A New Hope

Here’s to hope, love and friendship.

I write that because I last week saw Robert Waldinger speak at a leader development course. As I’ve written before (here), a very famous study concluded that there is a major driver of happiness: friends and family. It is not fame, money or status.

Well, as luck would have it, Waldinger is the fourth director of that longitudinal study. It was great to see his presentation. And, seeing him made me realize that I’m a very fortunate person.

Through ups and downs, I’ve worked hard on building up friendships and family ties in my life. I’m fortunate to have a strong group of Church friends and an analogous group among fly fishers. I have much better relationships with my children and Mrs. T.

At work, Eric is a great business partner and a dear friend. I often take calls and meetings from entrepreneurs to be as helpful as I can.

And, our family angel funding program, whereby we invest as a group and will donate all gains to charity, has been a great way to work together and to give back to the innovation economy. We have met many incredible entrepreneurs, too. There is a plethora of impressive founders working on many compelling ideas.

I wish I could say that I was prescient. But, I wasn’t. I started doing all this because of a good case of stress-induced shingles some years ago. You may have heard of shingles. It’s an extremely painful reactivation of the chicken pox virus in your nerves. Trust me, you don’t want to get it.

So, after spending decades as a workaholic and sacrificing my family life and personal needs for work, I began to realize that I was so stressed all the time that I didn’t even realize that I was stressed.

I still work very hard. I still get up at 5 am or earlier most days to get a jump on my day. But, I try to be more detached about outcomes and have made some major changes in my life and my mindset.

That is because of this major insight: our brains can be rewired. There’s a saying that “neurons that fire together get stronger.” In other words, if you worry a lot, those neural connections will get stronger and stronger. If you often stress out about certain things, those neural pathways will become deeper. We thereby can be in cerebral doom loops.

Thankfully, we live in a golden age of neuroscience. Brain-scanning technology has become cheaper, which allows for more accurate studies. And, researchers have concluded two major things: 1. The brain is like plastic. It can be altered, and old dogs can learn new tricks; and 2. Choosing gratitude is critical. Being grateful will sever those pathways filled with worry, anxiety and the Fear of Missing Out (shout out to my new friend, Patrick McGinnis, for inventing that phrase!) and create new neural connections.

I could go on and on. I continue to think I should write a book one day about all this. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I hope that you’re able to enjoy the beginning of summer and to savor the present moment without regrets about the past or worries about the future. I hope you’re able to enter tough situations and think about being a net-giver vs. a net-taker. I hope you will give yourself permission to be imperfect vs. criticizing yourself.

We are curious creatures, aren’t we? We can say things to ourselves that we would never say to our worst enemies. I know I did. It was a great way to motivate myself to do better. Or, so I thought.

So, here’s to a new hope. We have the power to choose our internal responses. Knowing that changed my life.

On this Sunday evening, one of my kids and I are at home. Everyone else is out of town. I’m cooking a traditional Sunday meal of steak, baked potatoes, caramelized onions and sautéed green beans. I am hoping they will nourish her as she starts another busy week, which is the case for so many older teenagers these days.

I am hoping she will feel, in the food and in our conversation, the deep love that I have for her, that the food is tasty, the table has been set, and the candles have been lit because she is special to me.

It is my hope that this feeling of being known and loved, which I rarely felt as a child because my mother almost died nine times, will guide and sustain her all the days of her life.

Life can be funny. A case of severe shingles and a whole host of challenging issues were some of the best things that have happened in my life. And, that is because they changed it.

A wonderful Sunday evening to all….

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