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


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?


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!

It’s the experience, stupid


James Carville created Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan to capture what he felt the American public cared about ‘Its the economy, stupid.’  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. 🙂

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!

Richard Parker or Cowardly Lion?


Today I am thinking about two very different movie portrayals of members of the cat family. The two movies are ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Wizard of Oz’. For those who have seen both movies, they may not have appeared similar, but there is a common theme: Both movies are about a young adult who is put in a strange world (Pi on a boat in the Pacific, Dorothy in the land of Oz), they make their ways home with the help of non-human creatures. It just so happens that one of the companions to each lost adolescent is a type of a cat. Not cat as in domestic cat, but cat as in ‘Big Cat’ – the lion and tiger variety. In these two movies, the big cats could not be more different in personality.

life-of-pi-tiger-richard-parker-2In the movie ‘Life of Pi’, one of the lead characters is a Bengal tiger known as ‘Richard Parker’. Richard Parker is ferocious at the outset, but becomes slightly tamed, enough so that he and Pi are able to co-exist on a boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Their co-existence is not easy, it requires Pi to continually show he is unafraid and able to stand his ground.

Stills-cowardly-lion-of-oz-19567406-1424-1800In the movie ‘Wizard of Oz’, a lead character is referred to as the ‘Cowardly Lion’. The Cowardly Lion is appropriately named and begins very fearful, only learning how to be brave after surviving frightening situations with Dorothy and others. It is not until nearly the end of the movie that the lion realizes he had unknown strength inside himself all along.

Despite the cats very different personalities – Richard Parker as strong and unafraid and Cowardly Lion as timid and fearful, they both serve similar roles to their young human counterparts – helping them survive in a strange environment and become stronger. Richard Parker brings out Pi’s strength to survive by forcing Pi to become assertive and constantly monitor his surroundings – keeping alert. Cowardly Lion helps Dorothy become stronger as she tries to help him overcome his fears and make his way with her to see the Wizard.  The different ways they help their human companion survive may reflect the way we perceive strength in the different genders. In men, we expect strength to be shown outwardly, with a strong roar, and with women, we expect strength to be shown less overtly, through encouragement and support in challenging situations. If those stereotypes are true, then each cat did his part well.

So if you were in need of courage, who would you be – Pi standing up to Richard Parker or Dorothy helping the Cowardly Lion?  Roar!

Concluding thought….It’s time to get off the motorcycle and into the car


One of the EY team members I met in India is named Chethan. Chethan is a typical EY employee, mid to late 20’s with a college degree and full of ideas about making work processes better, more efficient. He is also very friendly and willing to respond to any question I might throw out about what life is like living in India.

One day, he was talking about his commute to work. I had been in India only one week, but had already experienced the chaos of travel in the city. The roads are not wide, so many folks ride motorcycles rather than cars, since the motorcycles can zip around cars that may be not moving very quickly. Motorcycles are clearly a faster method of transportation when traffic is heavy. I could see why so many of the EY employees ride motorcycles into work, to cut down on a long commute. Motorcycles at EY RMZ officeChethan said that for many years, he drove a motorcycle to and from work. However, for the past year, he has been driving a car into work. I asked him why – was it because he did not like driving in bad weather? No, that was not it – in fact there are really only 2 months out of the year that experience recurring rain. That was true, during the 17 days I was there, it never rained once. It was mid 50s in the morning and low 80s during the day. Weather definitely was not the reason not to ride a motorcycle.

His answer surprised me – he said there was a lot of construction along his route to work. My next thought is that construction meant that the roads were somehow blocked too, but if that was true, wouldn’t a motorcycle be better at navigating more narrow driving areas? No, there was not any construction on the roads, it was building construction. The construction simply meant that he wanted to make sure he avoided things falling down onto his head. If you live in America, you might think that remark is odd. However, I’ve seen the scaffolding along buildings in India – nothing like what you see in the U.S. It is easy to imagine that yes, things might actually fall down and could hit something below.

Chethan made the comment very casually, showing something that is typical of the way they live. If things aren’t exactly the way they need to be, all you do is adapt to the environment. Complaining won’t do anything when the situation isn’t ideal. The best answer is to adapt to whatever you are experiencing and move on.

I’ve become a big fan of that mindset – so much that this phrase is now going to be a quote I throw out in conversation. When things aren’t going exactly right, I’m just going to get off the motorcycle and get in the car.