Before we get into the last article of 2017, I want to acknowledge a little faux pas. If you're on the subscription list, you've recently received some rogue emails. I'm really sorry about this; Squarespace did some updates, and... you don't care about the details. Just know that I believe in a curated inbox, and it is a privilege for you to trust me with your email address. So I apologize and thank you for being patient. Now, onto today...
Last week, I was frantically searching for some notes, which I precisely remember writing last year. I can tell you exactly where in London I was sitting when I wrote them and even my mood at the time. However, this is doing me little good, as I cannot remember the precise notebook in which I wrote them.
I began my search for said-notes with a stack of old work notebooks. No luck. Next, I attacked a pile papers, containing business model sketches and ideas that I'd scribbled down during lectures in Paris. No luck there either.
I never found the tax calculations that I was looking for, but I did find something else...
Brainstorming, financial projections, and objective analyses, written by my 2016-self. They all pointed to one thing: a compelling argument (trying to convince myself), of why it was time to create a new professional beginning. Seeing these notes a year later - and revisiting the emotional state I was in then - compared to now - made me want to throw up, laugh, and cry.
The next day got me even more uncomfortable, as I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Tim Urban. During the interview (starting at 55:47, if you're interested), they discussed a topic that cut right to the heart of my discomfort: searching for happiness.
Tim Urban argues that motivated people constantly seek accomplishments, physical objects, idealized spiritual states, etc. Basically, the next thing. Those of us who are ambitious want and do more; so we set goals, take action, and then acquire these targets.
The downside? We fall into cycles where we're never happy. We build "mountains" of things, literally and philosophically; stand on top of our mountains; and then make the mistake that continues pushing happiness just out of our reach: we keep looking up.
Without glancing down once in awhile to internalize what we've already built, accomplished, and acquired, we keep our eyes fixed upward and neglect the mountain on which we're already standing - the mountain that we thought would make us happy in the first place. We keep looking for the "more." The "what's next?" The "when I get to x, I'll be happy." Our skyward expectations increase, and our current mountain of reality suddenly doesn't mean so much.
Tim Ferris says that discontent (the inverse of happiness) can be metaphorically quantified by this equation:
Discontent = expectations - reality
If our expectations increase, and our reality doesn't increase at the same cadence, our discontent increases, and you can assume that happiness decreases.
Which - is all nice and philosophical. But how does it connect to my new career scribbles and confused emotions, as I revisited them?
I've noticed over the past couple years that all my yoga and meditation haven't been enough to fight a daily personal battle: I am seriously fixated on "what's next?" Every single day (this is not an exaggeration), I struggle to see, feel, and appreciate the mountain I've already built. The one on which I'm standing right now.
One short year ago, my current reality was my "sky of expectations." And in the past year, I have made gigantic leaps toward capturing this next thing; it's everything I said I was going to do in that pile of papers. I'm standing on this mountain, but yet again, I'm back in the vicious cycle of already obsessing over the new sky. (And case you're wondering, this makes me an exceptional business hire, yet a very demanding and difficult wife).
So I'd like to end 2017 with you by acknowledging the mountain on which I'm standing. It's not a brag (please don't hear it that way). It's an effort to pause, look down at what I'm building, and be proud, content, and happy. This also allows me to tell you that when we speak again in January, this site will look completely different: new brand, refreshed style, and evolving content, as I kick off a new phase of my career.
And in turn, I'd like to ask you (yes, you): what have you done in 2017 that you're happy about? It can be big or small, professional or personal. I'd like to encourage all of us (holding up the mirror!) to acknowledge and find happiness in the mountain on which we stand today before we look up and ahead to the expectations of 2018.
PS - Do you think that 2017 was a fulcrum year?
Art from Walter Martin + Paloma Munoz (on display at Cheekwood Gardens if you're in Nashville)