Finding Joy in the New Year & What do Steven Colbert and the Pope have in common?

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Every January, I debate whether I should have a New Year’s resolution for myself. As today is the 6th day of the new year and I’m still trying to figure this out, two obvious suggestions for me would be: (1) don’t procrastinate and (2) become more decisive.

That’s too easy, though, and a bit boring. I’m going with a more fuzzy concept: finding and sharing joy in my life, both at work and personally. Where did I get this idea? From my favorite late night host, Stephen Colbert. And in case you were wondering what he and the Pope have in common (aside from being catholic), in a recent interview, Mr. Colbert said it is ‘joy’. He calls his late night show ‘the joy machine’ and he notes how the Pope has a joyful spirit.

The more I think about it, the better I like this as a goal for my year ahead. Finding joy is more than just being happy or feeling grateful for things, I believe it includes spreading that feeling out into the world. If you stop and think about it, you probably already know someone who does this well. Aren’t there some people that you just like to be around because of how they make you feel?

This goal is going to be tough to gauge my success. I’m still trying to think of the appropriate metric (feel free to message me any suggestions via Facebook messenger or e-mail).

I’ll end this post with a video clip of the joyful late night host dancing on a recent show as he was learning to cook Indian food:

 

 

Dancing at work – why not?

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I recently changed jobs. I am still working at the same company, so it might not seem like a big change to someone who does not work there, but it really is a big change for me. I’ve spent the last 19 years working primarily in the technology field, building a large knowledge base about tax software. I’ve left technology entirely in my new role, so in many ways, I feel like a new employee, learning new responsibilities and meeting new people. It is a bit scary, but I feel mostly excited about the new perspective it has given me.

Some of you reading this may be fans of late night TV in the US, so you are aware of the job change made by Stephen Colbert. While I liked his old show, I am absolutely captivated with how he starts his new show. Here is a recent example:

He is obviously having fun with his new job, so I’m taking this as an inspiration for myself each day. I don’t always dance, some days I skip a little. Making sure I start my day with a little bit of silliness is never a waste of time. Hope all of you find time to squeeze in a little ‘dance’ into your workday (even if you look like Elaine on Seinfeld.)

Check back in with me in another month, if I’m still dancing at the start of my workday, maybe I’ll post a clip of it here!

An ordinary life

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A hit song from 2002 had the refrain “I’d rather be anything but ordinary please”.ย  What I really don’t understand about the sentiment is “Why is ordinary bad?”

Personally, I like thinking of myself as ordinary. I looked up ordinary on Dictionary.com, the definition I use is the 4th option on the site, which cites ordinary as meaning “customary; usual; normal”.ย  My life consists of activities that would fit that definition to a T – and I’m pretty happy. I like my Monday – Friday work schedule, starting off with my usual caffeine boost, maybe doing the Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper and then starting the workday. Some days I take a break at lunch to walk or run, then I work until dinnertime. Weekends I get to sleep in and hopefully get to see friends or family. We share a meal, see a baseball game or listen to music. All very ordinary, but good stuff!

Sure, I have times in my life that are outside the norm, that you could call extraordinary. But their infrequency is what makes them special. The majority of my life is amazingly and wonderfully ordinary.

If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering why I am even writing about this. It is because I see people making themselves miserable because they are not “special’ or “extraordinary”. My teenage children have complained to me at times that kids their age all think they need to be special at something. Being a teenager has always been rough, but I do think it is tougher today. Why? Because people become instant stars on You Tube (think Rebecca Black’s song Friday) and, probably a bigger reason, the explosion of social media. Much of it glorifies superficial qualities as important. It is easy to think of yourself as unworthy if you don’t match up to what you see online. In an earlier post that focused on Facebook, I mentioned a quote from the movie “Easy A’, when a teacher laments that social media included really trivial things, like someone had a Coke Zero that day. To be honest, I wish social media included more ordinary posts mixed in with the glamorous ‘selfies’ that teens are intent on creating and sharing. If more people posted ordinary things, then we’d probably feel better about our own ordinary activities.

This brings me back to the reason why I created this blog — one of my objectives was similar to the goal of the TV show “Seinfeld”. The show was supposedly “about nothing”. It really wasn’t about ‘nothing’, it was about ‘ordinary’. That is what made it so fun to watch. The characters were often doing ordinary things, but they had a blast doing it.

Since I just discovered Seinfeld re-runs on Hulu, I think I know what I’ll do this evening. Have a great Tuesday evening, all you fellow ordinary folks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Memories

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I started this blog exactly two years ago – sitting in a hotel room in the Zuri hotel in Bangalore, India. I remember the hotel room vividly – the curtains, the desk, the chairs in the room. Since that trip, I’ve been on probably 10-15 other business trips in the US, however I have a harder time remembering what those hotels looked like.

One of Maya Angelou’s often cited quotes is this: โ€œI’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”ย  While she was speaking about how we remember other people, I think the idea of feelings affecting your memory of a person can also be applied to how we remember things like hotel rooms. I probably remember the hotel room in India much more clearly than a more recent stay in Washington DC, because of how I was feeling at the time. My feelings in India were excitement and anticipation of being in a new country. I was meeting new people, seeing new places and doing things I had never done before. My feelings when staying in DC were not necessarily bad, there was just not the heightened emotions during a routine business trip.

Outside of our internal recollections, external triggers can cause us to remember something clearly all of a sudden, such as:

  • Seeing a photograph of some place you knew or visited a long time ago;
  • Running into an old friend. Memories can be triggered just by seeing someone’s face that you have not in a while or by hearing them talk about something that you both experienced in the past; or
  • Talking to someone who is experiencing something in their life now that is very similar to something you experienced in the past. While they are not talking about your past experience, their current situation can bring back memories of how you felt when in the similar situation.

I really enjoy having an unexpected memory trigger.ย  That is because I think our own memories largely support our view of ourselves, so they can be somewhat limited and narrowly focused. I consider myself to be a math/numbers person, so my memories of elementary school are, unsurprisingly weighted towards different math related lessons and games my teachers played with us. On my own, I didn’t have much memories about my elementary school music classes, I’m guessing because they did not involve a lot of math. On Facebook, I recently exchanged messages with an old classmate of mine, who spurred a memory of a class with my music teacher, Mrs. Solomon. This friend quoted part of the lyrics to a song we sang probably in 2nd or 3rd grade. When I read her post, suddenly I remembered not just the words she had typed, but I could hear the tune to the song in my head — what a fun and completely unexpected memory!

Like most people, my memories seem to get a little fuzzier as I get older. Part of my reason for this blog is to record my memories of things like my trip to India. It is also a place to just write what I’m thinking about – my random thoughts. Hope these random thoughts have triggered unexpected (and hopefully good) memories for you also.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the experience, stupid

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James Carville created Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan to capture what he felt the American public cared about ‘Its the economy, stupid.’ย  I’m loosely borrowing that phrase to explain what makes people happier. It is a fun pop psychology topic: “Does acquiring things or experiences make a person happier?” My answer is definitely to spend money on experiences — especially if they can be repeated or re-experienced.

Here’s a real life example of how the experience can make a person happy. I recently was the recipient of a small gift (small from an actual physical size), but large in the impact it has on my life because I use it every day.

HappygiftThe gift was a new shower head – it is one of the overhead style shower heads, the kind that I usually only get when I stay in a nice hotel. I get such a kick out of using it each morning, it is like showering in a hotel each day.

I was listening to a favorite podcast recently, in the Stuff You Should Know series (really cool, click on the link to check it out), and this topic was discussed. In their podcast, one of the commentators said that buying a guitar made him happy. It wasn’t the actual physical object that made him happy, it was the act of playing the guitar. He stated the obvious, which is only buy an object if you are going to use it (meaning don’t buy a treadmill and stack clothes on it), to get the happiness effect.

My advice to anyone who wants to be a little happier each day: spend money on something that will impact your daily routine in a positive manner. Even if small, like the shower head, the repeated experience every day will be a surefire mood boost. It helps that my mood boost happens first thing in the morning too. ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. If you want to check out fun podcasts, please look at the archive of stuff you should know. You can learn how the Spanish Inquisition worked or about Numbers Stations — really neat stuff!

Information…..pass it on!

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One of the pivotal scenes in the movie ‘Wayne’s World’ happens when a security guard (Chris Farley) shares information with Wayne and Garth about the exact location of a wealthy music investor, Mr. Big. This information comes at a key point in the movie for Wayne, allowing him to try to win back his love, Cassandra.

I thought about this goofy movie scene today as I was reading an article posted by a favorite speaker/author of mine, Tim Sanders. Mr. Sanders’ article talks about the benefits of connecting people with others. His article is primarily focused on sharing contacts, but I want to extend his idea to sharing information — not necessarily confined to contacts, but knowledge that can help others as they pursue their goals in life.

I love the idea of sharing information – so much to the point that I probably share too much information. My view is that people are smart enough to decide what information they want to filter in or what they want to filter out. By other people freely sharing their knowledge/contacts/tips, it can help others piece together what might be useless as a standalone piece of information, but could be a key component of a new idea/end product that was just dreamed up.

Thankfully, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn make it easy to share information and make new connections with others. Who knows what next great idea will be triggered by a random social media post? An even more exciting thought to me isย  — what if a great idea is inspired by something I shared? What a wonderful possibility ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Smiles, giggles and uncontrollable laughter

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This post is about laughing, which is one of my favorite things to do. I have a very low threshold for things I find funny, a trait I’ve had since birth.

Case in point: My mom has retold a story about hearing what she thought was a loud old man laughing in my room when I was still a baby/toddler. She says it was a pretty deep sounding laugh, so she went into my room to see who was laughing. There was no old man in the room, just her young daughter. She said I was watching a spider trying to crawl up either the screen or the glass on my window. It would get part of the way up, then fall back down to the bottom (at which time I would start laughing madly) and start climbing back up again. To my delight, this poor spider seemed to fall several times, so I continued to laugh over and over.lily pad spider

As I’ve grown up, my willingness to laugh at simple things has remained. I still like to watch kids’ cartoons and reading the comics in the newspaper. The comics are great for getting going in the morning — an especially funny one can get my mood on track for the entire day.ย  Here are links to a few favorites of mine:

A recent find that has tickled my funny bone is a blog that became a book. I bought the book one morning when I arrived at the airport early. As usual, I wanted to start my day laughing if possible, so the book’s cover commanded my attention.

hyperboleandahalf The drawings were crude and the subtitle contained the word ‘mayhem’, so I was sold without knowing anything else about why I was spending $18 on this book.

Here is a link to one of the stories on her blog which is also in the book, to get a feel for her humor: ‘The God of Cake’

If reading that did not make you smile, giggle or burst out laughing, well, you are in need of a laughter checkup ๐Ÿ™‚ย  bouncingalliebrosh