Happiness Is a Problem

What do you think of when I say the words you’ll never really be happy without problems?

I’m probably crazy, right?

What defines happiness? Having a lot of money? A nice car? A pool? Season tickets? All of those things can aid in eliciting a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I don’t think you’ll ever actually be happy, even if you had all of those things at once.

From the second chapter of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Manson talks about what life ends up being if all your goals in life are to create a world devoid of anything negative. If, throughout your entire life, everything is catered for you, solved for you, and you’re never exposed to an ounce of anything less than 100% amazeballs, what will you have left?

This is the classic story of the rich kid who had everything given to him and never a need left unfulfilled. We all know how those stories turn out, too: rich kid rebels and goes off on some life journey to explore the world and find himself.

Too bad that never works out, either. Making such a decision based on emotion is usually a recipe for disaster, because it doesn’t actually address the problem. In fact it does the opposite.

Everyone knows someone that runs away from their problems. Everyone also knows someone that looks for token-based methods of solving their problems (filling a void with things). Unfortunately, neither of these methods will ever work, as we as humans strive on the ability for genuine problem solving.

Throwing Money At the Problem

> To be happy, we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that s passively bestowed upon you, not something that you magically discover… happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving. 
Let’s take that quote from [Manson’s book](http://amzn.to/2iEyzKE) and chew on it for a second or two.

We have two people that face the same general level of adversity and struggle in life. They can be any race, gender, name, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Person A throws money at the problem so to speak by buying a new car and a new house and new clothes and a trophy spouse to counteract the pain and suffering this adversity is creating in their life.

Person B does things a bit differently. Starting in the same place, they find a solution to the problem which created the diversity, thus eliminating it from their lives altogether. The next day comes and a new challenge surfaces. Lucky for them, they know how to tackle things like this and it’s just a matter of rinse and repeat.

The Key Difference

What Person A did was nothing more than paint over mold. That mold will always be there and will probably just get worse, requiring you to tear down the walls and deal with more than you ever thought was going to happen. Person B cleaned out the mold, tore down walls where needed, and took care of the problem the better way from the start.

Now Person B can go buy a nice car and house and whatever they feel like they want, but those things are there for fun, not because they have to be. At this point if we took away all the things Person A acquired for themselves, how much do you want to bet they’re still worse off than before they had them in the first place?

I’d bet a lot.

What all this comes down to is chasing to create a world around you that involves tackling life’s challenges and not only being consistent but also taking the time to create good problems for yourself. That’s a good problem to have.

For those following along, I want to talk about the second half of this chapter (making decisions based on emotion) in the next post. It’s a topic that’s pretty near and dear to my heart, as I have a load of personal experience with it, as well. In the event I end up running long, I don’t want to toss too many different bits of info out at you, at once.

My Year in Review

What better time to take a look back at what’s happened the last year than with a glass of scotch on Christmas night? All the festivities are over and tomorrow the lights come down to be stored away until next year.

I haven’t written anything substantial in quite a long time. My last journalistic blog post was longer ago than I’m willing to admit and my last post of any kind of substance was in July. I’m not sure lists count for much in the substance category, either.

I wish there was a good reason for it. I could run off a few excuses, but in reality I don’t have much that’s both good and not something I could have worked around.

With my scotch, I sit. When I blogged daily, I killed it. I’m pretty sure I used it as an outlet and a sweet mental release. I don’t really know what I mean by that or where I’m going with that. I tried keeping the train running on schedule when I moved to California, but that wasn’t a huge success.

Let’s give this a try: looking back on all that’s happened over the last calendar year, in hopes of finding solace in all I’ve seen, done, felt, and fought through. Those are some pretty choice words I just used… it’s almost like some stuff actually happened. Stuff… worth writing about.

San Francisco, California


Plot twist: I don’t live there, anymore. I’m back in my native Washington and while it feels great to be home, it’s bittersweet on several counts. I left Washington to start a new chapter of my life with someone I felt was special. Washington was my home state and I had a lot of years and memories already in place… 25 3/4 years worth, to be exact. It’s never too late to create new memories somewhere else so I welcomed the change with open arms.

I became attached to the state, even though a lot of its quirks could be seen by many as being subpar or less than ideal. Though I made friends–and some of the coolest people I’ve ever met–I’d say the majority of the folks I encountered were not that great. My experiences and measurements are highly annecdotal so please don’t quote me on that. There’s a good handful of people I know that have lived in California much longer than I and enjoy it way more. I suppose the crowd you hang out with has a lot of influence on those experiences.

I will never get over how expensive California is for what you receive. I think most people call that the value. In this case, it’s almost exclusively perceived value, but value nonetheless. Rent was high, traffic was bad, and at least where I was, there was no character.

Out of those three things, though, only the latter didn’t bother me, that much. See, I grew up in the suburbs. I’m used to less-than-large brush strokes of character in a city. I called the East Bay and Silicon Valley my homes for 6 months and a year, respectively. In that 18 months, I feel I formed a good enough opinion about California, and here it is.

Everyone in The Bay Area is looking for something, trying to get somewhere, or accomplish some goal. It’s a miniature Los Angeles, in that regard. Everyone that I encountered that grew up there landed somewhere on the bitter scale between hateful rage and moderately displeased. California changed and what they knew was essentially pulled out from under them by tech.

Tech companies were holding the area together by the time I got there. If just a handful of these big names went up in smoke one day, the market would come crashing down around every single individual that lived there. So many folks moved to the area for those companies, and their livelihoods would be demolished. Chances are, this would be but temporary as another tech company would move in to take its place, but on a larger scale, I think this area could only survive substituions like that for a little while.

