Is being special > being happy?
Some recommended reading for you
Staring at me today and quietly demanding more of my attention is a book I am almost done with. I just need to dedicate another hour to it so I can mark it off as complete. But you know how it goes. Distraction abounds, Instagram beckons, the mind wanders, the new Halo video game is actually pretty fun and easier to kill time with than reading. Such is life.
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Moving on! I want to pause from my busy work today to recommend “From Strength To Strength” by Arthur Brooks. If you follow my writing, you likely know Brooks’ name well at this point. The new book is about finding success, happiness, and purpose in the second half of life, and unfortunately for all of us…that “halfway point” may always be sooner than we’d think. I worry a lot about my career and the looming specter of decline (spoooooky!). Turns out, decline starts for most all of us around age 35, statistically speaking. Most people (most strivers) recognize physical, mental and creative peaks in their twenties, and begin to despair when that window of time has passed. Maybe you do in fact achieve something remarkable (win an industry prize, invent something, publish a book), and now you find yourself lost in search of the next big thing. Or maybe you never hit that early home run, so you wonder if the window of opportunity has closed.
My brother told me over the weekend in an unrelated discussion whilst paintballing, that legendary folk singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was a novelist until age 33 (wow!) when he began as a musician. I had no idea. I figured Cohen would have been the lifelong starving artist type who played small clubs and bars for two decades before success materialized in music. Turns out he was actually just a solid writer with some other skills laying dormant in his toolkit. Skills that would define his career, legacy, and eventual Wikipedia page. It’s all about the Wiki page y’all. But isn’t that cool? The best can always be yet to come if you reframe what your objective is.
There’s a woman profiled in the book, a Fortune 500 CEO who has everything material she could ever want. She earned it. But of course, she was unhappy. She hadn’t invested in relationships with her family or friends. The woman says something interesting to Brooks, “I guess I wanted to be special more than I wanted to be happy.” That was her guiding light for half of her life. Being seen. Being noteworthy. But at some point when professional decline begins to hit, and it will always hit, the question Brooks’ is posing in From Strength to Strength is “outside of your career ambition, what other crops have you been cultivating?”
Brooks has a knack for breaking down philosophy into equations. Dense ideas are reduced to tidy, two-line summations. This one is actually hugely helpful.
One part that stuck out to me
Our culture suffers because of the following workaholic equations:
Satisfaction = Continually getting what you want
Success = Continually having more than others
Failure = having less
Brooks proposes a new approach that is foundational to a better life. And I’ve honestly been thinking about it a lot.
Satisfaction = What you have ÷ what you want
You need to want less. Trimming even little things….such as your desire to install new hardwood floors in your home because everyone on HGTV has nice wooden floors (Okay that’s myself)….can create space in your mind to pursue more fruitful things that will give you real strength and security. After you’ve subscribed to This Is The Way (duh) and can still part ways with $17 in your monthly budget, go order this book. Depending on your age or station in life, you may not need its actionable advice now, but you will….you will. Time comes for us all.
This car was in front of me yesterday at a traffic light. Discipline Equals Freedom. I love this mantra. Tame your wants, tame your emotions, and get started now. Because your wants and emotions are very, very eager to tame (and subjugate) you. More on this….next time.