Life is easy once you stop trying so hard to ruin it
Three things about me are undeniable: I’m not very smart, I have virtually no skills and my life is devoid of any major accomplishments. That’s all etched in stone.
Somehow, though, I’m not a complete failure and I’ve managed to become a happy person along the way. I don’t know how this happened. The only goals I ever set were to win the school spelling bee in sixth and seventh grades. (Check and check.)
So it’s either dumb luck or life is actually pretty easy. I say life is easy.
I began to realize this when I was 15, the age at which all boys are rotten and should be beaten with a sack full of staplers. One night I was causing unnecessary tension at home when my brother, Jake, told me in a very sincere and kind way that people wouldn’t like me if I remained an annoying assface.
Lesson learned: Don’t be an annoying assface who no one likes. Simple, right?
Honestly, it was perhaps the best advice anyone’s ever given me. Without it, I’d probably be homeless and living inside a recycling bin in Guatemala.
Shouldn’t life be this simple for everyone? I assure you I’m not doing anything special. Why are so many people made miserable by their friendships, relationships, marriages and family members?
I’ve had the same group of best friends for 17 years, and we all get along as well as we ever have. Everyone enjoys everyone. Do you know how much of a collective effort that takes? Absolutely none whatsoever.
A friendship is one of life’s purest sources of happiness, but many people screw that up by expecting more out of it than they should. These people will find a reason to be unhappy about anything. They could win the lottery and be pissed that they didn’t win it while also making out with Katy Perry at Disneyland.
Instead, here’s the perfect way to approach all your friendships: Sally is my friend. Sally is not perfect, but she is enjoyable. The end.
Another helpful tip is to wisely pick your battles instead of always picking the worthless ones. Quarrels begin over the most insignificant matters, and they typically end, for example, with you telling your boyfriend that he humps like a dying giraffe. Or you telling your brother that you’re gonna drown him in his own blood.
You can easily trade that life of drama for one of contentment. Conan O’Brien – a happy and successful man – once said that if you work hard and treat people well, good things will happen to you. It is a simple truth, even if you don’t really work that hard.
My wife and I have been married for almost seven years, and we have no formula for being happy. Someone asked her recently how we’ve managed it, and she just shrugged. That’s the same answer I would’ve given.
But now I think I have a better answer: You have to care, but only sometimes. If you care about every little thing, you’ll eventually want to blow yourself up. Realizing that you’re occasionally a moron helps you care less and admit you’re wrong, and that eliminates a lot of would-be conflicts.
Take last Saturday, for example. We’re driving to Portland, and she’s fiddling with the iPod adapter and trying to eliminate all the static noise. She wasn’t doing it properly, though, so I turned off the music entirely.
She asks me what my problem is. I tell her she’s lame. She tells me I’m ridiculous, and then we sit in silence for five minutes.
Finally, I apologize for being rude and kindly ask her to stop ruining my life all the time. And like that, everything was OK again. One minute, I wanted to kick her out of the car at 75 mph, and the next she’s my sweet ol’ wifey. Piece of cake.
Life isn’t really easy, of course. Lots of bad things happen to good people for no reason, and jobs suck and money is tight and Arizona State still exists. Sadly, those things will never change.
But if you want a happier life, simply stop being a terrible human being. Don’t be the kind of person your girlfriend would like to feed to an alligator. And don’t be the kind of hate-filled son that your parents hope gets locked in a Mexican prison.
Now you stick with that, and everything else is cream cheese.