden for quite some time. I was the best at Super Mario.

You get paid for that now.

It brought my friends together, too. People who are always around there for you individually, it seemed to become somewhat of a collaboration for that support as well. It did affirm for me that there was an intention for my life to continue and have you by seeing people rally the way they did around that.

It’s nice that you got all of that. You deserve all of that. It’s nice that your family showed up for you as you’ve shown up for them. How did you proceed from there?

I was seventeen, I would say, when I was fully healed and still in high school looking to wrap up, doing a lot of landscaping with a buddy. We had a little thing where we did a bunch of landscaping together. Having someone interested in me at AAA, the position there became available to me through someone who knew me in the community. They knew that I was hardworking, who I tried to be for others and supported me with the suggestion of going to AAA for a job.

What’s coming to mind for me right now is you went through so many tough moments and I know you probably have many more. You’ve given us good examples of how you got through this. The word resilience comes to mind at the same time. I’m curious, did you survive for you, for others or for something else. How did you mentally, in your mindset, say, “I’m going to keep going through all this?”

I think it was for others and to be there for others as I have continued to be reliable through some work and what have you. That has shifted. My mom used to say, “You got to put the mask on yourself before you can help other people.” That was a big statement for her and that was super helpful for me to hear and that that’s one of the shifts I’ve made. I would say I definitely was here for other people and not wanting to let anyone down or disappoint them.


Igniting Happiness | LYP 32 | Scott Sullivan
Igniting Happiness: You have to put the mask on yourself before you can help other people.

What did you do for self-care? You said you had to put the mask on first, which I think is brilliant and ahead of its time I think because now it’s a common phrase you hear at conferences and events. Your mom was well ahead of her time. Good for her. How did you take that to heart? You do serve others first. How do you do self-care? What have you done over the years?

At that time, BMX biking was huge for me. Skateboarding and dirt bike motorcycling were big for me. Those were my escapes and my passions that brought me a ton of joy. I literally would look to do them every day that I could. I wasn’t aware at the time of getting much help from others nor meditation or some of the other things that I’ve been able to implement now. I think the trajectory would’ve been much better for improvement if some of the things that are available were there. That’s why I mentioned that happiness is more available than ever to people.

How did you get there? You mentioned meditation. What were the tactics? What were the things you did to help you get through all this trauma to help you get through the different fears and things that probably go through your head? What have you done?

Initially, turning to counseling was huge for me and that is something that’s very hard to do, at least it was then because there was stigma around that and not being able to manage your own life and get through things. Counseling was super helpful to me.

Was that at school? Where was that at?

Some were at school and then some were professionally outside of school. I was working to understand the things that happened to me, the impact of them, and what trauma even was. When things happen to you, you don’t see them as trauma. You see them as what happened to you. It’s not until looking back and understanding how that incident affected your life going forward do we see it as trauma. I working with a counselor who understands those things and understands the anxiety that they can bring.

For me, there was a tremendous amount of anxiety that ended up leading to depression because it became unmanageable. Throughout my time, learning some tactics, and utilizing medicine as needed. I was always adverse to taking medicine and the few times that I needed to and the benefit of them outweighed the personal stigmatism that I had of them. I found that in many instances, the times that I’ve needed it, the benefits far outweighed.

I think it’s a good message that sometimes we need help and we’re willing to do that. Have you done any life coaching?

Yeah, I’ve done some life coaching. Significant amount from 2012 to 2019 with a coach, Ellen Palmer, here in Connecticut who was incredibly helpful to me, and supportive in every way. Actually, she’s the person who helped me identify that these things that happened to me weren’t my story. One of the biggest things that came from that was at fourteen, I got stuck in a river under the water and luckily, somebody grabbed me out very quickly and was pulled out. That was traumatic.

The accident at 16 and what came from that and then at 19, I was stuck in a fire t the third floor of an apartment building and lost most of the things that I’ve owned. My mother and I were very lucky to escape that. Working with his coach, I said one day in conversation, “I think God doesn’t want me to be here and that’s the underlying message from me.”

She said, “Maybe God wants you to be here and he keeps trying to wake you up to that. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t meant to survive those things. How do we reframe those to be motivators for your future life?” That was the instant moment where my story changed of, “I am Scott. This happened to me, this happened to me, this happened to me.” Now, it’s just, “I am Scott.”

You were open to it. You were receptive. You listened to it. I love that. I appreciate that you were willing to actually recognize your story wasn’t what you thought it was.

I think that would be a tremendous help to other people who have challenges in their lives. We all have decisions we make that impact ourselves and others and those we have to be responsible for. We have to be able to identify the things that are completely not our doing, not our responsibility and not in our control to understand those circumstances that are outside of ourselves and package them as that.

Identify the things out of your control. Understand that they are beyond yourself and simply package them as that. Click To Tweet

What else can we do to slow down to be present and thinking about those things that way? It’s hard. We’re so busy. How do we slow down and it allow ourselves to be open to this thinking?

For me, I’ve gotten into meditation. I’ve done some work with EMDR healing, which is eye sensitivity, desensitizes traumas that you’ve endured in the past and allows you to cognitively reframe them. It’s actually something that’s used in the military quite a bit for PTSD. Credible stuff. I worked with a woman in Avon and you worked through a specific challenge that you’ve been through. With rapid eye movement and cognitive thinking of it, you can reframe the incident. I found it to be super effective.

I worked with the woman in Connecticut on tapping and I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that, but it is very similar to meditation where you say affirmations while you tap different parts of your body usually on the face and on the arms and the lower back. It embeds the things you’re saying a little bit when you’re also having a sensitivity to tapping on yourself. It’s something that has been super helpful to me. Meditation, the EMDR and tapping have all been tremendous sources of help for me to get to the ground. I’m on to that.

The tapping, does that desensitize? Is that where you’re going with your experiences? Can you give another example of how maybe it was done and maybe you’re talking about maybe it was part of the story you thought you were living? Does that desensitize or does that change your thinking of it? What’s the intention of that?

The intention of it is to talk through a situation that you’re feeling. Let’s say at a certain moment, you’re afraid of something, you can tap these different points on your body. Several of them on your face, there’s wrist and arm, while you’re saying to yourself, “I’m so afraid. This is scaring me. This seems like it’s out of control for me.” Allow yourself to share what you’re truly feeling while you’re being present by also creating these actions of tapping. It allows you to be present, mindful, realize that you’re okay in the moment and that the feelings that you’re sharing with yourself are real and justified, which gives you a great framework to get through it.

How have you used these experiences as you’ve retrained and rethought your experience in life? How did you use it going forward? How did you leverage this to be who you are? As I said, you’re this amazing human being with a huge heart that serves others. You’re selfless. You’re a representation of what we need more of in the world. How did you transform from all those traumas through these experiences that you mentioned, which sound fabulous and how is that showing up for you now?

I think doing those things for myself and my own well-being brought me a sense of worthiness for myself that I am worthy of good things and certainly worthy of the things that I want to put out into the world. From there, from a very solid foundation and a very solid place, knowing that I need to put myself first before family, friends, relationships and work and then I’m in my best place to help others to do the things I want to do in the community and what have you. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

You’re creating a space for you to grow into the life you want and expand what’s possible. That’s what I love about your story. You’ve overcome these challenges that for most people would’ve kept them down in states of depression or other things for the rest of their life. You’ve overcome that. You’ve shown a sense of loyalty that I don’t think I’ve ever seen. When things have gone wrong or all these traumas you talk about how the focus wasn’t on you for years. You’ve been loyal to AAA for many years. I don’t know if people describe you as loyal.

No, loyalty is super important to me. I got a call from my company president and we were talking about my timeframe there. He’s a super inquisitive, good guy and he said, “What do you attribute your success to?” My answer was getting to know people and mean it. That’s been so important for me. Everywhere I go for coffee, I make sure I know the people’s names. I hold the door wherever I can. I’m always looking for opportunities to make a little difference and make people feel seen, heard, appreciated, respected and all the things that I actually had to fight for a long time to feel for myself.

You brought that to life wherever you go. I know it sounds so obvious. Why aren’t we doing that now? Why aren’t we all doing that?

I think to your point earlier, understandably, people are so busy and they are all have things going on in their lives. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s. There are so many distractions now with technology and challenges in life. I think a lot of this disconnectedness for people isn’t what they intend. It’s just that they haven’t put themselves first to get to a space where they feel worthy and where they can share that out in the world as well.

Where do you go from here?

I want to explore a few things. I’ve always had this fascination with the ripple effect and simply throwing a rock in the water. I walk a lot in the West Hartford reservoir and I never go through there without throwing a rock in the water. The idea and principle fascinate me. My stepmother said many years ago that life is a balance of four things. It’s your work life, your home life, your friendships and your hobbies. If you are too close to any of those, then you’re far away from some that are important to you. It’s finding that balance. Throwing rocks in the water, there are days I throw them and it’s too close to the shore and the ripple goes well out into the water, but the two sides stop almost immediately. However those two things are, they’re of those four aren’t getting the attention and what have you.

Life is a balance of work, life, friendship, and hobbies. If you are too close to any one of them, you are far away from some of them. Click To Tweet

There are days that I’m there, it’s very windy and the water’s choppy. I throw a rock in and it makes a splash and a ripple but quickly gets absorbed by all the ripples in the water from the wind. I always view that when life is hectic, we try to make a difference. It can be very challenging to do when we have life forces coming against us.

I’ve seen crystal clear smooth water where I’ve thrown a rock in, there’s a reflection of a tree line or the sun on the other side and how that gets dissipated from throwing the rock in and even seeing a rock hit water from different positions. In the reservoir, there’s a bridge and if you throw a rock in it may distort what you see but if someone’s on the other side of the bridge, they’re not seeing any distortion at all. That’s taught me a lot about perspective and seeing people’s views differently, and things like that.

We definitely view things differently and you see the beauty in all of it.

Being in nature in the last couple of years has been life-changing for me. It’s truly made me as happy as motorcycling. I am out almost every day in the reservoir, walking every day that’s not raining, do the full loop, and seeing different things. I usually walk in different directions so I mix it up all the time and keep it interesting. Being out in nature, away from traffic and chaos, breathing in air, taking time for yourself, it’s always in the morning. It’s how I start my day and I always value that as putting myself first before I put myself out into the world.

There’s a lot of studies around that, Scott, as far as being outside looking at the things you’re looking at, being grateful for it, embracing and accepting and loving it, I’ve heard things where our memory is better, we’re more attentive, we actually slow our heart rate down. It’s better for our overall health. We live longer. True stuff. That’s pretty cool.

The other aspect is a very clear realization that I want to be doing things that are more impactful. I love the opportunities I’ve had since 2002 in the community to raise awareness and funds for different charities that are super important to me. I’m hoping in the years ahead of me here to have a much larger participation and focus on doing that stuff to the best of my ability.

What are a couple of examples of that? Are there certain groups you’re affiliated with?

Yeah, the one that is most important to me is Healing Meals as we talked about earlier. Great founder and organization. They’re doing great work to make an impact in people’s lives who are in a health crisis by creating nutritional, medicinal quality food for families in a health crisis. It’s all made by teen volunteers. I’ve had a chance to be in the kitchen with these teens cooking and see them learn culinary skills, team building, public speaking skills, their confidence, be recognized for their time in the kitchen by getting a different colored apron.

The most rewarding thing is delivering food for Healing Meals. I do that as often as I can. To see the impact that delivering these meals has on them, and how it brings them health during this health crisis. During COVID, I was doing it and we were the only people that people were seeing. That connectedness, they couldn’t see their own families because of their health crisis, that was huge. The biggest thing I hear when I’m delivering food is that the food is incredible but the notes from the teens of encouragement are the true magic of these deliveries. I hear that time and time again.

How do you feel when you deliver?

It is the most rewarding feeling. To see someone who’s going through something that’s outside of their control to try to bring some peace to them, some healing food to them that they’re seen, they’re recognized, they’re whole as humans and that they’re not alone with what they’re going through is very powerful. There are many deliveries I’ve made with some teary drives home after.

I imagine the recipients who are going through these tough times are so appreciative. I guess through these times when you’re doing this, does it remind you pass you through the garden and bring these vegetables back home to your mom?

There’s a lot of that and that’s interesting you say that. I haven’t thought of it in that way, but I think a lot of it is delivering nourishment to people both with food and emotional support. It’s very healing to some of the things that I went through when I was younger.

I feel like you do that and that’s who you are. Deliver ideas and nourishment in many ways if it’s support, or encouragement, like you started this episode by talking about igniting happiness, which you’re putting off yourself. I’m putting it on me because I have a company called Ignite Happy. You’re truly selfless and you know you’re an amazing individual. You’re being human. It’s funny, we talk about those skills that are lacking but you are an example.

I heard something. “We are all humans being,” and that’s what it’s about. Humanity is in everything that’s going on in the world, everything that’s around us or in other countries. In challenges, humanity is the solution and the healing thing to everything.

You’re a living example so we need more Scotts, more people stepping in that way. It’s safe for all of us. We don’t have to be right or wrong or so divisive about what’s going on in the world. There’s a lot of that. There’s too much of that. I think it prevents us from actually doing good in the world because we’re actually self-rationalizing or protecting or preserving what we don’t even know we have or don’t have.


