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.


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


Will O’Connor

Vacation Happiness: From Planning to Action



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.


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


Wealth of Water


Yesterday my day concluded with a trip to the swimming pool with my family.  My children, 3 and 2, are huge fans of the water, and so we have had a yearly membership to our neighborhood pool for the past 3 summers.  Both my wife and I have always loved the water.  We spend as much time in or on it as we can.  From fishing on my parents’ pontoon boat on Lake Anna, to casual jaunts around the lake or just swimming off the dock, we try to regularly spend time there.  We also schedule a few trips down to the beach every summer to fill our quota of saltwater exposure.  On the off-chance we get to go on a vacation, either as a nuclear family, or as an extended one; we always seize that opportunity.  But the pool suffices for weekdays and the weekends where we are at home base.  It brings immeasurable happiness to all of us.  Yesterday was no different.


My children aren’t yet independent swimmers, so we outfit them with life preservers and launch ourselves into the shallow end.  As they steadily gain confidence, we go from jumping from the top step, to jumping off the edge of the pool.  Reflecting on the progress they make in a single day is good enough to make it a list worth talking about.   What’s more, is the relaxation is brings to us as a unit.  Aside from my youngest being too headstrong and curious to resist the rule of no running around the pool, the water provides us an opportunity to enjoy the effect buoyancy has on our bodies in unison.  The feeling you get when you immerse yourself in water, its fluidity, the comfortable transition from 88 and muggy to 78 and weightless is truly transformative.  Add to that the combination of warm sun, music and games where “Daddy is a shark” and you have one of the most simplified forms of bliss that exists on the planet. 


At a period in our lives where both my wife and I work, at a minimum, 50 hours a week, we feel the joy all the greater.  The work at home with two toddlers is never done.  There’s not yet help with the dishes or the laundry or the crayon that mysteriously jumped from the paper to the wall.  There’s the dog to keep walked and the lawn to keep trimmed.  There’s our room and the kids room and the home office and the playroom still to be done, even when you’ve wrapped up the dishes for the night.  There’s overflow work that needs to be analyzed and mapped out for the following day.  There’s groceries to buy and bills to pay.  These are regular distractions that nearly every adult, parent or not, has to face on a daily basis.  These tasks don’t just sap happiness; they blindfold us to it.  When it all seems too much, the only natural way to manage the mountain of maintenance is to put on the blinders and wade through it.  The water separates us from these tasks.  We cannot accomplish any of these things while swimming.  We are forced to take a break from the daily, weekly and monthly to-dos and focus solely on our presence in the water.  When you think about it, it’s probably the only place people my age and younger don’t regularly strap their phone to their palm.  Try as companies might to develop technology and cases to shield phones from the water, I’ve yet to meet a person to deliberately immerse their phone in the water.  All of this builds a case for the sanctity of water.  For the spiritual and natural connection we experience while in or beside it.  We are better people in it; less focused on distraction and more present to guide our children in navigating its challenges.  Less likely to feel burdened while we are buoyed by its force on us.


I’ve yet to find another commonly accessible feature that is more regularly a place of rest, relaxation, and recharging.  I wonder if there might be something out there that you find more comforting or inspiring? In my ever-increasing search for locations and experiences that lend themselves regularly to happiness, I’d love to hear insights on what you might do on or near the water that benefits your happiness.  I’d love to hear if there are alternative locations or experiences you commit yourselves to that are readily available.  Certainly, I welcome any suggestions, recommendations, tips or advice that I or anyone else might benefit from.


Yours in the continued Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor