“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.” ~James Russell Lowell
After reading Adam Savage’s book, Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It, and watching Werner Herzog’s Masterclass on filmmaking, I decided to buy a camera kit to start shooting and editing some short-form film. My topic for this project is joy (no surprise there if you know me AT ALL!) Essentially, what I want to do is film you showing me and talking to me about something, anything, that gives you a supreme amount of joy. In exchange, I’ll share the raw footage with you as well as the edit. And, with your permission, I’ll share the edit on Vimeo and YouTube with any kind of attribution you’d like. If you’d be willing to have me film you, let me know and I’ll share more about the project.
“We do not remember days. We remember moments.” ~Cesare Pavese
I passed by this sign on the street about a month ago, and it’s message hit me so hard my eyes teared up. I was especially struck by this line: “In true New York fashion, friendships were created here that crossed all barriers, and allowed strangers to become family. Like its namesake in Paris, our Barbès became a melting pot, one that celebrates all that is good in New York City and all that is good in America.”
A month later, I’m still think about this message to take a moment to have a moment that we will treasure long after the moment has passed. This is a note of thanks from the owners and staff of Barbès Restaurant in midtown that’s closing because the building is being knocked down. This happens a lot in New York. We tear things down. We build new things. People arrive. People leave. The constant turnover of places and people is a way of life here.
But something about this particular note hit me hard. The sentiment, gratitude, and deep sadness of the situation was so authentic in this simple sign taped to the window. And despite the sorrow at the end of its life, there was joy and gratitude. I looked in, and saw many people of all different ages, colors, and faiths enjoying a meal there. They were having a moment, made all the more poignant by the fact that this place would no longer exist in a very short time. It would live only in their memories. And I think that’s the very best we can to do with our time—to create memories that will outlast us by welcoming people into our lives.
“I stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and lit that bitch up myself.” ~Anonymous
“Stop waiting for Friday, for summer, for someone to fall in love with you, for life. Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment
you are in now.” ~Unknown
“Never have a job that makes you wish for Friday and dread Monday.” ~Doc (Charlie) Rodgers, my former cowoker at Rollins College
My friend, Ria, sent me this first quote. It first made me laugh out loud, which I sorely needed. Then it quickly gave me more energy to keep going on my path. Why do we wait, or worse, think we’re undeserving? Of happiness. Of love. Of our dreams. Of living the most magical life we can imagine? Why do we settle for less than we want? Why do we accept and strive for patience instead of progress?
Too many of us get stuck in the trap of thinking a job is a job and happiness is something different, something we do somewhere else. It’s not. We should be happy and proud of the way we spend our time everywhere that time is spent. I refuse to compromise on that ideal. Our time is far too precious to do anything but.
I hope that today your life and work are touched with love and light, and that you will be able to give that to those around you everywhere you go—at work and at home, in your neighborhood, in a store, and on the subway or bus. Just imagine what kind of world we would live in if that were our guiding principle every day. There would be so much light that our tunnels couldn’t even contain all of it.
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.” ~Roy M. Goodman
So often we’re trying to get to happy rather than realizing that happiness is right here within us. We carry it, and it carries us. It’s in the small moments and in the those small bits of time between the moments. If we can find and promote happiness there, then every day is a win.
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” ~Aaron Burr, “Non-Stop” from the musical Hamilton
Sometimes the best thing you can do with your neuroses is accept them and work within them. I think that might be the secret to life.
Hamilton has a way of teaching us so many lessons, about history, economics, and life. There are many ways to describe Alexander Hamilton and I think there is one that stands above all others—non-stop. Something in him knew his life would be short; he had seen so much loss at such a young age. He understood how fleeting life can be. He wrote and worked and loved and lived like he was running out of time because he was. We all are.
I’m not suggesting that this is the only way to live. I’m not even suggesting that it’s a good idea to focus so maniacally on what we’ve lost as Hamilton did. I just know that this is how my mind works. I see time ticking by and do what I can to make the most of it because I can’t make it slow down. This is what keeps me moving forward, especially in times of difficulty.
