Monday, February 24, 2014

Discovering your life’s currency

By Kent Noble
It may not surprise you to learn that success and happiness seem to go hand in hand. According to a New York Times opinion piece written by Arthur Brooks, president of a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., research shows that people who feel they are successful are twice as likely to say they are very happy as people who don’t feel that way. 
But this happiness equation isn’t as simple as it seems. If you’re like me, more times than not you automatically associate “success” with money—and that’s where things get interesting. Brooks goes on to point out that you can measure your success in any “currency” you choose. Sure, you can count it in dollars or the kind of car you drive. But what if your currency were how many kids you taught to read or the amount of time you spent protecting irreplaceable habitats?
Don’t we each owe it to ourselves to figure out what currency matters most in our lives? Taking the time to look past old assumptions and reflect on what’s truly meaningful can bring a fresh perspective to everything you do.
Eight months ago I left behind a job I liked to do work that I’m truly passionate about. As I’ve discovered, pursuing your passion can be a remarkable gift to yourself. I believe it also increases the likelihood of experiencing the “success” that Brooks describes. So, while my days of a steady paycheck and benefits are now just memories, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more fulfilled and happy. Hey, there’s that word again—HAPPY. 
Interestingly, redefining your currency doesn’t always mean financial sacrifice. When you’re doing work that’s meaningful to you, the extra energy and enthusiasm you bring to each day can yield surprising results and open up new opportunities. Sometimes resources just seem to follow. If so, that’s not a bad side benefit.  

Either way, here’s to hoping you discover the currency that means genuine success to you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Frigid Days, Warm Hearts

By Jim Owen

It’s already been one of the worst winters in years, and a new line of storms is slamming much of the country with heavy snow, punishing winds, and sheets of ice. The weather has been so severe that many areas have declared states of emergency.

But, dangerous and difficult as this extreme weather can be, it has had an upside, too. As history has shown us many times, there is nothing like adversity to bring us together. Billy Graham was absolutely right when he said, “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.”

As exhibit A, I would point to recent news coverage from Atlanta, a city so unaccustomed to snow that a late January storm virtually paralyzed the city and left thousands stranded on the roadways. So what did people do? They trekked to the nearest interstate with sleds loaded with sandwiches and drinks. They set up hot chocolate stands at off-ramps. Aided by Facebook and Twitter, some with four-wheel-drive vehicles provided on-call taxi services. Others opened their homes, offering shelter to marooned commuters. It’s enough to make you believe in the goodness of humanity.

It does seem that in times of serious travail, it becomes easier for us to look past our differences. We can see others simply as people who are trying to get by, just like we are. We finally understand, on a gut level rather than as an abstract concept, that we really are all One.

This isn’t just a philosophical or spiritual belief. Scientists tell us that the atoms we breathe today could be the same ones breathed by Julius Caesar or Joan of Arc. That reminds us that we and all our forebears literally have been passengers on the same planet. What’s more, genealologists are now able to link 75 million people as members of the same extended family tree, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Couple that kind of ongoing research with our rapidly advancing capabilities for DNA analysis, and we may someday be able to show how every human on the planet is related.

The next time I come across a stranger in need, that’s what I’ll be thinking about. That, and the image of a hot chocolate stand next to a snow-covered freeway.