Ten Pieces of Inspiration #61

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

Last week, I had a long conversation with my oldest child about happiness and motivation. What makes a person happy? What makes a person decide to keep going when things are hard in their life?

We came to something of an agreement that it’s the little things that make life worth living.

For several days in a row, we made it a point to tell each other about some of the little things that made us happy and gave us the fuel to face the harder things.

I thought I’d share some of these things this week instead of my “normal” pieces of inspiration. These are ten of the little things that brought me joy and pushed me to move forward this week.

1. Learning colors
I’ve been working with my youngest child – a 22 month old boy – on his colors. We’ve made something of a routine of it, and as he’s learned the colors, he’s become incredibly enthusiastic about telling everyone the color of everything he sees.

He’ll point at my shirt and shout “Brown!” He’ll point at a plastic cup and yell “Red!” He’ll point at some orange juice and inform us loudly that it is “Yellow!”

Watching someone learn something new is a beautiful process.

2. Cutting hair
I’ve cut my own hair off and on over the years. When I do it myself, it often has little imperfections, so when I want it to look particularly good for a family event, I usually just go to our regular barber.

I’ve been feeling gradually more confident at it, so when I cut my own hair earlier this week, Sarah looked it over and concluded that I had in fact visited a barber.

I’m not so much happy about the money I saved ($12 or so), but that I’ve mastered a skill.

3. Writing for pleasure
One of the big projects I’ve been working on lately is a fantasy novel. I’ll work on it in big bursts, then find myself going completely creatively dry for a while.

This week, my mind was bursting with ideas. In one afternoon, I was able to write about 6,000 words in a rough draft. I slipped into the writing “zone” where I completely lose all track of time. In fact, I was only shaken out of it by the arrival of my son home from school, when I realized that I had been writing almost nonstop for three hours.

That feeling of being in a “zone” like that is incredible. I come out the other side feeling not only incredibly productive, but also fulfilled on some level.

4. The brighter side of a painful moment
One of my wife’s coworkers passed away this week after a long illness.

Sarah’s take on the news was beautiful. Rather than feeling down in the dumps about it, she simply said that she’d rather remember all of the good things this person did and know that the world became a better place because of that person.

I don’t want anyone to be sad when I pass away. I’d rather they think of the good things that I did, get together for a few laughs and smiles about things I’d done, and try to pay some of those things forward in their own lives. Sarah showed me that such an attitude can really work.

5. Getting outside
For a few days this week, we experienced some unusually warm weather for February in Iowa. That warm weather made it possible to go outside, so I was able to go on some long walks during the day and take my children to the park in the evening.

There is something powerful about spending a day outside after being cooped up inside for a long period due to the winter. I found myself bursting with energy for a while, then sleeping incredibly deeply that night.

Being outside makes me feel renewed. I loved this taste of spring, even if the ground is once again covered in snow as I write this.

6. Maturing thoughts
My oldest son is asking increasingly mature and thoughtful questions about how the world works. Lately, he’s been fascinated with how government works, and that’s led to a ton of questions probing various aspects of government.

We’ve had thoughtful conversations about why Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are taught on Presidents’ Day but other presidents aren’t mentioned. We’ve discussed how taxes work, that they’re removed from peoples’ pay and from the sales of products to pay for things like police and roads and schools. We’ve even talked about laws and morality and how exactly you decide whether something is wrong enough to have a law covering it.

He yearns to understand how the world works, and I am thrilled to be there for the first steps in that journey.

7. Combing hair
My daughter has long hair. One of our biggest struggles in the morning involves combing her long, thick hair so that it looks presentable. I have never had hair long enough that tangles were an issue, so helping her to comb it is a struggle for me. My only sense of whether it hurts is her reaction to my attempts at combing, and her motor skills aren’t quite there to do it herself.

I’ve slowly been learning how to do it so that it doesn’t hurt her any more, and she’s been noticing. Rather than resisting the brushing and moving away and wiggling as I do it, she’s been standing still lately and singing and talking happily while I do it.

Yesterday, she actually brought her brush and the spray bottle to me when it was time to brush her hair. She turned around happily and started signing a sing, waiting for me to start. It doesn’t hurt any more. It makes her feel good.

8. The weight of a sleeping toddler
My youngest child woke up in the middle of the night, crying and shouting “MOMMY! DADDY!” over and over again.

I walked into his room, pulled him out of his crib, and took him to the rocking chair. Within fifteen seconds he was asleep again.

I held him close to me and enjoyed his soft breathing and his warmth. It was two in the morning and I needed to go back to bed, but I wanted to hold onto that moment for just a little longer.

9. Playing Flash Point several times
When my oldest son arrives home from school, he usually has a snack followed by a period of free time that we have together, just the two of us.

Lately, during that time, we’ve been playing the board game Flash Point: Fire Rescue. It’s actually a game for adults, but it includes a simplified “family game” that can be played with bright or older children. It’s a cooperative game, so we either win or lose as a team.

Each time we play, he has a firmer grasp on what we need to do to win. At first, he’d make moves almost at random. After a play or two, he’d begin to settle on goals but they were fairly arbitrary – he understood the tactics of how to achieve a short-term goal in a turn or two, but the strategy of how to win still eluded him. The last few times we’ve played, he’s begun to understand strategy and we’ve talked about it quite a lot.

Again, I find the learning process just fascinating. I love how ideas are introduced into someone’s head, combined with other ideas, and eventually grown into something magnificent.

10. Good morning
We had a snowstorm in the middle of the night a few nights ago. Sarah woke me up in the morning with a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “I cleared the driveway already.”

She didn’t have to do any of it. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy to go out there and clear the driveway myself. Instead, she let me sleep and made my own morning routine much easier than it would have been, all without being asked, and all with a smile.

I hope to be the kind of husband that she deserves.