If You Want to Be Happy, Learn to Love the Little Things Cover

If You Want to Be Happy, Learn to Love the Little Things

I’ll never forget the day I got to drive my friend’s Ferrari. I had been staring at Ferrari posters in my bedroom since I was five, so it was a dream come true.

I’ll also never forget what he told me a few years later: “The car now means absolutely nothing to me. I’ve grown 100% used to it. It’s sad, isn’t it?” He sold it soon after that.

The only car I’ve ever owned was a first-generation BMW 1 Series. Here’s a picture from the day I picked it up:

For many people in Germany, even people my age — and even back then — a car like this was nothing special. But to me it was.

I still remember the unique government program that made it affordable, the sound of the handles when opening the doors, and the feel of the materials inside. I remember the whirring of the engine, the vibration of the tires rolling around a corner, and the click of the locks opening as I pressed the button on my remote control key.

It was always a good moment, approaching the car. I saw it standing there, always in the same corner of the square in front of our house, always ready for another adventure. I knew we were about to embark on a new journey together, and that made me happy. Would it be a short trip to the gas station? A long drive back to college? Whichever it was, I knew I had my Bavarian companion to rely on. Music on, sunroof open, gears falling into place.

I only owned that car for two years, but I never got tired of it. I always enjoyed climbing into the driver’s seat once again. How can one person grow completely indifferent to a Ferrari, while another cherishes every second with their tiny BMW? “Well, you’re a car nut, Nik! It’s easy for you to enjoy any car,” you might say, and to that I can only respond, “You’re probably right.”

Then again, I’ve had that same, joyously-approaching-the-car-feeling many times since selling my BMW — and that was ten years ago. Therefore, I have a theory: I think I’ve learned to love the little things.


Every morning, I step inside the small, Middle Eastern café across the street. Beneath cannolis in a glass display, the counter bends and stretches towards the far end of the restaurant. Wooden chairs and tables rest amidst a sea of green. Plants on the wall, plants on the ceiling, plants on the floor. The king of this urban jungle casually leans against the counter. “Good morning! What can I do for you?” the manager asks. “One cappuccino to go, please!”

Then, the magic begins. Their device is no mere coffee maker. It’s a whole apparatus of alchemistic instruments; an Italian portafilter — the Ferrari of coffee machines. Dynamic displays show temperature and pressure. The coffee is ground on the spot, the milk freshly steamed. After a complex series of physical and chemical micro-processes, the prized brown liquid drips into a biodegradable cup. It may as well be gold. Without having to ask, the manager puts chocolate powder on top. “Here you go!”

£3.20 is an insane amount for a tiny cup of coffee. That’s $4.37. Or 3.83€. A few months ago, it was £3.00. That’s a near-7% increase. Then again, coffee beans now cost twice as much as they did a year ago. I guess 7% is not so bad.

There’s so much fortune in this interaction: My girlfriend living in a nice area with a nice restaurant across the street, the manager of which happens to know how to make the perfect blend of milk and coffee. Me being able to afford £3.00 a day for such a treat and not even needing to worry about a 7% price increase. Of course, we worked hard to get here, but just because you deserve something does not mean it’s not worth pointing out.

In fact, the longer you can appreciate something long after you’ve earned it, the happier you’ll be. Thankfully, the smell of great coffee never gets old.


Ding! “9th floor,” the robotic, female voice announces. Fresh, warm cappuccino in hand, I make my way to the rooftop garden.

Behind a glass door lies a beautiful maze of stone, wood, grass, earth, and plants. It’s not a huge space. A few shaded benches, a small patch of green, and a rectangular walkway that goes all around — but dropped into the middle of what feels like a roundtable discussion among a dozen high-rise buildings, it’s nothing short of a sanctuary.

London isn’t exactly known as the world’s tanning bed, so whenever the weather doesn’t look too much like Game of Thrones, I go to the rooftop for all of five minutes before starting my day. When the sun is out, I just stand there, shamelessly absorbing my dose of rays. When it’s a bit foggy, I test how far I can see. In the distance, Canary Wharf, London’s finance hub, presents me with its best LA impression. Seagulls are scanning the rooftops for scraps.

Inside their glass boxes, people type, stitch, and talk. They fold, pace, and file away. Around me are hundreds of apartments, home to thousands of people. The garden connects two 20-story buildings — yet none of their inhabitants are here. Nine out of ten times, I’m alone on the rooftop.

“Where is everybody?” I wonder. Are they too busy for five minutes of beauty? Do they even know this garden exists? “I can always go there” is the death of every local. After all, how local will you truly have been if you were always physically present but never truly there?

It’s a fascinating thing, this temple in such a secular place — self-evident to those who can access it but rarely do, yet almost certainly a miracle to those who’ve never known the splendor of modern metropolitan compounds.

I sip on my cappuccino. Three more deep breaths. Ahh! Okay, time to go back inside.


If you want to be happy, learn to love the little things. If you want to love the little things, understand the following:

Gratitude is not a creativity exercise. It’s a gratitude exercise. You don’t need a new thing to be grateful for each day. In fact, the more you realize it’s the same things, over and over again, that make you feel warm, sheltered, and loved, the easier it’ll be to savor those things — and find true, lasting contentment in them.

Hedonic adaptation is the treadmill that adjusts its speed to keep us running after happiness without ever catching it. Making a habit of loving the little things is how you step off, step outside, and marvel at everything life has to offer, allowing you to come to just one conclusion:

You don’t need anything more than what you already have — because the little things are, actually, the biggest things of all.

