Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run! Success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.” Viktor Frankl
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Viktor Frankl
Let me be clear, I want to be happy. I have searched high and low for happiness and in my 34 years of life I am not sure I have experienced it fully, and now I know why. Like a lost and meandering child, I was looking for the wrong thing in all of the wrong places, always projecting my happiness into some far off land of the future. What I have come to realize is that meaning is more important than happiness. If you find meaning, happiness will come to you in spades. The question is how do we find meaning?
Happiness in and of itself is an elaborate dream, concocted by media that lives in your subconscious, and when you close your eyes at night it fills your dreams with wants and desires. Marketers are good at what they do, and like all great propaganda puppeteers before them, they have spun the happiness myth into our brains. Like a great villain in any story, these visions of happiness are elusive and hard to catch. That’s the point. Marketers have made it that way on purpose, much like a Vegas casino. It’s confusing; there are no clocks, the carpets are weird, and we can never find the exit. Why? Because the longer you stay in the casino, the more money you will spend. Happiness in the 21st century is very similar. We constantly get force fed like children who do not want to eat their vegetables, that you yourself should be happy. Your job, your car, your wife and your friends are not good enough. If you shopped at Pottery Barn though, all of your dreams would come true. If you go to the University of Phoenix all your wants and desires will be met; as if an online degree is a magical genie for success and power.
So what is happiness? Is it a state of mind? Is it having more things? Is it really different for everyone? Is it security? What is security? We have all met the guy who has every toy imaginable, a cooler job than Hugh Heffner, and a beautiful wife, who stops traffic when she walks down the street. But for some reason, he never seems happy. How is that possible? How is it even possible that billionaires and people who seem to have it all, deal with depression? Do they lack meaning in their lives?
The happiness movement is also shoved down our throats every day on social media. (Quick side note: if you want to find more fulfillments in life, spend less time on social media)
“Find your happiness.” “Do what you love, and happiness will follow”, they say.
Joseph Campbell said,” Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
Steve Jobs, one of my personal hero’s said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
I agree with Steve-O wholeheartedly. I think to many of us settle. Why? Because we are afraid, that’s why. The other problem is that most people have no clue what they love or want to do. Unless your name is Slash, and you were born with the gene to play guitar if front of thousands of screaming groupies, you might be lost in this world. My dream was to play professional sports, and when that came crashing to a sudden halt, I was lost. Doing what most ex-athletes do, I got a job in sales and figured that I would make millions and be happy that way. I was wrong. My passions are writing, comedy, filmmaking, and media. The company we own and operate now works in all of these genres in one way or another, but how did I figure that out? I tried. I got off the bench and started doing things that made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I started to explore, because I was not willing to settle.
I have a good friend, lets call him John, and we spend a lot of time together. John mopes around a lot. It’s not because he is poor, has a venereal disease, can’t reproduce, or isn’t handsome. Rather, he does feel that his job is a dead-end and he knows it does not fulfill him. When asked, “What do you think you would be happy doing,” the answer is always, “I don’t know.” Because John does not have answers to his underlying sadness he tries to fill the void with new cars, girlfriends, booze and food. Sound familiar? It does to me.
The problem is that John never takes the time to search out the things that may make him happy. To be clear, I am not just talking about surface things that make us happy, like sex.
“I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing.” Author Penelope Trunk observed a few years ago. “And I am not getting paid for sex…but I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex?”
Penelope, on her blog, continues, “So how could you possibly pick one thing you love to do? And what would be the point?
The world reveals to you all that you love by what you spend time on. Try stuff. If you like it, you’ll go back to it. I just tried Pilates last month. I didn’t want to try, but a friend said she loved the teacher, so I went. I loved it. I have taken it three times a week ever since. And it’s changed me. I stand up straighter. (I’d also have better sex, if I were having it. The Pilates world should advertise more that it improves your sex life: Totally untapped market.)
Often, the thing we should do for our career is something we would only do if we were getting a reward. If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid, you’ll be looking for a long time. Maybe forever. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money.”
If most of us just did what we loved everyday it would get incredibly boring. Many of us would go broke, and eventually the meaning of it would be gone. Now, I am not saying that some of you haven’t found that thing that makes you happier than a bodybuilder directing traffic. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who have always known what your path would be. You were born with the golden scepter of destiny above your crib, and that makes you one of the lucky ones. The truth is that many of us don’t even know what makes us happy because we haven’t searched for it, and we are plagued with what I call the, “What if Syndrome.”
What if I lived in the south of France and was married to a French model that could cook a five-course meal? What if I could dunk and played in the NBA? If I had Lebron James’ life I would be happy. He has never made a cold call, or worked in a cubical for a boss that is meaner than Christian Bale on set when somebody screws up the shot. What if I was a world-renowned author who had thousands of rabid fans who hung on every word I ever put on paper? What if I was like Louis CK and was doing comedy every night? That would make me happy. I deserve that.
You do deserve that, but how will you get there?
Like you, I am a victim of the Internet. Constantly buying into the false hype of people’s fake profiles and misleading pictures. I scroll for hours looking at people’s lives and think, “You don’t wanna get married anyway Chris, that is for people who have given up on their dreams.” Of course that isn’t true, but I have to justify why somebody looks happier than me on Facebook, am I right?
“Look at how much fun Jeff’s life is.” “Mary just got her dream job;” and on and on it goes. If you’re like me, after two hours of going down the Facebook wormhole, you feel like shit. Nothing is ever good enough. “Our house isn’t big enough.” “My job doesn’t pay enough.” “I am not strong enough.” “I am not handsome enough.” Says who?! According to whom? We all need to have our needs met, I understand that. I am coming off my second bankruptcy and the last girl I loved had a baby with another man whilst we were together. During this incredibly rough time, money was always an issue. I truly believe with more cheddar in the bank, some of the stress is relieved. People who say money can’t buy happiness are generally lazy and don’t want to work hard, and they use that as an excuse. We need to be productive. That is how we generally feel most energized. Why? Because when we are making progress, it generally means we have purpose and or meaning; which we will get to later.
Listen to our friend Tony on progress. He is super smart and knows how to explain it better than I. I am a mere mortal compared to him. So listen.