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I’m often asked why I appear happy all the time, and I have a trite answer prepared:
And I often leave it at that.
The truth is I am a happy guy – most, not all the time – and it’s not just because of luck.
You’ve probably heard of closet introverts who fight through fear and present in front of hundreds of folks. I’m one of those. Kinda.
I’m shy. Kinda.
I’m smart. Kinda.
I doubt myself often.
And often wonder how I got to where I am. I’m surprised by that. Almost all of the time. Kinda.
I was a smart kid. Mostly smart-arsed, which was a thin mask for my shyness.
I over-compensated by being the funny guy at school, at my first job as a newsboy, and as a sailing instructor during the short English summers.
And I still over-compensate as an adult with bad jokes – dad jokes – and somewhat jarring over-confidence at times.
It’s me, but it’s not me.
I titled this “it’s all about the ‘tude”, and it is, but not so much this far into the article but I wanted to give you this background so you have an idea of who I am, or might be, and yes… I probably masked a little of who I am in an over-abundance of bad writing so far. 🙂
I must admit to looking up in the Scrabble dictionary for words that end in -tude – not because I lacked the ones I knew would apply to this article, I rather wanted to find the ones I didn’t know would apply to this article. And I definitely found a few.
This article was always going to be about gratitude, taking nothing for granted (pun intended), and getting through life’s occasional challenges through an “attitude of gratitude”. Not easy, but definitely attainable for most, or mostly attainable for many.
So in looking for ‘tudes-I-could-use to illustrate, I found a few surprises.
The most obvious omission in my thinking was latitude, as defined by “freedom from normal constraints.”
This aligns with the latitude Search Engine Journal gave me in writing this article, and something I’ve been fortunate to have been given growing up, grabbing the opportunity to travel, and to end up right here, writing from my office on the East Coast of the U.S.
An English lad, who’s managed to get this far through bravado, smarts and yes… a little luck, I never thought the freedom that allowed me to do all this was a gift, just as I never thought the restrictions – whether financial, physical or legal – were shackles to stop me doing anything I wanted.
I took those obstacles as exactly that, “things” I had to climb over or go around to get where I wanted to go.
I’m grateful for every boss, my parents, friends and immigration officers who gave me the latitude to end up exactly where I am.
Truth: I am lucky to live in a free country where I have the opportunity to do the things I want and live the life I want to. It’s a gift. I’m grateful.
Next in my string of ‘tudes is plentitude (abundance of) – I could fill in so many words and thoughts here.
I have so much to be grateful for.
Two fantastically smart kids. A lovely, loving wife. Her smart kid.
Mates. Friends. Colleagues.
And a ‘crap ton’ of folks around the world who have at some point supported, cheered, cajoled or kicked me forward.
An attitude of gratitude looks for the small things, too. I greet the guard – Carlton – at our office building every morning with a “good morning” and he replies with a fist bump “bam” (which he does to every single employee that enters the building!)
He offers an abundance of that tiny gesture to every soul that crosses his desk and makes a massive difference to everyone’s lives (and brings a smile to everyone’s faces) in doing so.
Following along, plentitude is also defined as being full, or complete something I look at as being satisfied (not settling) with where I am, and what I have in life – something I had to learn the hard way through a messy divorce and challenges with my kids because of that.
I’m happy not because of the things I have, rather I’m happy with the things I have.
Truth: Setting my needs low means I can have an abundance of everything. Awesome!
A lesser-known definition of amplitude is the “extent of excellence” for which I want to offer a counter, “a limit of confidence”, an obstacle that I found rather difficult to overcome.
It’s a feeling when I’m in a room of super-smart people (like Pubcon) that I really don’t belong there, or the anxiety before I go on stage that the folks in the audience will think I’m “blah.”
It’s a manifestation of imposter syndrome where “feelings of inadequacy persist despite evidence of success” can cause self-doubt, crippling fear, and curtail the momentum of success.
Imposter syndrome is the bane of many online marketers I know, where success is sometimes crushed by development woes, Google updates, or fickle clients. You can begin to doubt yourself and your abilities – while cursing Google and/or clients.
It’s at times like this that the kind words of colleagues, compliments of clients, or even encouragement from a stranger, can bolster the confidence of self-doubt.
I try to stay positive and upbeat when stressed with a site’s performance, not because I don’t care, rather I have confidence that I can make a difference, find a colleague or partner who can help, and explain the challenges to the folks paying my bills.
To that end, I often turn to the Serenity Prayer as a way of logically justifying some illogical or emotional feelings I may have.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
It’s one of the clearest messages of trust in one’s own aptitude and a realization that hopefully “this (challenge) too shall pass.”
Truth: There is a word ‘worse’ to describe what’s happening to someone else.
I mentioned above I’ve been lucky enough to travel. It gives perspective on many things.
I recommend travel to every kid I meet, a rite of passage before college, a way to truly appreciate how lucky they are.
I use “travel” in my hiring criteria, too. Not to an absolute degree, rather I’ve seen success in hiring folks who have traveled outside the States, especially to countries less fortunate than us.
This perspective can be applied to anything – in fact, everything, both positive and negative.
Just as a mountain looks really small from far away and really big from close up, the magnitude of problems is often compounded by the sufferers’ closeness to the problem itself.
It helps to step back, get another’s perspective or to just step away from a problem, take a literal and metaphorical breath, and then come back to the problem with a slightly different, or massively different, perspective.
I’ve known folks to travel to Asia to sit in a coworking space to find some clarity. Or walk down to the local coffee shop for the same.
Whether it’s a personal readjustment of distance or a second opinion, a yoga session (which I can highly recommend) or punching a heavy bag (which I also recommend), changing perspective by mixing it up can disrupt some heavy thoughts and reduce the perception of an issue’s magnitude.
Truth: Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
Final (Happy) Thoughts
So far you’ve learned a little about me, and about how I handle the stress of a good, sometimes crazy, life by living a “life of gratitude.”
However, there are times – enough to note – when an attitude of gratitude isn’t enough.
I’ve shed tears over my kids, I’ve been frustrated as hell with clients, and I’ve punched walls because of my ex.
I know I should be better. I tell myself:
I shouldn’t get angry / upset / affected by these external forces…
I should be stronger, have a tougher skin, or “not be so emotional”… yadda yadda yadda.
This is imposter syndrome at its worst – when I’m attacking my own right to be happy – to be me.
At times like these, solitude and quietude are key to sanity and self-love.
Time away to be alone. A walk on the beach does it for me. Maybe it’s a hike, a bike ride, a walk, jog, run, reading a book sitting on the dock of the bay. Whatever.
It’s quiet. I won’t be disturbed, and I can breathe deeply to settle my mind and soul and realize life could be worse.
Solitude can hopefully breed quietude – a tranquil, calm state of mind. There are a number of apps for mindfulness, or yoga, meditation or other Eastern influences, but the bottom line is peace.
With myself. With others. With my situation. With life.
Truth: Acceptance is a wonderful thing. Read the Serenity Prayer again. And again.
An attitude of gratitude brings acceptance, peace, and so much more. But it’s a mindset to practice, a muscle to be flexed and exercise often to bring lasting inner happiness.
Gratitude. Got it?
Go. Be. Happy.
In-Post Images: Provided by author