Today Is Gonna Be Your Day Cover

Today Is Gonna Be Your Day

You wake up. You’re eight years old. It’s your birthday. How excited are you?

I’ll tell you how excited you are: Right now, your zest for life is an 11 out of 10. Heck, it might be a 15. I think you should live your life as if it’s your eighth birthday every day. At least once a week.

Psychologically, there’s no reason you can’t. That’s all life is. Psychology. Identifying, managing, changing your emotions — and then projecting what you have procured upon the world. Seriously. Try it.

Smash your alarm with the force of Thor’s hammer. Don’t roll over in bed. Jump out! JUMP! Try the 5 second rule: 5…4…3…2…1 — GO!

Play music. Pick a song that makes you feel unstoppable. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Blast it on repeat. Put on headphones. Don’t stop. You’re a train of joy, and you’re just leaving the station.

Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Open the window. Can you feel it? Can you feel the fresh air hijacking your life? Let it!

Make some coffee. Smell it. Realize what a privilege it is. Wonder about the origins of this miracle. Appreciate its journey. Isn’t it worth more than gold?

Speaking of which: If you want something shiny, look in the mirror. Why should the sun rise if you don’t? Make it! Let a smile radiate from your face. Post a selfie. Wave at the postman. Can you feel the warmth? I assure you they can.

Get dressed. Not in that lousy lounging equipment. Wear some actual pants man! Remember those? Go out with pants on. You won’t believe how empowered you’ll feel.

I guarantee you will strut. You’ll parade the sidewalk as if you own the whole block. It’ll be amazing. Fantastic. Bigly. See? When you’re eight years old, even Trump can make you laugh — for all you know is he talks funny.

Infect the world with your laughter. Laugh for no reason. Laugh while waiting at the traffic light. Grin to yourself like the Cheshire cat. For every one person who thinks you’re crazy, nine more will laugh too.

Buy the food you never buy because it’s $2 more than your average meal budget. Isn’t that stupid? Especially on your birthday. It’s $2! And you only have one life! Treat yourself. Make it count.

Learn a new skill. Stop watching piano covers. Buy an app! Get some sheet music. Press your first key. No eight-year-old worth their salt is content watching others. They must do. Try. Replicate. Playing a song feels ten times better than listening to one — and if listening is already that awesome, imagine how high playing will take you!

Take a break when you’re tired. Hell, take a nap! You can, you know? No one’s stopping you. When rested, you’ll spin our planet with twice the gumption. That’s what we need: A force like the one in Star Wars. Energy! A little divine inspiration; a strike of lightning that can come entirely from within if you want it.

Use it to start a new project. Or don’t. Be extra nice at work. Love your job twice as much. If you don’t, pretend you do for the day. Watch how it’ll transform how you feel about it. Has that lightning kicked in yet? Any lightbulbs flaring up?

This day — today — truly is yours, you know? Always has been. Always will be. There’s no one in your way. Look in the mirror. Step aside. There. Your biggest obstacle has fallen. Poof! Jokes on you! It was all in your head.

Don’t be the villain in your own story. You’re supposed to be the hero!

Life is not a sharp object you try to feel out in the dark. It’s Play-Doh. You can mold it however you want. Channel it! Take whatever wants to flow in, and then redirect it according to your desires. Don’t forget to hand out some to others. It’s more fun to play together.

I know it’s hard to remember sometimes, but if you search deep inside, I think you will find: Once upon a time, you were invincible — and just because you’ve grown up does not mean you can’t bring back that feeling.

Today is gonna be your day. I can feel it.

Tomorrow Can Be a Good Day Cover

Tomorrow Can Be a Good Day

The last note on Avicii’s phone reads: “Spread positivity through my music and message.”

Robin Williams once remarked that, “Comedy is acting out optimism.”

In his last speech to fans at a concert, Chester Bennington said: “The one thing that can’t be defeated is love.”

I’m a writer. Every day, I structure my thoughts and emotions. Each session is therapy. The articles are just the reports. I take the result of my self-treatment, package it how I think will be most helpful, and release it to the world.

I wish everyone could do this. I wish it’d work for anybody. Sadly, that’s not the case. For Robin, Chester, and Tim, one day, the therapy stopped working.

Even before I started typing, I’ve always held this one belief. I’ve known it for as long as I can remember, and I don’t have any other lens to view life through. It’s as simple as it is powerful, and I can describe it in one sentence:

Tomorrow can be a good day.

If I had to erase everything I’ve ever written, if I had to go through my archive, pick one idea, and decide that’s the only one I’ll leave behind, this would be it.

Tomorrow can be a good day.

I can’t tell you how desperately I want you to believe this. I wish I could hold your hands when you feel at your worst, look you in the eye, and say it:

“Tomorrow can be a good day.”

When I was six, I fell off my bike and tore my chin. We had to wait at the ER for hours. A guy was wheeled in on a stretcher. Motorcycle accident. I don’t know if he made it. But as I was licking on my ice cream, I wholeheartedly believed that — both for him and I — tomorrow could be a good day.

When I was 13, a girl broke my heart. Then again at 14. And 15. And 16. It happened again and again and again. Sometimes, I thought I’d die alone. That I’d never find a girlfriend. I cried over it. But I always believed that, no matter how sad the music I was playing, tomorrow could be a good day.