Igniting Happiness | LYP 32 | Scott Sullivan


I think that doing things in the world and in the community allows you to step outside of yourself and see things from a different light. I think it brings a lot of appreciation for your own life. A lot of acceptance for your own life, a lot of joy from making an impact where you can. There’s nothing you can do to help somebody that doesn’t help yourself.

By doing things in the world and the community, you can step out of yourself and see things in a different light. Click To Tweet

It’s amazing you’re talking about happiness and when we serve others, they get much joy and we actually serve our own joy and that’s okay. It fills our hearts.

I was told once and it was interesting to me, someone told me there’s no such thing as true altruism and that stuck with me for a while but it never stopped me from wanting to continue to do the things that I want to do in the community. It’s okay to get something back from that, whether it’s a card from somebody that you helped or someone saying, “Thank you. I love you.” We should do things without the expectation of something in return but we’re okay to get something back from what we do.

It fires us up to do it again and again and repeat it. That’s so cool. It’s pretty funny, too. I’m actually talking to Sarah Leathers from the Healing Meals community project, so she’s going to be the episode following you. For folks reading, tune into the next episode, too. That’s pretty ironic.

I encourage everyone to read that one. She’s pretty dynamic.

Scott, what else would you like to share with our readers that can help them connect like you are connecting in the world?

Bringing it back to your point, my intention wasn’t to shine a light on you or what you’re doing, but what you’re doing is so important to people to understand that happiness is there and the ignition of it is like lighting a fire of happiness. It’s there for people to choose and it takes courage as well. That’s what I was saying earlier, like you taking on this mission, making a personal change in your life, believing in something, you are trying to make a difference in the world. You’re trying to bring light to humanity. Help people see things in themselves that they may not see. Your book that I’ve gone through has so many usable, impactful nuggets in it. Even if you write with pink pens for the rest of your life, you’ve made a commitment and a change to your lifestyle to bring the idea of happiness to people individually and organizations.

What attracted me to having this conversation with you is not some of the challenges I’ve had in my life because those happen for everybody. That happiness is there for all of us. We all deserve it. We all need to be a little more courageous to go and get it for ourselves. If we can take that one step to find our own happiness, that’s the true key to how we can share that stuff in the world. Help family, help friends, help people in the community. It all starts with self-love, self-care and feeling worthy of happiness.

We’re all worthy of that and deserving of it. It is inside all of us. People might say, “I hear that.” It is, though. It’s whatever we could spark. That’s why I like the word ignite. Ignite happy humans and organizations to do amazing things. We’re all possible. It’s realizing that everything you said, is beautiful. The word happy could be other things, like things you’ve said. You matter. You belong. You’re caring for other people. You’re giving of yourself selflessly to other people because it feeds you a sense. It’s a feeling. It’s what it is. It’s a feeling that connects our heart and mind and our soul to come alive. To me, that’s what this is all about, living in a different way.

Just being open and willing to connect in everything that you’re doing.

Scott, this has been an amazing conversation. I appreciate your vulnerability. I appreciate what you’re doing out in the world. I love you. You put so much love and light out that I’m honored to be friends. I follow your tracks. I’m in your light. I’m going to help us continue to shine it bright wherever we go. Thanks for joining the show. Keep on doing what you’re doing.

Let’s do it again soon.

That sounds good. Awesome.


In closing, let’s restate what Scott shared with us to live our possible. Happiness is possible for everyone. Even if you’ve had challenging things happen in your life, it’s always there for you. Just like the sun is above the clouds, we may have to get up every single day through the hard times and then choose it each day. In honor of Scott, give it a try and contribute to the ripple effect of happiness that he dreams of.


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About Scott Sullivan

Igniting Happiness | LYP 32 | Scott SullivanScott Sullivan is a community connector and nonprofit influencer with a 33-year career in financial services for one of the largest membership organizations in the U.S. (AAA). His passion is building authentic and trusted relationships that help people, communities and workplaces thrive. His natural abilities for strategic connections and commitment coupled with his robust skills and experience have resulted in collaborations across and outside of Connecticut, with organizations like American Cancer Society, Healing Meals, Dream Ride and the Pan-Mass Challenge. He is a graduate of Leadership Forum Group training for nonprofit executives, and received a 2023 Authenticity Award and the 2017 ACS Volunteer Award for top fundraising.


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