My colleague Jordan (hello sir!) says that most of my coworkers hate me because I’m always happy. That’s the best backhanded compliment I’ve ever received! I never really considered myself a happy person, I just assumed everyone was the same. Now that I’m more mature and not just an overgrown 12-year-old at heart, I can see how I stand out because of my seemingly constant happiness. Before I continue, I’d like to clear up a few things with my beloved co-workers and anyone else that wonders if I’m on drugs.
First off, I go through problems just like every other working professional/ human being: I make the wrong choice, I let down my team, I deal with unruly clients, I take things for granted,etc, etc. And like most decent people, I’m working on it, and if I’m better today that I was yesterday, then I’m alright.
Secondly, I shouldn’t stand out because I always seem happy. No one should stand out, as everyone’s natural state should be one of happiness. As the French monk Matthieu Ricard, known as “the happiest man alive” said in his TED Talk,
“Happiness can’t be reduced to a few agreeable sensations. Rather, it is a way of being and of experiencing the world—a profound fulfillment that suffuses every moment and endures despite inevitable setbacks.”
Just as the default state of a rock is to just sit there, you’re natural state should be one of happiness. By the way, sorry. I couldn’t think of a better metaphor. When I was young, my dad used to always say “as long as you wake up, it’s a good day. What else do you need?” That outlook influenced me a lot. I seemed to have forgotten that years later when I was a broke and unemployed college graduate. But my mom was quick to snap me out of it. She would say “no matter what’s happening, you’re healthy and and you have full use of your brain.” What she should have said was “quit being a little bitch and handle your business. After all, you’re in control of your destiny.” Thanks for not saying that mom.
I’m 27 and I know nothing. But I consider myself happy and have been really lucky to learn from incredibly smart people throughout my young (ish) life. My hope is that at least one thing from the following sticks with you and helps you change your outlook.
The other day I found myself complaining about the food at Google. I was complaining about the free food, my awesome employer, Google, was providing for me. Even thinking of that makes me feel like an ungrateful jerk. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE NOTHING TO EAT AND I’M WHINING ABOUT FREE KALE AND QUINOA SALAD!
Okay now that I’ve confessed to you, we can move forward. Be happy and grateful for what you have. How many times have we tried to talk ourselves out of exercising? How many times have we complained about using our body for what it was meant for, to move? There are so many people who because of age, handicap or an unfortunate accident don’t have the ability to exercise as they would like. So why would I, with full use of my body, not exercise? Count your blessings, and make the most of what you has been bestowed on you.
There a story about Epictetus that I’ll probably butcher but nonetheless share. Epictetus was one of the great Stoic teachers. At his academy he had one pupil who refuted Epictetus and asked “how am I supposed to be grateful to the Gods if I was born with a maimed leg?” Epictetus’ reply was something along the lines of “it wasn’t your leg to begin with. It was given to you by the Gods. Be grateful for the other leg you have and use it.”
The Stoics of Ancient Rome and Greece were smart men. They insisted that loving what you already have (the non material things, that is) was a way to be happy and attain fulfillment. And as my mom would tell me at a low point in my life, I was healthy and somewhat smart. The rest was up to me. And in a way, that was empowering because I controlled my next steps.
Worry About What You Can Control
I think a lot of our collective unhappiness comes from worrying about things that we can’t control. We worry about the market, the housing crisis, other’s people opinion of us, etc.
As the great Stoics preached, the only real things we can control are our thoughts, actions and reactions. Everything else is outside our sphere of influence and we should disregard it. Epictetus said that “there is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
My family has a history of diabetes and heart disease (#mexicanproblems). But I don’t worry about what could happen in the future. Instead I focus on what I can control now, like my diet and exercise. Sure I can be super healthy and still get stricken with an ailment (God forbid). But if I’ve done all within my power to take care of my body, negotiate a deal or compete in professional sports, and I still get sick, don’t close the deal or don’t win the championship then I won’t be unhappy because I did everything within my power to fulfill that objective. Let’s never confuse effort with results. Focus on what you can do, right now. The rest will unfold as it will. But no matter the outcome, if you did your best, then you can rest easy.
