Everybody has ups and downs, but over the years I’ve noticed a long-term trend: I’m getting happier with age. While the unpredictable events of daily life obviously influence your state of mind at any given time, there’s definitely been a general upward trend.
The reason is hard to miss. I’ve had a career that followed pretty much the same sort of trajectory: plenty of high-frequency ups and downs but generally up and to the right over the long haul. While that’s nothing to write about, I think you’ll find the factors behind it illuminating, if not surprising.
Maturity … sort of. When you’re young your world is small but your ego is huge so, relatively speaking, every little thing matters a lot. Growing up is about realising you’re not such a big deal after all. When you stop taking yourself so seriously and start lightening up, life gets a lot easier. While I’m still a kid in many ways.
Work-hard, play-hard attitude. I used to think of my dad as a tyrant for drumming a compulsive work ethic into me every day of my young life while I grew up at the farm. My mum was the financial brain of the family, knowing how to rake a dollar out of anything and feeding the family all year around. Put them together, you have me. My dad has been gone for some time but I’m grateful every day for that strange combination. It’s a real gift.
High aspirations, low expectations. We didn’t have much growing up so pretty much anything was an improvement. And while I admit to having been a little jealous of the nicer things my friends had, rather than a handicap I used that as an incentive to work hard and strive to achieve great things. That relentless drive was critical to my success.
Unquenchable thirst for knowledge and experience. I always had this insatiable hunger to learn, to explore, to figure out how things work, to know everything about everything. My hunger for reading from comics to classical literature gave me the desire to travel the world one day.
Knowing who to listen to, I’ve never been shy about asking advice of those who had achieved what I aspired to be. More importantly, I listened. Sure, I trusted my gut, but when their words really resonated with me, I acted without hesitation. That proved remarkably beneficial in choosing the right path when I was at a crossroads.
Knowing who not to listen to. Having grown up on a farm in a remote town of Spain during Franco’ dictatorship where you were criticised just for being different I learned early on how full of crap most people are. So I’ve never paid attention to what anyone said about how I behave or live my life. My methods and choices are mine and nobody else’s. That’s worked out pretty well.
At peace with who I am, life offered two distinct choices. The first was to reach for the stars. If you made it, great. If not, you have nothing to feel bad about. The second was not to go for it and spend the rest of your life beating yourself up over what you’re not and all the while wondering what could have been. Regret is a bitter pill to swallow.
What I think is counterintuitive as it is all sort of work related. The reason is simple. My priority has always been to do what I love for a living so, for me, hard work has always been fun and fulfilling. That’s probably why I have been good at it. And, over time, that brought freedom, flexibility, and a good life.
But there is a catch. It doesn’t happen overnight. One thing I noticed somewhere along the line is, the less I pressured myself in the short-term – the more I learned to let go and relax – the more successful I became over the long-term. My life has been a a marathon, not a sprint.