At midnight my door opened and I saw the shadow of someone about 4 feet tall walk into my room and stand by my side of the bed. “I can’t sleep,” she said and she was smart enough to also say, “my mind is racing”. Over the nine years of her life so far she has probably heard me say that many times. Like when I was losing a home and I threw a chair and the police were called. The third time police had to be called on me in life (out of five).
So I took her hand and we walked downstairs and she gave me a lecture on what was going on in each one of her classes and she concluded with a discussion of the various Greek gods (“Athena is my favorite,” she said. “Who is yours. Hermes?”) And then I saw her yawn and I said maybe now she can try to go back to sleep, which she did.
I’m scared for her. My mind races also. How many times has my mind woken me up at midnight to remind me of how little money was in my bank account, or how many bills I had to pay, or how much I hated my job, or even hated being an entrepreneur with customers, clients, people screwing me, people hating me. I don’t want her mind to wake her like that when she’s older. It’s the worst pain. And I might not be there then for her to talk to.
Will she kill herself? Will she wake up her husband or girlfriend or whatever and say, “my mind is racing. Talk to me.”
One time some bad business things were happening to me. Something was shutting down, other things were going down. Some people were cheating me. Whatever. My mind was racing. I woke up Claudia. “Breathe like this,” she said. It was two in the morning but she wanted to help. She had me do a breathing exercise that involved quickly exhaling but I forget the rest of it. Then I fell asleep.
One investor of mine told me I had a “scarcity complex” – that I always had a strong feeling that I had nothing even when I had many things to be happy about. This was about eight years ago. I agreed with him. He wanted to be my mentor. I wanted him to sell his business and then let me invest the money. So I agreed to everything he said. I did that back then. But in this case maybe he was right. Unless I’m at optimal health in every way I constantly feel like I have less than nothing. It’s post-traumatic stress from losing everything several times and watching my father lose everything twenty years earlier.
No toys will ever patch that bleeding.
The country now has a scarcity complex. “The banks took everything.” “The government took everything.” “There are no jobs.” “There is no money”. Everyone is in despair. Everyone is scared about feeding their family. Scared and scarred. Greece, Japan, China, Libya, terrorism, Jamie Dimon, Obama, Rich Perry. These are the monsters in the closet at night.
I’m tired of monsters in my closet. Anger won’t change anything. Complaining won’t change anything.
I want to be consistently in the “1%”. Not of money. Money comes and goes, talking of Michelangelo.
I want to be in the 1% of the happiest people on Earth.
My only goal is to be in the 1% of happiness. Else, if I’m in the 99%, then all of my other goals will also fall short of the 1%. You can’t meet the love of your life, for instance, if you’re in the bottom 99%. At least, from my experience it will be harder. It’s like taking out the garbage and expecting to meet the love of your life in the garbage can.
My life is like a laboratory and happiness has been the experiment. Only when I’ve been in the 1% of happiness have my other goals been satisfactorily achieved.
So I know what I have to do when I slip into the 99%. This might not work for everyone. Maybe some people have to protest with signs to be in the top 1% of happiness. That doesn’t work for me.
But these ten things work for me:
A) Lately, exercise has worked for me to stay in shape and sweat out toxins. Bad stuff builds up in the body. You have the usual disgusting methods to get out bad toxins that go into the digestion system. But what about bad stuff that builds up in every pore of your body. You have to sweat it out. Sometimes just 100 pushups a day will do it. For me, I like doing yoga.
B) I don’t have a lot of friends. But I do know enough people that I can do this: every day I make sure I don’t talk to people who bring me down. And I try to meet new people who bring me up. I won’t do business with anyone who brings me down. The last time I tried that, my body told me, “Bad James!” On the second day on the job I fell straight to the ground and sprained my ankle for no obvious reason. If you let it, the reactions in your body (any part of your body) will tell you if you are with good people or bad people. When I get an email from someone who is bad for me, I usually get a quick stomach ache. So I delete the mail and put the emailer in Spam. Its’s the only solution if I want to be in the 1%. I don’t engage at all with anyone who is going to bring me down. Why should I?
C) I like to be creative. Whether it’s through this blog or writing down a list of ideas or even drawing. It makes my brain come to life in ways that it’s not used to. It’s important here, to never expect results from your creativity. When I was working on the pilot of a TV show, for instance, it made me very anxious to know whether or not it was going to get accepted. I was too attached to the results of the creativity. Just like now I might be too attached to blog traffic.
D) I like to avoid these nine obstacles to my success. Any one of these nine will make me unhappy.
E) I try to avoid all leaks. For instance, I’m happily married. Cheating on my wife would make me unhappily married. BAM! That would put me in the 99%.
F) I try to be as grateful as possible. When I remind someone what they’ve done for me and how happy it made me it not only brings back memories of that happiness it also makes me happy that I’m helping them be happy by being grateful for them.
G) I try to “surrender”. I say to myself, “I can’t do everything. I can’t take this pain. I can’t have everything I want. Sometimes I’m helpless in the face of my material goals. So YOU figure it out.” I don’t even know who I’m talking to. Who YOU is. I might be talking to my teddy bear when I say that. But having a sense of surrender and humility will help me reduce my needs (I don’t need a yacht for instance) and help me to feel humility. There’s a physical exercise that’s good to practice surrender if you are not good at it. In America we’re not really good at surrender. We never give up. We want to win every war. The exercise is to reach down and touch your toes. It obscures your vision (because you are staring at your knees), its almost impossible (you have to be flexible, both physically and mentally), and it looks like your bowing, which is an unusual thing for Americans to do. So it teaches surrender if you are uncomfortable with it.
H) I try not to lie to anyone or harm anyone. Because then you have to keep track of which lie was told to who. Or you feel bad about who you harmed, which was usually as a result of either anger or greed. If I never harm anyone I never have to deal with anyone’s anger (unless it’s irrational anger). Anger makes me unhappy.
I) Sometimes you can’t avoid work that you don’t want to do. We all have to feed our families. But, in general, if I move every day towards staying away from corporate America (fluorescent lights and bosses make me less happy) then I’ll be more happy.
J) I need a tenth thing so that I can call this post, “Ten Ways to be in the Top 1%” so hold on a second while I think of something…coffee? No, sometimes it spills on me. A lot of sex? Makes me VERY happy but sometimes makes me jealous or anxious. Ahh, sleeping 8-9 hours a day. Because then I know I’m in the top 1% for at least 1/3 of the day. And I also know I won’t be tired the other 2/3, which would put me in the bottom 99%.
And if I’m consistently in the top 1% of happiness, maybe there’s a slight chance my two daughters , and maybe others I interact with, will be in the top 1% when they’re older. Happiness is both contagious and hereditary. And so on.