Keeping Myself Young – Shared Experiences of Happiness

I was flipping through some images online today at my lunch break.  Not looking for anything in particular, I came across a few that made me stop in wonder.  In that moment, I felt such a wave of gratitude for the gifts and responsibilities bestowed upon me that I felt compared to share.  The first picture listed below is of my son, Xavier.  Xavier is two years old.  He’s a brilliant, creative, burst of energy and will.  Nearing his third birthday, he’s got an idea for how every moment should go and will tell you when you aren’t acting according to the plan.  Xavier is the boy I needed but never envisioned.  He’s more perfect than I could have ever expected.  In the photo, you can see we are on a boat.  The boat belongs to my parents.  We try to get out on the water as frequently as possible, and some of Xavier’s favorite moments on the boat are when the throttle is slammed against the dash, propelling us as fast as possible to our destination.  There’s something magical about the wind pulling at your cheeks, flailing through your hair as you anticipate swimming at your favorite beach.  All the more magical, for me, is the opportunity to watch him full of excitement as he rests against me.  The sense of security and belonging we have to and for one another is a unique bond I hope to foster forever.

September Uploads 034

There’s a growing sentiment among our friends and family that my daughter is my wife’s mini-me.  While it is true that I am glad she doesn’t have her father’s looks, Quinn has always reminded me of myself, without the inhibition surfacing when new to a public scene or a gathering of large people.  I love this photo because it incorporates Quinn’s personality to a “T”.  Pictured below, we sit on the Brown’s Island Bridge above the James River on my birthday this past March.  My daughter has her Elsa jacket on; something she rarely braved public spaces without, shouting her excitement towards the photographer.  From the day Quinn was born she felt like she fit right beside me.  I rarely experienced feelings of doubt or apprehension of what to do with her.  She’s grown into the most amazing 3-year-old.  She’s on the brink of learning to read, has an amazingly giving heart, and loses her s#*! when I leave for work in the morning before she wakes up.  To say my daughter is precocious would be an understatement.  She’s wildly curious about information, and feels several years older than her birth certificate would reveal.  She’s a blessing of the highest order and I can’t wait to watch her be a big sister to a baby girl.  That’s going to be both a wonderful, and tiresome process; as I am sure we’ll have to reinforce the fact that she is not, in fact, the baby’s mommy.

EdisonProject22

As I moved though my photographs, I stumbled upon this one.  Richmond saw one measurable snowfall this year.  Quite a departure from the 3-5 we averaged in Baltimore the years prior to this one.  The snowstorm coincided with my plans to put the fire pit I was gifted for Christmas together.  As soon as I busted out that first screwdriver, Xav had to be out there with me.  My wife stepped out in the snow briefly to take some pictures, apparently.  I didn’t notice until after this one, and its candid-ness is brilliant.  You might notice the pink gloves.  Those are his sisters.  He had not a care in the world for the color of the mittens – they were the ones at the door and that was the stipulation for coming out into the snow with me.  My favorite part of this picture is the emotions our eyes transmit to the viewer.  My son, looking adoring at me, so happy to be building something with his Dad.  My eyes reflect the same pride I see in old photos of my dad and myself.  There’s a partnership forming there; a feeling I love sharing with my father.  Whether we are splitting wood, starting a fire, watching a baseball game or prepping for a less frequently occurring activity, I love that my father always included me in his tasks.  It’s absolutely something I want to transfer along as a father to my children.

EdisonProject23

I don’t think I have a more favorite photo in my album than the one pictured below.  Taken by my sister at the Baltimore City Train Museum as we waited for our train ride with Santa Claus two winters ago, I was joking with her about something small.  Had to have been because I don’t remember its reason.  I also had no clue that my sister was taking a picture.  The profile shot of my daughter’s smile is the most perfect capture of the life within my daughter, and the life within me when I am with her.  There are so many things I’m not very good at.  But there’s rarely a moment I get to experience something new with my children where I am not as eager to reach that experience than they are.  My children bring out the very best in me.  Being their dad is the most important thing in my life.  I have to opportunity to shape the worldview of two, soon to be three, little people.  That’s a very serious charge.  In the short time I’ll have with them, I’ll need to impress upon them the need for ethic, empathy, integrity, accountability, compassion and love.  I’ll have to expose them to the raw nature of the world at varying lengths of time.  I’ll need to prepare them for the course they are to chart for themselves and I’ll need to do all of this knowing I’ll have to take my hand off the wheel at some point.  I’m always thinking about this line.  The amount of time between here and adulthood; where they’ll stretch out and form their own plans and perspectives.  Just as my parents did, and still do; I’ll have to help them find their purpose, watch from alongside, allowing for their own discoveries while instilling the reminder that my presence will always be there.  In the meantime, I have this picture to remind myself of the beauty of being a parent.