When I was 26, I lost faith in myself. I wasn’t sure if I could go on working so much. If I could complete both my degree and get my business off the ground. I was burned out, desperate, and didn’t see the point of it all. But I still believed that, even if it all went to hell, tomorrow could be a good day.

I know these are laughable stories. They’re nothing against rape, war, drug addiction, abuse, and depression. I don’t know what those feel like. I can only imagine, and I know imagination doesn’t quite cut it. But I think daring to imagine without having lived through it is exactly where my strength is.

If being free of life’s heaviest burdens allows me to spread positivity, act out optimism, and remind you that love can’t be defeated, then that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. The only thing I will do. The reason I was put on this earth.

Tomorrow can be a good day.

Writing it makes me tear up a little. I believe in it so much. I can’t tell you how it works. I can’t tell you where I got it from. I just know that, as long as you want me to, I will be here. Repeating it for you. Again and again and again.

When your boyfriend breaks up with you, I’ll tell you that tomorrow can be a good day. When your doctor says you need surgery, I’ll tell you that tomorrow can be a good day. When your boss fires you, your landlord kicks you out, and your dad won’t lend you 50 bucks, I’ll tell you: Tomorrow can be a good day.

Please keep going. Just a little. One more day. One more night. One more time. Sunshine is coming. No matter how dark it feels right now, the light is not far away. It might be right around the corner. Keep walking. Talking. Take one step at a time. One step is enough for today. And tomorrow?

Tomorrow can be a good day.

Failed Relationships Cover

Your Failed Relationships Hurt Because You Think They Ended – But They Never Will

Why does it hurt to lose someone you were never meant to be with?

Often, after a relationship falls apart, we realize it’s for the better. We spot the flaws in ourselves and the other person, and we accept there’s work to do for both of us. Work we’ll have to do alone.

Like Ted Mosby says, “Sometimes, things have to fall apart to make way for better things.”

Whether it’s a romance, a friendship, or a relation with a colleague, as much relief as this realization brings, it rarely absorbs even a fraction of the pain that comes with cutting the relationship rope. Like a steel cable snapping in half, there’s a bang, an echo-y sound, and then, somewhere, a slash wound that runs deep.

Why is that? Why doesn’t the score feel settled when everyone agrees it’s time to leave the court? I think the answer lies in how we look at relationships.

We tend to define the success of a relationship mostly by how long it lasts. At least, I used to do so. Now, I’m not so sure that’s right.

Throughout life, we all start many relationships. We work hard to maintain, cultivate, and cherish them. That’s honorable, but when our efforts fail — and, occasionally, they do for all of us — we assume the relationship has failed too. We couldn’t hold on to that person. Oh no! What did we do wrong?

Chances are, we did nothing wrong, except making that assumption. If all relationships that fade are failures, wouldn’t all relationships inevitably fail? We all die one day, so, really, there’s no relationship we can hold on to forever.

Ugh. What a depressing way to look at the world. I’m not sure I want to play that game. Even without the death barrier, I’d be a terrible player. I’m sure I’ve lost 90% of “total relationships started.” Not a great stat on my profile. You probably have it too.

Maybe, we need a new way to look at relationships. Maybe, we need to play a different game. And maybe, in that new game, time isn’t part of the rules. In any case, one thing is for sure: Just because you and your former connection left the field does not mean the game is over.


When I walk past a wall, I love running my hand along the stones. It makes me feel connected. Earthly. As if I’m leaving an invisible trail of paint that says, “I was here.” No one can see it, but someone might feel it. Maybe, a thought will hit them. A thought I left there years ago. Like this one:

What if our relationships never end?

What a comforting one. Every human connection ripples out into infinity. Can you imagine? Yeah, feels good. Maybe, I’ll leave that thought here.

Have you ever placed a coin upright on a table and then flicked it so it spins? That’s what meeting a person is. The second you collide, momentum changes. The movement may not last, the coin may stop spinning, but the shift in direction can’t be reverted. It’s etched into the marble of time, and it’ll stay there forever.

You might not get a second date, your best friend might move away, but the flicks you gave each other? The tiny pushes towards all kinds of paths? You can’t take those back. Their effects will compound in that person’s life. Even once they’re gone, the effects of effects will persist. Who did they flick because you flicked them? You’ll never know, but the energy was there.

What if relationships aren’t meant to be collected? What if they’re not stamps we can put in an album, store away on a shelf, and then feel good about knowing they’re there? Maybe, all we have is the coin flick.

Your boyfriend left you. Your favorite colleague quit. But they didn’t stop playing. The game is still on. It’s called life. It’s called being human. You’re in it as much as they are. And the plays you made together will always have been. No one failed. Nothing has ended. It’s just the coin that’s no longer spinning.

When we declare our relationships broken and finished, we disrespect the compound interest of our actions. We take more credit than we deserve.

Who says you won’t meet again? Who says they won’t think of you each year? No, no, this ain’t over. The rope didn’t snap because there was never a rope to begin with. That’s not how humans connect. The rope is cut when we’re born. From then on, we’re individuals. Individuals made of atoms, and all we have is particles. Little sparks we can eject and hope they’ll react with one another.

Those reactions can happen anytime, anywhere. Like infinite rows of dominoes, each one falling over at its own pace. I like that. None of my relationships have failed. They’re all out there, meandering, and, at some point, I flicked my finger at each of them. I spun the coin.

