The Way the World Works

I’ve been thinking about why I expect to succeed in something I put a lot of time and energy into, and have realized a few things.

I learned from a young age that with hard work and maybe a little bit of luck (right place, right time kind of stuff), you (meaning me obviously) WILL be successful. If you’re not, it’s because you need to work harder or longer, or both. I viewed success as the predetermined outcome of an equation that could be performed.

So many books have been written by successful people, and have been read by so many more people, so why isn’t everyone successful?

Because that’s not how the world works.

Working harder, smarter, or being more talented doesn’t guarantee anything. No one actually knows a proven method for success because it doesn’t exist. In reality, priviledge and luck play a much larger factor than most of us realize. Where we are born, our economic status, the color of our skin, gender, and many other factors give some of us a major headstart and even put some people right before the “finish line” of success.

A few people will also get lucky and rise up from being underpriviledged, but not everyone can succeed that way. So many success stories begin with someone having parents who worked multiple jobs to support their children, and that’s great for the children who learn a good work ethic and are able to benefit from that opportunity. But what about the parents? Is their success determined or measured by the success of their offspring?

I guess what I’m learning is that having goals and measuring progress can be useful tools. But ultimately, how we gauge success (or whether or not something is “worth doing”) can only be measured internally by our own level of satisfaction in doing that thing.

Does that thing make us happy? If it does, is that what makes it worth doing? Is happiness the ultimate goal? What about money, fame, power, legacy, or influence? How do we decide what’s important?

How do we know what will make us happy or ultimately satisfied, when we’re old enough to look back at our lives and wonder if anything we did matters? This is the question that drives me. I’ll let you know the answer if blogs are still a thing in 50 years.

Thirty Five Years

People always ask if you feel older on your birthday. My grandmother used to ask us if we felt a year older, to which I would always respond, “no.”

This year, however, I would have answered differently.

I am still not totally comfortable with the idea of “celebrating” my birthday or having people wish me a happy birthday. For one, I don’t feel like I did anything unique or special by continuing to exist another 365 days. While I consider every day a gift that should be appreciated, getting older doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. I also don’t like the attention the spotlight of my birthday inescapably shines on me.

The day itself isn’t much different from any other day. I go to work, come home to my family, then go to bed to do it again tomorrow. The biggest difference is having to blow out candles. Most of the people I’ll interact with won’t even know it’s my birthday, which is fine by me.

So not knowing what else to do, I’ll use this time to reflect back on the last year:

There have been some great “firsts” this year:

  • My first full year with 4 kids!
  • My first full year at my new job after spending 10 years at my last one
  • My first nephew on my side of the family was born (as well as another niece!)

But there have been some not-so-great things as well:

  • My first (and hopefully last) kidney stone which required multiple surgeries
  • Other recent health issues relating to sleep apnea
  • My mom’s declining health and need for full-time professional care

One major highlight is a new woodworking hobby, and I am looking forward to building some of the projects on my list next year. People have already started asking me to build things for them which is exciting!

I’ll be celebrating 13 years of marriage in less than a week and am incredibly thankful to have found such an amazing person to share my life with and raise our children.

As I look back on the last year, I can’t help but feel grateful for so many things. Even though the last 365 days has had its share of challenges, I am learning to focus on the positive things and not worry as much about things I can’t control.

My goals for next year are to continue to work on improving my health, being a better husband and father, learning and trying new things, and appreciating everyone and everything I have.

Depression and Suicide

This is the post I’ve been avoiding writing for a long time.*

With the news of Chester Bennington, best known as the singer and songwriter of Linkin Park, having recently taken his own life at the age of 41, depression and suicide are once again in the forefront of the news. People are sad and grieving, sharing memories of his this person affected them and offering hopeful words to anyone who might be struggling with similar thoughts or feelings.

Whenever I see people sharing words of encouragement like, “Just talk to someone,” my first thought is always that this person, who surely means well, does not understand the first thing about depression.

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Fighting a Losing Battle for Privacy

Over the years, I’ve written about my overall hate for Facebook and their lack of concern for their users’ privacy (to put it nicely). Every time they make changes without telling people, I feel responsible as a tech-savvy person to try to let my friends and family know to make sure they are aware and can make the necessary changes.

Overall, social media just feels like an endless pursuit of no concrete goal. It sells itself as an easy way to “stay connected” with more people than you possibly could in real life, help you reconnect with old friends/flames, and make new “connections” with people of similar interests.

While Facebook gets the majority of my scorn, I generally feel the same way with other mediums such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, which has definitely shifted over the years from an interesting and engaging platform to a wasteland of uneducated political and social commentary. I believe one of the reasons it has been failing recently is the very thing that made it great in the beginning: it’s an open platform where anyone can say whatever they want, and you can generally “follow” whoever you want as well.

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