When do we (should we) get serious about the pursuit of joy?

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.  —Annie Dillard

The point here is that we all go through phases and cycles that determine our path, trajectory, and destination. Amidst the chaotic stretches where you feel like we have no control there are other moments of clarity, joy and  opportunity. Windows of time that give us the chance to make a change, shift gears, pivot—hopefully focus more on what we really want.

Age 26, according to the unscientific longitudinal Kobara study involving thousands of unsuspecting subjects, starts an 8 year time frame (until 34) where the brain starts to shift to serious things.

It all started some time ago…….

High school is a blur that is dominated by embryonic ideas of self and a confusing cocktail of peer pressure, parental expectations, promises and perfection. Angst over picking a college. The future is filled with questions and excitement.

Who am I?

College can be an awakening unless it was just an extension of high school Average college students change their major 2.5 times. Angst over a major that will connect to a career that cannot be predicted. New questions emerge.

What do I want?

Passion and purpose can be submerged to the realities of student loans and dental benefits.

Caring what others think can distract us from discovering ourselves, our purpose and our joy.  Finding-joy-in-the-journey

"Psychologists and social scientists have found that there are two kinds of popularity: One type suggests people like us, they trust us, they want to spend time with us, they enjoy their time with us. That kind of popularity is really important — it gives us a benefit in life in so many domains, for decades, whether we experience it in childhood or as adults. The second type of popularity is the one we remember from high school, that refers to our status; it reflects our visibility, our influence, our power — our celebrity, in some ways. There’s research showing that type of popularity — status popularity — does not predict long term positive outcomes. In fact, it leads to despair, addiction, and relationship problems. But most people are still confusing the two types of popularity, and searching for the wrong one."  Mitch Prinstein, Popular: The Power of Likability In A Status-Obsessed World.

And we can get focused on, even worship things, things we believe will make us happy and or successful.

“....pretty much anything you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” David Foster Wallace

Am I where I am supposed to be? Am I having fun?

According to the annual Freshman Survey (20 years ago+), the three top goals of first year students in college, in order of preference, are authority in their field (don't even have a major :), raise a family and being very well off financially. The survey reflects the responses of 1.5 million college students from every state. These results have been relatively consistent for 50 years.

That's why I found it fascinating that they did a follow-up study 10 years later when these former 200,000+ freshman were now 28ish. They were asked the same questions. So what were their top three goals now that they have a degree and a healthy dose of the real world?

  1. Raise a family
  2. Develop a meaningful philosophy of life
  3. Become an expert in their field

Help others in difficulty was 4th and being very well off financially fell to 7th.

Develop a philosophy of life?!

Your heart has been giving you signals for a long time but you have muffled those messages by turning up the volume on your life distraction headsets.

You could have one of several "wake-up calls". The world around you starts to call out your name, you wonder how to become an agent of change.  You notice something entering or exiting your heart. A brush with death, yours or someone you love, a subtle or not so subtle connection with life's purpose. You get laid off, not promoted. Then the self-interrogator of life rises again with the blinding light of nerve wracking queries.

Is this all there is? What difference am I going to make? Where is my joy?

Graduate school? Graduate school again?

Marriage or kids or no kids? The initial formation of what I call "regret tumors" starts. Beginning with the abandonment of dreams or promises. Not malignant but ominous tumors.

Seeing the present for the first time instead of letting the next bulldoze the now

Most of you under-estimate yourself and doubt is your enemy.

A few of you over estimate yourself and arrogance is your enemy.

Both are necessary for success but you need more perspective, humility, grit and resilience.

Start re-booting your life--- a life that interweaves your passions and your goals. Start listening and trusting your heart. This is not easy, but it is rewarding.

What is meaningful to you? What gives you joy?

If you are over the age of 34, it is never too late. Your quest for greater fulfillment and your sense of contributing to something larger than you is growing within you. Time is fleeting.

Regrets age you. Regrets can kill you. Minimize regrets!