I don’t know if my touch made them better or worse, but I think it’s always too soon to say. What I do know is this: Instead of trotting through life, thinking I’ve failed at most of my relationships, I’d rather flick more coins. I want to leave sparks everywhere. Paint every wall and fence I pass.

Your relationships never end. They may take a turn you can’t follow. That’s okay. You can celebrate at the intersection. Wave at the person. Be grateful you caught some of their spark. Its imprint will always glimmer on your soul.

One day, maybe you’ll meet them again. Maybe, you’ll stick with the memory. For now, know that you did your best. That it’s time to keep moving. Keep touching the walls.

Soon, you’ll bump into a new person. Another player full of sparks. Like a coin sitting on a table, they’ll be waiting just for you. There’s no telling when you’ll arrive, but whenever you do, promise me one thing: Promise me you’ll flick it.

5 Things I Want You to Know Cover

5 Things I Want You to Know

Everyone you know is frustrated about some part of themselves the world doesn’t see. We all think our lives would be easier if only we could get a little more understanding from others. If only we could get them to see.

“I wish my boss knew how hard I’m trying,” you might think. Or, “I wish my dad could see that I respect him.” Or, the all-time classic, “I wish she knew how I felt about her.”

At the same time, we keep these feelings hidden. We take the parts of ourselves that we most wish others would understand and shove them into a closet deep inside. So as much as we desperately want to be understood, we also don’t want to be found out. We hold on to our secrets, afraid the transparency we crave might not bring the acceptance we hope for.

And so each day passes, every one a little faster than the last, until we realize we’ve reserved our best words for epitaphs and eulogies, when whoever needs to hear them the most can’t hear them anymore.

That’s the part we’re missing: At the end of the day, what we want the world to know about us isn’t really about us at all. It’s about our relationships with others. About how we feel about them. What they mean to us. How they’ve changed our lives — sometimes for the worse but hopefully for the better.

Therefore, being seen as who you really are isn’t a matter of sweeping declarations, being found out, or finding a certain set of special people. It’s about revealing it consistently, one person and part of yourself at a time.

If you want the world to see you as a caring person, start by telling one person you care about them. Then, follow through on that promise. That’s it.

I’m no better at this than you are. I have to remind myself constantly. To practice, again and again. So while you’re here, I’d like to take the chance and tell you five things I want you to know.

1. You’re not alone.

You’re never alone. Even when it really, really feels like it, there are always 7.7 billion others right here with you. Chances are, someone out there is going through the exact same thing you are in this very moment. And if not, one of the 100 billion who came before us definitely has.

Maybe, they were a public servant in ancient Rome, a peasant in 17th-century France, or a tribal hunter in 3,000 BC, but they had the same range of thoughts, feelings, and physical capabilities you and I have today.

Maybe, they used different words or no words at all but what they saw, heard, felt? That was universal, and you’re now following in the footsteps of their human experience. You’re not alone. You will never be alone. Take comfort in that.

2. You are amazing.

Someone brought you into this world. None of us decide to be. And yet, each of us is comprised of a vast number of mesmerizing parts, both physical and psychological, wondrously, synchronously working together in a sea of coincidence.

You take one breath, and millions of cells are activated. You think one thought, millions of synapses fire. All of this despite the chaos in which we’re floating, the hundreds of asteroids hitting earth each year, the great imbalances in nature and between humans, and the 400 trillion to one odds of you being born in the first place. You are amazing. Don’t take it for granted.

3. You are valuable.

You might not feel like it. But you are. You don’t need to be funny or charming or solve problems for millions of people. You just have to be here. Sit. Exist.

Of course, you’ll eventually want and choose to do good. To be useful. To help those around you and brighten their day. But those are consequences, not prerequisites.

As you are, you’re a complete, self-contained vessel of perspective, emotion, and capability. A unique bundle among nearly eight billion others, with a right to exercise that uniqueness however you see fit without hurting others’ ability to exercise theirs. You are valuable. Act like it.

4. You are wanted.

Desirable. Filled with potential. Someone out there wants that potential. Wants you. They want you to be everything you are and then some.

They want you lock, stock, and barrel. Crooked nose, tiny butt, messy hair and all. They might not always want you sexually or romantically. Sometimes, they just want you as a friend. A colleague. A stranger turned companion by listening that one time at the airport. But they want you.

Sometimes, they want you so much they get frustrated with you not wanting to be more of who you already are. Or not being able to. This too shall pass. Most of the time, however, they want you exactly as you are. You are wanted. Never forget it.

5. You are loved.

Even if it’s just me. I love you. But I hope there’s at least two of us. I hope every day you wake up, you choose to love yourself. Make an attempt if you can’t. Someday, you’ll get through to yourself. Until, eventually, there’ll be others.

An unexpected friend. Maybe the guy from the corner store. Maybe one with four legs. Whoever it is, they’ll show you not just what it’s like to be loved, but which parts of yourself you love the most that you didn’t even know you had.

Somewhere out there, in a tiny, distant corner of the universe, there is a book with your name on it. And for every book, there is someone who can’t stop reading it. Whether it’s an army of followers or just the person you see when you look in the mirror, each next section deserves to be read. Each new chapter could make it a page-turner. You are loved. Make the most of it.


There’s that old, Stoic saying by Publilius Syrus: If you want to have a great empire, then rule over yourself.

I think the same goes for having an impact and how the world will see and remember you: If you want to change many, let them know how they’ve changed you.