I’ve never been good at waiting and biding my time. No one I know would ever call me patient. I sit for 18 minutes a day meditating, and that’s about what I can handle. I don’t dwell on things I try that don’t work out—and that goes for baking a pie to landing a job and everything in between. I learn from my experiences and try something else. “Netflix and chill” is never going to be a phrase I embrace (and by that I mean the clean version, friends). I wish I could; I just can’t do it and be happy. And I like to be happy so I embrace my work, my friends, and my curiosity. Those are the things that matter to me.
We’ve just got this one life, and no one is ever going to find a way to manufacture more time. Time is the most equitable resource on Earth. We all get the same 24 hours. Let’s use them in ways that mean something to us. Hamilton certainly did.
I spent the weekend happily disconnected from devices and reunited with my Darden MBA class to celebrate our 10-year graduation milestone. I went to reunion to be with friends far and near, and to revisit a place where I learned that anything is possible when we combine passion, purpose, and persistence. At Darden, I learned how to stand strong in my beliefs while balancing conviction and openness to new ideas and perspectives. It remains the greatest investment of my life, not only for the skills I gained and the knowledge I attained from my brilliant classmates and professors, but even more so for the deep friendships I found there. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and only grows more valuable with time. I loved seeing and hugging all of you, and am already looking forward to the next time we’re all together again. Until then, know that I’m rooting for all of you to live your happiest, most beautiful lives. The best is yet to come.
Yesterday I turned down an opportunity for a new job. A great job. A job with a wonderful mission that matches my skill sets and would be the next step on the technology-based product development path I’ve been on for almost a decade. I’ve now done this several times in the past month.
“Why?” you might be asking. The opportunities were great, but not great for me. Sometimes the culture wasn’t right. Other times the team wasn’t right. Often the communication wasn’t right, or non-existent. And most importantly, that path isn’t the one I want to be on anymore. It’s been a great decade. I’ve learned a ton, so much more than I ever thought I’d learn when I started down this road. I’m glad I took this journey, and I’m glad it’s over. Like a good long hike, my body’s tired but my mind is clear and my heart is full. The view is spectacular, and now I’m ready to take another road on another adventure.
That adventure has to be heavily focused on writing, communication, and relationship-building. It has to take full advantage of the business skills I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money to hone. It has to be brimming with creativity and the mission of the work has to be to build a better world. I think that these kinds of opportunities will be with a socially driven for-profit company or a nonprofit. And as far as location, I’m looking at New York, Philadelphia, and D.C. I’ve spent my life in this Northeast Amtrak corridor. I’ve gone to school here. The majority of my close friends and contacts are in and around those cities. Nearly all of my past employers are based here. I am by all accounts an east coaster, and proud of it. I’m a New Yorker at heart, and I always will be. Once you know exactly who you, you can’t be anyone else. Authenticity and integrity are everything.
I talked to my friend, Chris, yesterday. We talked about how important it is to align who we are with what we do as the key criteria to a happy career. You can only play a role for so long. Eventually, you walk off the stage, you take off the costume and the makeup, and all you’re left with is the person in the mirror. Bare-faced—scars, imperfections, and all. Now that’s the person I listen to. The heart and the gut I follow belong to her. And her time is now. So is yours.
“She woke up every morning with the option of being anyone she wished. How beautiful it was that she always chose herself.” ~Tyler Kent White
There is something so beautiful about people who choose authenticity, who are exactly who they are in every setting, with every person, every time. It feels good to be with these people. They make us want to live out loud.
As you go through life, I hope you find these people, hold them close, and let yourself follow their example. Be who you are. Life is too short and too precious to waste your time trying to be anyone else. And the world needs you, exactly as you are, right now. Surround yourself with people and in settings that appreciate everything that you are and everything that you have to offer. Don’t settle for anything less.
“If you really want to be a rebel, practice kindness.” ~Sharon Salzberg
Love in the face of hate. Smile at anger. Stubbornly seek joy, especially during times that seem so dark. Rise when someone tries to keep you down. And be determined to make your time, however much you have, meaningful. That’s what it means to be a rebel.