Go to a dream home and we’ll find a neighbor with a dreamier home.
Land that dream job and we’ll find colleagues working with a more interesting scope/better manager/cross functional team.
Get that wonderful car and we’ll find someone we know with a superior model.
Our default state is to normalize stuff we might have been dreaming about for the longest time and then look around for upgrades.
Beware that default state.
Happiness follows gratitude – not the other way around.
Over these years, I’ve been fortunate to get to know some of you via email. Some of you write in with feedback and counter points, some share ideas for future posts, and others write in with notes of appreciation and encouragement. These are my favorite kind of email.
Many of your notes give me ideas for future post and help me articulate what I’m learning better. Over the past months, however, I’ve been receiving a special variant. John from the screenshot below (email redacted) writes in from time to time with a link to the post in the subject and a list of the typos I need to fix.
The email above is a recent example with just one. I have, however, received notes with 8-10 typos and grammatical errors that John thoughtfully helps me fix.
With a 2.5 year old and ~1 year old, getting these blog posts out is nearly always a rush job these days. That, in turn, means I make more of these mistakes than I did before. So, a big thank you to John for making these better for all of us.
And, on that note, thank you to the many of you who share your notes and reflections with me from time to time. Your notes add so much positive energy to my life – they mean a lot. I really couldn’t be more grateful for your time, attention, and thoughtfulness.
This may be controversial – I’ve learnt that we cannot ask ourselves (or other folks) to “be humble” or, for that matter, to be grateful or to take things less seriously.
The notion that we can tell ourselves – “Hey, I know you think you are wonderful. But, it isn’t right to let people know you think that way. So, tone it down a bit so it looks more acceptable, will you?” – is flawed and comes across as fake.
All we can do is to help ourselves gain perspective and understand reality. And, when we do realize how little we actually know and that most of what is working in our life is a result of accumulated privilege and luck (my theory below), humility, gratitude, and a sense of humor flows easily.
Like many of life’s best things, humility is simply a by-product of a good product (perspective). The same holds true for gratitude and keeping a sense of humor.
(H/T: Kapil Gupta for an excellent articulation of the “be humble” problem/charade)
I hung out with my daughter for about an hour today while she happily ran up and down carpeted stairs. We conversed a bit, sang a bit, and mostly just went up and down those stairs. Times like this are a great reminder that there’s so much entertainment available on the cheap.
As we journey through life, we get exposed to many forms of expensive entertainment – fancy gadgets, expensive sports, and so on. And, while many of these are great, it is easy to forget how little it actually takes for us to have a good time.
As I was taught this morning, a combination of some physical activity, outdoors or a bit of novelty in the location (in this case, carpeted stairs), and folks you like hanging out with is all it takes for a good time.
I wish you plenty of that over the weekend. :-)
Our daughter is going through a phase when she says “Mmm Yummy” every time she eats something she loves. It is an expression of pure, untainted, happiness at getting to eat what she enjoys. It also helps that the bar for what she loves isn’t all that high. :-)
When I saw her do it this morning, I asked myself why I don’t do it more often. Just like her, I’m clearly fortunate enough to eat good food very often. By extension, how often do I find myself saying the equivalent of “Mmm Yummy” when I enjoy the many other gifts – good health, wonderful relationships, this awesome internet, and dedicated colleagues and teams?
I’m vividly reminded of a conversation when a few of us were walking toward a football game a few years back. We saw an extremely fit woman on what looked like a long run and someone remarked – “Wonder why someone that fit needs to run?” Someone else immediately quipped – “It is thanks to these runs that she is extremely fit.”
Similarly, it is tempting for me to draw the conclusion that she says “Mmm Yummy” because she’s happy. In reality, though, it is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.
I’ve asked myself what makes a good weekend for many years.
A few weeks back, I finally had an epiphany. I realized that my definition of a good weekend involves four actions in order or priority – rest, connect, learn something and building something.
Rest means getting to sleep in for one of the two days and watching a game of football/soccer whenever possible. Connect involves spending quality time with the framily – ideally with some time outdoors. But, a good weekend doesn’t feel complete until I feel I’ve learnt something and attempted to build something.
The best part about these four priorities is that I recognize they are a luxury. There are many on the planet who don’t get to take the weekend off.
So, these two days are a wonderful weekly reminder of the enormous amount of privilege in my life and, as a result, of how much I owe.
Maybe acknowledging our privilege with gratitude is what weekends are all about. We get to define what “good” is. And, in the process of doing so, we are reminded that there is so much to be grateful for.
There are, broadly, 2 kinds of uncertainty. While type I uncertainty is the kind you choose, type II is what you face for reasons beyond your control.
So, choosing to quit your job and start a new business is type I. On the other hand, facing an uphill task trying to get a job because of nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender is a classic type II uncertainty. Now, some might say that logic is flawed. After all, you choose to apply to that job and face that uphill battle. And, while it is an interesting argument, it tends to fall on the wrong side of history.
The biggest challenge with dealing with type II uncertainty is that it feels unfair. But, dealing with unfairness is a rite of passage if you are a minority, a woman, gay or an immigrant.
It is only once we embrace the inherent unfairness can we get to the two things that help – focusing ruthlessly on things we can influence and being grateful for what you have. This is so much easier said than done. Try telling a Muslim in America that she shouldn’t worry about what the President is doing or saying. Or, try telling the many hard working international students who took on huge amounts of debt that they shouldn’t worry about trying to get a job.
But, it is the only way.
Focus ruthlessly on what you can influence. And, while you are it, develop an attitude that refuses to settle on anything but gratitude. There will always be things to complain about. And, there will be less in your control than you’d like.
But, on the bright side, developing the ability to focus and to maintain a positive attitude despite uncertainty and strife is entirely within our control.
It is how we get made.