Life Is Messy For Everyone

I love today’s post from Nick Grossman at USV. It’s titled Everyone is broken and life is hard and he starts out with a clarifying statement.

“That’s a pretty depressing and fatalistic post title, but I actually mean it in a positive and encouraging way. Let me explain.

It’s easy to go about your life, every day, feeling like everyone else has their shit together and that the things you struggle with are unique to you.

But then, when you get down to it, it turns out that everyone — every single person I know — is dealing with profoundly difficult and stressful things. Sometimes that’s money, sometimes it’s health, sometimes it’s work or family or relationships.

It’s worth remembering this so that we cultivate some empathy when dealing with people — in general and in particular in difficult situations.”

I just turned seven squared. I’ve now been on this planet for 50 years. In my “normative case”, I’ve got 30 good years left. I’m hopeful I live longer but I’ve also accepted that the lights could go out unexpectedly anytime.

Amy and I used the “30 more good years” as the frame of reference for a lot of our talks over the past month while we were on sabbatical off the grid. We’ve been fortunate to have amazing lives, but we’ve each had our share of really difficult things to deal with, separately and together. And we know we’ll have plenty of challenges and messy stuff to deal with for the rest of our lives.

I read several biographies on our trip. My two favorites were one on Einstein and one on Ada Lovelace. Amazing people, but messy lives with lots of challenges. As I read these biographies, I kept thinking about the timing they lived, the stuff they struggled with, and how the cycle of challenges for humanity continues on endlessly.

It’s easy to get lost in the morass of misery. You can also end up in the “things are good for the other person, but fucked up for me” cycle.

It’s all messy. And we eventually die and it’s over.

Nick’s remember that it’s “worth cultivat[ing] some empathy when dealing with people — in general and in particular in difficult situations” just nails it.

Go read Nick’s post everyone is broken and life is hard. And take a deep breath and remember Everything is Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.

  • As they say, I am NOT ok and You are NOT ok, but thats OK.

  • George Burdell

    Which particular bios?

  • Susan Lin

    Love your post about a post. After all, it is empathy and compassion that drive relationships that drive…everything in the world.

  • Matthew Bellows

    As Chogyam Trungpa used to say, “Pain is the water with which we make our soup.”

  • bethhartman

    Yep. It’s all messy. And that is one of my favorite Louis CK skits ever – I memorized a part of it once for a fun public speaking exercise. Thanks for sharing! I could just watch it over and over for the rest of the day 🙂

  • As they say, “Count your blessings.”

  • Emily

    One of the best digital shorts on empathy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

  • Tom Ryle

    Very true! I’ve learned the older you get, the more baggage you acquire. It’s called life, and it’s what you make of it. Nobody said it was easy…or that you were somehow entitled to good fortune. But there is so much to enjoy in life regardless of circumstance. Seems lack of contentment keeps people from just being happy. Social media is a curse in this regard. Lord knows there’s no shortage of people showing the world how great they have it, or rubbing your nose in their killer 90 minute mid-day workouts while you toil away over deadlines without lunch. Comparing your life to someone else’s is a slippery slope. Authenticity is king. You gotta be your own person and own it. I think if people would just turn off the frantic noise of social media, they’d find more happiness in their own space. Louis CK…his delivery is always outstanding.

  • Yup. True and many times it is hard to see the forest because of the trees. I just buried one of my best friends. Age 52. Pancreatic cancer. This week, I am in New Orleans at the nationalww2museum.org-we are opening a new pavilion and I am with some vets that are relaying what they learned in their lives. One of my friends is Paul Hilliard, who didn’t have two nickels to rub together after the war but now at age 90 is younger at heart in many ways than I am. Sobering and gives you hope all at the same time. If you don’t think that you can accomplish a task-read The Last Stand of The Tin Can Navy. Awe inspiring story of overcoming odds.

  • Thanks for another great post.

    FYI, I tried to share on FB via gray icon to the right of the post and rec’d the error in the screenshot below. It could of course be a problem on my end, but I also tried via my Commodore 64 and that didn’t work either (insert smiley thing here).

    • Thx – I’m getting the same error. Looking into it.

  • About a year ago I came across this succinct but very powerful saying that tweaked my perspective on life – “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” I’m constantly working to position my attitude to extract the good from my daily moments. Every second you spend lamenting the tribulations in your life or wishing you had someone else’s life is one less second you can spend enjoying something good in your life. The quality of your life is directly proportionate to the decisions you make in your life and how you management the “bad” things. Quit tripping, get on with life, and Carpe Diem – Make Your Life Extraordinary.

  • Similar to Ian Maclaren’s quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  • Geetha Chathoth

    keep a balance between our work and life is a very difficult task in the present scenario if u are working hard to grab the highest position in the world u are forgetting the day to day enjoyment in the life. When u reach a particular point u feel like u are ready to quit everything and enjoy the life. At that particular point u should have some aim and have a flexible entrustment also so that u can enjoy life and engage urself or else life will be boring.

  • Yes, but 30 years is a life time, 30 years ago you were 19.

    • Amazing to ponder what things were like when I was 19.

  • Felix Dashevsky

    Brad, great post, and awesome Louis C.K. clip. I wonder, with your perspective, do you agree with him, that current generation takes things for granted much faster than any in the past? Or is that a feature of every “next” generation?

  • I wonder if it is human nature to desperately need to give and receive empathy, whether we realize it or not, to grok the source of our transactional, messy system of broken worlds of pain, pleasure and wonder. As I grow up I see more and more how life is hard on some level for everyone, and how much I need and love my family and friends.

  • Samantha Samsel

    Right? Super post by both you and Nick, whom I will now go follow.

  • Hey Brad — thanks. I really appreciate the sentiment (and you are an inspiration re: blogging from the heart). And though I cant see the video right now (on a plane back from SF) I gather that it’s louis CK, and I am beyond honored to be mentioned in a post alongside the master.

    I mentioned it offhand in the post, but I think empathy for yourself is an equally important and difficult thing sometimes.

  • “It’s worth remembering this so that we cultivate some empathy when dealing with people — in general and in particular in difficult situations.” – Couldn’t agree more.

  • Glenn Whitney

    Thanks. Yes indeed: “How far you go in life depends on your being compassionate with the young, the aged, the striving, and the weak. Because, someday you will have been all of these things.” – George Washington Carver

  • iuliana schraut

    Thanks for posting. There’s a lot of truth in this. I immigrated from Romania, a post communist country, so I’ve seen a lot. Through life, I realized just how subjective happiness is. I’m guilty of being critical of people who feel they’re poor when they have food in their refrigerator. I grew up with very little, so it always boggled me why people complained about something simple as food. My perspective has changed a lot. Am I happy? It depends. I have food to put on my table, but I still stress about money, finals, health and things everyone else stresses about. I work with people every day, rich and not-so-rich. I realized how even the wealthy ones have valid issues. I’m not talking about the dog pooping in their shoes; I mean real issues like depression, anxiety and so on. Sorry for going on about this. Thank you for your post. It is refreshing.

    May your life be incredible in the next 30 years. And beyond that. 🙂