I still can't believe I'm an adult. I feel like I'm constantly learning and constantly so much less knowledgeable or skilled than those I admire and aspire to be like. Growing up is hard; being an adult-sized kid is a lot more fun. (And our toys are bigger and cooler now that we've grown up.)
Inspired by the author of The Happiness Project
, I decided to write down my own secrets or lessons of adulthood that I've gathered over time. I'm sure this list will expand and morph, and it'll be interesting to see how that happens.
- Most often, the most likely explanation is the right one. But you have to be prepared to be wrong.
- It's much better to feel pleasantly surprised than disappointed. That's why I always operate under the assumption I'm failing and can improve; if I succeed in something, that's then a pleasant surprise. So when I take a test, I always prepare for failure and assume I got a low or average grade; if that happens, it's as expected; if I do better, it's a pleasant surprise.
- Find advisers and service providers you can trust. Life is a lot more fun and educational (and a business can grow a lot more quickly) when you have people you can trust to help you or give advice. Doing everything (or even most things) yourself is not the right answer.
- People are so much more important than content. Huge business deals, politics, careers -- they're all driven so much more by who knows who and networking than by talent or merit. Talent and merit are required for execution, but people and personal connections are what create the opportunities for execution.
- Everyone thinks about themselves so much more than they think about others; everyone is just as self-conscious as you are, even (sometimes especially) extremely beautiful women. So cut yourself some slack; no one will notice all the hundreds of things you're afraid they'll notice; they're too busy with themselves.
- Enjoy life your way; you don't have to fit in all the time.
- Do something extremely difficult every day. Do the most difficult, annoying, bothersome task on your list every day early. It's the only way to grow.
- Exercise is a lot more fun when it's accompanied by really good music and/or a crazy instructor or buddy.
- Nothing calms you down and reconnects you with nature like the ocean.
- Step up; no one else will. 99% of people don't have their shit together enough to do what they promise. Learn what you don't know, do what you promise, and get difficult shit done off your tasks towards your long-term goals -- formula for success.
Inspired by the author of The Happiness Project
, I decided to write down my own top personal commandments that came to mind quickly. I'm sure this list will change over time, and it'll be interesting to see how that happens.
- Respect and support my family and close friends.
- Nothing is more important than health.
- Live life for today, and cherish each moment.
- Love exists, and it's worth a lot of work.
- Optimism is the best attitude; there is always room for hope, and a positive demeanor can lift spirits.
- Show your talents through behavior; be modest in your words but not your actions.
- Strive for perfection and optimization, but be wary of premature optimization, and be ok with satisficing when it doesn't really matter. (It feels sort of zen/yoga-ish to strive towards opposite, impossible goals, but that's what creates growth.)
- Keep myself and others to the highest standards.
- Learn to accept myself as enough.
- Follow through on each and every promise.
- Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous.
- There is something to be learned from each and every living creature. There are many people in the world who are so vastly different from me, and that's cool.
- There is way more that I don't know than I know, and there is way more that I don't even know that I don't know than I know.
- Never discriminate or jump to conclusions; there are always multiple possible explanations, and I should acknowledge my many natural and unavoidable biases and consciously keep them in mind.
- I can do anything with the right effort and the right people.
- Money is earned so it can be spent, not hoarded. It should be enjoyed for what it can produce. It is earned only so it can be spent on things that make you or others happy (including by giving it away). It is only a means to an end; learning, growth, health, improving the lives of others, family, and happiness are the bigger goals in life.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio version of The Happiness Project
by Gretchen Rubin. Like books by Gary Vaynerchuk, it was read by the author, which added richness to the experience.
There were a lot of good examples in each chapter of behaviors the author tried, and I liked her overall objective of learning about and experimenting with happiness within the context of her current life situation. It was exactly the blend of psychology and philosophy that I enjoy. I especially enjoyed her use of quotes that inspired her and scientific studies that backed up some of the practices she tried. (There were also several points in the book when she sounded like one of my MBA profs -- perhaps she also got an MBA at some point or just read a lot of business books!)
Overall, through her journey in the book, the author came to learn "Four Splendid Truths" about happiness:Four Splendid Truths
- To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
- One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
- The days are long, but the years are short.
- You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
It was also neat to hear about her own "Personal Commandments" and "Secrets of Adulthood" -- a lot of these (and the splendid truths) resonate with me.Twelve Personal Commandments
Secrets of Adulthood
- Be Gretchen.
- Let it go.
- Act the way I want to feel.
- Do it now.
- Be polite and be fair.
- Enjoy the process.
- Spend out.
- Identify the problem.
- Lighten up.
- Do what ought to be done.
- No calculation.
- There is only love.
- The best reading is re-reading.
- Outer order contributes to inner calm.
