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How to Change When Change Is Hard: Lessons from a Timid Mouse

I was coming back from a run up and down Mount Tabor in Southeast Portland. I know the route well. It’s about a 5-6 mile loop from my house, depending on which path I take. More often than not, when I’m home for a while I run it at least once a week.

As I neared my neighborhood toward the end of the run, I noticed a cat in a driveway. Being a cat person, I often say hi to felines when I see them out and about on my run. Cats being cats, sometimes they follow me for blocks, intent on being my friend for life, and other times they can’t be bothered to acknowledge my presence.

This cat, I noticed, was different. He was sitting on his hind legs in the driveway, staring intently at something. Maybe it’s because he was so intent on the object of his fascination, or maybe I was just tired toward the end of the run—but for whatever reason I decided to slow down and walk over to the driveway.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I said to the cat. (Yeah, I talk to cats the same way I talk to people. If you’ve ever had a cat, you understand.)

The cat gave no response. He was fully immersed in something, and as I got closer, I could see what it was. There was a mouse! A tiny one, shivering in an isolated section of grass near the driveway—and just a paw’s swipe away from the cat.

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The Emotional Balance Sheet

I often enjoy the personal finance columns by Carl Richards. In a recent one, he explains how to create an “emotional balance sheet” to quantify (or at least tally) your non-financial assets.

Carl tells the story of how he and his wife Cori made the choice for her to become a full-time mom, despite the fact that the family would lose more than $1 million in earnings over the next twenty years.

He’s quick to point out that the moral of the story isn’t “all mothers should stay home with their children”—which is good, since presumably many readers would make different choices. The lesson is a) to be clear about your intentions, and b) learn to value non-financial assets.

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Happiness Is a Superpower

3025340899_178b8f62b4_z I heard something in a dialogue recently. One character was complaining about being unhappy, and the other character replied, “You have a misguided notion of what makes you happy.”

The sentence made me stop and think. Most of us, at different times, have a misguided notion of what we think will make us happy. We go around trying out different prescriptions and remedies.

Maybe the new thing will work ... or maybe I should go back to the old one?

Maybe there's still something else out there, just waiting to be discovered?

That’s why the alternative to misguided notions—true clarity with the possibility of contentment—is so powerful. Knowing what will really make you happy, as opposed to what you think will make you happy, is no less a superpower than flying.

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After the Wave

Thanks to everyone who sent notes or sentiments or just thought about Ken and our family after reading yesterday’s post. I appreciate it all.

I’d also like to encourage you to not borrow trouble. This isn’t your burden, or at least it isn’t for most of you. I wanted to share what had happened for anyone who cared, but you don’t need to feel bad or think that there’s something you need to do.

In the best of cases, a story of loss can inspire you to live more intentionally and to not take your loved ones for granted. I’ve often felt inspired and challenged by stories of loss myself, so if that happens for some of you as a result of hearing about Ken, that’s great.

I’ll still be writing the blog, daily whenever possible, and I don’t want it to be all about sad things. As always, I’ll be writing about entrepreneurship and seeing the world and whatever life lessons I happen to pick up along the way.

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Let the Wave Crash Over You: A Letter for My Brother

Chris & Ken in the early years (ages 7 and 2) Dear Ken,

When I look back at all the memories we shared together, there are so many that stand out.

I tend to think of our childhood, which was not particularly a happy one for either of us—but my memories of you and me are consistently happy. I remember when we lived in different states and sent things back and forth to each other in the mail every week. We talked on the phone a lot then, too, but having something physical arrive in the mailbox was a fun thing that we each enjoyed.

I remember all the video games we played together. Well, I probably don’t remember all of them, since there were so many. But I remember going from console to console as we both grew up, sometimes competing against each other (you were always better at Sonic; I could usually beat you at Street Fighter) and sometimes cooperating.

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The Fear of Losing Prestige

Chiara Cokieng, born and raised in the Philippines, has been on a journey of multiple career changes. After graduating from a prestigious university program and landing a nice gig as an international consultant with assignments in America, she then quit her job to work on a business idea.

The business idea didn’t pan out, at least not right away—so she took on a new role as a full-time employee for a startup. She plans to see this commitment through, but eventually wants to go back to her own thing.

In all of these changes, she’s had to manage the emotional labor of shifting directions, including telling people that what she hoped to do was no longer happening.

Here’s what she describes as the most important thing she’s learned...