EdisonProject24

The O’Connor’s are inside of our one-month count-down to Baby O #3’s expected arrival to this world.  Switching from man-to-man to zone defense will be a new challenge for my wife and myself, but I’m beyond ecstatic to welcome a new timeline of anticipating experiences together to our crazy schedule.  We’ve been blessed with so much, and can only hope to continue praying for God’s assistance in forming the hearts of our beautiful children.  Alongside my wife, my children are the purest form of reminding me of my happiness and helping me clearly recognize What Happiness Means to Me.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Providing My Own Authorization: My Journey To and Through Writing

EdisonProject20

As a child, I spent as much time getting lost in a good book as I did getting lost in the woods.  Whether leading an expedition against the greatest odds with my creatively imagined friends along the Patapsco River, or reading about the many actual fearless warriors within my books, my dreams were derived from the imagination that the woods and my books cloaked me in.  Time would prove to diminish the frequency with which I ventured into the woods.  School, studies and competing interests made my epic sagas intermittent at best.  But every time I found myself back there – every time I find myself back there, no time has elapsed at all.  It is as though I am a boy reunited with my first love.  Books however, have grown from the vehicle for my dreams, to the method by which I’d like to express my own.  Authorship is the milestone I’ve set for myself while striving to live for me; to live for now.  This goal was not hatched out of a desire to find something to measure my progress; it was something I’ve wanted for myself since the first time someone ever asked me what I wanted to work of my life to be.

EdisonProject19

I was with my parents and my siblings on the Metro, travelling into DC for the day to watch a Georgetown basketball game and see a museum or two.  My father likes to throw out questions that require thought prior to response.  I’m not sure how my brother, sister and mother feel about the game but I always loved it.  When he asked the question, I didn’t need to think about it.  Writing a novel had been a goal on my heart for as long as I could remember.  Realistically, reading books for school like Johnny Tremain or Enders Game or Catcher in the Rye always made me question the method of the writer just as much as the tale of the plot, or the character’s challenge or triumph.  I always envisioned F. Scott Fitzgerald coming to his “A-Hah!” moment or Hemingway massaging his scenery as part of the journey I was on.  I wanted to be like them.

I want to be like them.  In so many ways, my happiness project is about creating processes, habits and content that will guide me to the place I need to be to write that book.  I want my book to speak for my generation, or a block of us, much like Hillbilly Elegy recently has for so many.  I want my book to move people, to break something open in the world of others.  I want my book to make some people’s’ lives richer – while for others more of a call to action.  I want my book to represent the woods and the adventures I went on through streams and pages.  I want my book to discuss the trepidation I felt as I was coming into my own, and then the false sense of self I encountered in my teens and early twenties, before finally moving back into my soul to find the greatest journey I’ve encountered thus far – starting a family.  I want to cover all of these journeys through a unique adventure that could only be travelled and then written by myself.  Knowing all of this, I feel I’ve started down my road in earnest.  While I continue to discover the soul of my content I intend to keep writing about what makes me happy, and writing about that process and those feelings are excellent ways for me to convey What Happiness Means to Me!

EdisonProject21

I’ve recently focused more frequently on my goal, which is the only major difference in the level of my production.  There are days I know what I want to write when I wake up.  For some reason the topic was on my heart, or greeted me with my morning coffee.  Others have to be crafted during the day between tasks, while others still are penned after my kids go to bed and I’ve waded through a few brainstorming sessions.  While work and family occupy the A slot of my brain, I’m working toward sneaking writing into that space.  When I’m writing, I am the most natural version of me; creatively shaping my thoughts and feelings into a single page of text.  There is nothing that has ever been more innate within me.  I hope to transform that feeling into real progress in the weeks, months and years to follow.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Every-Day Absentia: Combating Malaise with Forceful Wonder

There’s a general malaise one gets when they’ve forced themselves into the world of lofty goals.  For anyone having a “5-Year Plan”, or anything of that variety, the tiny miracles that exist in the passing moments often get missed.  As humans, our brains can only devote energy to so many things.  When we devote our active energy to our difficult goals, we’re placing our priorities in the future.  This is important! Anyone striving to build for themselves something larger than they previously had imagined should place priority on these goals.  It just should not be the only priority.  How do we go about administering priority to our various goals – short, mid-term, and long?

I like to look at these ideals as a “confidence poll” – very similar to what you would see passed out in the office during football season.  It goes like this: There are a dozen match-ups on the slate.  For each match-up, you must select the winner and assign a number to each.  The team you are most confident in gets the highest number.  You don’t need to pay much attention to this game because its some behemoth team versus a puny or under-performing one.  You put down the number 12, giving it the highest value towards your total, but it is actually the game you are least stressed about.  You move on down the line until you find the match-up against the two teams that are both play-off-bound and you meekly circle one (the home team), and place a one in that blank column to the left.  At the end of the weekend, you tally your points and weigh them against the rest of the players in the office pool.  You accumulate points and the winner gets a gift card, or whatever small prize your office has selected for the victor.

