In a post about WeWork’s shelved IPO, Morgan Housel shared a great story about Marcel Hirscher. Marcel Hirscher is considered the greatest alpine skier in historyand has been at the top of his game over the past few years.
Many believed he had a good 5-8 years at the top left in him. But, he had different ideas.
“I always wanted to quit when I knew I could still win races,” he said. He avoided major injuries and wanted to stop before his luck ran out. “I want to play football with my little boy, climb the mountains and do things without any serious injury or pain.”
Such sentiment is rare and admirable in professional athletes. Instead of more records, money, and fame, Marcel Hirscher chose to say enough.
And, as Morgan Housel reflected in his post –
The idea of having “enough” might look like conservatism, leaving opportunity and potential on the table.
I don’t think that’s right.
“Enough” is realizing that the opposite – an insatiable appetite for more – will push you to the point of regret.
The notion that the path to lasting happiness is paved with gratitude is often hard to understand. After all, what does gratitude look like on a daily basis?
So, here’s a different, more concrete, framing.
The path to lasting happiness is not needing..
…sickness to be grateful for a healthy body and mind.
…a bad relationship to appreciate the good ones.
…and misfortune to be thankful for everything that is working well.
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.
When we spend 20 minutes of our time trying to save $5 by availing a painfully hard to avail deal, we implicitly value our time at $15 per hour.
We also neglect the opportunity cost of that time – time we could have spent relaxing, exercising, conversing with family, and so on. As the saying goes, penny wise, pound foolish.
For those of us who grew up in circumstances where money was relatively tight or for whom the desire to optimize everything to the best possible outcome takes over when dealing with money, it becomes particularly important to set an explicit value of our time.
It makes it easier to stop ourselves from spending one more hour to save a few bucks off the price of that table.
And, most importantly, it forces us to focus our energy on the areas that will actually move the needle on our happiness and productivity.
I listened to “The Algebra of Happiness” by Scott Galloway recently. There wasn’t much that was new as it was a compilation of posts from his weekly blog – “No Mercy, No Malice” that I’ve enjoyed reading over the past months.
I’ve shared a few of his posts from time to time as I find his writing a nice mix of interesting, provocative, and heart warming. Amidst notes with strong points of view and occasional humble bragging, there is plenty about the struggles he’s faced and continues to face. The struggle to be a better son, father, friend, teacher, and citizen.
It is that struggle that makes life interesting and challenging all at once. And, I’m glad he shares that. Those are the sorts of notes that help put things in perspective.
My notes from the book are sparse. But, as I look back on what I’ve taken away, there are three notes that resonated.
First, Prof Galloway observes that hard work and a lack of balance early in a career has a disproportionate impact later. In the early years, speed helps. There’s no right way to do this – only we can decide what trade offs make sense for us.
Second, the ratio of how much we sweat to watching others sweat is a leading indicator of success.
And, third, the most important decision we make is who we marry – if we decide to do so.
“If I have more love/money/friendship/fame, will I be happier?”
Whenever we see “have” preceding “be” in such questions, we can be sure unhappiness is lurking around the corner.
Flipping the order, however, changes everything.
The question we’d ask now is – “What kind of person do I have to be to have more love/money/friendship/fame?”
By being trustworthy and caring, it is likely we’ll attract love and friendship into our lives.
By being skilled at something valuable and disciplined in our practice and execution of the skill, it is likely we’ll attract the financial security we seek.
And so on.
There is a chance we’ll win the lottery and have what we desire before being the person who deserves it.
Waiting to win the lottery, however, isn’t good strategy.
Better to flip the question and be the kind of person who deserves what we want to have.
The Law of Minor Annoyances: Minor annoyances expand to fill any and all available mental bandwidth you make available to them.
We encounter minor annoyances everyday in the form of small frustrations, little spats, doses of bad luck, and irksome exchanges. If left unchecked, they fester, become major annoyances, and cloud all perspective.
Much of our daily happiness at work and at home, then, depends on our ability to understand and apply the law of minor annoyances. The more we learn to let go, the more happier and more productive we will be.
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. :-)
There’s a lot written these days about millennial employees looking to find purpose at work. These discussions are interesting and speak to the challenges executives and HR professionals face as they seek to combine monetization with collaborative and inspiring workplace.
That said, I do find myself wondering how much of this is actually about the desire to find purpose at work versus seeking those powerful and elusive intangibles like happiness, equanimity, and peace of mind.
If it is the latter – and, in many cases, there’s reason to believe it is – seeking fulfillment at the office is just a distraction. Regardless of how wonderful the values might be, workplace cultures are built around incentives like pay, promotions, and performance reviews that encourage us to look outward. The powerful intangibles that we tend to seek, on the other hand, only exist when we look inward.
No amount of effort will help us find them if we spend it looking in the wrong places.
Find them within ourselves, we must.
A delicious custard cake – the kind that melts in your mouth – is wasted on someone who doesn’t take the time to appreciate it. So are beautiful beaches, good teammates, the smell of flowers, supportive partners, good health, and thoughtful managers.
Lacking appreciation, it turns out, makes getting more a leaky bucket problem. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into getting more – it won’t count for much.
We spend large swathes of our day working on skills (productivity, skills that make us better at our jobs) that are directed at helping us get more.
What if we siphoned off a portion of that effort to develop our appreciation skills instead?