You don’t have to do something amazing to be happy.

When we talk about doing something Amazing with our lives, meaning something large scale, a legacy that will outlive us… Do you really need that to be happy?

When you look into your heart, when you get really honest with yourself, you may find that you don’t.

I honestly believe you might be happier if you can let all that Amazing go.

*There's a full text transcript of this show below...


47 - You don't have to do something amazing to be happy.


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The title of this episode “You don’t have to do something amazing to be happy” is a line from the movie Passengers, with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.

I’ve been hanging onto this quote for awhile, for about 6 months.

(No spoilers, here.) It's the controlling idea for the decision the Jennifer Lawrence's character Aurora Lane has to make.

Aurora’s a journalist, with big plans to create this amazing piece of reporting, that spans centuries of time, that she will essentially spend her life’s work on, it’s a project that will define her posthumously.

It’s very much about the future. Even the future that exists beyond her life. She is forced to make an extreme choice about the present situation she finds herself in. She’s watching these videos her friends and family back on earth made for her as a going away present. These are people she will never see again in this lifetime because she’s chosen to undertake this journey as part of her big writing project slash legacy.

One friend of Aurora’s had left her a message which stops her in her tracks. She says

"You don’t have to do something amazing to be happy."

With all that solar eclipse existential crisis stuff going on in the summer and fall of 2017 — Who am I? What is my light? Who can see it shining? — all that stuff…

I spent a lot of time privately considering whether or not I could be happy without being aspirational in my work. Having to create something Amazing. Is that something I could possibly let go of? I won’t spoil the movie by telling you the choices the characters make and how they arrived at their decisions.

But the contemplation put me in mind of something that is talked about very much in the indie publishing world, the internet marketing world ... the Long Tail.

There are no gate keepers anymore.

The gate keepers used to define it so that only those who did something amazing even got to show their work.

It used to be, only the big fish, the Stephen Kings, the Danielle Steeles, the JK Rowlings could make a living as an author. They weren’t even fish, they were whales. And they made a LOT of money. They were incredibly financially successful.

And then you had maybe some little tiny poets and academics swimming around. Minnows. Teaching in schools to make their income. Their published works were more merit-based accomplishments.

Those whales are still there. But, what used to be the mid-list and the small-list, the little bits along the tail, is expanding.

What the longer tail means for creatives is that more and more people can make money — as a side hustle, as a living — doing something they love.

And almost ANYONE can make and share something they love to do just for the pure joy of it, and reach potentially millions of other humans on the planet.

In the past, if you were an amazing cake decorator, only the members of your family or your local community experienced your work on special occasions. And you probably didn’t have too many peers.

Now, your Instagram and Pinterest encircle the globe and you have thousands of online peers. Even just hundreds.

Maybe you’re one of those musicians who isn’t going to blow up on YouTube like Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift … But you’re still able to sit down at the piano and do a Facebook live and blow some people away. Change their day. Communicate a message to them at just the right time that changes how they feel.

"You don’t have to do something amazing to be happy.”

But, here are some questions:

How do you define amazing?

Are we talking everyday amazing?

1000 true fans amazing and you can make some money from it on the side?

Are you internet famous or mainstream media famous?

Do you have to be any of these things?

Can you go back to making a pretty cake for your sister’s wedding?

Can you just decorate cookies and build gingerbread houses with your kids at the holidays?

How about you sing to your beloved when there’s no one else around to hear it?

What if you write an amazing toast for a friend’s retirement party?

What if, what you can jot down in a blank card rivals anything a greeting card company author can compose?

What if a birthday card from you makes a person choke up and weep?

That’s still kind of amazing.

So, I think the decision is a matter of SCALE.

What kind of scale do you require to be happy?

Because you do have to express your creativity, share your gifts, practice your talent. You must. For your own health and well being and for the joy of others. It’s a kind of duty, really.

And it’s a part of a whole lifestyle — like eating well and exercising and getting good sleep.

You must.

"You don’t have to do something amazing to be happy.”

But what scale do you really require?

Most people I know would love it to be the scale of their job and income.

But be careful with that. Turning a passion into a job can change the passion.

My friend Tricia went to school to be a pastry chef. Her desserts are amazing. But she went and got an admin job at a university because working in restaurants was horrible for her and sucked all the joy out of why she baked in the first place.

She’s happier having it be her passion, not her job.

Being married. Raising kids. Having friends and family. Being a part of a community, even if it’s a tiny band of misfit rebels. Having a furry companion animal waiting for you to come home because you are the center of their universe. Traveling. Watching a great show on TV with your significant other. Binging Netflix alone on an iPad. Gloriously alone, with a book and a cup of tea.

And you may borrow any of the above or supply your own happy thing.

Are these things amazing?

I think they meet the definition of amazing.

But when we talk about doing something Amazing with our lives, meaning something large scale, a legacy that will outlive us…

Do you really need THAT?

When you look into your heart, when you get really honest with yourself, you may find that you don’t.

I don’t know what will make you happy. You may not know yet either. You might stumble upon it. Just make sure you take a moment to acknowledge it when you finally realize you’re sitting smack in the middle of it. Don’t miss it — the happiness — because you’re focused on the Amazing.

I am speaking to you now as someone who does have to do something a little bit amazing. If you think creating and producing this show is amazing. If writing and publishing books is amazing. I think both those things are (a little bit amazing).

I considered all this and found that I am a happy mid-lister. I don’t need to be Oprah or James Lipton. I like this smaller scale. But a little bit amazing is way, way more happy than NOT doing it could ever be, for me.

That’s me. You may scale up or down.

I was struck by the line in that movie, and I spent a lot of this year considering what I could redefine and possibly let go of.

I honestly believe you might actually be happier if you CAN let all that Amazing go.

I think a great exercise to do here would be to write a letter to yourself, write a journal entry, a morning page and consider the questions:

Do I have to do something amazing to be happy?

What would happy be for me, what would it look like, without that pressure?

As always, there's an Oracle Message at the end of the audio show...