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When you are a content creator – writing a blog, producing videos, or sharing material of any kind online, you are by definition putting yourself out there for scrutiny. Neither this blog nor the YouTube channel I make with my friend, Eric, are runaway successes. But our content does receive thousands of views each month, and for that I am incredibly grateful. At this volume, we don’t receive mountains of feedback, but I am thankful for nearly all that does come in. It’s such a boost to learn that others value your material, and care enough to take their precious time to ask a question or share their thoughts. Of course like anything in life, it’s not all positive…
Occasionally, one receives truly awful feedback – nasty YouTube comments, spiteful podcast reviews (to which you can’t respond – thanks, Apple!), or hate email. This is rather different than constructive criticism or mere disagreement with a point you’ve made – both of which are wholly reasonable, and often worthy of a response. However, some of this feedback is obvious trolling and as such, is best ignored. But sometimes it’s hard to tell. We’ve received several comments on the same theme, which is essentially: “how dare you rich people complain about your ‘problems’ in early retirement while so many others truly suffer?” That emphasis is intentional as the word has come up a few times recently. It got me thinking – do I not come across as grateful for all that I have? Is it possible that my words are received by anyone as complaining about all the good fortune I have in my life?
I am profoundly grateful for all that I have
I’ve written about gratitude several times on this blog, and we’ve discussed it on the YouTube show as well. While indeed it did take a lot of hard work and perseverance to reach the place I presently find myself – one who “retired” early at 47, I’ve tried hard (and I like to believe, generally succeeded) to never take anything that I have for granted. I recognize fully that I am the sum total of my life’s experiences, which includes enormous amounts of positive influence and support from others along the way. I’ve spoken to this topic before, but perhaps in more of a high level manner. So on this morning’s walk, I decided I would be a bit more specific and call out some of the many things for which I am truly grateful. It is impossible for this list to be exhaustive, of course. Therefore, I’ll start off by apologizing in advance for all the unintentional omissions. Now, I’ll proceed in a semi-temporal order:
I am grateful…
- for the advantages I have had simply by the very nature of my existence, over which I had no control. I am a Caucasian male who was born in the United States in the latter part of the 20th century. This has provided me benefits that I did not always fully appreciate but now think about often. That anyone can deny the leg up this provides is admittedly, astounding.
- that while I was not born into wealth, I had a tremendous head start in life. I had two parents who cared for me, worked tirelessly to put a roof over my head in a safe neighborhood, and provided me with a good education, healthcare, clean water and nutritious food, and taught me the value of hard work and pursuing your dreams, whatever they were. They supported me fully until I was able to do so on my own as an adult.
- for my extended family, who were a constant presence during my upbringing. I had + have many loving relatives, and was truly fortunate to know three grandparents and a great-grandparent into adulthood. I learned much from your examples and always appreciated the care you showed even if I didn’t say that out loud nearly often enough.
- for the teachers who went the extra mile to ensure my education was both good and complete. Specifically, several of whom ensured I had access to advanced curricula and computers (not a given in my time) at an early age, and truly challenged me to learn at my level. To the teachers who inspired creativity, fostered true learning, curiosity and exploration, and helped my love of science bloom, I am forever thankful.
- that my family bought me my first computer. The countless hours I spent as “an indoor kid” programming and learning absolutely provided a springboard for so many interests and skills built during those formative early years. I’m also thankful for my uncle who provided much in the way of instruction and fostered my love of computing.
- to the people who helped develop my passion for scientific research, and provided me internship opportunities during high school, and later in college. Their patient mentorship and guidance was of immeasurable impact on my later success in my scientific career. Yes, I had to work hard too, but they took a chance on me and provided the opportunity needed.
- that my (awful) high school guidance counselor told me not to apply to my university of choice, because “I wouldn’t get in”. I did get in, and while my degree program was indeed challenging, I would never trade my college experience for another. It was just one of many decisions made that produced the outcomes that have resulted in the enablement of my aspirations.