Most Things Are Fleeting
One of my favorite anecdotes about outspoken and controversial Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was about a reply he gave at a press conference in 2005. Chelsea had just gone to the top of the English Premier League Table and were in control to win the league. A journalist asked him if he felt pressure now that he was in 1st place. His reply was the most Jose thing ever:
“Pressure? What pressure? Pressure is poor people in the world trying to feed their families. There is no pressure in football”
I love my job and I love my team. But I’m not curing AIDS or working to restore peace in the middle east. I’m selling ads on an app. When we break our job roles down to their most basic level we see that a lot of the problems or “pressure” associated with the work place are quite trivial. In paraphrasing Robert Louis Stevenson, Ryan Holiday says “Thinking your work is terribly important is the first sign of insanity.” Remember…you’re not the president of the world here. Relax. It’s going to be alright.”
Most things don’t matter. They’re fleeting. Years from now you won’t remember or care why you argued with your co-worker or how that client screwed you over. But you will remember and possibly regret, ignoring your responsibilities, namely helping others and making the most of your talents.
Have Fun With It
I’m super lucky to work a bunch of really smart people at Waze. Waze has given me a golden opportunity to grow and become the leader I was meant to be. Most importantly, Waze has allowed me to contribute and give my all. I work hard everyday to prove to Noam, Samuel, Di-Ann, Jordan and everyone else that they made the right choice in giving me that shot. I’m very thankful and I love what we’re doing. If not I wouldn’t be here.
Why would you do anything that you didn’t love or weren’t having fun with? Remember, there are trillions of dollars going through the market every week. But you only get 24 hours in a day. You can always make more money, but you can’t have more time than what nature permits. So work on something that you love and are proud to contribute to. As Drake raps in the underrated “Too Much” from Nothing Was the Same: “Moment I stop having fun with it, I’ll be done with it.”
I had a chance to interview one of my favorite writers, Shea Serrano from Grantland. He kept his life advice very simple. “This stuff isn’t that hard, man. Find a significant other who believes in you even a little bit, and some work that makes you feel good about yourself.”
This section could have probably been filed under “Worry About What You Can Control” But I feel so strongly about it, that I spun it off into it’s own section. POWER MOVES ONLY! We should never complain. But of course we do. I do all the time, for dumb shit mostly.
But when we look at the problems we’re complaining about, we see that we have two types of problems; those we can control and those we cannot control. So if you have direct control over a problem then you can help yourself and thus there is no need to complain. Who else is going to help you if you don’t help yourself? Deal with the issue. And if you can’t control it, then what’s the use of complaining since there is nothing you can do about it? So whether you can or can’t control something, don’t complain. The issue will sort itself out eventually. If anything, count yourself lucky if you’re dealing with a problem you can control.
Don’t Be a Dick
This is probably the Golden Rule. We’re all in this “life” thing together. So why wouldn’t you want to take every chance to help your fellow man? Hold the door open, be welcoming to strangers (unless they’re in a white van or listen to Tyga) and say nice things to each other. Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten as “be nice”? The nicer and less dick-ey you are to others, the more your outlook on life will change.
As Marcus Aurelius said “human beings are social animals. Either teach them or put up with them.” We’re meant to help one another, that’s our nature as human beings. So even if you’re down on your luck or going through a rough time, know that you can still be faithful to your nature and be helpful. And if you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, hopefully that will give you a sense of empowerment to overcome whatever it is you’re going through.
I’m not a philosopher and I’m not perfect. But I’m generally a happy person. The things above have helped with that outlook. If you ask me how I’m doing I’ll always answer that “I’m good!” No, I’m not being a polite American,it’s just why would I choose anything else but to BE and FEEL good, IE happy. And even when I’m not good, I’m good because I’m awake, alert and know that I still have work to do to become a better person.
There is no secret to happiness, it’s accessible to everyone. We should view it not as an esoteric state but as our natural state of being. Finally, what would an Eric Ruiz paragraph be without a quote from a dead philosopher (or football manager, or both)? Weird, that’s what. And so I leave you with the wise words of Seneca, one of mankind’s greatest philosophers and writers.
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”