Henry W Chen

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Settling Down

One of the worst belief to have is the idea that marriage is an act of “settling down”, nothing about marriage is settling, it couldn’t be any further from the truth. People are constantly changing and shifting in priorities, personalities, ideals and to add to that, the state of flux of another person’s life makes it that much more daunting. When we’re in a marriage or serious relationship, we make a huge commitment to share our life with someone meaning it’s not just about us alone anymore, we put someone else in front of us and along with our partner, become one person. To do that we have to constantly make from small compromises to big sacrifices, I don’t think it ever gets to a point where that stops especially if we decide to start a family.

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to get married or even be in a serious relationship, it’s not for everyone. If we value our own personal freedom, the worst thing we could do is to commit to a serious relationship, let alone marriage. If we aren’t willing to compromise on our freedom than relationships is the worst idea, they are so messy and extremely complicated that can cause serious emotional pain for any one, sometimes it’s just not worth it. Being in a serious relationship or marriage we have to mange so much change, compromises and expectations, that we have to be strong and have thick skins, when things become bigger than just ourselves, decisions have bigger consequences so we can’t be indecisive or careless.

I think we underestimate a great deal how often we change as we grow older and once that realization overwhelms us we rush to the ultimate act of “settling down” we believe in, to manage or stop change, which is to get married. Thinking that just because we have made a huge commitment, countless sacrifices, our individuality and freedom things will just stay the same, we won’t have to make anymore changes or sacrifices and things will just coast from here on out. That’s just not realistic and it’s naive to think that will be the case. 

I feel everyone is guilty of having that sense of entitlement that since they have already done the hard work things can’t ever go wrong. It’s not about having the mindset of always “expecting the worse” when we commit to a marriage or serious relationship, it’s about being realistic and getting rid of the notion “settling down”. We can’t take things lightly in a serious relationship or marriage or that our work is done once we make a commitment. While serious relationships or marriages gets twice hard so can the rewards.

Real World Transition

We can learn a lot about careers through professional sports. It’s a great model to see how political and economical tides shift constantly, for better or worse, with or without you. Making a transition from not only school but entrepreneurial and creative pursuits into real world professions and careers is a lot harder and sometimes even more tragic than it seems. One tragic example is american football legend Tim Tebow, of course he didn’t suffer a life threatening accident or anything of that nature to his health or well-being, but as far as his short NFL career goes (he currently doesn’t have a NFL job), in my humble opinion it is quite tragic with me being so in tuned with his rise and legacy.

Growing up playing high school basketball and many sports in general in Florida, everybody, not just football players and athletes admired and looked up to Tim Tebow. He was a great role model, the poster boy for excellence, courage, faith and athletic talent. He pretty much had it all, good looks, incredible work ethic and freak athleticism, he just could not fail. In college at the University of Florida, one the top college football programs if not the best, he accomplished everything, broke all types of individual, team, league and national records, won a national championship and received all the highest individual accolades. 

Despite all his unprecedented college success, his NFL(National Football League) potential was much debated. Statistically he was extremely promising, like someone having a Harvard MBA and the highest GMAT score in history. However there was a consensus throughout all team organizations that his numbers were inflated because they believed the system in his college program was built specifically around him. Even worse teams and scouts just didn’t think he had the right throwing mechanics, a very crucial technical flaw that really hurt his stock, but I guess no team could afford the time to work with him. He was a very unorthodox player for his position for sure, he had all the physical gifts and talent but didn’t necessarily fit the traditional model of a professional quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t eventually turn into one.

Even with all the scrutiny and criticism, he was still able to produce a remarkable single season, winning many games that was statistically impossible to win. In my opinion he hasn’t had a fair chance ever since. It’s brutal in the real world, where what made you so special or unique in the first place doesn’t always and rarely does it cross over or translate into the grand scale of the real world. Tim Tebow is one out of countless many but it’s the same as the person who gets all those perfect or top grades and scores, shattering records even and not being able to crossover or translate into the real world.

