16-03 Segment 2: Little Victories: Taking joy in the little things in life

 

In our fast-paced world, people get stressed out about things that aren’t that important, such as traffic jams, their fantasy football team and if they’re wearing the latest fashions when they take the kids to school. By worrying about those things, they often ignore those everyday events that make life joyful. Our guest shows us through stories from his own life that we should take joy in the little victories that make life happy and fulfilling.

Host: Marty Peterson. Guests: Jason Gay, sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal, author of Little Victories: Perfect rules for imperfect living.

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Taking Joy in the Little Things in Life

Marty Peterson: So you resolved this New Year to lose that 30 pounds, find a better job and maybe get that deck built that you keep putting off. January’s resolutions are usually large undertakings and more often than not dissolve in a puddle of failure by mid-February. Psychologists say that thinking small is one of the keys to resolution success. It’s also something you should think about when you’re striving to find some happiness in your life. That’s what Jason Gay advises, anyway. Gay is a sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal and author of the book, Little Victories: Perfect rules for imperfect living. He says that the book started off as a spoof of the “cult of advice” books out there…

Jason Gay: I would go through bookstores, especially those airport bookstores; you see all those advice books. They promise to give you a 13-second work week, or they’ll shave 20 pounds off in 20 minutes, and I just found those advice books so funny and I wanted to write a spoof of a 21st century advice book. But, the truth of it was something strange and unfortunate happened along the way, which is that my father, the most important person in my life, my role model that loomed so large in my life, he got sick. And what began as this silly idea, the idea of little victories, you know that the small things are what in fact make us the happiest, this really became the guiding principle of my dad’s life and all of our lives, everybody around him.

Peterson: It was the one-on-one conversations, playing with the grandkids and taking a walk around the block that brought his father joy during the last months of his life. Gay now cherishes those moments and other small, seemingly insignificant things that make his life joyful, like friendship. He talks about his childhood friend, Phillip, who moved away in adulthood but is always willing to take the phone call or show up unexpectedly when things get tough, such as when Gay was diagnosed with cancer…

Gay: He’s my best friend; I’m incredibly lucky to have him around. And like a lot of guys I think that I’ve had friends that come in and out of my life and I’m not always the best at maintaining friendships. My wife, she’s amazing at maintaining friendships. She’s the person who calls you up, who likes all your photographs on Facebook, who goes to all your birthday parties. I’m not so good at that. But Phillip has been someone I’ve known basically my entire life, and this chapter is about an episode that I went through in my life and how I realized how important Phillip was and how a good friendship you can almost just pick right up where it left off. Sometimes the gaps are weeks, months, even years and it’s as if no time has passed. And I certainly feel that way about Phillip. But I think, as I get older, I appreciate that much, much more.

Peterson: Gay says that we tend to stress out about things that really, aren’t that important in the long run. Sure, doctors say that stress can shave years off of your life, but he says to save it for the big events, not the trivial day-to-day inconveniences

Gay: We can all agree that there are some bona fide stressful situations. You know, when we have a health scare, okay, stressful, I’ll give you that. Being chased by a grizzly bear? Stressful, I’ll give you that. Hawk attack? Especially if it’s a big hawk? Stressful. But a lot of things that we consider to be stressful – traffic, the airport, childbirth certainly can be a stressful moment – not your fantasy football team, I wouldn’t consider that stressful. And certainly not Netflix taking a long time to buffer. I wouldn’t call that stressful one bit.

Peterson: Losing a job does qualify as stressful and it’s happened to Gay – right before the holidays. Looking back, though, it really wasn’t as bad as he imagined…

Gay: The thing that everyone says to you after you lose a job is, “You know what? It’ll be the best thing that has ever happened to you.” And you get kind of sick of people saying, “It’ll be the best thing that happens to you.” But the weirdest thing is in the long term, it very often is. And it does lead to new opportunity. And it does lead to learning and growth. It’s a painful thing that I would never wish upon anyone, but I do feel that perspective is helpful. It certainly got me through what was a very difficult episode.

Peterson: Gay credits his therapist, Jerry, for helping him get through that time, and giving him the perspective he so desperately needed…

Gay: The thing he said to me, and I’m going to use the language that we can say on the radio, not what he actually said, but he said, “You know, I hate to break it to you but nobody cares. Nobody cares about what’s happened to you. You need to get over your pity, you need to get over your feelings of humiliation, you need to move on.” And that’s what I had to do.

