The Happy(Note) Story

By on April 29, 2019

In 1973…

I had just graduated from the University of Illinois MBA program. My first career was estate and financial planning for large companies and wealthy individuals. The process took several months and required numerous meetings. Because I needed a way to connect the dots. I decided that I would dictate my thoughts after each meeting and make a list of things to do at the next meeting. Amazingly, this was a fantastic idea that changed my life.

Certified Disaster

Through my 6 years in college, I was a really poor note taker. My mind wandered continually, I didn’t know what to write, and I could rarely keep up. As a result, almost no one ever asked for my class notes. There was absolutely no indication that I would ever take adequate notes—it seemed like a learning disability.

Lesson Learned

However, once money was actually involved, I realized that note taking was essential. In fact, after seeing my income rise dramatically as a result of my notes, I realized that I had fallen into a really good idea. The information made the transition from meeting to meeting with my clients quite smooth. Many were amazed at the facts and details I remembered, as well as the path that we needed to pursue to achieve our goals.

HappyNotes Are Born

After 15 years of bi-vocational work, I moved to full-time pastoral ministry. In 1989, I was privileged to find myself as one of Vineyard USA’s national leaders. These national-level meetings were exciting, full of good information, and helpful. I decided that my notetaking idea from the business world would work perfectly. Now for a catchy name—HappyNotes seemed like a logical starting place, given my name.

Inside Info

Not only were HappyNotes a good record-keeping tool, they also hit upon another key need of humanity. Research shows that employees in an organization love to know what’s going on in the higher echelons. Our movement was not one that had freely dispensed information. Yet with the emergence of HappyNotes, the average pastor could hear what was being discussed at the highest levels of the Vineyard movement. They described encounters with world leaders, as well as significant figures from our own movement. Thus, HappyNotes became a vital and important part of our movement. In fact, HappyNotes became the key source of written information about the Vineyard movement from 1989 through the next 25 years or so.

Still Used Today

While my leadership role at the national level has somewhat diminished,     I still write HappyNotes. It is a perfect way to share what I’ve learned and received at meetings (whether public or semi-private) with others in my church, as well as throughout the nation. In addition to meetings, I use them for important phone calls, important one-on-one meetings, and even prophetic words that I receive. To this day, I have people requesting, “Send me your notes” whenever they’re applicable.

Write It or Lose It

In general, the average person must commit things to writing or the insights will no longer be part of their lives within a few days or weeks. Just recently, I had an important phone call with a pastor of a large church, discussing my transition plans. This individual gave me 45 minutes. I produced almost 2 pages of single-spaced notes from that conversation. His information will be pure gold as I move into the next stage of my life and ministry. If I had not written it down, it would simply be a memory that I would try to recall. Once I write it, it’s a record that I can share freely and widely.

Notetaking Keys

Here are some note taking keys…

When taking notes, look for the high points. Include what’s important to you, the movement, the meeting, etc. No one wants minor details.

I personally jot the notes on paper because I can’t type. Others are excellent typists and can take notes on a keyboard. The issue is getting   the highlights—not all the little details.

When writing notes, put them in a bullet format. I personally prefer a heading with 1-10 points under it. That way people can see if they’re interested in a heading, then pick up those points very quickly.

I rarely write things in paragraphs. Those are too hard to read and are not easily understood by looking at the heading.

Develop a catchy title that creates a life for the notes. Send them freely around to your staff and be sure to store them in a good place. You will be surprised how often you refer to them. Hey yet we go ahead think might as some are quick okay can you after they chase help Jan I changed the screen on my trampoline today should we should build it in our help

I usually put the following disclaimer on notes that I distribute: “The above thoughts, descriptions and conclusions are mine.” This allows people to realize that I may have put my own flavor on it. Of course, everybody puts their own flavor on everything they write.

Be Blessed as You Write

Writing notes to yourself is absolutely vital if you’re going to make progress. I’m a big dreamer—I write all my thoughts and file them away. I write down my prophetic words and study them. Usually it takes more than one writing to get a whole picture. However, as I look at the totality of what I’ve written through the years, I’m find that I’m exactly where I should be. God has spoken many times through what I have written. I have confidence that He will continue to speak as I write about the future. May you be blessed as you use notes to move into your next level in walking with God.


Hi and welcome! I'm Happy. My wife Dianne and I are the founders of the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois, a multi-site church with 6 campus locations. Over the last 30+ years, I have learned alot about leadership in life and leading a church. I have made some mistakes and had some successes. I look forward to sharing the wisdom I have learned with you. I strive everyday to see Jesus as bigger, better, and more beautiful. And I am wholeheartedly committed to the ministry Jesus promised his followers in John 14:12: to be able to do the same and greater works through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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