Knowing all this and seeing many other countless examples I feel we all need some sort of moral framework to not become a victim of this transition or to stay constantly in a bubble hoping it does not pop. Having a framework instead of more technical strategies, allows us to be more adaptable and react more flexible to our own unique situations. These are some ideas that I used in the past and possibly in the future again to make all these real world transitions:

1. Be able to adapt to a system and not depend on the system(s) to adapt to you:

This comes down to being able to accept a role even if it’s a lesser one that does not fully utilize our potential. There’s a lot of sacrifices involved, but having a defined and practical role makes it easier for us to slowly expand to other roles or even to take a bigger one with other organizations. No matter how talented or gifted we are, we can’t expect to automatically impose our talent and have everything revolve around our talent or work.

2. Be aware of inflated accomplishments:

We usually are compared with others in our own local community or groups of friends and families. We have a tendency to believe that just because we are the best in our small world that we are world class. There’s an endless amount of people that are better and have more potential than us, we just turn a blind eye towards that with our awards, accomplishments and credentials. We should be proud no doubt, but we have to be honest in our own assessment of ourselves. We do tend to make it easy for ourselves or we naturally gravitate towards systems and programs tailored made for us. We can get away with that in schools, degree programs and our own businesses but not in large multinational companies and organizations. 

3. Be comfortable and embrace constraints:

Mainly financials but also deadlines and bureaucracy. Being creative is just managing change with all the constraints. Being aware, comfortable and embracing constraints will help us cope with the realizations that we imagined all our dreams and aspirations in best-case scenarios.

4. Be aware of political tides shifting:

It’s very important to always have a feel for where our work or potential lies politically and economically in our organizations or markets. Even if an organization or a market is structured around our potential or work, we don’t truly know for how long it will last unless we monitor constantly the pulse of of our organization or market, sounds very paranoid, I’m sure. But there really isn’t loyalty or sustainability in the real world, so we must not be victims of our own overconfidence that it will last forever. Opinions, funding and loyalty all can change in a heartbeat.

5. Be aware of pace and timing:

We must be in tuned with the rhythm of the real world. It’s very hard to slow down when everyone seems to be speeding up and speeding up when people seem to be slowing down, but everything has their time and we can’t be too early or too late. If we know how to pace ourselves and work on our timing than we’ll have more luck and the odds shift into our favor.

So that’s really the rough framework I use to manage transitions into the real world. It’s very intimidating but we can’t always stay in our bubbles. We don’t have to sacrifice all of our integrity, talent or creativity for the real world, we just have to find that balance and timing. To me life is all about mixing what we see with our eyes and what we see in our minds until they coalesce.

Being Different

At any stage of our lives, being different is incredibly hard. Once we decide on lifestyle choices that goes against the norm or tradition, we add one more layer of discrimination on top of our race, culture, social class, gender, sexual orientation and faith, but it’s worth it. Similar to independence, I feel we all should have different mentalities when it comes to being different. We really just focus on more of the superficial things and ideals of being different like appearances, media consumption and exotic travel. These things are important but are not the biggest factors and shouldn’t be the main focus in our attempts to being and thinking different. In my opinion being and thinking different is not about:

Acting- At the core of acting rather than actually being different is flawed because there’s a limit to how genuine and real our act is. It’s superficial in the sense that it’s just not real, it’s just an act, a persona and it’s artificial. Now of course putting on a mask and an act can be useful, I think we should look at it as an alternative not our main strategy. I do loosely agree with the mentality of “fake it until you make it”, but if it could be avoided, then it’s better not to resort or rely too heavily on that mindset.

Dressing/Appearances- With fashion, clothing, accessories, shoes and hairstyles, everything is extremely cyclical. With materials, things go in and out of style constantly, everything is prone to vicious cycles and unpredictable tastes. You never know if your particular style or fashion will be adopted and heavily commercialized in the mainstream. Once that happens, if we rely too much on our appearances that means we’re the same as everyone else, does that mean we’re not different? Appearances is the least important factor but people rely on it the most when trying to be different, maybe because it’s the easiest to control and change.

