Balancing Ambition And Happiness


I used to spend a lot time worrying about stuff - stuff like how to be more successful, how to generate more business, how to get a bigger home, go on a grander vacation, have more fun than others. I'd browse Crate and Barrel, West Elm, and Nordstrom catalogs earmarking pages with things I wanted to buy. It all just made me want more. And be less happy with what I have.

Recently, I've come to the realization I spend more time worrying about the future and less time enjoying today. And I look back on life and realize what a wonderful adventure it has been: All the experiences, the chapters, the places I've lived - I have such fond memories of it all. Yet, when I was living that, I felt dissatisfied. I wanted more.

In my 20s, I wanted to get married like all my friends were but I was single. I was waiting tables and felt like I was well behind my peers.

In my 30s, I finally got on my career track but it wasn't enough. I wanted to work up the ladder. I needed to save the money to buy a condo. I needed to keep up with what was supposed to be. But then, living in the city wasn't what I wanted. I needed to be back in the mountains. Every Monday, I found myself at my desk in my downtown Seattle office, plotting what I'd do with myself next weekend to get out of the city.

Then, I moved to the mountains, and it felt like career suicide even though I finally had the lifestyle I wanted. I took a job in Chicago and closed Big Leap down for a few years. My husband and dogs stayed here and I commuted back and forth.

It was about that time I realized what I had was already really awesome. The things we covet aren't what they appear and everything is going to be OK.

I wrote about the Grass Being Green Underfoot a few years ago:

I’m going to stop looking at the grass on the other side thinking its greener. It’s either the glasses I’m wearing, or the angle at which I’m looking at, because, dammit, the grass that I’m standing on looks pretty darn green to me!

I'm no saint. I have to remind myself regularly and that might partially be why I'm writing about it today.

I've learned to be more appreciative even of my morning dog walk in the snow. Because some day, my dog won't be here, and some day, my husband will no longer be here. (Although I swear, I'll be the one to go first). And when that day comes, this simple daily dog walk will be a very much missed treasure.

There are many studies on the positive benefits of gratitude. I don't need to rehash that here. It's the holidays and always a good time to remember to appreciate even just the small things, if that's all you have to appreciate right now.

While I was writing this post, I received an email from my friend Marcus Sheridan. I had earlier written to him out of the blue how helpful his Hubspot podcast has been to me. I didn't really think much of it - I just thought he should know I've been listening and enjoying it. Well, his response was effusive: I made his day.

That alone made my day - that I could have that impact on someone.

My suggestion to you. And not just during the holidays.

  • Send an email or even better, a handwritten note  at least once a week to someone to thank them for something and let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Make a random phone call twice a week to stay in touch or reconnect with someone.
  • Commit a random of act of kindness. Sometimes, I come across an opportunity for someone and I may or may not share it with that person dependent on how good a friend they have been and how much time it will take me to do so. That makes me sound like a bad person. But I'm not. We're all busy and sometimes it's easy to just pass it by and move on to the next thing rather to take the time for someone you think doesn't deserve it. Stop doing that. I know I will. The other day, during the opening of my husband's winery tasting room, a friend had driven an hour each way to stop by and support us. I was blown away. We hadn't been in touch and I wouldn't have expected that. But he saw the email and he came. It meant a great deal to us.

This isn't to say I don't have ambitions, and a vision for my future. I definitely do. But I'm going to try to be less of a jerk, and do more of that good stuff - it really does attract more of that good stuff.