Pick one person today. Tell them what you want them to know. Tell them why they make you feel happy, good, balanced, content, or simply like someone who deserves any or all of these things. I can’t tell you what will happen, but I know you won’t regret it.

Bill Gates' Most Important Lesson Cover

The Most Important Lesson We Can Learn From Bill Gates

Bill Gates is fascinating for many reasons: his wealth, his habits, his ideas.

The new Netflix documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates covers them all. It follows his extraordinary journey, from globalizing office software to building one of the world’s most influential companies, becoming its richest man, and now, leading its largest foundation.

But the reason I’m fascinated by Gates has nothing to do with any of that. It’s not his success, or his way of thinking, or his approach to solving the world’s most critical problems with tech. To me, the most interesting thing about him is what he teaches us about what it means to be human.

Throughout the Netflix series, an interviewer asks Gates silly, get-to-know-you questions in quick succession: “What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite animal? What do you eat for breakfast?” But every now and then, he throws in some curveballs, maybe to catch Gates off guard and get him to veer from his canned responses. Or maybe the show is just edited to make it look like Gates is getting a low-stakes grilling. Whatever the reason, at one point, the interviewer asks this question: “What was the worst day of your life?”

Gates is a composed man. He’s reserved, but seems at ease answering all sorts of questions. But this one is different. He squints. He looks down. He appears to be thinking, but not really. He knows what he has to say — he just doesn’t want to say it. No one would. But finally, he says it:

“The day my mother died.”

There, sitting in the library of his $127 million mansion, is a man who’s achieved everything there could possibly be to achieve, whose life — at least to us outsiders — is defined by his business success.

And yet he didn’t say, “The day Steve Jobs accused me of stealing from him.”

He didn’t say, “The day I was humiliated by getting hit in the face with a cream pie during a visit with Belgian business and government leaders.”

He didn’t say, “The day we were forced to pay $1.3 billion in antitrust fines.”

No, the worst day in the Microsoft billionaire’s life was the day his mother died.

No matter who you are or who you aspire to be, at the end of the day, life is not about money or status or power. It’s not even about legacy.

Life is about people; the people you meet, the people you miss. Even the people you hate. Most of all, life is about the people you love. Some of them will die before you do. Nothing will ever bring them back.

Every one of us has limited time. But when it comes to spending it with those we hold dearest, we might have even less. Gates reminded me of this fact. It’s his greatest lesson of all.

The 22 Best Yoda Quotes Cover

The 22 Best Yoda Quotes: How to Master the Art of the Perspective Shift

If you don’t know, Yoda is one of the strongest characters in one of the strongest stories of all time: Star Wars.

Yoda is a tiny, green creature of an unknown species, over 800 years old, and Grand Master of the Jedi Order. The best of the good guys, if you will. He has an incredible ability to wield the Force — the invisible power all Jedi rely on — and is a brilliant fighter with a lightsaber, their weapon of choice. He’s also the head teacher of all young Jedi and the first person everyone turns to when they need advice.

Despite his strength, Yoda’s true power lies in his wisdom. He speaks a little backwards and often in riddles, but every word he chooses is placed exactly where it’s meant to be. He says little, but what he says hits hard.

Yoda is not just a Jedi Master, he’s also a master of the perspective shift.

Most of the time, what he tells us completely flips the angle from which we were trying to approach a problem. Often, he shows us we’ve been focusing on the wrong problem altogether. This is incredibly valuable.

Perspective shifts elevate our thinking. They allow us to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers, move a lot faster, and see the world more clearly. They also help us lift others by sharing what we’ve learned with them.

Since he’s a quiet character, there aren’t that many Yoda quotes to draw from, but I’ve assembled his best ones to show you how he architects perspective shifts. He frequently talks about teacher-student relationships, fighting, and what it means to be a good person. To give you enough context and get the most out of these quotes, I’ve structured them into one coherent narrative.

May they teach you to change your own mind and that of others.


When Luke Skywalker is first sent to Yoda’s planet to learn from him, he bumps right into the Master, not knowing who he is. He tells him he’s looking for someone, to which Yoda only says:

“Looking? Found someone you have, eh?”

Picasso supposedly said, “I don’t seek. I find.” In a 1923 book called The Arts, he gave an explanation of what he meant:

“I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research in connection with modern painting. In my opinion, to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing. Nobody is interested in following a man who, with his eyes fixed on the ground, spends his life looking for the purse that fortune should put in his path. The one who finds something, no matter what it might be, even if his intention were not to search for it, at least arouses our curiosity, if not our admiration.”

In the same vein, Yoda trusts the Force to guide our path in life. You can call it God, the universe, karma, or whatever you like — the point is to have faith. Keep your eyes open, stay present, and look, rather than obsessing over an idea in your head.

The next thing Luke says is that he’s “looking for a great warrior.” Once again, Yoda flips the notion on its head immediately:

“Ohh. Great warrior. Wars not make one great.”

There’s a saying that is often credited to US president Herbert Hoover in various forms:

“Wars are always started by men too old to fight in them.”

It depends on the country, but many have a culture of decorating their war heroes. It serves us well to honor these men and women, but it makes it easy to forget that the most honorable thing would have been to never send them into battle in the first place.

As Grand Master of the Jedi Order, Yoda also holds a position similar to a general. Most of his power in that position is spent trying to maintain peace and avoid fighting, because he knows wars only create losers on both sides:

“No longer certain, that one ever does win a war, I am. For in fighting the battles, the bloodshed, already lost we have.”

