This isn’t going to be some sappy, self-help manifesto at the end of which you’ll have an opportunity to buy my book (you ALWAYS have the opportunity to buy my book…ha ha ha…)
What this post will do is tell you the secret to being happy. Of course, different people have different ideas of what it means to be happy. Just ignore them for now and listen to me. OK?
Do I have your attention?
Let’s get to the point. Here’s the secret to being really, truly, gushingly happy for the rest of your life:
Be insanely good at one thing that amuses you.
Hold on. Let’s explore this a bit more. Notice I didn’t say “practice one thing” or “enjoy one thing” or “eat one thing.” No. I said “Be insanely good at one thing.” In other words, find one craft/skill/area of knowledge that you can improve and build throughout your life until you become so good at it that very few people on Earth can compete with you.
Let’s do a little thought exercise. I’m going to say one word and I want you to tell me what pops into your head.
Who did you picture? If it was a brand name, like Pepsi, then you need to do this exercise again. I’m talking about people. Famous people. Maybe you pictured Tom Cruise, or Obama, or Meryl Streep, or Tom Brady, or Elton John (really?). Here’s the question: Did you picture anybody who had no impressive skills whatsoever? No, you didn’t. All of the people I just named have one or more skills that make them unique: Tom Cruise is highly personable and a great actor (yeah, I said it), Obama is a great public speaker, Tom Brady has incredible athletic skills.
I’m not saying all of these people are happy, but they’re definitely not starving. They’re not nervous about how they’re going to pay next month’s bills. They don’t wish they had more friends. They don’t fantasize about quitting their day jobs to pursue their dreams (and if they do, they have more than enough money and influence to do it). And, most importantly, they can afford to go into outer space.
OK, I know, this is starting to sound like a gushy self-help post, even though I promised it wouldn’t. Those of you who are still with me might be wondering: how can I become that good at something? Not just anyone can become the next James Cameron or Kim Kardashian (you already know what she’s good at).
While that’s true, it doesn’t mean you can’t find one thing you’re already somewhat good at, that fascinates you and that you love to do and talk about, and devote yourself to it. Even if you never reach fame or wealth, you will enjoy watching yourself become super awesome at something that you actually enjoy.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers: The Story of Success that no one, not even Mozart or Bill Gates, got to where they were through talent alone. Mozart didn’t wake up a musical genius, able to compose a concerto without ever having touched a musical instrument. His father was a composer and started Mozart on an intense training regimen since he was old enough to walk. Mozart learned the skill that made him great. He just had the benefits of starting at a very young age and having a very experienced and accomplished mentor.
(By the way, if you think talent has something to do with it, think again. Talent doesn’t exist. It’s a word people use when they don’t want to admit that other people are willing to work harder. That 3-year-old North Korean girl who plays the violin? Dictatorship.)
Gladwell’s book is eye-opening. He talks about something he calls “the 10,000-hour rule” which states that the secret to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours (that’s 10 years of practicing for almost 3 hours every day). Put in this kind of training and you will become an expert at whatever it is you’ve chosen to do. Guaranteed.
OK, now you can give me your credit card number.
To sum this up, I’m not saying you have to practice something obsessively for ten years to be happy.
I’m not saying you have to do anything.
So what am I saying? I’ll tell you what I’m saying by stealing a movie quote which I copied and pasted from a blog by author John Locke.
It’s from the movie City Slickers in which a guy named Curly (Jack Palance) and a guy named Mitch (Billy Crystal) are walking their horses and herding cattle. And then they have this conversation:
- Curly says, “You know what the secret of life is?”
- Mitch says, “No, what?”
- Curly holds up his index finger and says, “This.”
- “Your finger?”
- Curly says, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”
- Mitch says, “That’s great, but…what’s the one thing?”
- Curly says, with a playful smile, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out!”
So there you have it. If you want to be truly happy, watch City Slickers, then go practice something until you’re awesome at it so everyone at the bar will buy you drinks and set you up on blind dates. I’m serious. You might even get on TV.
(Purchase Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing, eye-opening book on success here. He deserves your credit card number more than I do)
What about you? Are you more of an expert now that you’ve read this post?