Home » Planting Seeds of Happiness The Danish Way: Malene Rydahl (Transcript)

Planting Seeds of Happiness The Danish Way: Malene Rydahl (Transcript)

In Denmark, it gets summed up in one image: babies sleeping outside a restaurant.

Now, you would say, “Well, nobody is watching the babies!” Well, I would say, “Everyone is.”

In Denmark trust is so high that you can actually leave your baby sleeping outside while you’re having lunch. A Danish lady tried to do this in New York. She got arrested.

Now trust really comes down to something quite elementary. If we want to live in a world of more trust in a community, have a group of friends we trust, it is going to have to start with you.

The first seed that you can plant is to be a trustworthy person. And as much as you can to show trust in others. This actually starts at a very elementary place. It starts by simply doing what you say and saying what you do.


Well, I mean that when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. And if I don’t, I say it. The root of trust is as simple as this.

Now, I have traveled to some of the counties in the world with the lowest trust. And I always say, if you want to live in a community or a world of more trust: be a trustworthy person; show trust in others.

And this applies in tons of ways in our everyday lives — from telling your friend that you’re going to help him with something and actually showing up. Or agreeing with a colleague that you are going to do something and actually doing what you agreed on. And if you change your mind, say it.

I can take this to an even bigger scale and talk to you about the Noble Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who created Grameens Bank in Bangladesh, a country with 5% trust. He gave loans to thousands of people, without guarantee. 95% of them were paid back. If he can do it under these circumstances, it should be an inspiration to all of us.

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Trust is actually a choice made by each one of us every day. Saying that this and that person is not doing it is in my world not a reason not to apply it to yourself. We can actually choose to be part of the team fostering a world of more trust.


Now the second seed is the freedom to be you. This is actually also about trust. It’s about trusting yourself to be you.

In Denmark, the main purpose of education is to develop the personality of the child. We teach our children that no matter what they are good at, it’s important to society. You are not rated a better human being because you are good at math or foreign languages.

You can actually be top of the class in creativity or cooking. No matter what your talent is, it’s important; we value it.

Now this gives the young Danish people an extraordinary base of actually choosing a life that corresponds to who they are. Because they are taught at an early age that no matter what that role is, it’s important to society.

Now, let me tell you a little story. A few months ago, I had dinner with some friends in Denmark, and a lady looked particularly happy that night. And she explained to me that she was so happy because her son finally figured out what he wanted to do in life.

And I said, “Well, so … really?”

“He’s jumping out of bed, going to school every morning. It’s wonderful.”

I said, “What’s your son studying?”

She said, “He’s studying Techniques and Logistics.”

I said, “Well, that’s great. What will he do after?”

And she looked at me, and she said — and she smiled — she said, “He’ll be a garbage man.”

Now, admit that some of you might be thinking, “What parent would really be happy that her son wants to be a garbage man?” But guess what? This is actually where a part of the key to this whole big question lies: When you’re free to choose what you want to do in life without other people judging you.

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And this includes, by the way, parents, who very often project their own ambitions on their children. What could possibly bring more value to your own person than to have your child being a mirror effect of yourself: the Mini Me?

Now, some people might argue, “Hm, well, the educational system doesn’t work that way in my part of the world.” Maybe not.

But you are still free to choose how you react to other people’s choices of being themselves. It is still your choice not to judge but to encourage and support other people’s choices of being themselves.

When it comes to your choice and your freedom to choose your life, I’m going to go back to my seeds of happiness. Because sometimes, and I would say actually most of the time, we are not free.

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