If your goal is to make meaning by trying to solve a big problem in innovative ways, you are more likely to make money than if you start with the goal of making money, in which case you will probably not make money or meaning.    Guy Kawasaki

The key is engaging others in your quest. In your journey. In your dreams. Getting help to pursue your ideas. Getting advice on what others have already learned and tried. Connect! Don't fall victim to the "do-it-yourself" trap. It never works! Listen to yourself! The you that jumps out of the passenger seat and takes over the steering wheel of your life! Start building a life that gives you joy!

So you are waiting for the right time. The confluence of great opportunity, financial security and a sign from the heavens.....

There is no right time, just right now!

Thanks for reading. John

Smile Networking

When playing poker or just observing people you notice a host of "tells": the signs a person makes when they are nervous or bluffing. Body, eye movements, smiles, tics, gestures, and inflection. All give you clues, hints, and ways to understand what is being said and unsaid. I have to work on these things everyday. Before I did work that was videotaped, I was unaware of my tells. When I listened I looked critical, I still do this from time to time. I have to think about eye contact because I can look down when I talk. And I have to remind myself to stay positive. For me, it takes mindfulness and being present. 

I will never understand all of the good a simple smile can accomplish.  Mother Teresa Smile2

I watch people's eyes and their smiles. It is so easy to see when people like what they are talking about. I ask people to "tell me more" about that subject, because I know they want to. 

According to English and Jewish proverbs--Eyes are the window to the soul.  

I believe this. And if the eyes are a window then the smile is the sliding glass door to the soul. It is the face of your heart.

No other form of body language can transform you and your networking, than your smile. 

Your face triggers the face and the feelings of those looking at your face. Your eyes are the window to your truth. 

I had an assistant named Pam who never smiled. It became a game with me. Every morning, I would greet her with a huge smile and a theatrical, "GOOD MORNING! How are you?" She always responded the same no matter what I did. She said, "Fine," without smiling. Actually it was more of a frown. So one day I could not stand it any more. She stood there and said "fine" looking like her cat died. I said, "Then Tell Your Face!" After that Pam faked smiled at me every morning and we laughed.  

Long time ago, I supervised telemarketers and we used mirrors to show the trainees their faces when they were on the phone. Your voice is so much different when you smile! Smiling telemarketers always performed better. 

I love the work of the Smile Foundation--restoring the smiles of children with facial deformities. 

Like most things you do for others it helps you more. Smiling almost always makes others smile. And smiling makes us feel good and makes others feel good. But recently researchers have shown that smiling, genuine smiles, not only feel good but actually make us healthier. Huh? Yes, recent studies show that smiling reduces anxiety, heart rate, and increased recovery from stress and even depression. There is a physiological and psychological reaction in your body when you use your smile muscles. Even if you just see another smiling it fires off neurons that simulate the feeling of your own smile. Serious studies show greater life expectancy and life satisfaction if you smile. Long distance runners who smiled reported they were less tired and stressed. It all makes sense. When you smile others smile. You give off positivity and get it back. So it is probably a combination of internal and external factors that feed off one another.We all know how quickly a look can turn us negative. We walk a very fine line between happy and unhappy. Satisfied and dissatisfied. Positive and negative. Glass half full, half empty.....A smile can push us and others around us over to the positive side of the street.   Smiles

The genuine smile--the real smile--is called by researchers the Duchenne smile. Named by the 19th century French neurologist. This smile uses the major muscles around the eyes and mouth areas. This is contrasted with the Pan Am smile, named for the socially polite smile of an airline flight attendant. This smile just lifts the muscles around the mouth. 

Funny ironic thing is that people with botox injections were also studied. Because their smile muscles were "impaired" they were less happy and had a harder time sensing the feelings of others! You want to look and feel good--artificially?! Shame on you. ;)

This research is dwarfed by the certainty that an upside down smile makes you and others feel worse. You have a great smile--use it! Smile! 

Thanks for reading. John