Experiences- It’s actually really important that we do try to have as many different experiences as we can, but sometimes I feel that’s out of our control in terms of financial background, religious faith and cultural upbringing. Not everyone has the finances to afford exotic travel, studying abroad (or even outside of our hometown), cultural or creative studies and pursuits. Due to religious and cultural upbringing, there are many people that can’t try certain lifestyle choices and experiences. Some of us live in extremely homogenous cultures and societies, sometimes it’s really out of our control.

Meeting people- This is another important factor of course but it should not be our main focus or strategy because we are all so bias and naturally attract and associate ourselves with people just like us (or the people we aspire to be like) even if they are from a different race, culture or nationality. It’s very important to meet and interact with people that are complete opposites of who we are even with people we initially dislike because most likely we will learn a lot more and empathize with them.

These are important factors no doubt, but these should only be the outcomes not the focus or strategy. In my opinion being and thinking different should be more internal and psychological, it should be about:

Attitude- Being open minded to everything and having different perspectives. When we’re able to look at things from multiple angles with our emotions in tact and accepting them we can truly learn anything. Being able to have a good attitude towards everything we can understand more.

Approaches to solving problems- This is were I feel we are all limited. We all come up with conventional solutions and rely too heavily on standard procedures and protocols, but once we begin to have different angles and multiple alternatives to solving problems, we look at everything in a whole new light and it exercises our creative muscles helping us relate and associate with many other things and elements.

Relationships- You can’t have different relationships if you’re not meeting a lot of different people that’s true but in my opinion when you’re trying to meet different people, it’s really more about the quantity of people with the main focus being the people. With the focus on having different relationships it’s more about the interactions, how we communicate and how we treat each other.

When we focus on these three things, being different doesn’t become a chore or hassle and it doesn’t wear us down emotionally because we have more control of it psychologically.

A Side Job And A Mistress

When people talk about having a job on the side, I feel they don’t really consider one of the most important factors into making something successful, which is commitment. As we are becoming more and more self-centered, our society definitely have become commitment-phobic. People have said to me as I’m sure with other people who have so many different interests, tastes and potential in a lot of fields, why not just have many different jobs on the side. The way I personally feel about a career or more importantly a business is the same way I feel about a relationship with a partner, that in order for the relationship to not only grow but to survive, involves countless sacrifices and 100% commitment.

Being in a serious relationship, even if it’s not a marriage, is incredibly difficult and stressful. It’s such an emotional toll that it takes everything from you, it’s the same with a serious career or business, to me it’s nearly identical. If your career or business means so much to you, than you shouldn’t be spending your time, finances or other limited resources into another job or career. It’s the same with your partner, if you made the commitment to your partner then you shouldn’t be in a commitment with your time or energy to another lover or someone else.

I don’t feel it’s impossible or wrong to have a side job when you have a serious career and business or that people should not have mistresses or multiple partners when they are in a marriage or committed relationship. I don’t agree with it but the world is not black and white, people have their own lives and decisions to make. A job and a mistress is different than a hobby and a fling respectively. When you have a job or mistress, there is a deeper level of commitment when it comes to finances, legal aspects and emotions. When you have a side job or business, it’s always a conflict of time, finances, creative and emotional energy. Same with a mistress, but with an even higher emotional stake, usually there’s children and inheritance involved, so potentially there are more emotional damages. 

If you do decide to go down this path, it’s not only the burden you carry with the possibility that your career and business will suffer when you have a side job; or the burden of the many people that will be emotionally destroyed, more importantly you miss the potential and chance to see how special your career, business or relationship could have become if you really gave and committed everything you had.