I look at the breakdown that way.  My biggest goals are assigned value based upon not just their importance to me, but the needs I have in attending to them.  If my goal is, lets say, to write a blog post every day, I assign that total to be just under performing my job that day.  Performing my job has a big total.  There’s a lot riding on it.  But I also know that the habits I’ve formed over the years create conditions where I do them implicitly.  This is not to say that I stress any less about it, or that there won’t be items that pop up during the course of the day or week that require my uninterrupted attention.  At those times, my brain is in hyper-drive and I’m working only on that.  Personal calls aren’t answered – hell, sometimes even the other aspects of the job have to be momentarily suspended until I get this thing right.  But when I’m done with that, I move down the line to my other priorities, in the order in which I’ve placed the most value.  This gives me an opportunity to attend to most, if not all, of my priorities during the day.

Playing with my kids has a high value on my daily “confidence poll.”  There are three main reasons.  First, they’re my kids, and they’re only going to be young and that type of adorable for so long.  There’s an expiration date on the terms of their play and the level to which they offer me engagement in that play.  Second, it’s a de-stresser.  When I am teaching my son how to hit or catch a baseball, or helping my daughter learn how to pump her legs to propel the swing by herself, I’m solely focused on that aspect of my life.  Sometimes, maybe most times, happiness is derived from simplicity of an event.  The closer that event brings me to my childhood memories, or to witnessing their belly laughs, the happier I am.  Third, and most importantly, my children stop in wonder on a regular basis.

IMG_3548

They’re truly amazed when they unlock a new piece of information, or figure out how one idea fits in with another.  They find ants to be fascinating.  At the lake last weekend, my daughter caught a small ring snake because it was upside down and she thought it was a worm! I mean, how thought-provoking and satisfying a process! To watch her transfer knowledge that if a worm is harmless and an animal looks like a worm, maybe it is harmless, too.  I promise you that I took the time to educate her on the difference between certain snakes, but we did that after we marveled at the miracle of the variation of animals in the world! My son has a book called The Mighty, Might Construction Site.  There are ten different pieces of equipment in the book (two of them are mis-labeled, but we took care of that) and the book provides context into how each one is used.  My son stares at that book every single night, as I read it to him, and studies the differences in form before he lists them off to me.  He knows each of them, two months before turning three.  He can tell you the difference between a front-end loader and backhoe; between a pump truck and a crane.  These things in isolation aren’t going to gain him admission into Harvard – but they are building blocks in the process to studiously differentiating different things.  The byproduct is all of these minor miracles being noted and categorized into various departments of information.

IMG_3406

All of this to say that happiness is found in balancing the big, burdensome plans we’ve devised for ourselves while taking the time to smell the roses.  I rarely smell actual roses, however.  My roses take the form of my children, my wife, baseball, reading, writing, Saturday’s with the Boys (had to), my parents and siblings, and all of the minor miracles and tidbits of information the unveil to me and unlock for me along the way.  I take happiness from being a part of their processes, and hope that they derive the same from mine.  It is my hope to keep gauging these confidence polls, to take the time to rearrange which I value most, and to keep my mental and spiritual direction moving in positive directions – to achieve goals – both grand and minute in scale.  For sometimes it is the smallest thing that unveils the greatest pleasure.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

EdisonProject15

Will O’Connor

Happiness as a Pensieve

pensieve

My wife and I decided a few months back to re-watch the Harry Potter series.  Aside from the fact that kids and a job make watching 7 movies a massively long undertaking, there have been various discussions that have arisen as a result of watching the movies again.  Everything from the plot and characters to the over-arching themes.

Last night we watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Aside from this sixth installment being my favorite, there’s a few scenes in this movie where Harry and Professor Dumbledore are standing over Dumbledore’s Pensieve.  The Pensieve, for those who’ve “magically” never seen the Harry Potter movies or read the books, is a vessel by which one can insert a captured memory, and by placing their face in the solution, revisit said captured memory.  I love the visual aspect of revisiting memories.  I often do so in my own life.  Music happens to be my vessel for such an adventure.  I pop on a song, and my mind’s eye is back in whatever moment most strongly shared with the associated song.  It’s actually my favorite thing about music.  It takes me back, as I’m sure it does for so many.

During the first scene featuring the Pensieve, my wife turned to me and said, “I feel like that is something you’d really like the ability to do.” To which I answered in the affirmative.  She then asked me “If you could go back and revisit your memories in this way, which memory would you visit first?” Both an excellent and an awesome question to ponder.  I didn’t provide an answer.  She pushed me for what my gut said and I again deferred.  Nearly the entire remainder of the movie, I was thinking about what movie I’d go back and revisit.  I want to answer that question now.  There are two answers.  The first is what my gut told me, and the second is what I would revisit since I’ve really thought about it.

