The Happiness Equation

I’ve often wondered where I’ve wanted to take this blog. When I started, it was nothing more than an outlet to navigate the chaos in my life. The goals I set were distant and as such I needed not worry about the future. And then the future came and went and here I stand. At a crossroads. I suppose we’re always at a crossroads; and each choice we make, we are pushed further in one direction.

It’s been a bit since I’ve written and as I work towards producing more content, I find myself at a loss. I come home, exhausted from work and my go to is video games. I spent 5 years in College constantly improving my skills and I find myself more often than not wishing I was there, not here. A different time, a different place.

By the time I was graduating, my standard of living was wonderful. I wasn’t rich by any means, however, I was happy. And like a ghost, this is what remains. My sanctuary among a world that when it becomes certain, becomes rather dull.

I was always taught that this was the way to live; to make a steady paycheck with a great organization. However, the more I walk, the more it feels as if I’m being dragged through the sand. So I’ve pulled out the jumper cables and try to feel for a beating heart and sure enough, I can hear faint echoes.

My life needs lightning and I am comfortable with saying that I have failed myself. I have come to terms with mediocrity becoming “good enough” and excellence a pipe dream. And I am comfortable with saying that I am not satisfied, that I hunger for more. I miss the articles I used to write, my “learn and apply” method. Deep, thoughtful, and engaging.


It’s been interesting to see this article develop. I started writing this a few months ago; gutted the draft and then stopped. In an update to my “happiness equation” I’ve started making changes just this last week. I am juggling the old with the new and it is no longer enough to adapt, I am beginning to modify. Imagine your life as a canvas and since the world is far from perfect, imagine each moment being painted with broad strokes. What you once saw as imperfection you are now going over with fine strokes and precision brushes; the broad strokes are still there but the painting takes on new life and a completely different form.

I’ve started taking pride in my work and while I was initially opposed to subjecting myself to anymore grit in my life, I have now begun to embrace grit. I used to think I had enough grit for a few lifetimes over, however, working at a call center for the last 7 or 8 months has quickly changed that, My skin is thicker and that’s not a bad thing. Most of the time I thought I was stuck but after taking time to look back, I can see how much I’ve grown on an individual level. I used to think the growth was turning me into something I didn’t want to be but I realize it has turned me in what I need to be. I have the confidence now to tackle problems head on and finding myself run less and less. I have ran my entire life and only now realize that I do not trudge through the mud out of weakness but rather to gain strength.

It does not matter where I’m going, so long as I’m moving forward. As far as my goals for the year, I’m excited. I’ve been walking everyday and hope to begin intensive exercise soon. I have scheduled PTO and am thinking of camping for my first vacation. The money I’ve saved in the last 8 months has put a smile on my face and I finally have the means to start moving forward with my life.


I had an interview for a promotion the other day and that was a perfect time for me to reflect. I mostly talked in regards to my college experience and realized that was almost 2 years ago and most of the situations I referenced were around 4 or 5 years. I was hesitant to reference my current work experience, because, as much as I hate to admit, not quite the resume builder I had hoped. How do you quantify excellent customer service after a center point and how do you illustrate a portfolio with no projects under your belt? The response then becomes, by default, “I did my job and I did it well” or the equivalent of saying “it was just a job.” I chose to focus on personal growth in the interview, but it did make me think about my future and where I want it to go.

My main takeaway is that I am an acting again in my life and every situation I find myself in, is ultimately, when boiled down, a choice. I must receive some perceived benefit for myself and if I’m not, then the cost will ultimately lead me to other opportunities. The issue I think most people struggle with, then, is quantifying the cost-benefit. If a situation is neither good nor bad but simply is, you could, in theory, spend a lifetime being miserable. And perhaps, the equation is not so much in avoiding the bad but rather understanding that “happiness” lies in the highest highs and the lowest lows. When life sucker punches us and we’re able to stand, is that not a piece of the “happiness equation”?

In addition, how could we possibly appreciate when life is good without first knowing what we don’t enjoy. Yes, perhaps for some they have only ever been blessed with good fortune, but life has a way of eroding our best laid plans and I’d rather have a gradual build towards greatness than to have that given. We need to know how to manage the highs when we’re in them and temper the lows when we eventually fall.


Happiness does not simply lie in shifting your perspective. One can change ones mindset and while this helps for a while, if a person is not living to their full potential, then “good enough” is not simply “good enough”.

A prominent aspect of happiness is time. We’re constantly telling ourselves “if I had more time…” and once we find the time, we end up wasting it. But then the question becomes, was it truly a waste?

