One year of happiness

This last week marked my first year anniversary as a Happiness Engineer with Automattic. Starting this role was a big shift for me professionally and required me to go back to being a beginner again. It’s been a scary and challenging experience in the best way possible, and to say I’m glad I did it is a huge understatement. I can’t imagine not doing it now.

To celebrate, it feels like a list of reflections is due. Here are some thoughts after reflecting for a couple of days on the past year.


Opposites attract

I just finished reading Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee. Enjoyed it more that I thought I would. The premise isn’t all that exciting, like most McPhee books (his compendium about the geological history of North America won the Pulitzer prize!), but it was hard to put down. The portraits of the main characters and the portraits of the wilderness locations were superb and endlessly interesting.

Encounters with the Archdruid tells the story of David Brower, a giant figure in the environmental conservation movement in the last century, and three trips he takes to different wilderness areas in the US with the the author and three of his bitterest rivals: a miner, a developer, and a dam builder. The book is divided into three sections, one of each of the trips they take, and weaves between background stories about each of the four figures and the locations and experiences they have along the way.

Here are some of my favorite passages from the book.

What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#95)

Book excerpt I was thinking about:

“To me, complete rational logic tells me to be atheist about all of the Earth’s religions and utterly agnostic about the nature of our existence or the possible existence of a higher being. I don’t arrive there via any form of faith, just by logic.” (Tim Urban, Wait but Why Year One)

Quote I appreciated:

Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most.

Abraham Lincoln

Fake it till you make it:

Our brains are trained to think and feel certain things that cause us to behave certain ways. Learned thoughts and feelings turn into learned behaviors.

Once we’ve learned these things, it’s difficult to unlearn them. We get comfortable in our routines and patterns. It’s hard for us to imagine a different reality or a new way of thinking. The thoughts we’ve practiced for so long solidify in our minds, practically becoming truths.

When you “fake it till you make it,” you’re showing your brain an alternative scenario—one that involves you thinking, feeling, and/or acting differently. You’re essentially giving yourself new evidence, proving to your brain that there might be a different way to look at things.

The more you practice thinking in new ways, the more you’ll start to “unlearn” the harmful thoughts that have been holding you back so that you can move forward with thoughts that truly serve you. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen over time.

Reminds me of something Derek Sivers said on a TF podcast about how he was never a confident person until he started just trying to pretend he was confident and all of the sudden he realized he could be that way if wanted to.

Moving to Scotland


Last week marked a year and three months since we’ve been in Scotland. It also marked the second birthday for our son Sam in Scotland, as well as living through a complete “cycle” of seasons in our new home now that we’re fully in autumn and summer is behind us. We’ve no longer just arrived. We’re here now.


The altruists survive

“There are these two explorers in the jungle and they suddenly hear a lion roar. And one of them starts looking for a place where both of them can hide. And the other one starts putting on his running shoes. And the first person says to the second person, “You’re crazy. You can’t run faster than a lion.” And the second one turns to the first one and says, “I don’t need to run faster than the lion. All I need to do is run faster than you.”

Without my daily forced commute, I’m not finding that I’m listening to a lot of podcasts at the moment. Instead of multiple a week, I typically only listen to 20-30 minutes of a show while shaving my head (this being my haircut of choice now, it takes a little while). Last week’s choice was a Tim Ferriss conversation with the Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (never heard of him until now), and it contained some gems, especially the following portion.