My gut answer is to be back in the room when I first convinced my wife to kiss me.  It was July 5th, 2008.  To set the scene, my wife had been babysitting for a family out in Pikesville that day and was texting me about being very good at playing hide and seek.  We’d been working together for about two months and had a friendly relationship, but there wasn’t anything specifically “there” prior to this string of texts.  I playfully responded, while sitting on my couch, hanging out with my parents for their 28th Wedding Anniversary, with how good I was at hide and seek and that I’d beat her in a game (as though such a thing could be measured).  Needless to say, the text string led to questions of plans later.  I had plans to meet some friends later at a bar.  One of these friends had an apartment that was located directly above the bar.  It was a nice setup.  this bar also had a rather expansive deck bar that spread out behind the building.  It was a really cool spot to hang out in the summer.  I was able to convince her to head to me after her babysitting gig was up, even though I honestly had no designs on anything beyond hanging out.  That night was filled with general debauchery.  I consumed way too much alcohol and at last call the four of us headed back to my friend’s place, just a few dozen steps from the cash register.  There, in a combination of my drunkest and most eloquent forms, began to explain to my wife about how I’d really like to take her out to dinner some time.  I really have no idea what I said, but I recall her laughing at me with a greater intensity than the intensity with which she said she would say yes to such an invitation.

2ndpicture

Later that night, somehow I was able to parlay that date request into a kiss, which turned into several.  The rest, as they say, is history.  It was the single-most important moment in getting me from then to now.  My life, without my wife, would like starkly different from the one I have.  Certainly my world isn’t perfect.  I am probably more flawed than the average person.  But I have a life far more blessed than I’d imagined hours before that fateful July 5th night.  My gut pulls me back to that place when I think of her asking “Which Memory Would You Visit First?”

Second, and no less important, takes place about 30 days later.  My wife and I had established that we were serious about pursuing a relationship together, and were spending a lot of time together.  That August, we had an O’Connor family vacation down to the Outer Banks.  I had just taken a new job as a manager of a restaurant, and felt uneasy about taking that vacation with my new responsibilities, so I declined the vacation.  Seeing the fun they were having via social media and phone calls, etc, I decided to talk to my boss.  He graciously granted my leave and out the door I went, sans girlfriend, but very much wishing she was coming.  I made it down to North Carolina without incident, and the next day was able to convince my wife to drive down the next day, and come meet my whole family.  During the period of time when she was preparing to leave, and the time in which she arrived, I had an opportunity to speak to my grandfather alone.  He asked me about my new girlfriend, and relationship, and further pressed me about how long it would be until he had a great-grandchild with the last name of O’Connor.  To which I responded “Five Years.”  His response, “I can hold on that long.”  My wife arrived and met my family.  We had a great couple of days celebrating our love for one another, and it was a seamless introduction into our family.  We left and went home at the end of the weekend.  It was the last time I’d ever see my grandfather.  Eerily enough, my daughter was born five years and just a few days after that conversation took place.  Quinn Teresa O’Connor, while his fifth great-grandchild, was the first to bear the last name he was so intensely proud of.

3-williamsgrandpa

I say I’d go back to that memory, not because it all turned out to be true, but because we both failed to recognize that it was the last time we’d ever speak to one another on earth.  Just less than a month ago, we arrived at the 8th Anniversary of his death.  A week or so ago, I was driving home, praying for my grandfather to intercede on behalf on my prayers, thinking about how much I missed him and wanted to see him, when I arrived at the startling reality that I will always miss him this much.  That for the rest of my life, I’ll miss my grandfather.  9 years after our last conversation, I don’t regret not knowing.  Knowing that it’d be the last time we would speak may have prevented the question about great-grandchildren and a different conversation may have taken place.  I’m proud of my response and blessed I was able to see it come to fruition.  I just wish I could have supplemented my response with reassurance to my grandfather that, on countless times already, and probably even more going forward, I’d be faced with a difficult scenario and have the presence of mind to ask myself “What would my grandpa do here?”  Whether its raising kids, pushing to a difficult deadline, placing family above all else or simply challenging myself to grow as a person, I often find myself in a position where I reflect on what my grandfather would do.  This is not to say that he’d actually do what I chose to do.  Sometimes I react in ways that maybe my grandfather would not have thought to do.  But the mere question of what a titan in my life would do pushes me to fight though my obstacle and learn from my mistakes or accomplishments.  I’d go back to that memory to be able to tell him that for however long I live, I won’t just keep his memory on my heart, but his legacy.  That I’m going to work my entire life to use his example to exceed the expectations I once held for myself.

Those two memories share that common bond; they force me to remind myself that what I once thought was impossible now needs to be reflected on what I now think is impossible.  That I can set my sights higher as I gain sure footing on the place I once thought unattainable.  That makes me feel awesome! I makes me feel motivated, strong, capable and blessed to have had such a great family to be borne into, and to have such an amazing family from which I now can draw support and strength.

These and many more memories would I gladly place in my own personal Pensieve.  I cannot wait to collect more, and hope to continue to place importance on memories as a way to continue to grow.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

 

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on a former blog of mine, but as the anniversary of my first “date” with my wife just passed two days ago, I felt it appropriate to share.