Peterson: That visit opened Gay’s eyes to what was possible in a very stressful and difficult situation…

Gay: When I was a kid there was a show, The Incredible Hulk. There were always scenes in The Incredible Hulk of extreme strength. I remember there was one where a mother who was trying to get a child out of a car uses extreme strength to rip open the door. And I feel like extraordinary circumstance reveals extraordinary skill. And I didn’t know I had it in me to make things happen as quickly as I could. I didn’t know I could bounce back. I didn’t know that I would be challenged in the way that I got challenged by losing my job. And it brought out a side of me; it brought out just a motivation to me that I didn’t frankly know I had. And that was incredibly inspiring to me to know that I could use it, make things happen. You know, I had kids on the way, I was new in my marriage, there are a lot of other outward reasons to make things happen. But to be forced into that situation to go out and do it, that was a real victory.

Peterson: Gay has two small children ages one and three, and he doesn’t have time to make gourmet meals or linger over dessert and a cappuccino at a trendy restaurant. He also doesn’t get to dress like a “cool” dad very often. He says that he learned not to obsess over it and thinks that parents – both dads and moms – should just relax and not worry if they’re rocking the latest styles. He certainly isn’t…

Gay: There are the dad jeans, there’s the jacket that probably has a few spit-up stains on it from when my kids were little, there is a backwards baseball cap. You know, it’s not a great look. You don’t look like James Bond going out the door as the father of two kids that young. I’m not saying that I should be out there in a dinner jacket tuxedo, but well, I fit into a category rather neatly. I think you need to grow a little bit comfortable in your own skin, and realize that, look, even if your jeans are a little wide, even if you don’t really have that look, that no one’s going to hold you to some sort of impossible standard. You’re just trying to get through this as best as you can, so be comfortable in your own skin.

Peterson: Gay says that his own dad and the time he had to spend with him before he died is the thread running through the book. The small events he shared with him are the ones he came to treasure the most. One takes place when his dad is in the hospital and things aren’t going well for him. Gay’s brother is at a Red Sox game in Boston, the family’s hometown, with his 11-year-old daughter who had never seen Fenway Park. Gay and his dad are watching that Red Sox game on the hospital room TV…

Gay: He goes that night to the Red Sox game and I’m sitting in the hospital watching the Red Sox with my dad. My dad was a Red Sox fan forever. And, for whatever lucky reason, my brother managed to swing a couple of seats that were not terribly far from the Red Sox on-deck circle. So whenever they flashed to a batter in the left-handed batter’s box, you could look at the TV, and there was my brother and his daughter, by dad’s first grandchild. And so he’s sitting there in bed and he does have many more than 24-hours to go at this point, and he’s watching his favorite team, and he’s looking at the TV and there’s his beautiful grandchild and his second son. And he’s sitting in bed, and he’s just so full of joy to be able to see this and it’s a magnificent thing. It’s not a big thing, but it’s this magnificent thing. I will never forget that scene. We’re sitting in this hospital room and there are all these pumps and machines and lights and my dad is just a flicker of his former self, and yet the joy in that moment is something I just will never forget.

Peterson: Gay says that the book is meant to be humorous, and he didn’t want to dwell on the sad events in his life. He just hopes that readers will take his stories to heart, and learn – as he did – not to stress out over the seemingly big disappointments in their lives, but to savor the small moments that have meaning and bring joy to life…

Gay: I want to assure everyone that the advice in this book is somewhere between 60- and 72-percent guaranteed. I’m not promising anybody a six-pack abdominal; I’m not promising that you will get a 13-minute work week, but what I do promise you is to make you laugh, and I do promise, hopefully, to make you think. And, really, it’s about the little things and the little victories.

Peterson: You can find Jason Gay’s book, Little Victories in stores and online. He invites listeners to visit his website at Jason-Gay.com, where you can find information on the author, a few rules for modern living and some inspirational photographs depicting his own humorous little victories. For more information about all of our guests, you can log onto our site at Viewpointsonline.net. Our show is written and produced by Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron and Reed Pence. I’m Marty Peterson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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