Episode 017 – Vandals
“At this point in my life, I’ve learned the quicker you can process the anger into useful action, the better off you’ll be.”
When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade. Break out the Tequila.
If you listened to Episode 15, Family Practice, you know that my wife and I have been on an epic road trip. At this point, we’re somewhere in the neighborhood of 7500 miles!
As you might expect, there were some incredible moments and some not-so-incredible moments. Less than 12 hours after one of the best moments, we were caught by some nasty characters in deep south Louisiana. Vandalized.
At this point in my life, I’ve learned the quicker you can process the anger into useful action, the better off you’ll be.
Thankfully, a few weeks prior to this event I discovered an incredible resource to help with turning feelings of helplessness and anger into forward motion.
Listen to the full episode to find out.
- Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat
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Until next time, be nice and do good stuff.
It was a brisk November morning and Hampton Inn, Lafayette was a comfortable enough bolt hole for one night.
Melody and I got up early and filled our insulated mugs from a pump carafe. The lobby decor was a let’s not offend anyone with sharp edges, beige.
The continental breakfast was equally unremarkable; stale raisin bran, squares of white bread, an assortment of desert-dry muffins and your token folded-over something that resembles an egg product, specked with vegetable colored shrapnel.
Yet, none of this phased us.
We were happy and excited to be west of the Mississippi and headed back to warm and sunny Baja. The day before, we traded in our original Adventure Pod – the Cr-v – and took ownership of a new-to-us Honda Element.
Adventure Pod dos.
We crammed a lot into this trip and the car update was the last piece to the puzzle.
It was setting up to be a great day. [Key beeps; car start]
That is not…[car revs] That is not how a car should sound.
Well – actually that’s how a car sounds without it’s catalytic converter. And why would you run a car without it’s converter?
Well, you wouldn’t…[Key beeps: car turns off]
…unless it was stolen.
After nearly 6 weeks on the road, the last thing we expected was to spend the weekend in a place we weren’t planning on even visiting.
This is the perfect opportunity to talk about how expectations affect your happiness when they collide with circumstances beyond your control.
Maybe you’ve been there maybe you haven’t but getting ripped off and vandalized is not a good feeling. It’s easy to get pissed off and allow that single event ruin the day, the week, or in our case, the entire trip.
We had to change plans for commitments we made, pay for an airbnb, food… we had to process the news from the repair shop that parts may not even be available until December…and then the cost for the repair itself.
All in all, a stressful situation that would expand or contract based on our reactions.
Not too long ago, something like this would click the play button to start the tape of negative internal dialogue, that tape would include the greatest hits like: It’s All Your Fault, You Picked the Wrong Place, If I Didn’t Have Bad Luck I’d Have No Luck At All, and on and on.
Thankfully, my wife is a pretty cool customer. She’s not prone to overreacting. Usually, in difficult situations, she’ll get mad, start crying and after a minute or two, pull it together and shift into problem solving mode.
Once we came down from a boil to a slow simmer, we notified the hotel, (insert clip) filed a police report, called our insurance company and set about trying to find a place to get the car fixed.
The entire time this scenario was playing out, I kept reflecting back on a talk I heard recently with a guy named Mo Gowdat. The timing couldn’t have been better.
After working as an engineer for IBM and Microsoft, Mo became VP of Google. He had more money than God. He’d achieved all of his business goals, had a beautiful family and friends, ordered his vintage Rolls Royces online, and – he was woefully unhappy.
Mo wanted answers and decided to approach the problem the way he approached everything in his life to that point, with logic, as an engineer.
He read all the books he could find on the subject of happiness, hired spiritual teachers, traveled far and wide and spent a lot of money only to discover what we’ve always known; you can’t buy happiness.
Happiness was not something you strive to attain. It’s within you. Once all of your basic needs have been met, every other dollar afterwards won’t make you happier.
It seems obvious by now. Listening to billionaires say money doesn’t make you happy seems a bit farcical at this point
But in his book, Solve for Happy, Mo talks about how your expectations might be the key when it comes to improving your life and your level of happiness. He calls it the happiness equation.
A person’s happiness is equal to or greater than the difference between the events happening in your life and your expectations of how your life should behave.
He says whenever he has a thought that makes him unhappy, he asks himself one single question; Is it true?
If it’s not, he drops it immediately. Because why would you let yourself be unhappy for a single second about something that isn’t even true?
If it is true, he asks if there’s anything he can do to make the situation better.
If there is, he does it and life becomes better, therefore, he’s happier.
Here’s the key: If there is nothing he can do, he accepts it as something he can’t change. All the worry in the world will not change it. That then becomes his baseline to build upon moving forward.
There is no dwelling or inflating. He simply brushes it aside because there’s nothing he can do.
He highlights 6 illusions that hinder our ability to be happy and the illusion that is relevant here is the illusion of self. That whatever happens around us is directly related to us.
What’s happening around us has nothing to do with us. My catalytic converter getting stolen had nothing to do with me. It wasn’t personal. The universe was not punishing me or reminding me that I’m unlucky or snake-bit.
It was a random, unfortunate event.
So there I was, in the parking lot sipping my flavorless Hampton Inn coffee doing my best to communicate with one of Lafayette’s ill-mammered police officers, I heard Mo’s voice asking the question.
Was this something I could change? Nope.
Okay, what can I affect? I can find a place to take the car and find a place to stay until the car is fixed. Everything in between – out of my hands.
The negative dialogue? Inflating the moment? Useless. It’s untrue and counter-productive.
Was the repair expensive? Yes. Was I upset that I had to spend thousands of dollars to repair a random act of vandalism, sure.
I held onto those thoughts for a very short time. What replaced them rather quickly were thoughts of gratitude.
I was grateful we were unhurt. We had the money to fix the car. Grateful they didn’t damage anything else or bust any of the windows.
Back in Episode 13 I talked about perspective and perceptions and whether or not it’s possible to make a deliberate change in how we view things over the course of our life.
If you’re a glass half-empty kinda person, can you, with effort and intention become a glass-half full person?
Some believe it’s a choice. Others believe it is so deeply embedded in our person and part of our fiber that it’s unchangeable.
If you believe Mo Gowdat, and I do, it is a choice.
And one way to curb expectations is to remain present in the current moment. Don’t expect anything from what’s ahead and ask a simple question the next time your faced with a difficult situation; can I change it?
It’s a powerful realization if you embrace it. If you apply a little bit of logic to what is normally an emotional response, maybe then – reframing negative situations to focus on a positive outcome – becomes easier.
Every day we’re presented with opportunities to learn something new about ourselves and the world around us. Even when those opportunities come in not so positive ways.
You see, it all comes down to what you want you look for. If you look for something to complain about, you’ll find it every time.
If you look for something to be grateful for, you will also find it.
Why not choose the one that will lift you up rather than tear you down any further.
I’ve said this in a past episode but it’s worth repeating. At every point in our lives, we’re either going through something, about to go through something or have just gone through something – everyone’s journey is full of moments that can be assigned to a column of good luck or bad luck.
It’s really difficult to move through life without some sort of expectation. But keeping in mind Mo Gowdat’s happiness equation can really reduce the amount of time we spend upset over the outcome of a situation. Especially one that we have no control over.
And choosing gratitude or optimism over negativity or anger isn’t about ignoring what happened or pretending a negative event didn’t affect you.
It’s about where you choose to place the emphasis.
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