It Takes Work To Be Happy

It Takes Work To Be Happy

I always thought happiness would come if… I got the right job or married the right person. There was always something. Maybe I needed a vacation. Or some time off.


I would try and position myself in the right place. And wait. I’m ready to be happy. I’m patient, I’ll wait. And wait. It never came.


Or it would, but for a few days. And I was back to normal. Not sad by any means. normal. Neutral. Going through my days, looking forward to being happy again.


Then one day I thought. There has to be more to this. Why are some people happier than others? Were they born that way? Or taught to be that way?


My happiness was a roller coaster. A slow grind till the top followed by a few sweet moments of happiness then another slow grind. It worked for a while. I always had something to look forward to, and it did make me work harder.


But I envied those that had a more even temperament. The ones that were able to go on daily with a decent level of happiness. For a second, let me think that it’s possible to teach myself to be happy. Most other things in life are able to be learned. Why not happiness?


In the end, we just want to be happy, right? That’s the goal of pretty much everything we do. Be happy and bring happiness to others. I’ve always taught that before you can bring happiness to others that you’d have to be happy yourself. Like putting on oxygen first on an airplane.

Working on happy life

The Game Plan


So I came up with a game plan. I prepared for a difficult challenge. As my dad always said, if it was easy then everyone would do it. I knew I wouldn’t become happy overnight.


I decided to talk to some of the happiest people I know. People I know well and who I’ve seen deal with hard times and good. Not the ones that were artificially cheery all the time. The ones that were grounded and always had an air of positivity around them.


How did they look at the world? How was it different from how I saw the world? Fortunately, I had surrounded myself with people like these.


After months and hours of discussions with my friends, I noticed two common threads.


1. How often they expressed gratitude

2. How they looked at life when things didn’t go their way


It starts with gratitude

How often was I thankful per month? A couple of times? How many times a day? Usually none. When I sat down and thought about it, I didn’t express gratitude that often at all.


Well, maybe there wasn’t something to be thankful for every day. I mean I didn’t go on vacation every day. Eat good food every day. Get something new every day.


That could have been the problem. How can I have more happiness, if I can’t enjoy the small things in life? I thought this would be a good first place to start. And so a week went by. Two weeks. I had been thankful a handful more times.


Honestly, I kept forgetting. It didn’t feel natural to be thankful. I wasn’t used to being happy for small things. So I tried to switch things up. I got a notebook and at the end of the day, I would put down three things I was thankful for. Three things from that day. Everyday.


I put the notebook right next to my bed. So I’d see it before I went to bed. Let me tell you it was a struggle. Most days I’d come up with one thing to express gratitude for, maybe two if it was a good day. But I would sit there until I got to three. Everyday.


Over time, it became easier. I’d be able to rattle off things that went well that day. Small things. Finding a parking spot right away. Finishing a blog post. Catching up with a friend.


There was so much to be thankful for every day, I had been ignoring it. The notebook also helped me on days that didn’t’ go my way. Remind me that there has been plenty of good things that have happened recently. After a while, I didn’t even need the notebook, my mind would be looking for all the good that happened that day.

The other side of being happy

The other side

Showing more gratitude made a tremendous change in my life. My life would have been better had I stopped there. But there was more. Now I had to look at how I saw things when they didn’t go my way. My failures and missteps


I realized that my happy friends looked at failure differently than I did. It was part of the process for them. An intended outcome. Did they go through life expecting that they would fail? Sounds like not that great of a life.


No, they expected to fail many times till they succeeded. A small and important distinction. Studying medicine taught us either to succeed or don’t try. Only take a class if you can guarantee an A. Bailout if things are starting to look poor. That B could forever tarnish your GPA.


Life outside of medicine was different. Failing meant that you were trying something different. No one expects you to be a master pianist right away. You’ll have countless horrible sounding practice sessions along the way before you are ready to play in front of other people.


The same could be said about starting anything new. You’re going to be bad at it. Horrible even. You’ll want to give up. I know I’ve given up a ton of times in my life already. That’s because I’d try something for a little bit. I’d realize I wasn’t a natural and quit.


There are very few things in life that I’m a natural at in life. You may be the same. Instead of looking at the end goal, mastery, I looked at the process. The journey. All the missteps and hiccups were part of the learning process. Another learning opportunity.


I can’t admit that it took all the frustration out of not getting something right the first time. But it stung a little less. Even better, something magical happened. Before when I’d ignore it when things went well. Now I was looking for learning opportunities there as well. Was it luck? Or did I do something especially right? Was it repeatable?


The good and the bad became opportunities for me to improve myself. And I was thankful for both.


Why You and My Mom May Be the Only People Who Read this Post?

Why You and My Mom May Be the Only People Who Read this Post?

In March 2019, there were 4.4 million blog posts published per day! I can’t imagine how much higher that number is now. What even happens to a blog post after it gets published? How many readers does it have? How many of those 4.4 million blog posts do you read a day? One? Two? Most days you probably don’t have time to read any.


Eight people read my first blog post. I was ecstatic. Half of those views may have been from my family. But at least one was a real non-related person. I know because I sent the article to a few friends as well.


