I was cleaning out some old files on my laptop and I came across the blurb below. I wrote it more than three years ago… so clearly this topic of how to stare down a choice and make a decision is one that’s been on my mind for a while, and my thoughts have remained quite consistent throughout the years.
I wrote this in 2016…
I can be found, most often, with a smile on my face. If given the choice to smile through an annoying situation or complain through a mostly fun scenario, I would always choose the ability to grin and find the positive aspects of anything that crosses my path. This goes back to a phrase that has always made me cringe…. “you’re so lucky!” It’s like nails on a freaking chalkboard! It’s so easy to sit back and blame the elusive “luck” on why things aren’t going your way. Let me tell you, if you’re sitting on the Woe Is Me boat, that ship has sailed and it only gets you to one place…. And I’m pretty sure it’s not where you want to go. Envy, jealousy and self-pity will never lead to a great life that is full and rich and happy – it will lead to feelings of being slighted; suspicious of those around you who are succeeding.
What does all of this mean? It means that what you believe is the biggest factor determining your direction and destination. Happy is a choice, and not one that comes simply from being oblivious. “Ignorance is bliss”? You know what’s actually bliss? Understanding that your thoughts are powerful; being painfully aware of what’s happening around you and knowing that you can roll with it, smile at it and do WHATEVER you want if you’re strong enough to believe that you can. Sounds simple, right? It is… but in a world where everyone has a f*cking opinion (largely based on their own fears and shortcomings) those voices of doubt, the haters, the naysayers and the Debbie Downers can clog up your flow of happy thoughts and make it seem like everything is impossible. It’s not, but you have to decide every single day, every single minute, that it’s possible and that you’re possible and that if you want to be happy, you can be. If you’re unsure, smile and see how it feels… if you like it, do it again!
I think we tend to get caught up in the difference between simple and easy. They’re not synonyms – lack of complication and ease of execution are two completely separate things… if you can approach each new scenario as being simple, then you just have to tackle the execution, which might in fact be hard, but because you’re already feeling in control of the situation, you’ll know it’s not impossible.
Do you think you’re making life more complicated than it needs to be? If you feel like life is so complicated and EVERYTHING is the be-all/ end-all, then you might be… And I’m not talking about the ACTUAL big stuff, because some things really are big, messy complicated beasts to handle. But most stuff isn’t, and that’s what this is about.
As I’ve been writing about this topic the past few weeks, a story keeps playing through my head, so I’m going to share that with you all, because I think it’s this story, totally mundane and insignificant and yet 14 years later it sticks with me for the sheer waste of time it was and for the lesson to be gleaned.
Fourteen years ago I was working at a venture capital firm and I needed to get a check from a guy who worked there… it was a few days past due already, but if he wanted to invest in this particular deal I needed the check that day. So I walked into his office and 24 year old me was like, “Hey, Bob [I actually have no idea what his name is] I need that check… do you have it?” And let me tell you, this man broke into a sweat and spent THREE SOLID MINUTES telling me that his checkbook might be in his desk but he wasn’t sure, what would happen if he didn’t have the check today, could we see about wiring the money, could we do this, could we do that, why does it have to be today, why didn’t I remind him yesterday, did everyone else have their checks, and on…. and on…. and on. Three minutes might not seem like a long time if you’re eating ice cream or drinking coffee (two of my favorite pastimes), but when you’re watching an adult spiral into an absolute frenzy, it feels like forever.
So I said to him (trying to sound calm and understanding while being completely baffled by his behavior), “Why don’t you check?” He was in a tizzy (not sure that’s a really word, but it definitely conjures the correct image in my mind) and started to say something else when I interrupted him and again said, “Why don’t you just look to see if you have your checkbook.”
In a mere four seconds he opened his desk drawer, pulled out his checkbook and immediately looked up at me and said “Woah, that was a close one, right?!”
No. No friend it was not close. That checkbook was literally 6 inches away from you the whole time. You came at that situation assuming it was a disaster that needed fixing, needed blame and deserved a good old freak out. And it didn’t. How easy would it have been for me to jump down that spiral of a tizzy with him. And still to this day I wish I could give him back those 3 minutes of a completely unnecessary freak out.
I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to freak out, i’m not saying that there’s never cause for concern, but I am saying, don’t approach each situation assuming that the whole thing is burning to the ground. It’s usually not. More often than not, everything will be fine. You will be fine. Lose your shit when you need to, but don’t make that your default response to everything.
“Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.” — Wess Stafford
*A note on the photo for this post… it was taken two days into a five day stay in the Pediatric ICU in 2014 when a seemingly innocent fall resulted in 2 fractured ribs and level 4 liver laceration (Oh Jakey…). I left my house on a Sunday afternoon for a casual backyard party and came home 6 days later. Not the best week of my life, and yet here my babes are, with smiles on their faces <3