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“I’m able to embrace every struggle that I’ve had with a spirit of gratitude.”: Zach Anner at WDS

Later this month we’ll release the first round of tickets for WDS 2017, a week-long gathering of creative, remarkable people—taking place next summer in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

But first, we’re rolling out a series of speaker videos from the 2016 event. Zach Anner is the author of the comedic memoir If at Birth You Don't Succeed. He is an award-winning comedian, show host, and public speaker who won his own travel show on the Oprah Winfrey Network called "Rollin’ With Zach." He’s also hosted several web series on his YouTube channel, garnering over 13 million hits.

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The Black Spot in the Painting

Consider a painting by one of the European masters. Somehow you’ve discovered this painting in your grandmother’s attic. It’s worth a fortune, or so say the appraisers who come to your house to inspect it.

They’re going to take it away for auction, but before they do, you insist on keeping it on your mantle for a month. Every day you look at it with pride. This painting has been in your family for centuries! Soon it will bring you wealth, but first it brings beauty and elegance to your living room.

The painting is spectacular, with thousands of careful brush strokes and just the right blend of colors. The artist had clearly spent decades mastering his craft. Of the dozens of his paintings that were still known to exist, you sense that this was one of his favorites.

Except for one thing. Just off-center, in the midst of perfection, lies a single black spot. The spot isn’t huge, but it’s not tiny either. When you look at the painting, there’s no missing it. How did it get there? Surely, you think, it was a rare mistake. Perhaps the painter was tired at the end of a long day and accidentally splashed a dash of black in the midst of all the color. Or maybe some well-meaning apprentice came along later to retouch the painting and ended up making a mess.

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The Habit of Giving

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Today I made a small donation to a cause that inspired me. It wasn't really because of the holiday, it didn’t cost me much, and I won’t miss the money. Yet, I still felt good after I pushed the button that finalized the commitment.

Notice how selfish this sounds: It felt good to give! I was the one with the benefit.

But this is how it works. The more you give, the better you feel.

Give it a try.

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“Most Ambitions Belong to the Past”: Reflections on A Neurosurgeon’s Final Year of Life


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I recently stumbled upon an essay from Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who died earlier this year at the age of 37.

I read the whole thing several times and was struck by several passages, including this one:

"Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.

The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed."

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Living With Gratitude in a Modern Age: Starbucks Edition


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Here’s one more story for the thread. (Oh, and here’s the first.)

Someone gave me a Starbucks gift card as a thank-you for a favor I did. Oh thanks! I thought. That was nice.

But to be honest, I get a fair number of Starbucks cards, so it didn't stand out in my mind at first. Most of the time, I just load them up on my card (you use the app, right?) and don’t think of it again.

This time I did something different. It was a $25 card, so I added it to the app but didn’t combine the balance with my main card like I usually do.

What’s the difference?

Well, every time I went to Starbucks for the next couple weeks and used funds from that new card’s balance, I thought of the person who gave me the card. Instead of just thinking That was nice once, I continued to think That was nice—and they’re still buying my coffee today!

Every day we have opportunities to live with gratitude—even in this modern age.

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Living With Gratitude in a Modern Age

2744476573_a76a733802_z Jonathan Fields is one of the most generous people I know. He is always helping me and many others. I try to help him in return but the ratio is at least 4:1 in his favor.

In this post he explains something he’s done for a while:

While I do have a standard sig-file that gets added to my emails automatically, I type the words “With gratitude” by hand. Slowly, with intention, owning a sense of genuine gratitude as I type. In doing so, it becomes a mini-meditation. A momentary honoring. An opportunity to acknowledge gratitude dozens of times each day. And, strangely enough, when I do this, it makes me feel different. I know, weird.

It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take conscious time.

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Traveler 1, Jet Lag 0 (For Once)

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You, traveler, know very well what jet lag is like. For a period of several years, you were essentially jet-lagged two weeks every month. “Jet lag is my favorite drug,” you said, repeating the great line by Jacques Cousteau.

But you knew then, just as all travelers come to know, that real jet lag is a bitch. Contrary to the suggestions of well-meaning people who took a trip once and thus claim to know all about the world, jet lag is unpredictable. When it arrives, there’s no magic bullet to stop it from claiming your days and nights for as long as it wants.

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Do You Want to Be Right or Do You Want to Be Free?

I’ve been thinking about this question recently (thanks, Danielle). There’s a lot of freedom in giving up on a matter of principle, so you can move on with your life. When at an impasse in a difficult situation, the freedom comes in saying “OK, whatever. Have it your way, but let’s stop the silliness.” Letting…

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You Should Do What Makes You happy

I liked Seth Miller’s post about flying JetBlue on his birthday for no particular reason other than the fact that it made him happy. He boarded a plane, flew for an hour, and then turned around and went back. “It was a cheap flight. My round-trip fare was about $60 plus $10 for the MTA…

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Plates

If someone has hurt you, it doesn’t have to be magically okay. It will probably continue to hurt for a while. If you’ve hurt someone else, you should do everything you can to make it right—but you also shouldn’t expect it to be completely fixed.

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When to Stop and When to Keep Going

The challenge of the amateur is to know when to stop and when to push through. I still remember what became known as the most challenging run of my life … twenty excruciating miles. It was a few weeks before a marathon I’d promised to complete, and I simply had to extend the distance of…

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