I woke up this morning and wished I were sick. Not horribly sick, just bad-enough-cold-that-you-lie-in-bed-and-watch-movies sick. I wondered for a few minutes why I wanted this. I realized it’s because what I really wanted to do today was loaf around. The weather is beautiful. I don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel like thinking strategically about my clients’ businesses. But just hanging out makes me feel guilty. If I’m sick I have an excuse but if I’m well I’m being lazy.
Looking back on the past 20 years being sick has been a massively important escape hatch for me. In college, after midterms. In my 20s during career upheaval and holiday insanity. I’ve barely been sick at all in 2+ years. Life is good. I’m healthy. I haven’t needed the out. But I wanted it today. Successful people, I thought, get out of bed and go…succeed. They don’t wander around in their pajamas watering the basil plants. This led me to Google “how to define success” which led me to Forbes.
It’s a pretty annoying article, the upshot of which is: men and women aren’t as different as you might think, we all want money, and women tend to answer surveys with what they think they are expected to want rather than what they actually want.
So, what did I do today (since I’m not sick) that leads to feeling successful while, essentially, hanging out?
- I went running this morning. Again, that weather. Exercise makes me (and anyone) feel better. Any exercise. Walking. It produces chemicals in your brain that make you happy. This is true. Also, I listen to crappy hip hop while I run and don’t think about anything except Taio Cruz lyrics.
- I worked from home. It’s prettier here. I had lunch with my kid. I made tea when I felt like it. I stayed in my running clothes.
- I redefined “work” for the day. I talked on the phone with people. A cheese maker from Georgia, about his farm. A web site developer, about how to present an event I produce. A cheese maker from Vermont, about his 2015 budgets. My neighbor, about the area. I basically gossiped with people for 4 hours about their dreams, their goals, their industries. All that gossiping is actually very important and valuable information. But I’m not going to synthesize it today.
- I did write, but I wrote this instead of my book. This is different writing, about whatever I want. But writing is a habit, a muscle that atrophies if unused.
- I deposited checks and looked at my bank statements. Feel, acknowledge and count your money. Direct deposit and debit cards are great conveniences but they distance us from what we earn. I feel more excited about my money when I take the time to realize it’s there.
I am alone in my house, unwashed, with 2 hours left in the “work day” and I feel totally successful. That’s how I define success—by how I feel. No matter how much money you have, you always want a little more. When you get accolades from everyone you meet, the conspicuous silence of that one holdout is the loudest voice. Being successful is figuring out what makes you feel good, and how you can incorporate those things into your life so that you, in fact, feel good.
I gotta go water some basil plants.