The Secret to a Happy Life Is...
I've been flying free for the past couple of months. No job. Only teaching my MEGA Assistant University classes, taking the odd project here and there, and turning down a number of good offers (on paper) just to decompress a bit from my last role and really focus on the direction I want to sprint in next. It's equal parts flattering and weird to hear people call me "the next big thing" and "the fresh new voice on the scene" advocating for Executive and Personal Assistants. It's no secret. I LOVE being an Executive Assistant and I love helping others realize their potential. I hate BS, so I tell it like it is. I never imagined that telling the truth would thrust me into such a spotlight. But, mmm kay. I'm down if you are!
So here's the thing. The downtime and being away from the fray for this amount of time has provided me some incredible epiphanies and allowed me enough of an exhale and step back to really look at my life both as Phoenix Normand the human as well as the professional. I've shared MEGA U tables across the country and, now, across the world with some of the brightest, most passionate, lauded and ambitious Executive and Personal Assistants out there. I continue to be amazed and excited by the conversations we have, the idea exchange, the camaraderies we build and the success that comes after they get back to the grind. But, I'm going to have to put some of my students as well as the entire Executive/Personal Assistant community on blast. What we lack a true grasp of as a whole is...
Business is dog-eat-dog. We are angling for some sort of advantage over our competition and with one another in order to get more, prove more, or be more (in perception.) This manifests in some rather unsavory behavior at times, a lot of whining, and generally being a dick. We all see it. Probably right down the hall and to the left, or even in the mirror at 6:05am.
The best way I show my gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy. -Mother Teresa
I recently watched "The Secret" for the 117th time on my laptop during a long-enough flight. It's easily the cheesiest movie on the planet. But there are some truly amazing lessons to be had. The one that resonates with me most is having "an attitude of gratitude."
I'm currently in Los Angeles overseeing a project for a friend. I moved away from here about 7 months ago after living here for 2.5 years. Being thrown back into the depths of this g*dd*mned LA traffic and distracted drivers is enough to send people to jail for various crimes...assault, arson, property damage with a tennis racquet. On one particularly ensnarled day, I saw someone let some loser in front of them after we had all queued for 20 minutes for this onramp. I could see people behind me cursing into their windshield. (Always hilarious. Who you yellin' at, Boo?) Something came over me, though. Wasn't gas or indigestion. It was this weird, overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
Suddenly I was acutely aware of EVERYTHING. How I felt in my body. The clothes that I was wearing that I remember buying off the rack and paying a fair amount of money with funds I'd received from my well-paying job that continues to adorn a resume of other great, well-paying jobs. My car, a 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth...my "dream car" (simple pleasures, man...don't judge). I had wanted that car since it was launched and I'd saved and saved and finally walked into the dealership and purchased a demo that was the exact color I wanted, though not the convertible model. I've had 23 cars in my lifetime (truth) and this is BY FAR my favorite so far. On that day, at that very moment, I felt this overwhelming sensation of gratitude to the universe for keeping me alive after almost killing me off in 2007. For giving me the opportunities to work at companies that taught me tons and paid me more money than I actually needed, allowing me to purchase everything I'd ever wanted. For my friends who read my posts and invite me to concerts and feed my champagne + french fries addiction. For my ability to teach and inspire. For the 2 week trip to Australia I just took that blew my socks off. For surviving and thriving in a world not necessarily the kindest to a Black, gay, 40-something-year-old man.
Today, I saw a woman who had obviously passed a homeless man on the street in need. She had gone and purchased some inexpensive sandals, doubled back, and was helping this gentleman put the new shoes on his battered and worn feet. Given the searing hot day I can only imagine the gratitude he expressed to her for not having to endure scorching heat from the sidewalks he traveled just trying to eek out an existence. It was one of the most beautiful gestures I'd witnessed in ages and pulled me back into the zone of gratitude, if not a little bit of guilt. I stood at the corner waiting for the streetlight to change and wiped an unexpected flood of tears from my eyes.
I truly believe that the secret to really being happy in life, especially in these times, is reeling ourselves back in and simply being grateful for EVERYTHING we have, in minute detail. Be grateful for the roof over your head. Be grateful that you can stand up and walk to the fridge. Be grateful that you have a job and are surrounded by others who are simply trying to make it just like you are. Sure, compete. You'll never strip me of my competitive spirit. But you'll also never strip me of the fact that I am grateful to even be in the room and able to compete fairly based on my skills and experience vs. my connections and "power moves."
I challenge each of you to stop for a second and simply look around. What device are you reading this article on? Be grateful for it. If your kid is bugging you, STOP, take a deep breath and be grateful for that beautiful human being that you created with love. The chair you're sitting on, the windows with the view you always wanted, the "crap job" you hate...all opportunities to be grateful, knowing that it could all disappear overnight.
I'm guilty of diatribes and rants on my Facebook page. I realized that when I rant it's because I've fallen out of gratitude. I've allowed myself to be played by my emotions instead of me having a firm grasp on them, spanking their little asses and pointing them in the direction of being thankful vs. entitled. I think those rants may have ended today. I'm making a conscious effort to catch myself every time my thoughts turn obsessively negative and remember those 2 times I was in ICU/CCU for "heart-related stress incidents" or lying in my own bed feeling life slipping away but fighting like a mofo. I was insanely grateful for each new day I got to see. I want to get back to that place. Keep the illness, tho. But I want to be acutely aware...AT ALL TIMES...that I have so much to be grateful for.
I really wish each of you this kind of peace, if only for a moment or two. Once you can exhale and breathe in grateful air, and sit in the car you bought with gratitude to drive to the restaurant where you will woof down an expensive meal with good friends and be grateful that they are fixtures in your pretty great life, you'll experience an entirely new happiness that will permeate everything you do. And competing at work and in life, won't take much effort at all. Because you'll know from whence it came. A good, GRATEFUL place.
'Til next time.