Over time emotional wounds will be healed, your company will move on with somebody else, most positions can be replaced. Partners and lovers can find many others that are more caring and committed. In a sense it’s easier to move on from the damages or betrayals than the “What could have been…” I’m sure there are many people who do have side jobs, businesses and mistress(‘s), and they can find that balance, but majority of people in this world cannot afford to sustain that, financially or emotionally. Most examples are from the excessively rich or people with open relationships and marriages. It’s not for everyone and we must be considerate and protect out careers, businesses and partner.

Regrets

People say that if you did everything you could, gave it all you had and if there wasn’t anything you could’ve done more than you should not have any regrets. I feel we all have the wrong mentality when it comes to having and dealing with regrets. I used to believe the notion that if you did not compromise on effort and your heart was in the right place you shouldn’t have or feel any regrets. But that feeling ever sustained in me, not because I didn’t try hard enough but even having that on my side, I would still have regrets lingering.

Point is we shouldn’t completely deny ourselves of our regrets, we definitely have to learn to let them go for sure, but in my opinion we are not even acknowledging them and by not doing that we will never address it properly. I don’t believe that people can have no regrets because nobody is perfect. Because ultimately regrets are not about how hard you did or didn’t work, it’s about what you did and what you could have done differently, and that’s totally fine. To have regrets is not to have cancer, to have regrets can be positive too if we acknowledge, learn and move on from them, we won’t be able to if we just pretend it’s not even there in the first place.

If we don’t have any regrets, than that means we didn’t learn anything from our mistakes. People who believe that they have no regrets are either in denial, can’t accept failure, are immune to taking responsibilities or have not or don’t want to learn anything from their mistakes.

Living with regrets is like living with scars, scars may seem permanent on our bodies or on our emotions, but as long as we don’t let it hold us back from improving our lives or our health we won’t be living under or in fear of them and I feel the only way to do that is to learn from them. Some of our regrets or scars may even define our character and our lives in beautiful, positive and unexpected ways. It’s very hard to let go, move on and find closure, but in this process of acknowledging and confronting our regrets we will always learn things about ourselves that can really impact our lives in very profound and interesting ways.

Attention

Thinking and reflecting on all types of self-destructive behaviors, be it addiction, drama, stress or substance abuse, I think the most important cause that starts everything is the need and desire for attention. I truly believe everything stems from the lack of attention, it’s the root cause of why people spiral out of control into despair, helplessness and depression. I think if we truly give our attention to people in our lives in distress, the proper attention then there would be an understanding and with that comes the hope of recovery and redemption.

In my opinion majority of people who commit crime or abuse substances aren’t in it to cause evil or cause people harm, on the surface that may be the case, but I doubt it. What a lot of criminals and addicts are really after, what they really care about is the attention. They weren’t getting it when they were young, depressed, sad or troubled, so to get any attention they can they turn to aggressive, impulsive and dangerous behaviors. If they are not good enough to garner attention from their friends, families or society, they will find other ways, the alternatives are always going to be things that harm themselves or others. Even if it’s not the attention that is positive, it is something at least.

People want attention plain and simple, they don’t mind if it’s good or bad, positive or negative, bad press is better than no press. What generates the most attention or recognition are scandals and controversies. That’s why we are wired and conditioned to dangerous or self-destructive things that will generate the most genuine response from people around us. As we grow older and change we distance ourselves instinctively, even if we don’t necessarily want to with psychological walls, distances and time, we force ourselves to become busier just for the sake of being busy and distract ourselves from our relationships even more. So separations from our friends and families have become much more severe.

Just throwing superficial hours or meaningless interactions into our relationships is not enough. We can make someone feel special and worth it by having ome present, meaning ful conversation than with one hundred lackadasical and worthless ones. Quality over quantity. Granted everyone needs their space but just because we all crave that does not mean its a message for us to disappear completely. We need to know when to be there for someone and when to take a step back, but giving more attention than usual can never hurt anyone.

