Life

Someone I went to college with recently won a big award.

This person doesn’t like me.

As a matter of fact, almost all of the ambitious people that I went to college with don’t like me.

They’ve said unkind things about me behind my back.

These people are lauded for their accomplishments at my university, while I and my work have been looked down on by the people who praise them.

I’ve never understood it.

When I saw that the award was won, I decided to look at their social media profile, and they have a lot of likes, which spiraled my mind into a place of comparison and shame: “I didn’t measure up,” “I wasn’t good enough,” and “Why wasn’t I accepted?”

These are hard moments. These are the moments that people talk about when they speak of the dangers of social media.

After entering that dark place, I reminded myself: the likes don’t matter, so what if I never understand why they didn’t like me, and I shouldn’t expect to be liked or praised by everyone – nor should I want to be liked by people who would judge and treat me so unfairly.

The only people whose opinions matter are the ones who show us that they care about us, the few that take the time to get to know who we really are.

Also, a part of growing up is growing comfortable with the fact that other people’s lack of grace or kindness must not define your happiness or your actions. There are only three metrics of success that matter:

  1. Whether, overall, you are living the life you want, doing the work you want to do, and making the changes in the world that you seek to make;
  2. The number of meaningful moments shared; and
  3. The amount of love felt.

The peculiar form of ambition that manifests as a desire for broad validation is futile. There is neither contentment nor goodness to be gained through comparison, particularly of online profiles.

Many think that to be cynical is to just view things negatively. It’s not. It refers to the idea that people suck because they’re selfish.

Jaded means that you are tired. You find tasks that once excited you to be boring.

You probably know that many people become both.

They’ve failed.

Their work is viewed as humdrum, tedious, and bereft of appreciation.

I once had a boss tell me that he wanted to beat the idealism out of me. Now, he’s won. He was right. I’m beat.

Because lately, this is me.

Lately, I’ve failed.

Driving 10 to 15 hours a week, multiple weekly deadlines, haters, and busy colleagues with no patience for thoughtful conversation about the future of American democracy have left me feeling exhausted and uninspired.

And I’m angry about it.

What do I do?

Well, I start fighting: for what I know is right, for what I believe in, for my why.

I refuse to settle for a life without conviction.

I refuse to settle for a life without fierce idealism.

Step one: cleanse my life of news and anything that’s not invigorating. I don’t care if I don’t seem smart to my colleagues. It’s more important that I like myself. And my life.

Step two: recenter myself on my why. I’ve lost it because I’ve grown too focused on getting by. On my challenges. On my battles. On my failures. On what’s not good enough. On scarcity. On fear.

Step three: don’t settle for the status quo. I will speak up. I will make my truth obvious. I will act on that truth. I will readjust and take ownership of my immediate environment.

I will be okay if it’s eccentric.

Weird is expected.

Forget conformance.

Forget the career ladder.

Forget branding.

Forget thought-leadership.

I will just do what I believe is right for me.

I will retake ownership of my life.

Recently I met a man who had a large tumor and continues to have significant health issues.

His experience has impressed upon him the realities of death.

Now he appreciates the small moments in each day: the smile someone gives you when you hold the door for them, others’ life stories, and intimate time in small groups.

It’s a reminder that the minutiae matter.

I encourage you to notice them.

Your life will likely become much more fulfilling.

Good things can wait.

Besides, how good are they if they take away from your happiness?

They say adulthood requires suffering. It’s a lie you’ve been told.

Sure, you’ve got to be disciplined, but don’t suffer regularly for a paycheck.

Take your time and appreciate what you have, particularly when your plate is full.

There’s so much wonder and excitement and good books and amazing experiences out there.

And so much to look forward to, even things you might not expect.

So quit worrying. Work will always be there. And a good life requires play and appreciation.

 

 

I didn’t publish any posts this weekend.

Instead, I chose to immerse myself in moments.

I think I won’t publish from now on between Friday and Sunday.

I need these moments.

Because these moments allow me to immerse myself in myself so that the writing during the weekdays can be better.

They allow me to live a better life.

They allow me to explore.

And discover the things that need changing.

I wanted to write daily, but it’s simply unsustainable with the amount of work I have to do.

For that, I am sorry.

But the writing will be better this way.

And (I think) it’s only for now.

 

 

41vGBwZh0-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In college, I had the privilege of becoming an honors student in my department. Perhaps the greatest reward this offered was the opportunity to take a doctoral-level course. We studied Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America for four months.

My most affecting experience in that class was when I uttered the following sentence:

“I believe in doubt.”

It remains striking to this day because I was soon laughed and scoffed at. I was told, “You can’t believe in doubt!”

But you can; I know, because I do.

Here’s why: a quote in an old book called Morals and Dogma. It’s a tough read and a bit out there for most. But this quote is so important:

Doubt, the essential preliminary of all improvement and discovery. Knowledge is always imperfect … discovery multiplies doubt and doubt leads on to new discovery. The boast of science is not so much its manifested results, as its admitted imperfection and capacity of unlimited progress. The true religious philosophy of an imperfect being is not a system of creed, but, as Socrates thought, an infinite search or approximation. Finality is but another name for bewilderment or defeat.

We don’t know. And usually, the more we know, the more we feel like we don’t know.

As we get older, some of us get set in our ways. We grow prideful and start to say to ourselves, “I have amassed so much knowledge and experience, how could I not be right?”

But in reality, we probably got it wrong about a lot of things.

It’s absurd to think we’ve got the answers. The human race is so young, and the age of information has just begun.

So don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers yet; you probably never will, my friend.

And that’s okay because that uncertainty is how we progress.

 

Besides the basics of nutrition and regular exercise, where are we to discover well-being? The answer is simple.

But it’s so hard to achieve.

There are three fundamental aspects to the good life:

  1. Community
  2. Connection
  3. Character

If we have community and connection, we have a social system that promotes our highest potential and soothes us in turbulent times.

Though these won’t matter if we don’t have the disposition to appreciate them. And a lack of rightful understanding and conduct leads to toxicity and dysfunction in our lives. So it’s necessary that we strive to know what it means to embody good character.