What I’ve Learned About Happiness

January 21, 2010

I wrote this article in March of 2010, just when I was leaving the Navy. I wanted to leave behind something to the people I served with that would inspire them and help them learn from what I had gone through.

Happiness is THE hardest thing in life to achieve. It’s not a big house you can buy and it’s not an amount of money you can make. It’s not a sleek car, or an attractive spouse. It’s intangible, and once you find it you don’t necessarily get to keep it.

How do we find it? The answer is different for everyone. We all have our own desires, needs and dreams. Happiness for some can mean becoming a master chief in the Navy, for others it can mean having the freedom to surf twice a day. It may be raising children and being a devoted parent, or successfully opening your own business. Whatever the result, happiness will always be the progressive realization of a worthy and personally fulfilling ideal.

Happiness is the progressive realization of a worthy and personally fulfilling ideal.

Pick something you want to do then work towards achieving it.

Sounds easy enough, right?

The problem is, when we take a look around, we find that 95% of people don’t do it.  Sure there are moments when things are going great, but most people are either living by someone else’s standards or not measuring up to their own.

So how do we achieve happiness? Unfortunately that’s not easy either. However, realizing that it’s difficult is the first step. If it were easy, everyone would do itThere is one term that stands out in my mind above all else. Hustle. Hustle is the difference between people who want it and people who get it.

How can hustle help us achieve our goals and lead us to happiness? While I was in the Navy it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in music, so in 2006 I decided to hustle. I used to joke that my day began when I got off work, because in my mind, I was focused and dedicated to not just thinking about building a music career, but DOING it. Sometimes I would leave during lunch to go to voice lessons, other times I would just use the down time, underway and in port to read and study about my future career. There was a lot of work to be done, and I wanted it bad.

When I moved from San Diego to New Orleans in the summer of 2008 instead of driving straight to my destination I booked a tour. I played in Phoenix, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Kansas City and Austin. In the 6 months I lived in New Orleans I played in Austin twice, San Antonio, Dallas, Mobile twice, Monroe twice, Jacksonville 3 times and Key West.

One story that I’m always hesitant to tell is about a gig in Austin on a Sunday night. I had the chance to play a showcase that I knew was going to be a great way to connect with a lot of the talented musicians that lived there but I couldn’t take Monday off from work. I knew I could do it, but I’d have to drive through the night to make it back to New Orleans, which was 8 hours away. Three red bulls, 2 snickers bars and a quick nap later I drove into work Monday morning after playing at the club in Austin Sunday night. Why did I do it? Simple. I wanted it. It wasn’t pretty but the gig was amazing and I still keep in touch with the musicians I met that night. (Note: this was a LAST resort and I slept almost the whole day prior to that night, I don’t EVER recommend driving while fatigued or tired)

In the four years since I decided to truly make music my focus, I’ve taken my free time and directed it toward playing gigs, writing songs and contributing as much as I can to the music community I’ve become a part of in San Diego and Los Angeles. In 5 years active duty I played gigs in over 20 different states, met and connected with hundreds of musicians across the country and got signed to an artist development deal with a management company, not to mention being a part of two deployments with the Navy. Towards the end of my time in the service I was playing an average of 10 gigs per month, some months as many as 15, all with 6 day duty rotation and a busy ship’s schedule. I can now make $2,000-$3,000 a month just playing music. Hustle. If I can do it, anyone can.

There is a quote from Henry David Thoreau that resonates with me. He said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. I think about that every day. What does that mean to us? It means if we take only what is given and become like the silent majority, we will be left wanting more. This is a scary idea, because chances are what you want to do is not the norm, and achieving that will take you well outside your comfort zone. You must be prepared for discomfort, and embrace uncertainty. You must be different.

My biggest fear in life is regret. Regret that I never took enough chances, regret that I felt the need to feel “safe”, regret that I didn’t do everything I possibly could to be whom I was meant to be. Think about that for a second. Be whom you are meant to be. You know it when you look in the mirror, you dream about it at night. Everyone thinks about being the man or woman they were meant to be, but most people can’t overcome the fear and BECOME it. Your time is now, because soon you’ll be gone.

Not everyone will die happy. This is the truth that you don’t see in movies or read about in magazines. As you lay on your deathbed years and years from now you won’t look back and wish you had spent more time at the office, and you won’t have the chance to go back and spend more time doing what you love and with people you care about. If you go through life as a victim, taking what comes to you and adjusting your standard of happiness to whatever is easiest at the time, your legacy will be someone who settled, someone who always played things safe, someone who never pushed themselves to be extraordinary.

You only get one shot at life, and then you die. It’s as simple as that.

How do you want to be remembered?newbeardsquare30x30

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