In that same spirit, being a Jedi is much like learning Kung Fu, Yoda explains:

“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

I can’t think of a more humbling thing than to learn how to fight in hopes of never having to use it. Rigorous physical training has many benefits, like discipline, fitness, and patience. But in order to attain them, you don’t ever have to raise your fist against another human being. The training is enough.

Of course, sometimes, war is inevitable. In case of the Jedi, they are usually hopelessly outnumbered by the vast armies of the Galactic Empire. But again, Yoda knows there’s more to life than physical strength:

“Smaller in number are we, but larger in mind.”

There are countless examples from history of small groups outwitting large enemies. The 300 Spartans. The Trojan Horse. Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps. A great strategy can make up for a big lack in firepower.

This lesson also applies at an individual level, and it’s one of the first Yoda teaches Luke when he becomes his apprentice. He tells Luke to use the Force to telekinetically lift his spaceship from a swamp. When Luke fails, claiming it’s too big, Yoda retorts:

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”

At first, Luke dismisses Yoda and walks away. But when he sees Yoda single-handedly lift the ship on his own and hover it to safety, he can barely trust his own eyes. He tells Yoda he can’t believe what he just did, to which Yoda says:

“That is why you fail.”

This is Yoda reiterating the very first thing he told Luke: it’s about believing before you can see. Not the other way around. This ties into what might be Yoda’s most famous quote of all:

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda combines immense faith with a strong sense of realism, of grounding. Those two might seem like opposites, but they’re not.

If you surrender to life and are fully in sync with what the universe wants to tell you, you’ll rarely attempt anything that’s not already meant to become a reality. This is why Yoda spends so much time thinking and meditating. He needs to listen; tune in to the Force. Once he emerges, the path of action is so clear to him, it might as well be done already. This is Yoda’s job much more so than charging headfirst into every battle:

“Secret, shall I tell you? Grand Master of Jedi Order am I. Won this job in a raffle I did, think you? ‘How did you know, how did you know, Master Yoda?’ Master Yoda knows these things. His job it is.”

This job of knowing is what unites all of Yoda’s roles. Be it as a politician, general, or teacher. It would take Luke many years to finally understand this. In a conversation decades later, after Luke has become a Jedi Master himself, Yoda still needs to remind him that passing on his knowledge is his job. One of the best ways to do so is through failure:

“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure, also. Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”

There’s a quote by Tom Bodett about the difference between life and school:

“In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Great teachers know this, which is why they don’t lecture as much as they pose challenges to their students, then let them figure out the answers on their own. If they fail, they fail, but either way, they’ll truly learn something rather than just parrot the master’s words or follow instructions.

For example, when Yoda sends Luke into a dark cave to confront his fears, Luke asks him what he can expect in there. Yoda says:

“Only what you take with you.”

Luke is utterly confused and feels abandoned at first, but after he faces his demons, he realizes the only way for him to succeed was to rely on his own mind. Yoda couldn’t help him, just point the way. This theme ripples through every great teacher-student relationship until its very end:

“Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

Failure is not just the way great teachers teach — it’s the master’s own, ultimate goal. If their disciple surpasses them, it means they’ve raised them well. Besides the rigorous training, the number one way Master Yoda aims to accomplish this is through ethics. What he’s most concerned with, even more so than their skill level, is that his students become good people.

That’s why many of his lessons revolve around the subject of not succumbing to the dark side of the Force — the evil path some Jedi choose and thus become corrupted. These lessons always have a Buddhist flair to them:

“Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.”

In order to practice his combination of faith and presence and dedicate most of his time to thinking, Yoda lives a very minimalist life. He can’t afford to be distracted or pulled around by every impulse and desire rising in his heart. Therefore, letting go is the most important skill each Jedi must master:

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

Yoda knows fear is the true enemy of all Jedi. Fear is what pulls our minds to the past or the future. It is what creates attachment, and attachment leads to the emotions that, in turn, cause us to make dark choices.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

The way we deal with our fears and return to the present is to face them and hold out as they try to penetrate our minds. We don’t fight them as much as we resist giving in to them. This is exactly what Yoda had Luke do in that cave:

“Named must your fear be, before banish it you can.”

Of course, this isn’t a one-time event. We must face many fears in our lifetimes and no one is immune to them. Not even Yoda. He, too, admits being afraid:

“Yes, afraid. Hmm, surprised are you? A challenge lifelong it is, not to bend fear into anger.”

In his famous inauguration speech, US president Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

This principle is a maxim of Yoda’s teachings, as he personally witnessed the terrible consequences of allowing fear to fill a Jedi’s heart.

Once upon a time, a young boy named Anakin was brought before the Jedi Council. He had great potential, but Yoda sensed much fear in him, and so he didn’t want the boy to be trained in the Jedi arts. Yet one of the other Council members said he would train the boy anyway, and Yoda let it pass. Over time, the boy’s fear of losing those he loved only grew. In Yoda’s words:

“When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.”

Eventually, Anakin’s fear had such a strong grip on him that the only path he saw was that of the dark side of the Force. In the same way Anakin was pulled over one day at a time, so do our fear-induced choices cause a vicious cycle. We take a shortcut to get out of one jam which only leads us into a bigger one, which, of course, requires an even more extreme, even less ethical shortcut. Sooner or later, the person we once strived to be feels like our own worst enemy. Anakin literally became this enemy, and it is with great sorrow and anguish that Yoda reveals to Anakin’s former teacher:

“The boy you trained, gone he is. Consumed by Darth Vader.”