The Power of “Why Not”

EdisonProject14

Time and time again I battle the question of why I’m writing, or taking pictures, or pushing my thoughts on happiness, hoping to start a discussion – wanting to see where it leads.  “Why start something if you don’t know where you want to go with it?” “Why do you think that what you have to say is so special?” “Why not just stick to construction?” “Why aren’t you focused on dreams or goals that are actually achievable?”  I don’t even need to be asked these questions by others, although I have recently begun receiving them.  The inertia within me asks them every day.  And yet every day, here I am, pecking away.  Each day there’s a different reason to take on Newton’s First Law of Motion.  I’m doing this to realize my childhood dream of being published.  I’m doing this to show my children that I took it upon myself to find happiness and positivity, every day, in the world.  I’m doing this to expand my understanding of happiness, and on the list will, and can, go.  Today, I’m doing this because, “Why Not?”

Why can’t I be a happier version of me? What happiness, energy or grand plan am I stealing from others by pursuing my own? Why can’t I realize my dream of publishing the next great American novel? And why can’t that path to there start right here, every day, day-by-day forming habits that will lead to the my highest calling – no matter what that ultimately ends up being?

When I made the decision to attend trade school – before I ever knew where it would lead me – I expressed my concern over my long-standing pattern of abandoning my studies to the enrollment advisor at the school to which I ended attending.  His response was that my fear of failing may have finally become a push towards success, if I could define my problem.  During the first eight week section of courses at North American Trade School, we started every day with a one hour video-guided, called PX2, lead by the Pacific Institute, focusing on positive self-talk.  I think I may have set the record for getting more out of that than anyone else ever had.  I began to speak to myself in a manner that encouraged perseverance, positivity and persistence.  The results, over the past seven years, have been the most consistently positive of any such period of time in my life.

PX2-_Header

Something broke free in me when I began to give myself permission to ask “Why Not?” As an assistant, I asked myself the same question in pursuit of establishing myself as a professional capable of managing a large-scale construction project on my own.  Three-and-a-half years later, I have laid down a track-record of success and quality in my work.  I have gained the experience I badly wanted to achieve, and here I am now, asking the same question again.  I have so far to go to establish myself in the way I desire with regard to my stated dreams.  I still notice myself caring more about the reception of my message than I know I ought to.  I still need to refine that approach.  In order to do my best work it needs to come from the most authentic place within me – and that place does not have room for external forces.  It is locked up tightly enough without weighting those factors, and I’m not disciplined enough to unlock that space amidst competing reasons.

As I look back at the content I have created over the past few weeks, I am reminded that asking “Why Not” is an expression of happiness and self-love. It promotes my creative juices, provides me with a clearer sense of my goals, and pushes me to attain them.  I am made more happy by recognizing this pattern of thought and self-motivation.  I hope it continues to spur my courage and inspires growth exponentially along my journey. Here’s to hoping it creates the same drive and purpose within you, and hopefully bolsters the courage to reclaim your dreams and pursue them again.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Outward Statement on Inner Goals: An Extended Testimonial of the Me.Now.Movement

I wrote the following nearly a month ago as a testimonial to a group I am a part of.  I didn’t send it over because I  wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it.  And then I realized this testimonial works as an expression of happiness, and might be beneficial for me to talk about and for others to see.  So here goes:

EdisonProject13

My name is Will O’Connor.  I’m a 32-year-old husband, father of 2, soon to be 3, son, friend, avid reader and aspiring writer.  I’m a fanatic of baseball, and a total junkie for numbers and statistics, although I’m not very competent at higher disciplines of math.  I’m a construction superintendent, and work for a general contractor generally providing supervision and oversight on multi-family projects and light commercial work.  I’ve built apartment buildings as large in scale as 74 units to as small in scale as 3.  I’ve built restaurants.  Most recently I’ve built a pre-engineered metal building housing an expanding indoor soccer facility.  I work in Richmond, Virginia.  I have been here for just over a year, after spending my first 31 in and around Baltimore, Maryland.  I was turned on to the Me.Now.Movement in December of last year by an old friend who aired a podcast with Andrew.  In listening to Andrew and Garrett speak about the movement, I felt the words slide into place in my heart, overlaying on top of what I already knew I wanted but didn’t have the presence of mind to focus on achieving.  Prior to December, I was all of the things I mentioned above.  I loved every single facet of those attributes and labels.  I just didn’t have the vision to structure those components in ways that helped me maximize my potential within each of them.  Primarily, my frustration lied in the competing beliefs that I had to stress my opportunity for growth and advancement professionally, while also knowing that I did not want only one thing to become of me.  I did not, and never have, wanted to round-out skills out in only one arena.  I am intrigued by so many things.  Building is certainly one of them, but it cannot be all that I am.

