jmathis - CBMC International

Confusing Joy With Happiness

February 22, 2016 – Jim Mathis

My topic for today – joy – is not something we often talk about in the business and professional world. We commonly speak about happiness and being happy, whether it concerns finalizing a contract, attracting a new client, making a sale, receiving a promotion or a pay raise, or finding a new job we feel certain will be more fulfilling and rewarding. Such events make us happy. But when was the last time you heard someone speak about experiencing joy?


Recently some friends and I were talking about these two seemingly similar words, joy and happiness. However, during the course of our discussion we realized that in important ways, they are very different. Happiness, for example, has a lot to do with what is happening at the moment. I can feel happy because it is not raining, or I might become unhappy simply because my coffee got cold. Joy, on the other hand, is more about attitude. Joy is a way of life, how we approach everyday events, both good and bad, while happiness typically is situational. Joy also can be more of a personality trait, an inner quality of well-being that permeates every part of person’s life.


An observation that came from our discussion was how our level of joy can have an effect on what brings us happiness. For example, if we are joyful, we tend to see the good in many things: little pleasures will make us happy, and problems can be viewed as challenges rather than as insurmountable obstacles. People without joy in their lives will have a lot of trouble finding happy moments, and every problem they encounter will be perceived as a major hassle.

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Improved Skills Make For Better Tools

January 11, 2016 – Jim Mathis

I remember the day clearly in 1985 when I walked into a popular record store and found its bins of LP (long-playing vinyl) records replaced by rows of CDs (compact disks). That week I bought a new CD player. But I also bought two turntables. Having invested thousands of dollars in wonderful music on LPs being rendered obsolete, I wanted to still be able to enjoy them for many years. As it has turned out, there has not been a time in the last 30 years when I could not have bought a brand new turntable.


At the time it surprised me how many people were selling or even discarding their old LP records and turntables because of the new CDs. I never have understood that kind of thinking. I should have known, however, that many people find more interest in having the latest technology than listening to or owning music in any form.

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Decide What Is Important, Eliminate The Rest

Aug 24, 2015  – Jim Mathis

Having pursued professional photography for most of my adult life, there are many things I have enjoyed about it. Among them are the principles I have encountered that can be easily applied to other areas of everyday life. For instance, the value of clearly recognizing what is important.

As a young person I learned a lot about photography simply by looking at pictures in magazines. I was particularly influenced by Vogue and other fashion magazines that all offered strong visual content. As I studied their photos, I discovered that in creating an image with high visual and emotional impact, the most important thing is to eliminate everything from the photo that is not important.

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Why No Smiling In The ‘Olden Days’?

Jun 22, 2015 – Jim Mathis


As an expert on old photographs, I am often asked why people were not smiling in old photos. There are actually three theories. The first is that shutter speeds for cameras in photography’s early days were long due of slow film speeds, so people had to hold still for a number of seconds. The second theory is that dental hygiene was not good, so people did not want to show unsightly teeth.

The first answer is somewhat true, but the second probably is not. There is a third possible explanation, most likely the real reason: To smile in a photograph was considered in poor taste. Here is a quote about that line of thinking from more than 300 years ago.

“There are some people who raise their upper lip so high…that their teeth are almost entirely visible. This is entirely contradictory to decorum, which forbids you to allow your teeth to be uncovered, since nature gave us lips to conceal them.”

– Jean-Baptiste De La Salle, The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility, 1703.

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A Simple Guide To Simplifying


Feb 23, 2015 – by Jim Mathis:

Have you noticed that with the ever-increasing complexities of everyday life and work, we are somehow managing to make things more complicated than they need to be? One evening I was at Homer’s, a coffee shop I once managed, performing with my band Sky Blue. As usual I used a Fender guitar amplifier that has been in my family for 50 years. I have an older amplifier I often use regularly as well. We are constantly told “newer is better,” but using decades-old musical equipment is not unusual. Major touring acts often use 50 or 60-year-old instruments and accessories.

The reason for this is simple: Just because something is the latest in a long line of products, this does not necessarily mean it is better than those that came before it. A drawer in my photography studio holds a number of cell phones or smart phones, none of which is working and all are less than 10 years old. The point is that often, simplicity is superior to complexity.

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Always a Market for Unique and Better

Jim Mathis

When I was a young person, I bought 100 baby chicks for a 4-H agricultural youth club project. Before long I found myself in the egg business. After getting my first car when I was 16 years old, I started an egg route, delivering eggs to customers directly to their homes.

It was a great surprise for me to discover people were willing to pay a premium price because my eggs were bigger and tasted better than the “store-bought” variety they were accustomed to eating. I called my eggs, “Farm Fresh.” The modern term for this would be “Free-range organic.”

Since I could not afford to buy cages for my chickens, I let my hens fend for themselves and eat bugs or anything else they liked to eat. As a result, the hens and I were all content. This meant less actual labor for me, and the chickens could eat whatever they chose – whenever they chose to eat it. They were “free range” fowl, and happily produced excellent, high-quality eggs.

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The Work of Our Hands

The Work of Our Hands Jim Mathis Several times each week I get together with men to talk about important issues, both professional and personal. In our CBMC group recently, we were reading Psalm 90. This psalm is attributed to Moses, and at the end of it the leader of the Israelites is addressing God … Read more

Celebrating Harvest and Thanksgiving

Celebrating Harvest and Thanksgiving Jim Mathis I love Thanksgiving Day. Not because it is a chance to gorge ourselves with good food, or take advantage of overhyped sales at the mall. I love Thanksgiving because of the tradition of celebrating our hard work, and of being grateful for a bountiful harvest. Just about every culture … Read more

Relationships Key to Business Success

Relationships Key to Business Success Jim Mathis Bear with me as I give a brief photographic history lesson to underscore the importance of relationships in business: Recently I was at work in a dimly lit club in Austin, Texas, U.S.A. shooting photos of a musician. The establishment had poor lighting, so I increased my camera’s … Read more

Addressing The Challenge Of Contentment

Addressing The Challenge Of Contentment Jim Mathis I have been struggling with the concept of contentment for some time. It seems to be a fleeting virtue. For a few moments we feel content, then something happens and discontent begins to creep in again. At other times, discontent can be a good thing, a positive motivator. … Read more

New Wine and Old Wineskins

New Wine and Old Wineskins Jim Mathis I had an interesting phone call recently from a professional photographer in another city. He called to complain my prices were too low. After I figured out he was not joking, I realized he was using a business model many photographers used from the late 1950s into the … Read more

How Long Do Things Last?

How Long Do Things Last? Jim Mathis Over the past 15 or 20 years, I have owned about a dozen cell phones. Almost all had to be replaced because they stopped working. They were not built to last for very long. Similarly, most computer people I know agree if a computer is more than three … Read more