Of course, we’re not the only ones facing this danger. Others are affected by it too. And sometimes, we still chase after them. Still hoping, wishing we could get them back. But the person we once felt connected to is long gone.

This brings us back to the war the Jedi were about to lose. They didn’t see that one of the politicians among their own ranks had gone through a similar transformation, and when they relied on his help, they found out he double-crossed them. After retreating and meditating, Yoda once again emerges with a perspective shift that has the power to turn a hopeless situation around:

“Yet, open to us a path remains. That unknown to the Sith is. Through this path, victory we may yet find. Not victory in the Clone Wars, but victory for all time.”

By simply changing the timeline from “how can we win this war?” to “how can we achieve lasting peace for everyone?” Yoda has elevated everyone’s thinking. A more generally applicable version of this idea is this:

“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are, a different game you should play.”

Focusing on a different aspect of the bigger picture is another very common move in both war and politics. A group on the defense might try to go around the enemy and attack their flank, and an old adage in strategic thinking is:

“When everybody’s playing checkers, play chess.”

But this extends to many more aspects of our lives than the conflict-driven ones. When you fail to get promoted time and again, maybe it’s time to look for a new job. When discussing a problem with your spouse doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to talk about how you talk to each other. And if writing two posts per week won’t cut it, you could try publishing daily or not at all for a while.

The point is — and this is the biggest lesson we can learn from Yoda’s way of thinking — there’s always something different you can do. Something else you haven’t tried. Learning how to shift your perspective is one thing, but, like Yoda’s reliance on the Force, it first requires having faith in new perspectives in the first place. That’s why I can’t think of a better line to end on, a quote that more encapsulates Yoda’s spirit than this:

“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”

You're Still Here Cover

You’re Still Here

You were born as an accident. Or during an accident. Or with an accident. You were definitely born through great pain and suffering. But you’re still here.

You were raised in a poor home. A dysfunctional home. A home that clipped your wings and left you with deep scars you had to mend much later. But you’re still here.

You had a tough childhood. You were the runt of the litter. The middle child. The big brother with all the pressure. Maybe, you were all alone. But you’re still here.

You didn’t always get what you wanted. The other kids in school were mean. The boys never called back. The teachers had it in for you. But you’re still here.

You wasted a lot of time growing up. You couldn’t figure out what you really wanted. You dealt with disease, disadvantage, depression. But you’re still here.

Your body never gave you an easy time. It didn’t gain weight when it should have or lost any when it shouldn’t. It doesn’t want you to be fit and lean and healthy. It craves junk food and ice cream and popcorn. But you’re still here.

You were rejected when you put yourself out there. You showed vulnerability and honesty and compassion, and someone else spat in your face. But you’re still here.

You’ve inherited your dad’s gambling problem. Or your mom’s excessive spending habits. You struggle to make rent, to save money, to keep your dollar bills together. But you’re still here.

Your company failed. So did the big event at work, the 5th grade dance recital, and the opening of your art gallery. But you’re still here.

You made a mistake. You know you messed up, and you know it’s your fault. You don’t even know how to fix it. You just know you feel like you have to. But you’re still here.

You don’t know how to be happy. Life is confusing. It’s big and complicated and there are way too many options for everything. But you’re still here.

Life is and sometimes it isn’t. But it’s short for all of us. It’s a unique and crazy experience, and there are no do-overs, no second season, no late-night rerun tickets.

Every day is special. A once-in-a-lifetime chance. Another reason to be grateful. And you’re still here. So today is a good day.

Happiness Is Loving the Boring Days Cover

Happiness Is Loving the Boring Days

Out of all the great TED talks that exist, Barry Schwartz’s is easily the best. He talks about what he calls The Paradox of Choice. I’ve gone back to it countless times for countless reasons, but my favorite part is when he shows this comic:

Ask anyone how they feel about their life from ten years ago, and they’ll likely tell you that “those were simpler times.” Less to worry about, more to enjoy. Somehow, everything was easier. Today, it’s all complicated. Always.

“Everything was better back when everything was worse.”

It’s more than a good chuckle. So simple, yet so instinctively true. But why does our gut want to agree so badly when we hear this? Barry explains:

“The reason that everything was better back when everything was worse is that when everything was worse, it was actually possible for people to have experiences that were a pleasant surprise.

Nowadays, the world we live in — we affluent, industrialized citizens, with perfection the expectation — the best you can ever hope for is that stuff is as good as you expect it to be.

You will never be pleasantly surprised, because your expectations, my expectations, have gone through the roof.

The secret to happiness — this is what you all came for — the secret to happiness is:

Low expectations.


I turned 28 a few days ago. I thought about what lessons I’ve learned so far in life. Barry’s is one that’s stuck with me throughout the years. What’s changed since I first heard it, however, is how I’m trying to live it. There’s a twist to it.

“Low expectations” sounds daunting. Shouldn’t we hope for good things? Optimism being a self-fulfilling prophecy and all.

Sure, it helps to dampen your excitement before any event whose outcome you don’t control, like a presentation, job interview, or publishing an article, but if you demand so little of life that you don’t even attempt any of these, you’ll soon walk around with a perma-long face. Most of us aren’t saints, so wanting literally nothing isn’t a practical everyday solution.