- The opposite of a great truth is also true.
- You manage what you measure.
- By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.
- People don’t notice your mistakes and flaws as much as you think.
- It's nice to have plenty of money.
- Most decisions don't require extensive research.
- Try not to let yourself get too hungry.
- Even if you think they're fake, it's nice to celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day.
- If you can't find something, clean up.
- The days are long, but the years are short.
- Someplace, keep an empty shelf.
- Turning the computer on and off a few times often fixes a glitch.
- It's okay to ask for help.
- You can choose what you do; you can't choose what you LIKE to do.
- Happiness doesn't always make you feel happy.
- What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE.
- You don't have to be good at everything.
- Soap and water removes most stains.
- It's important to be nice to EVERYONE.
- You know as much as most people.
- Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.
- Eat better, eat less, exercise more.
- What's fun for other people may not be fun for you--and vice versa.
- People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry.
- Houseplants and photo albums are a lot of trouble.
- If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.
- No deposit, no return.
Below are my main notes from the book.Introduction
- Making resolutions
- Keeping resolutions
Ch. 1: January
- Midlife malaise
- Learn to feel grateful for ordinary day
- Dedicated a year to learning to be happy
- Decided on top 12 resolutions, one per month (reminds me of Mussar!)
- Working on your own happiness allows you to be a better person for others
Ch. 2: February
- Boost energy
- Go to sleep earlier
- Exercise better
- Toss, restore, organize
- Tackle a nagging task
- Act more energetic
- 1 hr. of sleep increases happiness more than $60K raise
- Keep the lights low around bedtime
- Get ready for bed well before bedtime
- Carried pedometer which motivated her to exercise (sounds like my FitBit!)
- Exercise boosts thinking
- Clear visible and psychic clutter
- Do what ought to be done (Be a man! Do the right thing!)
- Aspirational clutter, outgrown clutter, buyers-remorse clutter
- Donated and threw away a ton of clothes
- Nothing makes you more happy than an organized medicine cabinet
- 4 thermometer syndrome
- Don't postpone any task that takes 1 min
- 10 min tidying before bed
- Unfinished tasks also drain energy
- Act the way I want to feel
- Fake feelings until feel them
Ch. 3: March
- Remember love
- Quit nagging
- Don't expect praise or appreciation
- Fight right
- No dumping
- Give proofs of love
- Need many small positive interactions to offset one negative
- Partners' health and happiness converge
- No dumping of worries or minor troubles on partner
- Week of extreme nice
- Play one outdoor and one indoor game together
- Review resolutions each day and mark with checks (like Franklin)
- To be happy, need to feel good, feel less bad, and feel right in an atmosphere of growth
- Happiness is growth, striving for goals
Ch. 4: April
- Aim higher
- Launch a blog
- Enjoy the fun of failure
- Ask for help
- Work smart
- Enjoy now
- Happy people work more and better with others
- Was lawyer before chose to be writer to follow own desire
- Challenge and novelty give satisfaction (like blog)
- Small daily task more important than big single efforts
Ch. 5: May
- Lighten up
- Sing in the morning
- Acknowledge reality of people's feelings
- Be a treasure house of happy memories
- Take time for projects
- Fog happiness: hard to see when up close but believe it's there
- Literally sing to kids in morning
- Make rhyming jokes instead of nagging
- Write down kids' feelings, literally repeat what they say so they feel heard
- If don't have solution, say will think about it
- Keep happy memories vivid, reminisce, keep mementos
- Happy experience: anticipate, savor, express appreciation, reminisce
Ch. 6: June
- Be serious about play
- Find more fun
- Take time to be silly
- Go off the path
- Start a collection
- You don't have to find fun the way others do
- Challenging, accommodating, relaxing fun
- Find happiness no matter what's around you
Ch. 7: July
- Find time for friends
- Remember birthdays
- Be generous
- Show up
- Don't gossip
- Make 3 new friends
- Number of friends biggest predictor of happiness
- Must have 5 true confidants
- Connect people to each other
Ch. 8: August
- Buy some happiness
- Indulge in a modest splurge
- Buy needed things
- Spend out
- Give something up
- Happiness from buying and from choosing not to buy
Ch. 9: September
- Contemplate the heavens
- Read memoirs of catastrophe
- Keep a gratitude notebook
- Imitate a spiritual master
- The days are long but the years are short
- Live in moment of present
- Inevitability of loss and death
- One sentence journal to keep record of experience and thoughts
Ch. 10: October
- Pursue a passion
- Write a novel in a month
- Make time
- Forget about results
- Master a new technology
- Accept own interests
- Compile own books and photo albums
- Self-publish (Lulu)
- Best occupations those that are least forced
- You're happy if you think you're happy
Ch. 11: November
- Pay attention
- Meditate on koans (Zen enigmatic phrases)
- Examine true rules (rules you live by or believe are behind proper behavior)
- Stimulate the mind in new ways
- Keep a food diary
- True rules: personal ideas on rules of life
- Play a hypnosis tape
- Laughter yoga
- "Drawing on the right side of the brain" class
Ch. 12: December
- Keep a contented heart
- Laugh out loud
- Use good manners
- Give positive reviews
- Find an area of refuge
- Bootcamp perfect
- Follow all resolutions all the time
- Most important part of year: keeping and reviewing resolutions chart daily
As I mentioned in prior posts, I had a great time at an Anderson event last month where Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, spoke to us as part of his Delivering Happiness
book tour. I wondered why a big blue bus ("blue's the new yellow") was parked in front of UCLA, and I quickly learned about Hsieh's Happiness Tour during his talk.He had written his book as a way to teach about Zappos' culture and mission of generally delivering happiness. It sounds hokey, and he acknowledged it, but his passion and belief in the importance of corporate culture was infectious (infectious enough to make me buy a signed copy of his book that night which I can't wait to read).