I believe that attention is the best cure for self-destructive tendencies, better then medication, rehab centers or psychiatry. By really giving our undivided and focused attention, we’ll show understanding and by showing understanding we’ll show that we sincerely care. Most self-destructive behaviors do continue after the attention is but that’s because I think, majority of it is negative, we truly change if we have a powerful positive emotional response, catharsis, to change our bad behaviors and habits.

By giving people our attention we can prevent so much self-destructive behaviors from the very start with the people around us that we care about. We all want to believe that that we matter and that we are important. By being genuinely present and undistracted with our time and attention, we can really impact others to not feel worthless or hopeless, that they do matter to us.

Incomplete Aplogies

I recently watched the film “Her”, a very modern love story given the trajectory and rate things are heading in regards to our decaying human relationships compared to our hyper-focused and intense ones with technology. To be honest I didn’t like 1/3 of the movie, there were many moments that were a turn-off. Overall I still enjoyed the film because of mainly how it ended, it really came through in the ending, it finished very strong. I highly recommend this film as it is very different and unique and it will open our minds to new insights about relationships and love with a critical new factor, technology.

This isn’t a review of the film, as there are plenty enough already. What I really wanted to write about is not about artificial intelligence and love that I found to be really profound in this film, there are a lot of insights like I said, but what I realize most importantly, oddly enough is what it truly takes to apologize. I realized how saying sorry is not enough not only for the victim(s), because truthfully whenever there is an argument, dispute or misunderstanding all parties are victims, it is also not enough for ourselves. To really find closure, let go and find catharsis with a broken relationship that has wronged us or caused us pain we must apologize the right way.

It took my whole life (24 years in 2014) and close to two hours until the last 5-8 minutes or so in this film to realize how saying sorry is really not enough. No matter how we change up the words, the phrases or the delivery it will still be incomplete. There are many times in my life where I’ve said “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” or even “I’m very sorry” and still felt it wasn’t enough, that it wasn’t truthful, most of the time I trick or lie to myself into believing that I’m done and I can move on, but months or years later it till lingers and comes back to haunt me, I don’t truly have closure.

That last letter in the film that woke me up wasn’t a masterpiece but the combination of the words and phrases really touched and moved me to finally realize that to truly apologize, we must also express gratitude. Apologizing no matter how many different words we use or how meaningful they might be will only be halfway complete, to most people that’s good enough. It is extremely difficult to admit you did wrong, that alone is an incredible feat, but to truly move on or find a positive emotional response is to complete the second half, by showing gratitude and thanking the other person for all that they’ve done, the journey and ride that they’ve gone through together with you, for better or worse.

I feel like the second half of an apology is easier, we just forget to do it. To admit wrongdoing and to show remorse and regret, that’s the hard part, it takes so much of ourselves and it leaves us extremely vulnerable to be hurt even more when the other person does not accept our apology. That’s why in the second half of an apology, the gratitude and appreciation aspect can really set us free because it really leaves everything on the table and nothing gets held back, we’ve not only brought closure on the bad and negative things in our relationships, we’ve also brought the positive and good things to light, everything that did go right about our broken relationships giving us not only closure but hope and the honest feeling that our past relationships no matter how painful or regretful were not in vain, and we can truly move on and move forward.

A craft and a job

A craft is for improvement, A hobby is for pleasure.

It took a very long time for me to realize how important it is to separate your craft from your job or business. I’ve been told my whole life how important it is to focus your goals and aspirations for advancing and furthering your career, while working and carrying on your passions, interests and hobbies on the side. Whether or not to have a job in what you’re are passionate about is a whole other debate and discussion, what I think is more important is what our commitment and work ethic is to our craft regardless of our job, career or business. To turn our passions or hobbies into our craft is more realistic and sustainable than turning it into our career, business or even just as our hobbies.

