I’d Love Your Advice

In recent years, with the benefit of age and life experience, I’ve come up with a strategy that has greatly increased the positive energy in my world. It will sound counterintuitive, but when I have a goal that I’m trying to reach, no matter how small it may seem, and even when I already know how I plan to reach it, I will ask for someone’s advice.

Have you ever seen the look on someone’s face when you tell them you’d like their opinion? Pure delight. You just gave them the highest compliment on earth. You value their insight. You respect them. You want to hear what they have to say.

Be sure to be genuine with your request. Even if your game plan is in place, by employing this strategy, you may be rewarded with some fabulous ideas that you hadn’t considered. It never hurts to get someone to look at your project from a different point of view.

And remember, you don’t necessarily have to take their advice. Either way, you’ve just made a huge deposit in someone else’s emotional bank account. They’ll remember that.

This approach will also keep you humble. It will remind you that you aren’t the only person with solutions in this world. Going it alone isn’t always the best way to get ahead.

I have never gotten anything but positive results from this tactic. Try it. Pick one person during the course of your day and say to them, “I’d love your advice.” Extra points for asking someone who rarely gets to give advice, like a young person or an elderly person.

See what happens. I think you’ll like it. I guarantee that the other person will.

lucy-advice-booth

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When You Reach Your Goal

I am a very goal-oriented person. That’s part of the reason that I started working at age 10, and I’ve been to 22 countries. I prioritize savings for my objectives over instant gratification or fancy electronics or a nice car or the latest smart phone. I never started smoking, not only because it’s a disgusting, life-threatening habit, but also because I had other plans for my life and my money.

And there is nothing, nothing at all, like the high you get when you achieve a goal that you’ve shed blood, sweat, and tears for, over an unbelievably long period of time. It’s better than winning the lottery, because it’s your sacrifices that make it happen. It’s like standing on a mountaintop, enjoying the view, after having crawled up there inch by inch, month by month, all on your own. There is no more beautiful view than that. Excelsior!

Recently, I achieved a goal that I had all but given up hope on. My little free library was made into a pokestop on the Pokemon Go app. This might seem trivial to many of you, but after having achieved the goal of having that library, I then wanted to draw as many children to it as possible, to encourage reading and literacy. Pokemon Go is very popular with young people. To play the game, one goes to pokestops in the real world. If my library is one of those pokestops, more children will visit it.

Achieving this goal took many months and hundreds of hours of dedication. I figured I’d have to play the game to suggest the pokestop, so I put the app on my phone and started playing. Then I found a suggestion form on the Niantic website (the creators of Pokemon Go), and filled it out. They responded, politely, that you have to be at level 40 in the game to make a pokestop suggestion, and that they only choose a few countries at a time, and that at present the US wasn’t one of those countries. I was crushed.

But I figured that I could at least work up to level 40 in the game so that if the US gets chosen, I’d be ready. Well, I’m at level 32, and that took forever. And each level takes longer to achieve than the last.

Meanwhile I figured that my suggestion had been discarded. Well, recently there was a Pokemon Go upgrade, and I installed it, and blink! My pokestop was there! Just like that.

But after going back to the Niantic website, and reading the requirements for pokestop suggestions, it seems that I may have just gotten lucky. Some level 40 person must have made the suggestion for me. And in retrospect, the description attached to the pokestop is in different words than I’d have chosen.

But still, goal achieved. Woo hoo! I’ll take it!

But after that “Excelsior!” moment, I experienced a little bit of a letdown. I had been working toward this goal for so long. Now what?

Once a goal is reached, especially if it’s reached so unexpectedly, you kind of go through a period of mourning. Life will be different, now. You have to find another purpose. You have to let go. You have to move on. Change. It’s really disconcerting.

And then there’s the awkwardness of knowing that I’m now addicted to Pokemon Go, and I no longer have a “legitimate” reason to play, other than the fact that it’s fun.

That should be enough, right? But it was ever so much nicer to have a loftier purpose. Now I kind of feel like a creepy adult who refuses to grow up.

I’m sure I’ll get over it, though. At least until I focus on the next goal, whatever that turns out to be.I guarantee there will be one. For me, there always is.

Maybe I should continue to try for level 40, and then suggest that every little free library I come across as a pokestop. That would increase literacy, too. Hmmmm…

My Pokestop
My very own pokestop! Woo hoo!

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“Low Expectations Are the Secret to Success”

A friend of mine said that to me recently. It was a joke. Of course it was a joke. But in every good joke lies a kernel of truth.