I like to think in stories and metaphors; to draw the parallels between something easily understood between something far more complex on the surface, yet inherently structurally the same.  I am currently working on my twelfth project as either an assistant superintendent, or superintendent.  Four of those projects have been what are called “gut-rehabs”.  That is to say, we demolish the interior guts of the building, often even items such as the roof, windows and siding, and build back a new system that can further withstand the elements surrounding it.  We upgrade the interior and when all is said and done, a “brand new building” feel is what we strive to provide our clients.  The Me.Now.Movement feels the same way.  It may even go further, to re-frame the interior.  To change the rooms around, maximize the space, provide a new feel to an established building.  Much like the gut-rehabs I sometimes am charged with, The Me.Now.Movement has turned my attention inward; to building new rooms and fresh spaces to explore the passions that lie within me.  To dust off the old plans and revisit them.  To see if they still have a flame, or if relighting that flame will provide a new light by which I can revise old plans and passions into new.

I’m nearly complete with the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  I’ve taken in much of the lessons in this book through the Me.Now.Movement lens.  Most notably, I remember feeling moved at Kahneman’s explanation of the availability heuristic.  I’ll paraphrase, but essentially, we have a far greater memory for remembering all of the instances/people we know who have fallen ill or had bad turns of luck than we do for those who moved the jumbled pieces of life around to create something along the lines of the Me.Now.Movement mission.  In so doing, we create an availability heuristic that suggests the construct of the world around us is dark and foreboding.  We perceive that bad things are far more probable to happen than they actually are, simply because our brain stresses the frequency of these sub-optimal outcomes against the non-headline-making news of all the positive forces in our world.  In recognizing this mental flaw we all seem to all possess. I want to combat that heuristic.  I want to create an availability in the memory of my children that reminds them of why we push forward.  I want to create something, in as grand a scale I can muster, that stands against evil acts, and cancer, and tragedy.  I want to nurture that effort and provide a place for discussion as to how each of us can best enforce the real fact that far frequently, good happens in our world than bad.  I want to make it a tangible, living thought, that happiness and living in the Now is not just about occasionally consciously thinking about these abstract ideas.  It’s about creating those moments with purpose.

Much of the tangible product on my journey through the Me.Now.Movement has yet to be defined.  I am only in the brainstorming phase of my journey.  I am still framing the walls, revising the window openings, checking to see which doors need to go where, and which ceilings I can blow out to obtain higher goals.  This revelation is joyful to me, as I can only speculate how passionate I will feel about the movement when I begin to churn out a product that can be witnessed by my family and loved ones.  I would invite anyone who similarly wishes to bring about their best self through happiness and conscientiousness of the value of the present to explore with Andrew, and the community he has built, the potential they have to affect the Me.Now.Movement and the communities to which you belong.  I am confident that, through diligence and commitment, the Me.Now.Movement will help you to reach your old goals, refine the rusty ones into new and improved ideas, and re-frame the interior of your life into bigger, and more purposeful spaces.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Me.Now.Member since December 2016

Memories To Last a Lifetime

I recently read a book by Daniel Kahneman entitled “Thinking Fast and Slow”.  Among various other topics, Kahneman discussed prospect theory and highlighted several times over the benefit of understanding someone’s reference point, which his theory incorporates, over utility theory, which does not take into account the subject’s position when selecting their choice between a sure thing and a gamble.  Essentially, those who are faced between a sure thing and a gamble, elect the sure thing when both outcomes are good; while those faced between a sure thing and a gamble elect the gamble when both outcomes are bad.  Essentially, we hedge our bets so as not to be disappointed with nothing when we could improve our situation, while we gamble on the risk when we have everything to lose.  It has proven true time and time again in economics; and so too does it hold true with behavioral economics.  Kahneman looked closer at how people elect to utilize money and time.  Shockingly, or maybe not so shockingly, a great number of people tested in his analysis over many generations have reported the greatest utility of their time and money is derived from creating memories.  That memory creation creates a lasting impression that goes a great way towards improving our happiness.

As this is a blog about achieving happiness, I find this to be vital information.  I also found myself shaking my head in agreement when he made these points.  Through my own experiences, it is in making of memories that we are able to recall our happiness and utilize it as a means towards furthering that pursuit.  That is to say, memories are fuel for the engine of our lives.  We can use them when our tank is empty to continue forward.  Likewise, when we are at leisure, when we are not necessarily on empty, but just relaxing, we can funnel those memories back into ourselves and reinforce the investments of time and money that we are making.  We receive a hefty return on that investment, because those memories serve as reminders of why we are doing what we are doing; why we push ourselves to success and why we endure stress and strain.  We do it so we can direct ourselves to places where we can enjoy ourselves, and our loved ones, most fully.

IMG_3327

Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to collect memories with my family and friends in Charlotte, NC, over father’s day with my family and my brother-in-law, and again at the lake and our house in Richmond with a party of 13, comprising grandparents, parents, siblings, children and friends.  We saw fireworks, grilled, went boating, swimming and rested together.  It wasn’t always perfect, but we left each other with a greater since of pride in belonging to one another.  I’ll draw on those memories in various periods of reflection, reference and re-fueling to encourage my inner self to push for the next opportunity to be so fortunate.  My favorite thing about this past month is that I’ve had an opportunity to enrich my life with the presence of each one of these people; those whom I’ve already come to love are endearingly more so beloved.  I hope I am seen in the same light in each of their eyes.  For that is what is truly important.