Avoiding misery, however, is. That’s what I’ve made my happiness about.

Long-term, everyday happiness lies in not being miserable.

Each day when I’m not sick, not stressed, there’s no drama, and I don’t have to do a lot of things I don’t like, is a good day. We think we need to accomplish our biggest goals to find happiness, but the truth is having a life with enough room to obsess about and chase them is more than enough. And yet, when we use this freedom to obsess, we often forget taking care of the basics.

Am I healthy? Is something psychological causing problems with the physical? Do I have a fit mind and a fit body? Or is one breaking the other?

Am I living below my means? Or slowly veering off track? Is paying the bills becoming a hassle? Or does it work out okay if I don’t splurge too much?

Do I enjoy my work? Am I spending my workday with good people? Or do I dread getting out of the house? Am I commuting 2 hours into a toxic place?

As long as you’re healthy, like your work, have a few friends, and money kind of works out, there’s quite little you really should be worried about. If one of these implodes, however, you should raise all hell to get back to your baseline.

It’s the same idea, just flipped on its head. Sure, low expectations are great when you’re buying a pair of jeans but, when it comes to the big stuff in life, you’re better off cultivating a high aversion to misery.

Once you’ve achieved your own little standard, you can settle into your base camp of being healthy, calm, and not having to do stuff you don’t like. From there, you can explore, try, learn, fail — all in hopes of higher things.

I think that’s how you really win. By remembering you’re a finalist long before the end game has begun. Wanting to do more, better, greater is honorable, and achieving big goals always gets you a burst of endorphins. But they’re not everyday occurrences. And so they can’t serve your day-to-day happiness.

If you live to 82, that’s 30,000 days. 27,000 will be boring. Life is about learning to love those days. Happiness is enjoying the little things.

Thank You For Being You Cover

Thank You For Being You

You know what I miss? Unconditional gratitude.

Not even unconditional support, which, if you’re really lucky, you might get from your parents, one friend, or your partner. Just unconditional gratitude.

Everyone always wants something. Most opportunities are disguised requests. Because even the people closest to you don’t think about your needs first. That’s human nature. We think about our own and then hope that, maybe, our needs will align with those of others. And, sometimes, they do.

But, most of the time, they don’t. So we’re not really helping. If I ask you to join me at an event, is it because you’ll benefit or because I don’t want to go alone? If I want to spend more time with you, do I want to infect you with my joy or hope you’ll soften my misery? We can genuinely want to help and think we do, but might still end up projecting our own fears and ideas on another.

The majority of even the nicest things we do is, ultimately, about us. Not the recipients of our generosity. Go through a couple of incidents in your head. It’s true. And it’s shocking how deep this runs.

Since this “feature” has been hardwired into our brains in times of ancient survival, it has lasted us all the way to modern office warfare and is, thus, almost impossible to rewire. But we can choose not to use it.

We can just say “thank you” instead. No further questions. Not this time.

That’s how I want to end the year.


Thank you for being you. For all the mistakes you made and the flaws you found that you wanna change. For the times you did and the times you could not, for one day they will all add up.

Thank you for showing up. To work. To sports. To parties, dates, and family events of all sorts. To your morning run, to your friend’s emergency, to anything fun, and to all kinds of catastrophes.

Thank you for trying your best. I know it didn’t always do, but it’s really nothing but a test. A test of courage, patience, grit, faith, perseverance, and humility. A test designed for all of us each day, including you and me.

Thank you for keeping it together. At least most of the time. We all struggle in bad weather, we all want the sun to shine. Thank you for not losing hope when it was gone, for hanging in there in the night, waiting for the dawn.

Thank you for choosing yourself. For saying “me first” to save your sanity and health. Sometimes, it’s hard to listen to the voice inside, but when we look back it’s what fills us with pride. You at your best is what best serves us all, so there’s nothing to gain from your playing small.

Thank you for supporting the groups you’re a part of. The groups you’re the heart of. Humanity is one big band but on few shoulders every day we stand. Thank you for gluing together those friends, for tough conversations, inside jokes, and lending a helping hand.

Thank you for shaping the future. For growing into it one day at a time. We need your contribution. We need yours as much as mine. It’s something we build as much as we find, to do either takes a present mind.

Thank you for losing your shit. For flying off the handle when life needed a hit. It might not always spin the right direction, but when it stops spinning we’ll drift into regression. Sometimes, to keep going you have to fall apart. Sometimes, it takes shattered pieces to reassemble a broken heart.

Thank you for feeling with all you’ve got. For living your emotions and trusting your gut. For embracing sadness, happiness, frustration, and joy. For leaning in when you could’ve leaned away.

Thank you for mourning what you’ve lost. Life has different prices, but in the end, we all pay a cost. A sacrifice, a bad encounter, a careless attempt or an honest mistake. Different reasons, different times, but no one gets around being, seeing, learning too late.

Thank you for spreading your light. For celebrating, sending out sparks, and shining very bright. For motivating, for inspiring, for pushing others without tiring. Our energy is plus or minus, thanks for ditching bad and choosing kindness.

Thank you for abandoning good in search of better. For breaking rules instead of following them to the letter. For leaping high outside the bowl, aspiring to some higher goal. You mightn’t score in the first round, but jumping helps catch the rebound.

Thank you for being you. I don’t even know your name. But forever be you regardless. Because without you, the world would never quite be the same.

Thank you for being you.