A prominent aspect of happiness is money. Yet once we acquire wealth, we keep working and acquire more and more. For some reason, the wealthiest among us are the most miserable.

We try to find meaning in our work and we work ourselves to death. 90% of the people who work won’t stop and what I’ve seen is work become all-consuming, as if their soul is slowly leaving their body until they are a husk sitting in a cubicle, with their skeletal remains grinning in what one might make out to be a smile. I however, opted for PTO.

So then, what is happiness?

The truth is, I don’t know. Happiness is a speculation, a pursuit. Almost everyone I’ve met has their own answer and those who can’t articulate why they’re happy are perhaps the wisest among us all. Happiness is a jumbled mess and is pathos at it’s finest. To truly smile and live, that is a feat; one our economists didn’t think of measuring when they designed our society. Happiness is beautiful, happiness is fleeting, and if you have it, then hold on and be brave enough to let go. For nothing last forever and it’s best to adapt and keep moving.


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That’s it for the article. With that said, what is your “happiness equation”? What makes you happy and what has your search looked like? Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments below!

True Courage: A short poem by Mike Cole

True courage

Is not as it seems

One might think

One must be

Bold.

 

Truth be told, bravery is much preferred.

 

To be brave is to show up,

To be afraid yet move forward anyways.

 

True courage is taking accountability

Admitting when you are wrong, even should you think yourself right.

 

It is putting yourself in the shoes of another and seeing the world as they do,

Not as you want to see it.

 

It is not about ego, it is not about pride,

And it is not waiting for a problem to subside.

 

 

It is looking yourself in the mirror,

and lingers on moonlit nights where sleep is hard to come.

And yet, it is fleeting to most,

A dream that they thought could never be reality.

 

And so one becomes dust,

Never to stand, and never to fall, never truly living, and never answering the call.


Hi all, hope you enjoyed this post. In general, I like to leave the “Outro” to my poetry sections blank as I like the reader to interpret my work. However, I just thought it was worth mentioning that this is an experimental version of my free verse poetry. Up to this point I’ve been playing it relatively safe when writing poetry. I am at a point however, where I am starting to define my style. Expect to see more “out there” poems in the future and if you have any feedback, feel free to hit the contact button or simply comment below!

 

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I love producing content. As I grow as an individual, so does my content. What was once acceptable now isn’t. As such, more time is spent working on each post. I do all edits, research, and content creation. Whether it’s taking photos for a post one day to writing poetry the next, my blog is keeping me busy. Donations are appreciated and are used to invest in creative pursuits whether that be writing classes, art lessons, and anything in-between.

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The life of a Traveler

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust


As I currently plan out my future from now till my death bed, I thought it would be fun to talk a little about travel. A year ago come August, I left for my study abroad experience in Germany. I forced myself to go. College was a time for stepping outside of my comfort soon and becoming the person I always wanted to be.

As it currently stands and as I will say many times, I am making my way North. Portland is a fantastic city and I could live a happy life here but it would not be a fulfilling one. I would wake up one day and ask myself, “is this what childhood Mike would’ve wanted?” The answer would be no. The kid who would dress up in a suit with a clip-on tie for school photos, the kid who, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up would reply, “successful.”  It would be a dis-service to every dream I’ve ever had and dreams yet dreamt.  Call it cabin fever, call it wanderlust but the world is meant to be explored.

Life is not measured in the things we own but rather the experiences we have. And as it would come to argue, it is much easier to create new experiences when you’re on the move.

I lived 5 years in Corvallis, Oregon for College so Portland is a nice change. Yet imagine Seattle. Then Vancouver, Canada, then Quebec. Spend a few years in France, then Germany, Austria? That’s the life people envy.

And perhaps we can broaden our definition of traveler. Why limit it to the scope of a geographic location? The reason I love travel is the immersion. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s eyes and am sure many have felt the same, if only for a fleeting moment.

If you’re in Germany, you drink beer. France, you drink wine, smoke slim cigarettes and eat snail. Jokes aside, there is a reason I still practice German. There’s a reason I started learning French. It’s a connection through language.

There’s literally no point in staying put. Take a good friend of mine for example. He majored in chemistry and minored in dance. Guess which degree he uses the most? Dance. I envy him. That’s fulfilling. To go against the tide of others expectations and do what you love. Some spend a lifetime searching and even then…

I think we could all use a little more dance in our life. I’m not talking about black-out drunk, making questionable life choices dancing. I’m talking about something a little more elegant, a waltz. Or perhaps a tango, cha-cha, etc. A little spice, a little fire. Travel fulfills. No one became great from staying exactly who they were. They might become good enough, but does that really sound like a life worth living?

