I sat around yesterday with a coworker/friend of mine on the phone whining a bit about workloads and schedules and unreasonable expectations and poor management and all the things that work-a-days have whined about since somebody first suckered other people into calling him boss. We’d gotten on a bit of roll when I had to stop. Now everything we’d said was true, and there are a lot of things that are pretty broken. But I asked, ok, so what other team would you rather be working for? What other company? What other career? Here we are, work on cutting-edge stuff in a field we love. We get pressure to work more after working nights and weekends, and we get fussed at for this and that, but it’s all just “fussing.” There’s no real danger of losing our jobs. We get a team full of really exciting people to work with. We get to work out of our homes if we want. What exactly would “good” look like if not this?
And then I figured out some of it. It’s the fear of losing it. The fear of our team being broken up and forced to work on stupid things. It’s the fear that they’re going to make us come into the office. it’s the fear that “senior management” may not look on us with favor in the future. It’s not that it’s happened; it’s the fear that it might. I think this is why some rich people can be pretty miserable. You’ve got everything you want, but now you’re afraid you won’t be allowed to keep it. You’re afraid that others don’t think you deserve it enough and that they’ll take it away. My whole life has been like this. I live in a city I love. But it’s growing very rapidly, and my wife and I know that we won’t be able to stay here for long. Maybe only another 15 years or so before it’s just too crowded, but it’s fun while it lasts.
For several years I travelled all over the world for a job I invented. I just told people in the company that it needed doing and I was the person to do it. And so I saw China and Japan and Thailand and Malaysia and Scotland and Amsterdam and England. And everyone said that the job couldn’t last, much as I was doing valuable work. And today, the people doing the job don’t get to travel anymore because the money’s all gone. But it was fun while it lasted. And now I work out of my basement and I love it, but no other job is going to let me do that, but it’s fun while it lasts.
And I do consulting work here and there, working mostly on projects that interest me, but I don’t advertise and I’m not cheap, and so I may not be able to make it livelihood. But it’s fun while it lasts.
And we’re all going to die. A hundred years or so, and we’re all recycled. But it’s fun while it lasts.
If it’s only going to last so long, and I assure you it’s all only going to last so long, make it fun while it lasts. It seems so obvious, but I think it has to be said. I’ve seen so many people avoid something they love because they may have to stop someday. They throw away what they fear will be taken. I once dated a lovely dancer. She would only be here for a season, and we knew that. We knew that we didn’t have the kind of relationship that would last beyond that, and so we agreed to be together for a season. And happily married as I am today, wanting nothing, I still think back on those days with fondness. When we got close to the end she grew distant, and I asked her about it. She said she would be leaving soon, and she was afraid of hurting then. And I agreed, but I said she hadn’t left yet, so don’t leave yet. Let’s not throw away a week because it’s only week. Don’t throw away a moment. “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” But each day can also have such joy. Don’t let go of joy today because there is pain tomorrow. There is always pain tomorrow. But give me one more day of joy. Maybe I’ll die before the pain comes.
They tell us that delayed gratification is a sign of maturity, but it’s a lie dressed up in truth’s clothing. My father says, “If you save more money, you will have more money.” It’s so obvious that it’s easy to miss his meaning. No matter how frugal you are, no matter how much you scrimp and save, no matter how much you put away, you would always have more money if you spent a little less. But what’s the point of saving if not to eventually spend? If it doesn’t bring you joy, or at least satisfaction, then what are you doing? Will you care how much you had in the bank when you die? Do you think there’s a scoreboard with a dollar sign on it? It’s just a proxy for things you really want. Oh, there isn’t enough space here today to talk about how we let proxies get in the way of reality.
And if this is true for money, that we should invest for later spending rather than horde for its own sake, how much more for joy which drains away when put on the shelf? Carpe diem and all that jazz, but there’s a real lesson in there. Don’t be afraid to be happy today. It does not mean you will be miserable tomorrow, and even if it does, do the math. I’d rather be happy today and maybe sad tomorrow, than sad today and maybe happy tomorrow.
This is not a license to foolishness. This is a license to joy. Go forth. Be joyful in one thing this week. Lemons and lemonade and all that. It’s trite, it’s cliche, and it’s so very, very important.