- to those college fraternities who elected not to give me a bid, so that I kept looking for “my people”. I’m so lucky to have found my chapter and made the lifelong friends from our brotherhood that I did. I continue to count you among my very best friends. To all of you who dismiss fraternities, I’m sorry you missed out on what can be a great experience.
- for my former colleagues in the volunteer ambulance squad and fire department, with whom I worked during summers in college. My worldview regarding the impermanence of life and the uncertainty of its duration was hugely informed by that experience. You also taught me much about compassion and care for others, known or unknown to you.
- for my graduate school advisor and a number of my early workplace managers, for allowing me to chart my path, make mistakes safely, and who provided coaching and gentle course correction as needed along the way. The freedom and support they provided surely set me on the path to my career achievements. Without question, they helped make me both a competent and confident scientist.
- that so many managers and companies took chances on me. While I was a hard worker and eventually came with a proven track record, there were many times where I sought opportunities for which “on paper” I was not qualified. Yet you believed in me and provided me the opportunity to grow and succeed so many times over the years.
- to so many of my coworkers, employees of mine, and countless vendors and customers, who have positively impacted my life over my 23-year biotech career. From modeling positive behavior, to scientific and business education, coaching and mentoring, as well as providing me the opportunity to learn and grow in so many ways via our interactions – I can’t thank you enough.
- for my dear friends, both long-term, more recent, and those who didn’t stick around for whatever reason. I have learned so much from you, and I am appreciative for the thousands upon thousands of memories we have made together. Life being what is, times were not all positive nor fun, but they shaped me into the person I am today. I am of course so thankful for the good times as well as your guidance and support. I never would have guessed I would remain close to so many of you 20-30+ years later.
- that I am in very good health. Because I have been overweight most of my life, many/most people assume otherwise and often make it known that they do. Candidly, I enjoy watching doctors’ assumptions crumble when faced with the data. But I have (so far) shown ample evidence of winning the genetic lottery, and have experienced few health issues of note barring nasty allergies and asthma as a kid. Compared to many people my age, I’ve dodged a lot of bullets. I wish I could say it’s all been a result of eating healthily and staying active but it’s surely not the case. I’m so thankful for my health!
- for the many amazing online communities that exist among the noise and chaos that is the internet. I’ve spent so much time over the past 30+ years with you. Specifically relating to FIRE, I have learned countless things of value from many of you via blogs, podcasts, Reddit, YouTube, Discord (hi guys!), and yes, occasionally Facebook, just to name a few. There truly are some wonderful people out there, and I only hope I have / am giving back in proportion to all the positive things I have received along the way – that’s my goal!
- that my brilliant daughter came into my world. I don’t talk much about her online out of respect for her privacy, but I have learned so much about life during our time together. I’m so thankful for the perspective you bring each day, and for the positive contributions you make to others and to our world. I’m so excited to see all that is still yet to come for you!
- most of all for my amazing wife – my constant companion, brilliant mother, travel buddy, all around remarkable person, and my very best friend. I am truly a better human due to your influence and constant encouragement. Your endless support – in so many ways – of me and my career path was an absolute enabler of where we find ourselves today after twenty years together. Here’s to all that is still yet to come for us!
In summary, I’m so thankful that the amalgamation of the above, along with everything I’ve neglected to include, made me who I am. The path I charted through life so far, including my career, led me to my success. Yes, that outcome was certainly not handed to me. True, I had to work hard, make difficult choices, and take a number of chances. The combination of all of this is how I was able to achieve the success I have realized, and be fortunate to live the life I do with the people I love. I take none of this for granted. I can freely state that I have no real problems nor complaints. I am very fortunate, and I am truly thankful for all that I have.
Finally, I’m also forever grateful that anyone is with me on this journey and takes the time to read what I’ve written or view our videos. I sincerely hope that you find value in it and that you feel your time is well spent. Please don’t hesitate to share feedback about how it can be made better and more useful for you. Mahalo ?
title credit: “Gratitude”, by Beastie Boys (1992)