The Myth of Constant Growth in Relationships

In the How I Met Your Mother episode “The Exploding Meatball Sub,” Barney’s crazy sandwich concoction is far from the only thing to go up in flames.

Ted’s new girlfriend Zoey is both intelligent and pretty. Unfortunately, she’s also the head of the campaign trying to keep Ted’s skyscraper from being built in order to preserve an old building.

“Isn’t it hard for you guys to be on opposite sides of something like this?” his friend Lily, who sees eye to eye on almost everything with her husband and college sweetheart Marshall, asks. “Some of us want a partner who challenges us to grow and evolve,” Ted replies. As it will turn out, that’s baloney.

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This Virtual Soldier's Speech Explains How to Have True Purpose in Life Cover

This Virtual Soldier’s Speech Explains How to Have True Purpose in Life

Humans are agents of change.

From the moment we are conceived, our body begins to evolve. It grows until we’re born, and then it grows some more. Our bones, cells, muscles, even our brains — they constantly renew themselves. Day after day, month after month, year after year. It all changes until it can’t change anymore.

In time, we start to decay. Decay, too, is change. It’s not a bad thing, you know? As Steve Jobs said, “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

We don’t change just on the inside. Between birth and death, we change everything we interact with. We change nature, culture, and others. Throwing a rock is change. Discussing remote work is change. Patting a friend on the back is change. Even sleeping is change.

Change is the most human thing we do — and the most powerful way to enact change is through purpose.

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The Plus-and-Minus Theory of Living Happily Cover

The Plus-and-Minus Theory of Living Happily

On most days, I don’t shower to not feel dirty. I shower to feel clean. It may not sound like it, but there’s a difference.

Have you ever wasted away in bed for a few days until, at some point, you couldn’t stand your greasy hair anymore and lugged yourself into the shower? If so, by turning on the water, you took care of what Frederick Herzberg would have called “a hygiene factor” — pun present but not intended.

In his 1959 book The Motivation to Work, Herzberg, a clinical psychologist and professor, introduced a model of motivation called “the two-factor theory.” It stipulates that in order to feel happy in our jobs, two conditions must come together: a lack of dissatisfaction and a presence of satisfaction.

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Omotenashi: How the Japanese Remind Us We Deserve to Be Happy

On our last night in Tokyo, we missed the korot stop. It was nearly 8 PM, and we knew this was our last chance. “Dude! We have to turn around!” My friend and I got off at the next stop along the red Marunouchi metro line that connects Shinjuku and Tokyo Station, then hopped right back in to go the other direction.

I can’t recall whether it was Ginza, Kasumigaseki, or Shinjuku-sanchome station, but I still remember exactly what the tiny stall selling little pieces of heaven looked like. It was a 10-foot-long aluminum box with two glass displays, their bottom half straight, the upper half curved — the kind you typically see in bakeries and cake shops. “Thank god!” The single-pull metal shutter was still open.

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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.

There Are Only 3 Ways to Live a Happy Life Cover

There Are Only 3 Ways to Live a Happy Life

What happens after you die?

In his book Sum, neuroscientist David Eagleman provides 40 different, often contradicting answers to that question — some harrowing, others hilarious. What if God allowed everyone into heaven, but then we’d all complain about being stuck there with one another, concluding it is, in fact, hell? What if God turns out to be a microbe, completely unaware humans even exist?

Maybe you’ll continue life in a world inhabited only by the people you already know or be forced to live each moment again, grouped by similarity. Four months of sitting on the toilet followed by three weeks of eating pizza, after which you’ll have 24 hours of nonstop stomach cramps before sleeping for 30 years straight.

Despite conjuring stories that happen exclusively in a place from which we can’t return, (and that we therefore know nothing about) Sum holds profound implications about what we might choose to do in the here and now. The mere idea of accidentally becoming a horse in your next life, realizing only in the last second how great it was to be human, could be the exact hoof kick you need to finally start writing your novel, for example.

Sum is Derek Sivers’ single-favorite book of all time. Whichever specific tale it may have been that spurred him into action, one day, he decided to write a book just like it, except he’d answer a different question — a question even more important than what’s beyond death, with even greater indications: While we are on this earth, how should we live?

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Don’t Set Goals This Year

The more New Year’s resolutions you set, the faster you’ll feel like a failure.

I used to pick five, seven, ten new goals each year. Sadly, making it from New Year’s Eve to January 1st never turned me into Superman. I was still the same old me, still hopelessly overwhelmed with trying to change too much all at once. Within a month or so, I failed and had to start over. Smaller. With lower expectations.

For a few years, I gave up on resolutions entirely. Then, instead of a barrage of targets, I tried setting one goal, and that worked a lot better. The real game-changer, however, was using a different concept altogether. That concept is a theme.

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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.

If You’re Not Valued, You’re in the Wrong Place Cover

If You’re Not Valued, You’re in the Wrong Place

When she graduated high school, the father told his daughter: “I’m proud of you. Soon, you will move out and go your own way. I’d like to give you a going-away present. Follow me.”

The father walked to the garage and pressed a light switch the daughter had never seen before. A single light bulb lit up and revealed: Hidden in the back of the garage, there sat an old car. It was dusty, dirty, and clearly not in good shape.

The father smiled and revealed a set of keys: “I bought this car many years ago. It is old, but now, it’s yours! I only have one request: Take the car to the used car lot and ask how much they’re willing to give you for it. I’d like to know.”

The daughter was happy to have a car, but she wished it was a better one. With a sigh and an awkward half-smile, she took the keys and drove downtown. When she returned, she said: “They offered me $1,000, dad. They said it looks pretty rough.”

“Hmm, okay,” her father said. “Might you take it to the pawnshop and hear what they say?” The daughter rolled her eyes and went off. When she came back, she said: “The pawnshop was even worse. They only wanted to pay $100 because the car is so old.”

“Okay then,” the father said, “only one last try: Take it to the car club and show the members there.” At this stage, the daughter really didn’t see the point anymore, but because the car was a gift, she did as her father asked.

When she returned, the father could see the surprise on her face. “Well?” “Dad! Five people in that club offered me $100,000 on the spot! They said it’s a Nissan Skyline, and every collector worth their salt would give an arm and a leg for such an iconic car.”

The father smiled and said: “If you are not being valued, you’re just in the wrong place. Do not be angry. Do not be bitter. But do go to another place.”

“The right place with the right people will always treat you the way you deserve to be. Know your worth, and never settle where you’re not appreciated. Never stay where people don’t value you.”

The daughter never sold the car — and she never forgot this lesson.