Q. What book (or books) have you gifted the most, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt does an outstanding job at exploring both the ancient wisdom around life satisfaction and the current scientific research on the same subject. From it, he pulls out truths and fallacies about this whole idea of “being happy.” It gave me a new lens to look at the concepts of fulfillment and what it means. Send me an email and I’ll mail you a copy!
Q. If you could have one gigantic billboard with anything on it, what would it say and why?
Any one of the following quotes:
"Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings you happiness unless you are content with it" - Beothius
"The whole universe is change, and life itself is but what you deem it." - Marcus Aurelius
"What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life for tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind." - the Buddha
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." - Hamlet
To me, all four of these people are essentially saying the same thing: we have the choice to not be pushed and pulled by the tides of the thoughts that arise in our minds. When you sit and observe your thoughts closely enough, you begin to realize that you have no control over your thoughts. For instance, try not to think about Elvis Presley. Did you try? I bet you failed. You couldn’t help but have some image of Elvis’s hip-twist dance move come to mind, or perhaps the tune of “Hound Dog” immediately appeared in your head. This happens with all our thoughts – we can’t help but think them, and we didn’t choose to think them. But we have the choice to do as we want with those thoughts. I believe that the more people understand this, the more control people will have over their feelings and emotions, and this will make the world a better place.
Q. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I’ve started incorporating a mental training session into my morning routine. There are various exercises that I put myself through, but the general idea is training my mind to focus more precisely, observe my thoughts more clearly, and react to my emotions less drastically. Since beginning this practice, I’ve felt more equipped to properly handle whatever the day throws at me without feeling totally overwhelmed.
Q. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Any version of “just work harder, just put in more hours and you’ll get to where you want to go.” Now, obviously there is some truth in this, but this is not the whole truth. Getting to where you want to go in your career is a multifaceted pursuit and thinking all you need to do is put in more hours is short-sighted and an oversimplification. Working hard is the key to getting to where you want to go, but you need to work just as hard on your mind and body as you do on your actual work. If you don’t get good sleep, you won’t perform nearly as well as you could. If you’re not eating right or getting regular exercise, your brain will not function to its potential, and you won’t be in as good of a mood as you would be otherwise which will cause undue stress. I believe that getting to where you want to go in a career requires a holistic approach – especially if you want to get there without making yourself absolutely miserable along the way.