How Richard Branson Kickstarted my 2018

Let me first open by wishing you a very happy new year. In the past few days, I’m sure you’ve seen many a whoop-whoop about how great it is to start 2018 and how we are so happy to be done with 2017.

To be honest, I felt differently. 2016 and 2017 were fabulous years.

Then a few days ago, I was given some personal news that was a devestating blow to my heart. It made me question whether everything that I was doing perhaps all for not. In the waning hours of 2017, I found myself asking what’s the point of all this? Why did I work so hard, focus so hard all year to come to this. I felt that I had wasted the entire year. I was completely defeated.

I truly felt like hamster running on the wheel, burning energy, but never going anywhere, and never will anywhere. I spent the next couple days aimlessly putzing about, surfing the net, not doing anything, I’d play with my son, but all the while feel guilty about not doing anything productive…not doing anything that yielded visible progress. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. I felt I didn’t have enough time to devote to anything substantial; yet I had so much time on my hands. I looked at the clock and it told me that it was both only and already 3pm. I loathed that feeling.

I considered possibly that this was like to retire from consulting. Everything that I have done in the past few years has been to eventually retire from consulting and do whatever I wanted. But I hated the feeling of it. I was aimless. I was lazy. I was non-productive. I had no schedule. I was disgusted with myself for it.

And just then, as I was casually perusing LinkedIn, Sir Richard’s article about happiness in 2018 appeared on my feed. It was entitled “My Tips for Happiness in 2018”

 

It’s OK to be Stressed, Scared and Sad

“It’s OK to be stressed, scared and sad. I certainly have throughout my life. I’ve confronted my biggest fears time and time again. I’ve cheated death on many adventures, seen loved ones pass away, failed in business, minced my words in front of large audiences, and had my heart
broken.”

… most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes iwht it, have brought me happiness but they haven’t. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I’m happy.”

So many people get caught up in doing what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where they fail. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too.”

 

Ok. So business success doesn’t define me. It’s what I am, how I choose to be that brings me success in my life. I remember explaining this to my then 4 yr old.

Me: Zane! Let’s make a vision board this weekend! It’ll be so awesome!
Z: what’s a vision board?
Me: Avision board is where you put all the things that you want to do, and have.. and be.
Z: (with new enthusiasm) I want to be a crocodile!!!

 

A few weeks later…

Never say never.

Our Surroundings Mirror Our State of Being

What we have and do, the company we keep, the state of our surroundings is a mirror of our state of being as a person. Whether you’re a crocodile or the CIO of a company… your life is a mirror of your state of mind. When I looked around my surroundings these past few days, I saw a beautifully lit Christmas tree, a boy quietly building Lego, a comfy couch with a Boston Terrior curled up in a blanket. I looked outside, and saw crisp and bright winter scene with spruce trees and snow with a river in the background. I saw a husband next to me curled up in that same blanket, tapping away on his laptop. I looked back at my laptop and saw tours and activities that one can participate in Bali…. that I was considering in Bali. I looked to the left, and saw a modern kitchen (for which I’ll likely never recover in real estate value… whatever. Not the point.)

My state of being at that moment in time was that i was grateful. I was restless, but grateful. My life was messy and warm and full of love. I was grateful.

 

What Do You Want to Be?

“Kids are often asked: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The world expects grandiose aspirations: ‘I want to be a writer, a doctor, the prime minister.’”

 

Nothing has rung truer for my son than this. My dad, the traditional over-achiever father, once asked him,

 

“Zane, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

 

Zane generally never has an answer for him. Really, though, it wouldn’t matter, because there is no winning answer for this question. Had he answered ‘Doctor,’ my dad would have responded with:

“Doctors have to work really hard. You have to study very hard.”

 

Anyone hearing this, let alone a 4 yr old would be discouraged. No one likes to hear that the road to some ambiguous career is covered with hardship and arduousness. Despte his good intentions, it frustrates me that this only discourages my son, as it did for me. But also, really, I didn’t care about being a doctor. I answered that way because I knew it was what my dad wanted to hear.

Zane generally shrugs his shoulders. Smart guy. The truth is he has no idea what he wants to be. That’s ok with me. He’s only 5. He’s got a lot of time to figure out what he makes him happy.

 

“They’re told: go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, and then you’ll be happy. But that’s all about doing, not being – and while doing will bring you moments of joy, it won’t necessarily reward you with lasting happiness.

Stop and breathe. Be healthy. Be around your friends and family. Be there for someone, and let someone be there for you. Be bold. Just be for a minute.

If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow.

I speak from experience. We’ve built a business empire, joined conversations about the future of our planet, attended many memorable parties and met many unforgettable people. And while these things have brought me great joy, it’s the moments that I stopped just to be, rather than do, that have given me true happiness. Why? Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.”

 

Screw it. Just Be.

This last part, my friends summarizes my theme for 2018:

 

“But don’t just seek happiness when you’re down. Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts.

Allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment. Take the focus off everything you think you need to do, and start being I promise you, happiness will follow.”

Really, we never know if we’ll be around the next moment. If these are our last, then it will truly be all for not.”

 

Thank you, Sir Richard, for setting me straight. My theme for 2018 is to appreciate the moment. Be. And trust that happiness follows.


Also published on Medium.

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