John Mann

John Mann

The pursuit of happiness

We all have heard the phrase from the Declaration of Independence, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".  It is considered an unalienable right. Interesting phrase given the current immigration climate. Not my topic today though. We are allowed the "pursuit" of happiness. It is not a guarantee, it is not an entitlement. We are allowed to pursue it. If we attain happiness, then good for us. If we are miserable because we didn't attain it, then no one owes you anything.

When I was a teenager, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store. I was told that I was going to work outside for the 4th of July sale. That meant I would be outside in a tent, sitting down handling customers as they came in for our 4th of July sales (hot dogs, buns, etc...) I showed up, a little early for my shift as usual, and someone else cancelled so they needed me to cover the store inside. I did so but was frustrated that I didn't get the "fun" job outside. I went on my break and talked to the store manager, he was stocking dairy at the time I approached him.  "I was supposed to work outside today, but now I'm inside covering someone else's shift. Can I go outside and work?" I'm sure my tone was a bit different then knowing how I am.  He looked up at me (keep in mind he was on a milk crate stocking dairy).  "Do you think I expected to be stocking dairy today? We need you inside because someone called out sick. If you can't do that, just pull your till and go home." 

I did exactly that. I left.

After a brief discussion with my parents, I realized what I did was arrogant. I wanted... But I'm an employee for a company and I needed to think of what the company needed, not me. I went in the next day and apologized to the front-end manager. It turns out the manager never came back to the store after that day either, not exactly sure what happened I can't remember. But I learned a valuable lesson. If you work hard, things will change and you will get to be more valuable to the team. If you keep working hard, you get setbacks and rewards. You get passed-over and promoted. You get bad days and good days.

Later on in my career, I have been asked to do tasks COMPLETELY out of the scope of my job. What do I do now? I figure it out. I ask for help. I work with my team to solve the problem together.

I have cleaned toilets, bartended, dj'd, acted, danced, coded, led teams, taught students, and even worked on a television show. The most rewarding and joyous job I have ever had was the one when I felt I was helping my team. You will never feel joy as much as you will when you are helping others who appreciate your help. That is my pursuit of happiness.

Sure, I'm blessed to have an amazing wife who appreciates me and loves me even when I do some frustrating things. However, I have a team at work that jokes with each other, that says thank you, that has lunches together, and are all working toward the same goal.

Real joy comes from putting yourself second. It took a lot of pain for me to realize that. The military taught me teamwork. However, sobriety taught me about helping others. Being of service is more rewarding than anything you can imagine. 

What is interesting is that we think we need the next gaming system, the cool new outfit, or even travel around the world to be happy. We need even less than that to be happy. We need to look at each other and say, "How can I help you?" You will be amazed at the response you will get. Some people don't want help, and your ego may be so big that you feel the NEED to help them. DO NOT ATTEMPT THAT AT HOME OR ANYWHERE ELSE! You cannot help everyone, and by trying to help someone who doesn't want it will make you miss an opportunity to help someone who does. Do not help others for selfish reasons, simply show up and help.

One thing I miss is having Wendy's dinners with my friend Ryan. We would go through the drive thru and sit and talk about life. He is now married with a baby turning one soon! We are on different coasts, but I text him from time to time to simply say hey.

Friends are important. Good friends are difficult to find. Great friends are only a handful in a lifetime. The friends that listen. The friends that simply know when you text, "hey", that they should call or they simply send something that makes you laugh.

Identify your pursuit of happiness... it should be a position of service, of gratitude, and most important of humility. If it is not that, then ego is driving your train and you need to put on the breaks.

That's all for the tonight.  I hope you realize that happiness is already around you. You need to simply slow down and realize it.

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