Tony's basic message was that corporate culture is everything
in determining a company's success, not just a side element that's relegated to the HR department and which determines how much people like working there. He claimed that companies that have superior, more intact, and concretely defined cultures will almost always outperform those without. He explained that they hire and fire putting culture at an equal level as skill and work ethic and will fire talented employees if they don't fit into the culture.
He also encouraged the audience to request a free copy of Zappos' culture book, which is an annual collection of their employees' testaments to and personal experiences of the corporate culture. In addition, he offered us a free download of the audiobook Tribal Leadership
, which backs up many of the lessons Tony was teaching that night with research studies.I greatly enjoyed listening to the audio book over the last few weeks in my car (way more productive than listening to music, though I did intersperse some music here and there -- the radio is so much better if not listened to every day). I liked how the authors of the book compared companies at different stages of "tribal leadership" or corporate culture and showed through many vivid examples how companies can move from one stage to another.The authors described 5 core stages of tribal leadership, where a tribe is a group of 2 to 120 people (but could grow beyond that) who
align around some common goal or interest:
(I sort of had to fudge the percentages above because I didn't remember them exactly, but those are approximately what the authors claimed from having researched thousands of companies.) I really liked this frame of mind, and I could see myself squarely as a Stage 3 operator most of the time (like most type A/overachieving personalities). I've felt what Stage 4 feels like at times, and I want to be involved in
- Stage 1: "Life sucks." People are pessimistic about life overall and see no way out of their misery. They are prone to crime and stealing and stop caring about any higher values. This represents about 3% of companies.
- Stage 2: "My life sucks, but their lives don't." People think their lives suck but see others whose lives suck less than theirs. They may play tricks or be envious of others and generally do not have a lot of fun, but they do see a ray of light that they can at least try to work towards (in between feeling self-pity and remorse). This represents about 15% of companies.
- Stage 3: "I'm great, but they're not." People work to improve themselves, see their talents, and aim to get ahead of others. This is the culture taught by schools and almost all business self-help books, teaching skills and aids and trying to help you become better than the person you are today so that you can get ahead and reach your goals (which others therefore can't reach). It is by definition a competitive culture, and one that focuses on individualistic results. It is made up of dyads, or two-person relationships, where two people can work together but contrast their skills and aim get ahead of each other. This represents about 70% of companies.
- Stage 4: "We're great, but they're not." People work to fulfill a common, jointly agreed upon goal, and focus on group success rather than individual contribution. Olympic teams, top-performing team athletes, companies like Zappos and Amgen which are defined by their collegial corporate culture are examples. Here, the group aligns behind a common goal and a common enemy or competition. People work in tryads, networking between dyads and creating webs of support and insight that fuel growth much faster than simple dyads or individual contributors. This represents about 10% of companies.
- Stage 5: "Life is great." People are happily working on goals that they believe in jointly without reference to other companies or competitors and simply because of their belief and optimism. This stage is often achieved fleetingly, held onto for short periods of time before coming back into Stage 4. Here, the growth rate is the fastest, with the most synergies, openness between people, and general positive attitude and happiness. This represents about 2% of companies.
teams that can be operating at Stage 4 more often.
The book also describes the "epiphany" that brings one from Stage 3 to Stage 4: realizing that meaningful results cannot be achieved alone or through micro-management, and it is through teamwork and leveraging other people that large impact can be made.I'd love to speak to people firsthand (other than Tony and Tribal Leadership's authors) about
personal experiences of the different stages and what worked for them and their group in transitioning from one to the other. This seems like the crucial thing to understand and probably a skill gained more through experience than simply reading about it.