I almost killed a guy the other day. It made me very happy.
Emphasis on the word almost, of course. I didn’t kill him, even though I started driving just as he was coming up on my right side while I was looking left. Any time you come close to a major problem and you miss it by inches, it’s a good day.
I’m trying to pay more attention to these good days, the near-misses that bounce into my win column, because it’s a great way to get more enjoyment out of life. If I got to the pharmacy two minutes after they closed and nobody would open the door to give me my prescription, I’d be talking about it for days. If I got caught in traffic and missed my flight and I couldn’t get a refund on the ticket or the hotel room, I’d be complaining for weeks. But, if I had the chance to kill a person and I didn’t take it? Crickets.
People write, and read, all kinds of guides to happiness—how to find it, how to nurture it, how to maintain it—but there’s no mystery to this stuff. Happiness comes from feeling fortunate and feeling fortunate comes from a lack of entitlement. Nobody owes me anything, God isn’t required to save me from killing pedestrians, and I don’t get any mulligans when I screw up. When something goes well, it’s a gift, whether I worked hard for it or it flew through an open window.
This happiness thing turns out to be ridiculously easy, so easy that I thought, at first, there must be something huge I was missing. Turns out, though, it’s a WYSIWYG. In business, everyone talks about making customers happy by exceeding their expectations, but there are two parts to that equation. The first part is the expectations themselves. The lower they are, the easier it is to blow right past them.
This isn’t a game of pretending to enjoy it when you fall into a manure pit or thinking it’s great to be fired. Crap is crap, sometimes literally. But you don’t have to enjoy a situation in order to feel fortunate that it didn’t turn out worse. And you don’t need to be Pollyanna to recognize when little things are going your way.
Things do go our way almost all the time, every day. Starting with the moment we open our eyes in the morning, take a shower with hot water, brew a cup of coffee, etc. etc. etc., the list of wins is almost endless. Recognizing and appreciating those wins in real time is the key to a happy life.
As I look back on it, my clock has reset to zero at least eight or ten times. I was hit by a truck while in high school, but relatively little of my brain ended up on the street. Art Drake probably saved my life in college when he stopped me from cutting some live electrical wires with a pair of scissors. I don’t remember exactly if it was Kirk James or Dwight Grimestad who stopped me from walking into traffic while on my phone in New York, but it was one of them and I am grateful to both.
The list goes on. There was the time I suddenly realized I was walking less than a foot from the edge of the Grand Canyon, the day I fell asleep at the wheel on the Kennedy, the morning a semi drove through my Dodge Dart… I follow Cheating Death on Instagram but, now that I think about it, maybe they should be following me.
After I didn’t kill the guy on the bicycle, the rest of my morning was more upbeat than it had been before I drove out of the garage. I hope the cyclist enjoyed his day as much as I did.