So go travel. Start with a country and then evolve. Through a dart at a map and buy a one way plane ticket. Terrified of a country? Pick a city, a town, a new friend. Start somewhere. Who knows, life might just surprise you.


Thanks for reading! If you like what I write, be sure to follow and tell your friends. Feel free to comment below. Talk about travel, bestow wisdom, anything.

Dealing with Adversity

Adversity. The word everyone loves but the explanation everyone hates. What do I mean by this? In the US, people love to hear the fact that you’ve “dealt”  with adversity and the hero’s journey that goes along with it. That you came, you saw, and you conquered. Now here’s a different spin. You came, you didn’t see, and you were destroyed. What reaction will that get from someone? Dismissive. The adversity too great, too difficult to overcome? Well, obviously you didn’t try hard enough. Is this the right assumption? No, no it’s not. Yet it’s one that happens all too often.

The Culture

In the US we have a culture that glorifies the hard-working, star individual who never fails. Work hard, play by the rules, and you’ll make it. Sound familiar? Well, what if I told you that was a lie, that you have more of a chance achieving the American dream in Canada than you do in the US? What would you say? You would say wait a minute… but deep down you know it to be true. We are taught at an early age to only look at the tip of the iceberg, to see success and go after it. So what do we get? Well we get a lot of us chasing money that if we’re lucky we’ll catch right before we die. We’ll skip vacation days to work more, and spend less time with friends and family just to close a deal or get an advantage over your peer. And then when you’re on your deathbed, only then do you see the truth, and by that point it’s far too late.

Rags to Riches

As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was once a “poor” man; until he bought a printing press and was able to turn rags into riches (literally). Is this story true? Well, no one knows for certain, but the term came from somewhere. And it stuck. You wonder why Americans are so obsessed with being rich, that even the poorest of the poor in our country still believe that they can “make it”? It’s because this simple phrase has been absolutely absorbed into our culture. This glorification of success, that if you’re not successful it’s on your own merit. Well, I’d like to challenge this notion.  Call it what you will, but I call it American pride. That we as Americans are a nation of values and when those values are challenged, we will go on the defensive. Have you ever heard someone trash the US Constitution? The Declaration of Independence? If they have, they’ve most likely been called a plethora of names that are not appropriate for my blog. So in short, what I’m asking is that you at least keep an open mind, as what I’m about to suggest next is not necessarily what people want to hear…

Luck

Yes! What if I told you what makes the people you admire, the most successful, successful, is not so much about how hard they’ve worked but rather the time period they were born and the families they were born into. People hate that answer! We as human beings create answers because heaven forbid we say “I don’t know” and people tend to associate luck with the “I don’t know” category. We spend our whole lives trying to plan for uncertainty and yet where does that get us? We create routines, build schedules, plan our lives, only to have the unexpected happen. And what do we call the unexpected, when life doesn’t go as planned? Yes! Adversity! All Adversity is, is the acknowledge of luck, the unforeseeable. Yet if you say you owe a lot of your success to luck? You’ll probably get rocks thrown at you. You say you owe most of your success to how you’ve dealt with adversity, you’ll get flowers thrown at you and your boot kissed.

The Problem

You guessed it, the problem is we don’t acknowledge adversity for what it is, luck (good or bad). And because we don’t make this acknowledgement, we see no need to change the system. If we say the rich are rich because they are lucky (they can also be hard working, don’t get me wrong) and said the poor were poor because they were unlucky, wouldn’t we want to create a system, an environment (like we try to do for our own lives) that’s a level playing field? Wouldn’t we say, “hey, let’s create a society where whatever your background, the resources you need to succeed will be here, if you want them”. Yes, I think that’s a safe assumption. However, if we continue with the adversity argument, then the typical response will not be “let’s make society better” but rather “that person should work harder”.

The Solution

The solution is we simply need to start this dialogue, to start talking about luck (both good and bad). Saying you owe a lot of your success to luck in no way undermines the hard work you’ve put in to get where you are today. What’s so wrong with saying “I met the right person, at the right time and was afforded this opportunity”? Nothing! So let’s not glorify adversity and instead start saying “I got lucky” or “that’s rotten luck, how can I help you”? Go out and make a difference, as even little differences add up to make big changes! So the next time you want to say “luck had nothing to do with it”, say, “luck did have something to do with it”!


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