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You Can’t Live As If You Only Had Three Months to Live

4721798240_0beb2a46ab_z It’s a challenging thought: “How would you live if you learned you only had three months left?”

Most of us would probably make some changes, or at least we’d think long and hard about “what matters.”

If your job sucks, you’d probably quit. You might travel to that place you’ve always dreamed of. You might pursue a long-time dream that you never got around to until now.

And you’d almost certainly aim to restore harmony in any broken relationships, and perhaps say farewell to as many friends as possible.

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Sometimes It Doesn’t Work, But You Still Have to Try Anyway

You always hear about the people who took a chance that paid off. You always hear the try, try again stories—those case studies of overcoming what seems to be an insurmountable challenge.

You know how the story goes: so-and-so encountered failure a dozen times, but on the thirteenth attempt, they made it!

Then so-and-so says, “Thanks, everyone. I’m so glad I kept going. Victory was never guaranteed, but look at me now."

Sometimes, though, you head into a situation knowing that there’s a high likelihood of failure. I'm not talking about the possibility of failure, I'm talking about odds that would make a free-wheeling Las Vegas roulette player back away from the table and head straight for the buffet.

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“There’s Nothing You Could Have Done … But What If There Was?”

15812627982_fe477f8cce_z Last week I wrote about the unexpected loss of my brother, Ken. I mentioned that when terrible things happen, people tend to say, “It will all be okay,” but unfortunately this isn’t always true. What’s okay about a premature death? There’s no way to bring back a loved one, and that’s just not okay.

Another thing people say is “There’s nothing you could have done.” But just like saying, “It will be okay,” this isn’t necessarily true either.

When you come to a situation you can’t change, it’s only natural to look back and think, “What if?”

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A Story of Friendship and Values

Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.

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Where I’ve Been Over the Past Few Weeks

Hi, everyone. Thanks for your patience and concern during the first blogging + social media hiatus I’ve taken in seven years.

I know a lot of people have been wondering what happened, so I’ll tell you.

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WDS 2015: Initial Batch of 1,200 Photos Now Online

Hi, everyone! I’m still on blogging hiatus but am looking forward to getting back to daily writing very soon. Thanks for your understanding.

Here in Portland, WDS week has come to an end and you can view more than 1,200 photos in the official media albums.

I'll be sharing more about WDS in the weeks to come, and I'll be linking to posts written by our attendees. For now, here are just a few highlights.

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A Short Note to My Amazing Readers

Hey everyone,

First, if you read the blog: you really are amazing. Thank you.

Second, I’ve written here for more than seven years without a break—and I'm not anywhere close to being burned out. Why put a pause on something you love and find meaningful? Breaks are boring.

This week, though, my family experienced an unexpected loss that has left us all shaken. While I would like to keep publishing posts without missing a beat, the reality is that I need to step away from the blog for a bit.

How long is a bit? I’m not entirely sure right now. It will probably be at least 2-3 weeks, and possibly longer.

I promise to be back as soon as I can. I love this work and will miss it while I’m gone.

In the meantime, WDS is coming up in full force in Portland. We’re extremely excited to welcome thousands of people to town for our fifth annual celebration. If you’re coming, know that we have a highly capable team ready to welcome you. (And I’ll be there every moment too, of course.)

Until we meet again, grace and peace be with you all.

Chris Guillebeau

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A Simple Thing You Can Do To Improve Any Relationship

What if there was one thing you could do to be a better friend, partner, or spouse?

It's pretty simple: to improve any relationship, honor the other person’s dreams.

Figure out what they want to do, to become, or achieve, and then help them do it. Don't do it for them—it's their dream, after all—but show interest and offer tangible support.

How can you do that today?

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Don’t Make a Bucket List; Make a List of 100 Dreams

OK, it’s kind of like a bucket list. But it’s a really big one! From Laura Vanderkam:

In 168 Hours, I recommended creating something called a “List of 100 Dreams.” This exercise, which was shared with me by career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine, is a completely unedited list of anything you might want to do or have more of in life. It’s like a bucket list, but most people don’t get all the way to 100 when creating a bucket list. The point is to really think about what you might like.

I also wrote about these lists a lot in The Happiness of Pursuit. I call them "life lists," on the theory that the lists should be well-rounded and not only consist of adventure travel kinds of goals.

But hey, whatever you call it, make a list! I love the challenge of trying to get to 100 items.

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