Bottom or Top Shelf?

Are you living a top or bottom shelf life?  The best wine or booze is usually on the top shelf and so are the best carnival prizes, unless they are so huge they stand alone.  You probably have some pretty good childhood memories at the carnival or fair.  Most of us have those memories so a genius created grown-up carnivals called “Dave & Busters” where adults (or at least they look like adults) go to let the kids run wild while they drink beer and play carnival games.  The smells may not be quite as good without the elephant ears and candy apples, but you know the drill.

The carnival brings a special gleam to the eyes.  The sights, sounds and general atmosphere emit high level energy and create joyous, lasting memories.  A life well lived should replicate the carnival.  Recall the endless rows of games, collecting tickets and the unbridled determination to accumulate the longest strand possible to get that coveted top-shelf prize.  The actual worth of the item could not have mattered less.  The value of the conquest was the only reason for the pursuit.  The day at the carnival was a metaphor for life.  Enjoy the sights, the sounds, the energy of the moment and the people with whom you share the experiences.  Give your best each day and persevere through each small task until your ticket strip measures up.

In short, take the steps to live a top shelf life.

Keep Your Loved Ones & Friends Happier

We have all heard the phrase, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” especially Godfather trilogy fans.  There may be contexts in which that practice is justified, but it’s really a stupid concept.  Instead, show the highest level of gratitude for those closest to you and take action to make them happier each day.

A major life principle is that happiness is a moral imperative.  What does that mean?  It means that every person has a moral responsibility, first to him or herself, then to everyone else to pursue happiness and to “act” happily.  That’s the Founding principle of America.  Almost reflexively, we undeniably practice this virtue every single day without even thinking about it.  We may have truly pleasant conversations in line at the grocery checkout, small talk with co-workers, a telephone conversation with the receptionist at the dental office and so on.  In short, most of us are publicly nice people to those in close proximity.  Now take a few seconds to think about this familiar picture.  You have a disagreement with your significant other with some raised voices or accusatory comments.  Then, a cellphone rings.  Your beloved answers the call, then warmly erupts into “Oh, hi.  How are you doing?  I am soooo glad you called.”  What a major and immediate change!  Acting happy is easy.  We just have to want to do it.

There is a bigger lesson in the example however—the dichotomy of our actions.  Too often we gush with happiness to acquaintances or even strangers, but constantly unload our aches & pains, troubles, traffic issues and petty annoyances on those closest to us.  The path to happiness starts from within and expands outward.  By this  pathway, happiness exuding outward should logically first impact those closest to us and then reach others as it spreads.  Both are moral and both are good.  But, one is far better and we must acknowledge its importance.  “Fake it ’til you make it” may be the appropriate phrase when dealing with strangers.  Keeping those closest to us happy is a far better theme for life.

KPF

Maturing Into Unhappiness

Newborns and young children are experts at seeking their own happiness and it is a beautiful thing.  Later though, changes are thrust upon kids during the formative “middle school years.”  Culturally, there are the bar mitzvahs, sweet sixteens, or other celebrations that act as an artificial gateway to adulthood.  Presumably, the recognition of this period in a child’s life marks a transition to self-direction.  A thinking person would then presume that there would be some focus on positive pursuits, perhaps even happiness.  Instead, there is a push for kids to become little adults and start acting that way.  Success in school is a kid’s job.  Add in spending all free time perfecting sport or piano and doing stacks of homework to fill the days, evenings and the weekends.  These daily activities consume the lives of these smaller grown-ups.  The irony is that adults who moan about the “daily grind” begin pushing the same grind on kids in their formative years.  Pursuing the grind so early creates bitterness toward life, and the more that is piled on in a negative way, the more likely the pursuit will be toward anything but happiness.  Adolescents are not small adults, but they are morphed into that image and mindset.  

There is more thrown at these young learners during the transitional years.  Along with the pressures to begin a path to “success,” comes the first major introduction to groupthink.  Cliques form in school with the in-crowd versus the “nerds” or the greasers/burnouts, the potheads, skate-boarders or whatever labels have been applied throughout the different eras.  The cliques that form this early in life are really made up of the happy and the unhappy.  Just consider for a moment the behavior of the teens involved.  Certain students participate in major activities, go to the parties/dances, join social or educational clubs, play sports, etc.  The others loiter around the hallways or school yard, maybe in neighborhoods, isolate themselves playing video games or in the tech world, or even roam the streets.  Such others may complain about how they “will never be noticed by (or date) a cool guy,” speak of how “the prom queen ignores me” or “I am too dumb to debate or go to the good college,” or whatever the learned alibi of the day may be.  We have heard ‘em all in our own lives, we’ve seen the television shows and movies depicting these well established collectives, and we’ve read the novels endlessly telling stories of the awkwardness of adolescents.  These people are never taught that America is about the pursuit of happiness; they are corralled into groups that foster bitterness and “only-ifs.”

