Listicles. They are one of the most common forms of content on social media. For those who don’t know the term, listicles are the articles that come in the form of lists, and they are highly prevalent.

It’s understandable.

Who doesn’t want to know the 9 or 10 things you need to do or not do to be healthy, happy, wealthy, or successful?

But, at least in my experience, life doesn’t work that way. If it did, there would be a far smaller audience for articles on the specific number of things you need to do to be healthy, happy, wealthy or successful.

Life is much messier, harder, and wonderful than 9 phrases or thoughts could ever capture. I know for me when I look at my own life, I could never capture the good and the bad in a listicle.

Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Successful

I think I would have been happier over the past year if I would have tried to see my mom as more of a human being, and forgiven her for the shortcomings we all had. Maybe we could have gone to a movie before she passed away.

I think I may have been wealthier had I not gotten married and became a father at 22. But I certainly would not have been happier—and the sense of deep happiness I get when my son puts his arm around my shoulder while we watch science shows on the couch, like we are old war buddies, is something I could never adequately describe in words. Certainly not with a mere 9, or even 25.

I also may have been more successful if I understood more about my own potential (and the potential in all of us) at a younger age. I had a hard time seeing that potential, in part because I was raised by two parents who were good people, but had a difficult time seeing their own potential.

The point is life is messy, hard, and wonderful. There is no simple recipe or shortcut to happiness, success, or wealth. And, if you spend your time looking for an easy road to those destinations, you’ll miss all of life’s wonderful messiness.

Happiness to Me

This is how I would describe happiness:

Sometimes when I’m looking at my wife I get literally overwhelmed by how much she means to me. I haven’t always been the best husband, and even at the best of times I have some personality traits that make me difficult to live with. I am notorious for a variety of relatively mundane offenses (between shaving supplies and hair products, my portion of the bathroom looks like the aftermath of a tornado) to bigger things, like a sense of ambition that has put our family in some difficult spots.


She has persevered through it all, and been the rock of our family. And being the rock of the family is not always the quality everyone else in the family vocalizes appreciation for. Sometimes it’s easy to be the dad who sees no rational reason why ice cream sandwiches don’t make a perfectly adequate breakfast. It’s harder to be the rock, to be the bad guy, and to know what’s best for the people you love, even if they don’t see things the same way. Sometimes I watch her, and think about all of this, these big things and these little things, and get a little bit choked up. Usually it happens while I lift weights. A large, tattooed man with tears in his eyes while he bench presses is a disturbing sight. But, they are tears of joy.

That’s I would describe happiness, and it took 228 words. Of course, I could have taken that sentiment and begun a list like this:

1. Appreciate the people you love.


But that wouldn’t capture what happiness really means to me, and if you were reading this, it would do you no good at all.

Find your own path to happiness, or success, or whatever it is you’re looking for. But if you are like me, you’ll never find it in a mere 9 phrases you use every day.

You’ll find it in all of the complicated messiness that is your own life and the lives of the people you love.

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