Pinwheel Plumeria for my birthday

I am celebrating my birthday at Joyful Jubilant Learning today :)

Birthday Exuberance

Come join us? Learning to Love our Birthdays.

Today my message to you is simply this: You can learn to love your birthday ”“ and love it a lot. You can learn to celebrate it “out loud” just like I do, saying mahalo, and living in thankfulness for the magnificence of your life, best gift imaginable.

Being it is Thursday, the day I am expected to post at Say “Alaka‘i” I continued the birthday theme there as well – love the thought that the world conspires to celebrate with me!

Here is a slightly edited version for those of you who prefer the Talking Story email subscription:

Birthday Aloha, Hawaiian Style

One of the very best things about having a job in Hawai‘i ”“ any job, paid or unpaid ”“ is that we like making a big deal out of people’s birthdays. Hawai‘i workplaces do birthdays with true Hawaiian style flair and celebration. There are leis, long lunches, shakas and smiles, and of course cake laden with candles; we have ice cream of every tropical flavor imaginable (the combo of Kona Coffee Ice Cream and Lilikoi Sorbet is the best! With haupia cake…mmm). Most of all, we have laughter and tons of hugs.

Where does our “eh, no shame!” attitude about birthdays come from?
It’s got to be the Aloha.

We in Hawai‘i love Ha‘aha‘a, the value of humility, and we talk about it often, however Aloha helps us keep from being humility-sabotaged. We can completely bypass any feigned humility and go straight to our Aloha and the value of Mahalo, living our lives in a manner of thankfulness for all who have made us who we are, and who have helped shaped the life we celebrate on the yearly anniversary of our birth.

Great managers celebrate their people, and if you are the steward of any workplace culture ”“ in fact, any gathering culture of our community at all, not just workplaces ”“ I encourage you to make a big, big deal out of the birthdays you know about (and make sure you know about all of them). Birthdays contribute to the health of workplace culture in a hugely beneficial way.

Take my birthday off? Nah.

I freely admit that I was never one to take my birthday day off when I was in corporate life, even when I could. I loved being around the people who were so much a part of who I was. I didn’t worry that my being there added some pressure to others to celebrate with me, for it seemed far worse to deny that celebration, and pretend my birthday didn’t matter. In my beliefs about ‘Imi ola (creating our best possible life) birthdays were reckoning points with how well I was doing with both crafting the course of my life, and saying thank you to those who were such a big part of it. To deny my own birthday and not recognize others within my own awareness and gratitude seemed narrow-minded and disrespectful.

When I became a manager, it didn’t take long for me to better understand that acknowledging the birthdays of my staff was very, very important to them too: They needed their day to loom large in my recognition of how vital they were to every single effort we would think about and then labor on.

The Birthday Brigade

And birthdays make recognition so easy for everyone to participate with and join in on: The scheming with surprises and celebrations is half the fun of it. At one hotel I’d been with, we had an official “birthday brigade.” They took care of organizing a monthly birthday potluck which we all looked forward to; they took over the employee cafeteria for the day and even our Executive Chef would admit he could never duplicate such a onolicious spread. Actual birthday days were celebrated with leis, a special parking spot, banners and balloons, but each month they were newly original, for membership on the Birthday Brigade rotated throughout our staff: Last month’s honorees became next month’s brigade. You can imagine the joyful competitiveness of it all, yet everyone loved it. To be off on your birthday was to miss out big time.

The first year I was self-employed I hadn’t built my business to any notable size yet, and after a working life in the corporate world I felt a bit out of sorts when my birthday approached. Luckily for me, I had friends and family who knew that Hawaiian Style birthdays didn’t need workplaces, and I’ve never felt that apprehension again.

Learning to Love our Birthdays

If you haven’t guessed by now, today, April 23rd is my birthday. I now have this double-dose of birthday goodness. For the past few years I’ve learned how to celebrate the day virtually too.

This year I am staging my own party at Joyful Jubilant Learning, and you are all welcome to join us there: Learning to Love our Birthdays. In the post there today I talk a bit more about this notion of getting rid of humility sabotage. I go even farther, and ask for a very specific gift!

This is the first time I am celebrating my birthday here at Say “Alaka‘i” and so I must end by saying this: Mahalo for being part of my life now. You too are in the design of my ‘Imi ola, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my mana‘o on Alaka‘i with you.

Let’s talk story:

  • Tell us how you do birthdays! There is so, so much more to Birthday Aloha, Hawaiian Style!
  • Give each other your ideas, share your stories… any truly memorable birthday come to mind for you?

Any thoughts to share? Comment here, or via the tweet-conversation we have on Twitter @sayalakai.


  1. says

    Birthday Aloha, Hawaiian Style

    One of the very best things about having a job in Hawai‘i ”“ any job, paid or unpaid ”“ is that we like making a big deal out of people’s birthdays. Hawai‘i workplaces do birthdays with true Hawaiian style flair and celebration. There are leis,…

  2. Roselia Conrad says

    Oh Birthdays are the best, and my children to this day, grown as they are, make a big deal of them, as they should. I 99% of the time take off on my birthday. When the kids were being raised, I took off on theirs, if they had no school. Now, I take off on my husband’s BD as well.
    One year, early adulthood/motherhood, I sent flowers to my mom to thank her for my life. She was thrilled. I only wish I had sent her more flowers on more of my birthdays. Don’t forget your Mom on your birthday…it will mean so much to her. Birthdays…what a grand celebration.

  3. says

    Mahalo for the lei of e-hugs Roselia!
    Family birthdays are good places to start with any renewed commitment we have with celebrating them – for sure. It is far too easy to take our loved ones for granted because they are always there.
    When she called me yesterday, my mom said to me, “Thank you so much for being my first born. What a difference that made in my life!” and I felt it was such a huge thing for her to say to me ”“ it floored me, when all I could think of was how much I should be thanking her instead.