I noticed how big the difference is between a craft and a hobby just now. The two definitions of a craft is: 1. An activity involving skill in making things by hand; 2. Skill in carrying out one’s work. To work on our craft is building and working on our passion(s) with purpose rather than for the sake of it. It’s a commitment to personal expression ( hence the building by hand, even if our craft is strictly digital it can become deeply personal) rather than imitation, following procedures and instructions for a desired outcome. I think the main difference between a craft and hobby is doing something to grow and improve yourself rather than for just fun and escaping boredom. Most people treat their craft, what they are most passionate about and what they care about the most as a hobby or just a passion, working and practicing on it just for the sake of it, going though the motions, not caring if they are improving on the fundamental skills of that particular craft, not pushing their limits or getting feedback.

Always work on your craft not job

I believe that everyone’s work or job, majority of the time is very stressful bordering painful for anyone. Especially for people whose work, career or business is their craft and what they are passionate about, because it hurts even more when you have to control the business, finance and economic aspect of your work. It seems to me a lot more harder to let go than if our career or business was in something we aren’t really passionate about because we aren’t as emotionally attached, so we can be more logical and rational. Either way I’m not advocating for never turning your job, career or business into your career, I do think everyone should strive for that and make it possible for their lives. It’s just hard to be careful when you get burned out and stop working you might risk not working on your craft as well.

Every job, work or business, no matter how creative and artistic involves so much administrative and maintenance work. A lot of managing teams, groups, paperwork, logistics, finances, sales and networking. It all becomes too overwhelming and stressful, so we all need to take breaks and find ways to disconnect from all the responsibilities and problems. We cannot run away from them forever, not even for very long for most people, that window of break and disconnection is so small and short that we cannot just do nothing for that limited time that we risk becoming rusty and inconsistent. We must always find ways to be productive without taking on more responsibilities and stress, that’s where our craft comes along. Working on our craft leaves us less vulnerable to complacency and flat out laziness.

Always be working on your craft

I noticed the biggest difference between the successful people that I wanted to be like and the people that I don’t is the focus and non-stop work ethic to their craft instead of their job or business. We must find creative ways to let go and disconnect from the stress of our daily responsibilities, to have a craft I feel is the only way we can consistently grow and improve ourselves because it is something that can always provide that deep sense of meaning to our lives. I don’t think anyone can get overwhelmed and burned out by their craft because it is something that we truly enjoy, our craft is what we would do anyway when no one else is watching or monitoring us. Working in a business that is not our craft or even passion is very frustrating in regards to limited time, energy and resources but is easier to separate. For people who are fortunate to turn their craft into their career or business, have the unfortunate risk of getting lost in the mindless tasks of managing the business or commercial aspects of their craft instead of the purity and core of their craft. I feel we don’t have to work everyday non-stop at our jobs or even passions to be successful, but I do feel we must work on our crafts everyday, non-stop to go wherever it is we want to go.

Work for yourself trap

With so many startup and entrepreneurial success stories in today’s media, we are becoming more and more vulnerable to what I like to call the “Work for yourself trap”. With all the hype about Working for yourself that we are exposed to, we are sacrificing everything for the illusion of working for ourselves and no one else. We believe that once we are able to work on our own ideas, business or art then and only then can we be truly successful or happy.

It’s a myth that I’m guilty of falling for because I am self-centered, I do care about my legacy and what others would think of me and my work I leave behind. To begin breaking free from this trap we must come to the realization that no matter how talented, smart, visionary or powerful you are, no one can truly work for themselves, it’s a fallacy.

We all work for somebody or something

No person or company can escape this, everyone has a boss. If you are a genius, visionary founder you still work for your board members and investors. If you are the CEO and sit on the board while owning the largest share of a public company, you still have to answer to the market of your products, your customers. We all have bosses in the form of board members, investors and ultimately clients and customers.

It seems that the more powerful you become running a company, the more people you have to ultimately work for and please. Artist and musicians are no different, the more commercial you become and the more mass appeal you achieve you have to answer and work for exponentially more and more people.

