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The vacation test discussed in the last email triggered a lot of responses. While many have had similar experiences as me, others have come back from vacation far less interested and engaged in their work. If you fall in the latter camp, don’t overthink it. And certainly don’t up and quit your job. Reentry after vacation is a great time to take stock of how you're doing. It’s an opportunity for introspection, nothing more. 


Books, articles, etc.
The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga (Book)
A few weeks back my friend tweeted, "Marc Andreessen thinks everyone should read this book right now: Adlerian psychology meets Stoic philosophy in Socratic dialogue. Compelling from front to back. Highly recommend." So I bought it, and, and I’m glad I did. Written as dialog between a philosopher and a young man, The Courage to be Disliked was only recently published in English, but apparently sold over 3.5 million copies across Asia. 

I drew a lot of insights, but my favorite lesson is connected to the book’s title. “Real freedom is the courage to be disliked. You’ll never be truly free unless you are willing to be disliked by others. The courage to be happy and the courage to be disliked go hand in hand.”  

Amazon shows only 5-star and 1-star reviews, and I can see why. Some principles are simple and obvious, while others (past trauma has no impact on your ability to be happy) are much harder to swallow.  I don’t agree with everything taught, but it gave me a lot to think about. To me, that’s the sign of a great book. 

I listened to the Audible version but it’s likely just as good in print. For a more thorough overview, check out this article



The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (TED talk)
I have a general rule that if multiple people recommend something, whether it be a book, movie or article, I have to check it out. This TED talk fit that bill.

Most of us believe that if we’re successful we’ll become happy. But Achor’s research found the opposite to be true: happy people become successful. He states that: “If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we've found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You're 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.” 

In short, happiness comes before success, not vice versa. At one point Achor says that success doesn’t make us happy because when we achieve success, we immediately shift the goalposts further. If we get good grades, we need to get better grades next time. If we get promoted, we quickly start thinking about the next promotion. So then, how do we go about becoming happier? One way is to regularly express gratitude. Check out the full talk for more.
 

 

Observations
The squeaky wheel
My son is demanding. The moment I get home from work he wants to play baseball, basketball, or some other sport. I recently took him to the park where we played catch for over an hour. Within minutes of returning home, he asked if we could shoot hoops in the backyard. It had been a long day and I had little interest in playing, but after he asked several times I gave in. I knew that if I didn’t he’d either keep asking or throw a fit.

You’ve likely heard the saying the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It’s true. When I was in college I set a goal to land an internship at a top investment bank. (Yes, we can debate the sanity of this goal later.) Despite knowing that none of these banks recruited on campus, I was inclined to take the non-squeaky approach of completing an online application then hoping I got picked. Thankfully someone taught me how to be squeaky. I relentlessly connected with people who might be helpful and made it a point to contact them once a month. I went as far as to create a spreadsheet to track it all. 

After countless cold emails, informational interviews, and networking trips to New York and San Francisco, I reached my goal. I landed the internship. I certainly wasn’t the most impressive candidate, but I bet I was the most persistent. These asks were outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to overcome that feeling to ask anyway. 

My son gets a lot of my time because he asks for it repeatedly (and because I love him). I landed my dream internship because I asked for it repeatedly. To get what we want, we likely need to be a little squeaky. The worst thing isn’t that people will say no to what we ask for. The worst thing is that they would have done something for us if only we’d asked. 

 

Negative visualization
I worry a lot. While worrying sometimes helps me prepare for future challenges, much of the time the things I worry about never come to fruition. I recently learned the concept of negative visualization, a practice where you focus on the worst case of any given scenario. By deliberately worrying about something you get all the angst out of your system up front, so you don’t have to constantly worry about it in the future. It’s a counter-intuitive practice but it’s proven to be effective for me. I learned about this from Jason Fried, co-founder of BaseCamp and author of Rework. Check out the 37-minute mark of this interview to learn more about negative visualization. 



Gratitudes
There's power in regularly expressing gratitude, so I'll continue the habit. I have two friends from high school I text message almost every day. Sometimes we talk about important things in our lives, but most of the time we’re revisiting inside jokes or reminding each other of dumb things we did 15+ years ago. These texts, while mostly trivial, provide a much-needed laugh during the day.  

Thanks for reading. This is a slightly new approach/format than before so please let me know what you think. If you've read anything worth sharing I'd love to hear about it. And do let me know if there's anything I can do to help you.  
  

Nathan
Order my book | Read my blog

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