Do an online search of the most popular topics for blog posts and you’ll find happiness to be among the top ten. But that isn’t the way to conceive of happiness. We need to change our way of thinking about happiness by coming at it through the back door and talk about unhappiness. By approaching it directly, we push it further away. Therein lies the key. We should ask this question instead, “Why do we decide to be unhappy?”
By default, I am an expert on the subject of unhappiness. There were two women in my life who taught me that being unhappy is a decision: My mother and older sister. Each of these women viewed their unhappy lives through a lens of ‘yes, but’s.” Ever talked with someone who you think you might be able to help out of their current crisis? After the nth excellent suggestion you have offered to resolve whatever the dilemma is, the person replies with a “Yes…but…” you learn. And you stop making suggestions.
The other day, early in the morning, my day trader husband and I were chatting. I like listening to John talk about his days because they are so different from mine. His mind lives in the midst of finance, the vicissitudes of the SPY, options and big business. While mine is in my latest book I aim to complete by the fall. When John spoke of Jack Ma, the name immediately caught my attention. Cool name for writers always on the lookout for interesting characters.
“Jack Ma?” I repeated.
“Yes, he is CEO of Alibaba [the Chinese analogue to Amazon]..fascinating man. He was the only person out of 24 who was denied employed at KFC when the new franchise opened in his hometown in China…” Grinning, John added, “His life was a series of failures…told he wasn’t good enough to be a cop and tons of other jobs he applied for and never got.”
By now I was fascinated. This new book will include a few glimpses of rural China…perhaps I can weave in a character based on this man. Consequently, I began to read about Ma.
When I found an article with this title, I laughed. “If you’re poor at thirty-five, you deserve it.” He sounds just like an American businessman, one from the days when business was respected, even lauded, like Andrew Carnegie. Or maybe Henry Ford? But no longer. It has been replaced largely by politicians and media pundits convincing Americans that the government knows better: About health, morality, rights and beliefs, of late, even gender and sexual ones. Consequently, reading about the life of Ma, so reminiscent of last century American capitalists was jarring.
You are poor says Ma because “you lack ambition.” And he defines ambition as “living a life of great ideals, a magnificent goal in life that must be realized.”
One can choose poverty and be happy- happier than most souls on the planet. John and I know several men who are among the happiest we know. The real point is a simple one. Whether it’s unhappy and poor or unhappy and alone or unhappy and angry, it’s our fault.