What happens to a majority of blog posts? Or anything for that matter? Not much. It disappears. There’s the old adage that if you a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around: does it make a sound? An audience is the lifeblood for us creators and our biggest challenge is to find them.


With how easy it is to start a blog, the barrier to entry is a computer and an internet connection. The power of the internet has made it so it’s easy to learn almost anything. We can all become creators.


This is one of the most freeing parts of modern life that each person has something of value to provide. Our only limits are ourselves. Want to start a podcast or youtube channel? Use your phone and free editing apps. Want to write a book? Go ahead. You can even publish it yourself.


So why aren’t we all internet famous? Followed and ready by thousands? It’s because of the long tail. It says that because there’s so much out there that most stuff isn’t read or heard by many. Many of us are at the end of the long tail, the yellow part of the graphic below. A handful of readers. A couple of fans. We hope to slowly gain more fans and provide more value. Move left.

Laptop helps productivity

A majority of the demand for anything goes to only a small few, the green part of the long tail. That’s true for blogs, podcasts, movies, and pretty much anything. If you aren’t one of those few, then you are fighting not against them or each other. You are fighting against obscurity.


How can we try and escape this long tail? Is it only due to luck? No, it’s luck and hard work. Since we are only competing versus insignificance, we have the power to help each other. In the world of blogs, this looks like posting on each other’s blogs. Or help spread the word. This may be sharing tools or tricks. This way we could all move left. We can share the message that only we could provide. Collaboration. We can help lift each other up.


How Being Frugal Was Limiting My Productivity

How Being Frugal Was Limiting My Productivity

This is something that I’ve been battling for a while. My laptop has been showing signs of its age. It used to get me through the day. Now I have to charge it every few hours. Opening up more than a few tabs causes it to need to think for minutes and everything takes a lot longer than it used to.


Not to say it’s all the computer’s fault, I’ve been asking much more of it than I used to as well. These days I do some basic video and image editing. I also use it for work. It’s on and doing something all day. Still, it’s been working well since I bought it in mid-2015, much longer than the typical 3 years I had laptops before it.


You would think that it’d be a simple and rational decision to go and look for a new laptop. Almost all my work is done on it whether in medicine, the blog, or my other businesses, but it’s been hard to let go. It still works. It’s a little slow but doesn’t have any major problems.


A couple of new versions of it came out through the past few years. Before this one, I would replace my laptop every 3-4 years due to necessity. Something would break and it would be cheaper to buy a new laptop than fix it. It seems like such a large expense. And my laptop still works.

Laptop helps productivity

Well, my amazing wife got me a new laptop. She knew I was being stubborn and not buying one even though I needed it. Or she was sick of me complaining about my current laptop. And you know what? I should have replaced it years ago. I lost countless hours of productivity throughout the years due to being stubborn.

I can see now all the patches I had put in my day to work around a slow laptop. I had bought that laptop as an intern and had to skimp to afford it. It had minimal specs. All that I could afford. There were some good times. I had to get creative and outsource stuff that I couldn’t do on my computer. Or it would take too long.

There were other times I suffered through and did things myself. And it took a lot longer than it should have. I know now that I was limiting myself. Trying to cut a tree with a dull ax. My laptop was my tool of the trade and because it got the job done. Well, eventually. It doesn’t mean it was right for the job.

What are the tools of your trade? Do you keep an eye out when it’s time to upgrade them?


How to Prevent Notifications from Destroying your Productivity?

How to Prevent Notifications from Destroying your Productivity?


Wake up. Grab phone. Fail.

Wake up. Wash face and brush teeth. Try to resist and fail. Grab phone.

I start most of my days like I assume most of you guys do. With my phone. Of course with a bunch of red notifications. Emails, news, text messages and of course a bunch of spam calls.


Picking up my laptop is worse. I’ll see notifications from my email or my RSS Feed. For some reason, it’s harder to resist replying to an email on my laptop.


My RSS feed is a black hole of procrastination. It is a updated list of all the podcasts I listen to, blogs I read, and YouTube channels I watch. And there are always updates.


Sometimes, I’ll pick up my phone or laptop, look at a notification and put it down. Completely forgetting why I picked it up in the first place.


It starts innocently enough. Let me respond to this email. Let me read this blog post. Let’s see if there’s anything happening on the news. Suddenly hours have passed by. And I haven’t done a single thing.


This happens every day, many times a day. I sometimes envy our younger less connected days. Forsaking technology and the internet wasn’t an option, so I’ve had to find a few workarounds. Otherwise, I’d get nothing done. And many days I still don’t.

Notifications destroy productivity

Be mindful of what is able to send you a notification. When you first download an app, it’ll ask you it can send notifications. Think will you need it? Your attention is precious. Don’t give it away

Try and only use the amount of technology you need to get the job done. The internet is vast. Do you need access to it all to get this project done? I’ll open up a new browser window and only use that window while I’m working. My normal browser has countless tabs for articles that I’d like to read or need my attention at some point.

Mimic airplane mode. Turn off wifi. Hit airplane mode on your phone. Try to do that for 20-25 minutes and then give yourself a few minutes of relaxation. Then repeat.