Yeah, if you set the bar low enough, you’re bound to be able to get over it. If all you want from life is a hovel with a mattress, a travel radius of less than 50 miles, a minimum wage job that doesn’t challenge you, and a spouse that challenges you even less, then the odds are quite good that you’ll succeed.

And that is a form of success, I suppose, if you are happy. If you are content and have no regrets, then you are right up there at the summit of humanity. Congratulations.

But maybe we should stop focusing so much on succeeding. Humans seem to be obsessed with the concept. No one wants to be a loser.

I think, though, that epic fails are highly indicative of people who are trying the hardest. People who take risks are usually the ones who care the most. Sticking your neck out means you have a much better view of an expanded horizon. It also means you’ve learned. Oh, how you’ve learned.

I’m not suggesting that you should set the bar so high that you’ll never have a chance. We can’t all be king of the world. But stretch yourself. Dream bigger than you think you can or should. Take chances. Have adventures. Live.

mountain climbing

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The Ingredients of Happiness

It always comes as quite a shock when someone famous commits suicide. Hearing on the radio that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his own life nearly caused me to swerve off the road. This is someone I’ve envied. He got to travel. He had crazy experiences and met fascinating people. He won countless awards. No doubt he also made a boatload of money.

This was someone who was successful, rich, and had an exciting life. Three things many of us strive for, and yet, now he’s gone. On the surface, you’d think that his was a life worth living. But to make this permanent choice, he must have been in a great deal of emotional pain. He must have been suffering. Surrounded by all of us, who admired him, he must have been all alone. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part. I doubt any of us will ever know the full story.

The only thing I can know for sure is that I am happier than Anthony Bourdain was. I would never have guessed this a week ago. But there’s incontrovertible evidence of this now. I’m still here.

So, what constitutes happiness? One thing is for sure: it isn’t money. I know that’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés for a reason.

I know someone who is a millionaire, but he’s also a divorced, estranged father and a raging alcoholic. He’s one of the most miserable people I have ever met. Money does nothing to solve your problems when all is said and done. Most of us know this, and yet so many of us still seem obsessed with filthy lucre. It’s such a waste of time.

As far as I can tell, the two things you need to be happy are connections and purpose. Humans are social animals. They need community. The more you surround yourself with people you love who love you back, the happier you will be. And having a purpose, such as a job you love, or a goal to strive for, or even a hobby, makes life worthwhile. If you have none of those things, I encourage you to become a volunteer. Helping others is the noblest of purposes.

Don’t get me wrong. None of us can be happy all the time. People who are happy all the time are mentally ill. It’s how we cope with the rough patches that truly defines us. But there’s a lot that you can do to make your life satisfying overall.

If you are contemplating suicide or know someone who is, I strongly encourage you to seek help. Here in the US, a great resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. Please, just do that one last thing before taking any steps that, once done, can never be undone. Surely you owe yourself that much.

Anthony Bourdain, I hope you have found the peace you apparently could not find in this life. I wish you had made a different choice.

Anthony Bourdain

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Humbly Reaching Out

From a recent conversation with my boyfriend:

Me: All of a sudden so many good things are happening in my life! I’ve got that job interview, I got a promotion in my captioning job, I got my 100th follower on my blog, and I just saved a couple hundred bucks by transferring a credit card balance. Could it be that the pendulum is swinging back the other way, finally? Could my luck be changing? I should buy a lottery ticket.

BF: Just remember that this is from YOU reaching out. Not the other way around. Keep reaching out and the way will show itself to you.

Me: You’re right. But, too, it DOES seem like it is the very times when I step back and surrender and stop trying to force things…that’s when things start to get better. Sometimes I just have to get out of my own way.

BF: I learned that from hitchhiking. The more you want and NEED a ride, the less chance someone will stop.

Me: Exactly! So, reach out by sticking your thumb out, but don’t add desperation into the mix. Don’t insist. Don’t expect everything at once. Just make yourself available to the abundance should it come your way, and then see what happens.

————–

That’s a difficult balance to maintain. Reaching out but not clutching, grasping, forcing it. Being humble without being passive. Being open without having expectations. Trying to reach a goal without anticipating an outcome. Having faith but taking responsibility for yourself.

I think finding the right balance will be something I’ll have to work on my entire life. But as it stands now, I did wind up getting the job!

On the other hand, I only matched two out of the six numbers on that lottery ticket. But hey, that’s one number more than is usual for me! Which is probably why I rarely buy them.

Hitchhiker Jericho

[Image credit: solanotempest.net]

P.S. Please do not take this as an endorsement of hitchhiking. In this day and age it’s entirely too dangerous. Getting across town, let alone across the country, isn’t worth your life. Unfortunately, this is not the world of my youth.