The almost unbelievable fact is that adults continue this learned unhappy behavior throughout their lives.  It is impressed in their minds so firmly that it takes hold like an addiction.  On a recent season of the reality series, Survivor, the whole show was premised on the concept of two groups, the “Davids” versus the “Goliaths,” opposing each other.  The groups assumed not only the names, but also the actual roles.  These independent adults continued their “unaccepted by the cool kids” mantra as if they had traveled back in time.  It’s astounding how this learned failure to pursue happiness can be accepted by so many people over years or even decades of life.  The use of the formative years to instill ideas of groupthink and tyranny of the outcast truly is tragic.  But in no uncertain terms, these years transform an early life defined by the pursuit of happiness into a perceived grind that not only defies such pursuits, but provides excuses and alibis to those who fail to put to use the gift that the Creator gave us.  The serious, responsible (and unhappy) adults teach impressionable minds how to be equally serious, responsible, and as unhappy.  

KPF

The Happiness Paradox

A recurrent theme in America is that there is great division and we are bordering on “chaos” or destruction by civil war.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In reality, the only real division between people is the happy versus the unhappy.  The happy pursue their happiness by choice.  The unhappy choose not to pursue it themselves.  Instead, they seek to change circumstances, or the world, to make others happy.

Enter the paradox of happiness.  The unhappy tend to blame outside forces for their problems.  Today’s cause may be a tyrannical boss, yesterday’s may be dysfunctional parents and tomorrow’s may be the misfortune of growing older.  In blaming extraneous causes, the unhappy too often seek to take on the “cause” to prevent others from suffering similar misfortune.  Thomas Sowell said, “There has never been a shortage of people eager to draw up the blueprints for running other people’s lives.”  In other words, they try to secure happiness for others.  As if practicing a religion, the unhappy fight many “isms” or advocate causes for similarly-situated, unfortunate souls.  The causes are often angry, the help is usually unwanted and the results most often are failures.  They fail others because they’ve already failed themselves.

Happy people champion themselves.  Pursuers of happiness decide of their own volition to take action to be happy people.  They pay little heed to extraneous circumstances and accept responsibility for their own lives.  In so doing, these quiet, content, and happy people spread their rays of sunshine over others.  The circumstances seem obvious.  Most people prefer to interact with the happy and avoid the unhappy.  Happy people make the moment, the day and our lives better.  Those who try to force happiness on others, instead spread divisiveness and unhappiness among those around them.  Those who choose to ACT and pursue happiness in their own lives tend to spread to those around them and hopefully far wider.  Thus the paradox—the happy spread happiness through happy choices they’ve made for themselves.  The unhappy fail to spread happiness despite the perceived happy choices they’ve made for others.  Happiness begins with self and ends with others.  Unhappiness begins with self and infectiously remains with self until a choice is made to champion self.

The American Experiment?

How many times have you heard about “The American Experiment?”  The phrase is used as if America is merely another test case for humankind.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather, America is the result of centuries of experimentation.  An experiment starts with a hypothesis, it is tested over and over, and a theory is developed based on the results. 

For centuries, man has hypothesized on the concepts of individual liberty, collectivism, the role of the state, and man’s place in the world.  These ideas were discussed in the Old Testament, in the orations and writings of Socrates, Plato, Locke and Marx, and by countless others. Indeed, these ideas are still discussed the world over today.  Based on the hypotheses over the ages, societies have come and gone because experiments have failed.  Others have continued on, but have floundered in less than desirable conditions; these societies remain as examples of failure.  

America is no experiment.  It is the end product of man’s wisdom gleaned from failed experiments of the ages.  The creation of America began with the simple thought that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights of all.  That thought was not new in 1776.  What was new was much more important—ACTION.  Those who thought of life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue individual happiness put into active motion a plan to create the one and only place that finally promised to protect those rights.

The tested formula is a simple one that and is no secret for success:  

THOUGHT  +  ACTION  =  RESULTS 

Since America was created, it has been tested more than any nation of the past.  The results prove its mettle.  America continues to be the place of which more people dream than any other.  They do not dream about a theory or seek to view the data.  They dream of the time-tested and proven individual freedom to pursue happiness.

Welcome To Our Happy Place

Virtually wherever one may look, the media and social media are filled with divisiveness, mostly by design. What if there is a place where one may go with the sole purpose of pursuing a bit of happiness, discovery stories of happiness and even sharing ideas that promote a larger sphere of happiness. That place is now right here!

For so long now, I have thought about how the power of modern communication may be used to improve lives, even one at a time, and spread the positive message of America. Now the place to do just that is here.

Let’s get started by connecting as many individuals as possible who are keenly interested in individual liberty and the notion that America is the place that was created to preserve the right to pursue happiness. As more individuals choose the pursuit and take action to live it, they become happier, those around them become happier, their community becomes happier and ultimately, America becomes happier.

“The necessity of pursuing happiness is the foundation of liberty. As therefore, the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty.”–John Locke