These are my people.  They are my tribe.  I love so many others, but I am in love with only them.  They accept me for who I am, support me in who I want to be, and push me to keep a tether between those two things.  Spending time with them is my reference for gauging happiness.  They are my sure things and I’d choose them over anything else I ever had to consider before me.  My month of June was a drastic juxtaposition between being a ball of stress at work and a husband, dad, son and brother outside of it.  I tried hard to be my best self for each of them.  I’m not sure I succeeded, but I gave it my honest best effort.  Hopefully, I’ll be more capable this month than last at achieving that goal, but each and every one of them created a better sense of self within me, and for that I am eternally grateful for the memories we shared and built in June of 2017.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness

EdisonProject12

Will O’Connor

Vacation Happiness: From Planning to Action

 

EdisonProject9

Greetings, all and Happy 4th of July Weekend! Hopefully it is a time for everyone to take an opportunity to rest from the intense heat, spend time with loved ones, cook and eat, drink and visit.  Most of all, I hope it is a time for everyone to reflect on the amazing benefit we have all had of living in the United States.  We are truly blessed.  I’ll be headed up to the Lake to see a whole slew of family.  At the house will be: my grandmother, my parents, my brother, my sister, my wife and our two (three when you count the baby in her belly) children, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend.  Its going to be a full house! So full, in fact, that half of us will be driving to and from Richmond and Lake Anna on a daily basis as my parents house cannot fit the whole group of us.  I’m so excited to be around all of the people I love so dearly, yet rarely get the opportunity to spend time with.  My parents live in Fairfax, Va.  My sister and brother live in Charlotte.  My sister-in-law and her boyfriend live in New York City and my grandmother lives up near Appleton, Wisconsin.  Having known of this plan for some time, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to envision the fun we’ll have.  Boating, fireworks, the jet ski, crabs, and lounging on the dock.  The anticipation of the event is killing me!

That got me to thinking about my quotient of happiness.  It seems, at times, that I’m happier in the anticipation than I am at the event.  Almost as though anything that crosses wires with the image I had constructed in my head brings my happiness down a notch or two.  I think I’ve always faced this challenge.  I’ve always had problems dealing with events not matching my intentions for them.  It has created issues in the past, and I’ve resolved not to let that happen in the future.  What are some of the ways I plan on doing this? I’ve thought about that.  Here are a few of them.  First, I am going to start by not disturbing myself from dreaming of the endless possibilities we’ll encounter.  I’m not going to sap my happiness of anticipation by not setting hopes for myself.  Second, when I get to the lake, I am going to wipe my goals away through positive thought and earnest investment in the present.  I want to allow for the happiness to unfold before me.  I want for speedbumps to be just that; speedbumps.  I want to interact with those I rarely see with the best me I can possibly muster.  Most importantly, I want to look back on the weekend and recall how awesome that time was, even if it wasn’t necessarily what I had envisioned.

EdisonProject11

Although it carries with it many advantages, one of my challenges can be my strong personality.  It steers me well in much of my life.  I am a focused and passionate individual, and I can articulate my wants and plans, but the ability I have to positively influence matters seems to be tethered to an absolute zero value.  That is to say that my personality has the potential to steer things in the exact opposite way, with the same degree of intensity or impact.  Understanding that about myself, my plan is to check in with myself more frequently during the weekend.  To gauge my emotions, determine what corrective action I need to take, and do so within myself, prior to taking others down that road with me.  This plan gives me great happiness! I can already feel a different vibe within myself than I have in similar events in the past.  I am grateful for the frame of mind the Edison Project has provided me.  It has pushed me to search for my means of happiness; and in so doing has highlighted the ways I might increase that feeling across the board.  Many times, simply by removing the negative, we can experience more of the positive.  That is my goal for happiness this weekend; to experience happiness as presently as I can by setting my often minute desires aside, checking in with myself, and removing the negative.  The rest of the trip will take care of itself.  I look forward to touching base on my success with this plan at the Holiday’s end!

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

EdisonProject10

Grinding Through the Tough Days

Silhouette of a man facing a mysterious light

Today’s post comes with difficulty.  As with other days, I woke up today and have scanned my surroundings, topics that are of interest to me and events that lay ahead.  I’m in a decent mood; not too high and not too low.  But for whatever reason, the agent of happiness within me has alluded my attempt to creatively capture a niche of happiness to allow it to be transformed onto the page.  Having anticipated this event occurring at some point, I began to rifle through my mental Rolodex of places and times I was most happy.  Not being able to effectively conjure any particular story that felt organic or lesson that felt unique, I had to continue to strive towards something that made sense to my overall objective of attaining happiness, a bit at a time.  Finally, it dawned on me: success in happiness is often not a straight line because of these types of days.  Most often, the best thing we can do when we feel droll and dreary is to persevere until we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And that’s where I found it! My happiness came from my persistence in chipping away at the roadblock in front of me.  Today may not be the best day.  Those days are numbered as we all know.  What gets us from one “best day” to the next “best day” is a series of days in between, whereby we strive to remain positive and look for the break in the clouds