Niche audiences and markets are unsustainable

You can say that to avoid this you simply can target a niche audience or market that truly values and appreciates your work and product then you’ll be able to regain that control and freedom back. I think that’s very noble but ultimately unsustainable. The main reason why companies, entrepreneurs and artist does this in the first place is because at the starting stage of any creative project, business, product or idea requires it.

Companies, entrepreneurs and artist depend on early adopters to test and validate their ideas as well as to promote them. However relying only on your niche audience or market to keep you business running or fund your career is unsustainable. It will only last in the short term. We all change our minds (competition), grow up, become richer or become more poor (pricing) and develop different tastes. You shouldn’t aim for only mass appeal but you shouldn’t over-rely or be too dependent on your niche audience/market.

Working for yourself is dangerous

You have to wonder, if we really think about and reflect on our lives, how unstable we are emotionally, how indecisive we are and how erratic our behaviors and attitudes are, why should we risk so much of our time, money and relationships for our whims, and fleeting flashes of inspiration.

People forget that when we work for ourselves we are even more like slaves, slaves to our own ego, insecurities, pretentiousness and anxieties. We are even more vulnerable to be exploited and taken advantage of by our own selves. Working for ourselves can disguise our selfish egos for meaningful work.

Don’t work for yourself, work for a mission

There is nothing wrong with not working for yourself or owning your own business, if you work for somebody or some company that shares the same values or mission as you. That’s what it all should boil down to , working for something that you believe in that’s bigger than yourself whether you get the attention, credit and praise or not.

Since we live in such a hyper self-centered society, we don’t know how to sacrifice our own need for attention and praise. If you believe in a mission and don’t have the the resources to carry out your ideas there are other people and companies that you can partner with or join. Working for a mission rather than for yourself is more scalable, sustainable, selfless and ultimately more meaningful.

Most important advice

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think this quote simplifies the most important advice and wisdom you can give to anybody looking for guidance or direction in their life. This is what I find myself coming back to over and over again no matter how long or deep of a conversation I have with anybody today.

One thing people can’t stop discussing is happiness and how imperative it is to a fulfilling and meaningful life but usefulness is never mentioned whatsoever even if happiness is an after-effect of being useful. Growing up here in the US, with that western mentality, I see it’s plaguing people, it’s really hard to break free from that illusion.

To me happiness for most people is pretty much code talk for “I want everything to go my way and to have a stress free life.” If we all get what we want, whenever we want then and only then can we be truly happy. That is pretty much what people are implying indirectly all the time, No matter how vague, abstract or direct someone is with their definition of being happy.

People buy into this illusion of happiness that it doesn’t matter if you are poor, have no friends or no career as long as YOU, yourself are happy, then you will have lived a satisfying, meaningful and fulfilling life. That is very selfish and a very deadly psychological trap because people will feel the need to sacrifice everything in order to achieve happiness.

There are many substance abusers and homeless people who are truly happy but at what expense; to not have shelter, to harm your health and to not be able to provide for your family? Following this logic you can see how dangerous it can be not only financially but psychologically as well.

People are amazed at how productive and efficient people are in places like China and Japan, where everybody seems to be so selfless and altruistic. In my opinion, most cultures in developing countries can’t have the same mentality on happiness as we do, they can’t afford it. When you are too focused on your happiness, you will instictively choose the path with the least resistance and least responsiblilites because if there is stress and anxieties we are definitely not happy.

As any young person finishing school or transitioning to an unknown, unstable phase in their lives, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to be useful. Forget about happiness, forget about passion, forget about your fantasies, all of those are just illusions distracting you from learning how to become selfless, learning how to handle responsibilities, learning how to manage your time, your bills and your expectations.

Being useful will bring a more meaningful and sustainable version of happiness because it will be shared with more people in your life and it can scale to any aspect of your life-work, business, relationships. Being useful will always guarantee to affect others in turn making you happy.