Silicon Valley was and is the only place I’ve found one million dollar townhomes running for 6-7x what they cost to build. The market is inflated only because people know there’s someone out there that’ll pay that much… because they have to. It’s a vicious cycle that was created by greedy people looking to capitalize on recent establishements in the area… capitalism is great, isn’t it?

These artifical increases spread to apartments and even those who already owned their houses. These valuations were raising property taxes… as if California needed more money (spoiler alert: it always does… California and money managment are the classic oil and water illustration).

Of everything I saw and experienced while in California, artificially high cost of living was really the only thing that bothered me. I would have stayed past the event I’m about to describe next, had it not been for the fact that I didn’t feel I was getting a good value for what I recieved.

Wedding Couple

Marriage is Forever… Until it Isn’t.

I pondered whether I wanted to include this in my year in review because going through something like divorce is a highly personal topic and one I haven’t shared with many folks. It’s definitely something I never thought I’d experience. If me from this time last year or hell, me from this time, 2014 knew I would move to California married and move back divorced, I never would have believed it.

This is a highly complex topic, one that I could spend an entire series of posts on–or even a book–and just scratch the surface. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do the latter but at least sitting down and talking about my experiences in detail I’m sure would benefit at least one other man out there. Losing your partner with a stroke of the pen is painful, numbing, overwhelming, depressing, angering, and hysteria-inducing experience. Now try experiencing all those feelings and emotions at once. I did. And that’s why I want to talk to the world about it.

I read a couple books, and they helped, but they helped with a different thing–why I was in that situation, not how to get out of it. I’d argue one book technically fell into the get-out-of category, but for my scenario, it didn’t really apply. A lot of great ideas came out of those books, though, and when that time comes, I’ll be sure to bring them up.

The one huge takeaway I have, above all else, is that the saying time heals all wounds is shit. Time doesn’t do anything but amplify what’s already taking place as it ticks by on the clock. What time does is take what you’re doing right now, what you’re doing next week, and what you’re doing six months later and making those actions, feelings, thoughts, and words and makes them bigger, more powerful, and longer lasting.

If you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, just yet, let me spell it out for you in plain english: give yourself time to grieve, be sad, and experience all those feelings and emotions I mentioned earlier. Once that’s up, get off your ass and start walking foward, again. The only way you’re going to be able to have time on your side is if you’re doing something about your situation.

I could sit here for hours and talk about everything that I felt, said, did, and didn’t do, and I will, but now isn’t the time. We have other things to review.

Whatever You’re Happiest Doing is What you Will Do the Best

It’s an odd sentence and I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I stand by it. Yes, you could show me a hundred examples of people who are absolutely incredible at their jobs but are miserable. If I took that person and made them happy, say with my magic wand, and all of a sudden now they’re that much better at what they were already amazing at, what would you say?

Imagine that person is you, now. What are you doing with your life? Do you enjoy it? When you get up in the morning and think about starting this thing that you do every day, do negative thoughts start entering your mind? Do you start feeling dreadful, bummed out, sad, and don’t really look forward to doing it?

Ten bucks says that if you liked what you did, you’d 1) do it better and 2) do it more effeciently. Not just on a time scale of doing more things in less time with the same quality. Not even that, at all. The scale I’m looking at is the one which reflects your mental state. I have no science to back this up, but I’d bet a task you dislike takes more mental energy. Now compound several tasks you dislike and turn it into a job that you dislike. See where I’m going with this?

You might be able to leave work at work, home at home, but if you don’t like home or work, it’ll bleed over into the other, for sure. I know. I speak from experience.

With everything happening with the divorce, it took a toll on my performance. I was doing a pretty dang good job, but something started feeling a bit off on both my side (internally) and on the other side (externally, observed by others). In my job prior, it had an even larger effect because not only was I not a fan of my job, but there was a lot in limbo and in a chaotic state at home.

Let’s not get too sidetracked, though. Before all the personal chaos occured, I made the realization that I just described and it opened my eyes very quickly to what I wanted to do with my life. I suppose I could do the same thing forever, and be alright with it, but I’d never be all that happy with it. I think it’s worth saying I’m not talking about happiness at work but rather happiness with where I’m at in my career.

Like seeing your child smile for the first time makes you happy, doing what you love should make you happy, too. Yes, there will be times when it sucks, but you’ll still be happy you did it, or were there to experience it. The happiness will never be taken away.

Drawing to a Close

As the year wraps up, just five-ish days left, I think about everything I’ve been through, experienced, done, said, slept on, cried over, threw, threw out, threw up, laughed at, and drank to that I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wouldn’t trade these experiences, memories, and new sets of knowledge for anything.

Sure, getting to this point was incredibly painful, caused a lot of sleepless nights, caused a lot of wasted money and time, but I had a lot of great experiences as well. Like I said earlier, I made a lot of great friends, people I look forward to seeing, again, when I’m in the area (just to visit, California isn’t on my list of places to live, any time soon).

I’d never give any of that up. Doing so would essentially rob me of the man I’ve now become and the man I will continue to evolve into with these peices of life as fuel.

This year was a crazy one but it’s one I won’t forget any time soon. I look forward to sharing it all with you in 2017. If what I have to say helps even just a single person in the slightest bit, I know I’ve done my job in telling my stories to the world…

And that is what I hope will motivate me in the days, weeks, and months to come as I rejuvinate this blog.

For those who have followed me in various forms over the years (I started this blog at the end of 2014… holy cow!), thank you. For those new to the party, welcome. We’ll have a great time together, I can feel it.

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