In my last post I talked a bit about my novice stature.  My wife and I spoke about that at length last night.  It was liberating to explain to her that my perspective intentionally comes not as a professional at this happiness thing.  I’m not the world’s best person.  I’m not magical and I don’t live in fairy land.  What makes this project special for me is the practice of it.  Being happy and staying positive is a challenge.  Writing about it is even harder.  There exists quite a list of things that make me happy without having to work up the energy to be so.  There exists also a list nearly as long, filled with items I need to be more positive and happier about.  Or at least complain less therein.  That conversation led me to brainstorm the areas of my life that I’m not as happy about.  Its led me to resolve to post about my progress in those areas nearly as frequently as the areas of my life that are naturally happy and positive.  I think that’s a great thing! I think if I, if we, chose to acknowledge the areas I, we, allow ourselves to be brought down in, we might be more willing to display areas where we’ve shown growth, strength and resolve.  Seems to me that is just as important.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I always wonder how alone I am in these thoughts.  Are there areas of your life that take extra energy to get up for; to find happiness in? What are some of the best ways you break that dreary streak? How do you acknowledge your imperfections and set goals for their improvements? Where has that taken your journey?

I’m as anxious to learn about your habits and challenges, triumphs and setbacks as I am to communicate mine.  I want to foster an environment of happiness as my penultimate goal, but I also want to discuss the accountability that comes with that effort.  I’d love to hear of recent stories or conversations that left you more resolved and better equipped to achieve your goals.  I’d love to hear how your goals were refined or expanded based on the entrapment you encountered along the way.  Please feel free to leave your comments about that here, or to write to me directly about it.  My contact information is listed and I’m reachable in a manner of different media.  Good luck with your journey forward and thank you for reading more about mine.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Taste And See: The Devotion to Happiness

Several years ago my mother gave me a devotional entitled Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace In His Presence.  It had sat in a bedside table for quite some time.  Not that I wasn’t interested – I just had a devotional that I liked.  Then I determined that it may be time to change it up, go for a different brand of simple thoughts.  I put the devotional in my work bag and brought it out to my job.  It sits on my desk and I take 5 minutes, at no structured point in time, every day to read through it and reflect on the wisdom it espouses.  Today’s was directly in line with the Me.Now.Movement I am involved in, and provides me both peaceful thoughts to implement throughout my day, and reminds me of the importance of living in the present.  Particularly, this passage jumped out at me, “Taste and See That I Am Good.  This command contains an invitation to experience My Living Presence.  It also contains a promise.  The more you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness.  When adversities strike, the human instinct is to doubt My goodness.  Do not try to fathom My ways.  Instead, spend time enjoying Me and experiencing My goodness.”

EdisonProject6

I battle with the struggle of perseverance through my own effort while at the same time maintaining my faith that God has a plan for me.  It is difficult to properly balance the two competing thoughts, and is taxing on my happiness.  What does God require of us, in order for us to fulfill His plan for us?  That’s a question that keeps me up at night more than any other.  What helps me to sleep, is that at some point I understand, and its only ever momentarily, that my persistence in holding up my end of the bargain puts me on the path to meeting His plan for me.  That provides me with great happiness and sustenance.  It is only when I encounter my next hurdle where I seem to lose that synergy with God.  And then I am reminded again of it.  In truth, sometimes it takes days, weeks, months – its even taken years, at times, for me to understand that my persistence is the key ingredient to finding my way to His path.  Every day I divert from His plan.  Sometimes it is only momentary.  At other times it is severe.  I don’t post about my devotional to claim my moral and spiritual superiority to others.  Far from it.  I actually believe that my human nature requires my daily devotion to God.  Reading a small passage is but a single step along that line of requirement.  It frames my day for me and instill within me positive thought and a manner by which I can attain happiness.  For as much as we might like to think we can govern our happiness, our true grace and salvation, and therefore our happiness, can come only from God.

Faith has been at times an active, and at others a latent pursuit.  It has always been a medium through which I moved, but was not always something met with my open heart.  There are days it still is not.  Those are the days I need faith, and devotion, all the more.  Those are the days I need my wife and my children to be witnesses of God’s love for me, so that the love I feel in their presence reminds me of something greater.  That is the true gift of God’s love; it can inspire us to remember Him when we are least thinking of Him.

IMG_1895

Today I am thankful for the foundation in faith that my family and friends helped to instill within me.  I am grateful for the walk I am taking through life and through God with my wife.  I am hopeful that I am doing, and will continue to do, the same for my children.  I am happy that Jesus Christ, the Bible and little devotionals like this one came for me, and are provided to me, on a daily basis.  I pray that God’s plan for me has been instilled within me on some level; that the goals and visions I have for myself and my family will be part of God’s plan for me.  These thoughts, and the actions they inspire help me to be reminded of all that I have; through which I can pursue and achieve happiness.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

 

Will O’Connor