Line chart written on an envelope

A Short Life Lesson

Disclaimer: I read a lot of books and watch a lot of documentaries. I hope this was original thought as a result of the many sources of inspiration, but it could very well be a remix of something I’ve seen before. If it is, someone call me out on it in the comments section.

Time permitting, I walk my oldest daughter to school every morning. It’s a light twenty minute walk that I find helpful for starting the day, and gives us an opportunity to talk. Usually I ask about any fears she has, how she feels about home and school, plans she has for the future, and how not to get hung up on the minutiae in life. Simplifying things and thinking bigger than that what’s considered normal are regular topics. I like our conversations because it takes me back to my youth when my dad schooled me about racism, entrepreneurship, and life in general as we worked in the garage at night or drove around. My Uncle continued that when I lived with him, my aunt and cousin for my first year of high school.

Yesterday we were on the topic of happiness and sadness or struggle. She’s a strong-willed child, and very particular about how she wants to complete a task sometimes. I often have to calm her down and put whatever she’s upset about in proper perspective.

As we talked, the image above popped into my head. I explained it as we neared the school, and sketched it out later that day when we were back at home. I wanted to do cleaned-up version, but that would’ve just been procrastination masquerading as perfectionism. I laid it out like this:

The horizontal line represents life, with that dark vertical one in the center separating two lives. Anything above the line is happiness, below it struggle

Here, I define happiness as living a life of fulfillment. Whether you work at a job or for yourself, you love what you do. You have a healthy network of friends and family. You’re contributing to other people in a positive way. Struggle is defined as doing something you hate just to pay the bills, putting your talents on the sidelines, depression, etc.

The life on the right is the typical path; work a 9-5 (nothing against that by the way), get a decent car, house, family, kids, vacation sometimes, whatever. Towards the end happiness goes up–if you’re lucky. You travel more often, buy a convertible, throw yourself into passions you’ve neglected for years, that sort of thing.

The one on the left starts out relatively normal; good times, bad times. The huge spike is caused by following your intuition and taking a leap (doing something considered “risky”) and happiness skyrockets as a result. From that point, the normal level of happiness is WAY above the average person’s. So for example: when the average person dips below that line, that represents losing a job, car breaking down, debt. For the one who takes chances in life and lives completely in their purpose, that dip below the line represents something far more significant like someone close to them dying. Then they bounce back to that normal level of happiness way above the average person because perhaps they understand life better. They know exactly why they’re here living on this planet, and they’re committed to becoming the best version of themselves and giving back to the world in a positive way.

Although it’s a challenge at times, I must live that example on the left and hopefully I inspire others to do the same. I think my daughter gets the message so far.

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C. Duayne Pearson monochrome mirror self-portrait with Canon AE-1 Program 35mm camera

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