Archives For Introduction

sunset_moonThe Good Life is about experiencing beauty, love, and truth and sharing life’s joys with a community of others.

I came up to bat with adrenaline rushing through my veins. It was a moment every baseball player lives for. It was the second to last inning in the Georgia high school state championships. My team was down by three. I was batting with the bases loaded and one out. A home run would give us the lead and allow me to be the hero that would led the way to a win.

Before leaving the dugout, I picked a different bat than the one I usually used – this one was the biggest we had. Normally, it was a bit too heavy for me, but for this situation, I wanted the best for hitting homeruns. As I walked out toward home plate, I looked out into the crowd of over a thousand. It seemed like everyone from my hometown was there. “Come on, Nick!” They shouted. “You can do it!”

Since I was a little kid, I had dreamed of being in a moment like this. But, none of that was going through my mind right now. Nor did I think of the thousands of hours of practice I spent training for this sport I loved. My mind was only focused on hitting that small white ball as far as I could.

I kicked my cleats in the red dirt to get a good footing. I knew the pitcher was struggling to throw a strike, so I was ready to pounce on the first pitch that was close.

The first pitch came sailing high – just where I like them. I swung as hard as I could, but I missed by a couple of centimeters, hitting the lower portion of the ball. The ball flew up fifty feet then fell into the crowd out of play. All of the fans let out a huge exhale. I heard whispers of: “Wow, I’ve never seen him swing that hard,” and “If he would have hit that solid, it’d been out of the park.” I tried to maintain my concentration, getting ready for the next pitch.

When the next pitch came in, I again swung with all my might. This time the pitch was low and outside, too far for me to reach. I nearly fell down trying to chase it. Bad decision.

Now, I had dug myself into a hole. One more strike, and I would let down the team. I had to at least get a hit to keep our hopes alive.

The pitcher then threw three consecutive balls, hoping I would commit the similar mistake again. I restrained, setting up one last pitch. I took some time to pace around to get all the butterflies out of my stomach. I reentered the batter’s box, part of me in fear that I’d fail; the other part of me anxious to be the hero.

The last pitch came right down the middle of plate. My eyes grew wide, but as I decided to swing a bit of fear hit me. This time, I took more of a relaxed swing to make contact with the ball, but the bat did not strike the ball squarely. I again hit the ball up in the air, this time to the direction of the second baseman who was able to catch it for an easy out.

My hopes of being the hero were dashed. Our team was unable to mount a comeback, and we saw our opponents celebrate triumphantly on our own field. For the weeks that followed, I could not help but to blame myself for the loss and ask: “What if…” What if I swung harder on this last pitch? What if I’d have practiced more that week?

I Sure Am Lucky

I started this book by providing you a glimpse of a Hawaiian vacation that felt like paradise to me. To give you a better understanding of my view of the Good Life, I knew it would be appropriate to end this book with a story that highlights one of my moments of disappointment and loss.

Though I have taken a bit of an arrogant tone describing all the amazing things I’ve been able to do recent years, I want to conclude this book by emphasizing how I have had my greatest education into the Good Life by experiencing struggle, hardship, and loss.

I have had an extremely fortunate life where I have been able to receive a top-notch education, meet extraordinary people, travel the world without a strict budget, and accomplish amazing physical feats. Having an incredible life that many envy helped create a great author bio on the back cover of this book. But, that person on the back cover is not living the Good Life and, quite frankly, I hope you hate that type of the person who seems to be perfect in so many ways.

My true qualifications for writing this book come from losing my father to suicide; considering committing suicide myself; having trouble finding a job that keeps me happy and financially stable; receiving hundreds of rejection letters from publishers unwilling to publish my books; and working until three a.m. many consecutive days thinking I had to do whatever it took to become “successful.” I’ve found out what it feels like to let down my family and the girl I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. I’ve even struggled to believe in the God I once made a commitment to love for the rest of my life.

By experiencing tough times, I had to dig deep inside myself to learn who I really am and discover what it takes to overcome. All the previous chapters highlight how the Good Life can be found in many ways, but it takes great determination for us to develop the state of mind and passion to create similar life stories. Many of us never fully gain this commitment until we face death, intense struggle, or great pain.

I included the word crisis in the title of this book for a reason. Mainly, I wanted you to think that a Good Life Crisis is an epiphany moment that would be the opposite of a mid-life crisis. However, another reason alludes to the idea that you may have to go through a crisis or difficult times to know how great life can be.

Part II is continued here.


Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

The Good Life

Family Traditions

Shortly after our food arrived, Ray’s two sons stopped by our table to join us. One was having a basketball game later that afternoon and was meeting with his Dad at the restaurant so Ray could drive him to the game afterward. I looked at the athletic frame of his eldest son, “Basketball? You aren’t training your boys to be boxers like you?”

“No, I don’t feel there’s a need.” Ray explained how tough it was physically and mentally to be a boxer, and he said that he did not want to force his children to go through that.

He said that he would love to train them if they wanted, but he said he would rather them get a good education and take advantage of having the opportunities of living in Santa Monica. Ray seemed to apply that the Good Life is not about becoming a “champion” or famous; he values things such as family, good meals with friends, having a good education, being able to explore your passions, and enjoying life in moderation.

Go to Part 3 >>

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.
– William Barclay

I found myself embarking on my “What is the Good Life?” investigation after an unforgettable conversation. The unexpected conversation challenged my ideas on the best life I could achieve. Since then, I have been interviewing outstanding individuals and taking part in amazing experiences around the globe. From this quest, I hope to paint you a picture of “The Good Life.”

My Good Life investigation started after a long day of classes at Yale.  My next-door neighbor invited me to join her and some of her friends from Yale’s MBA program at her home for desserts. When you are a graduate school student with no source of income, you learn to never say no to free food, especially the type that is served at Yale parties and get-togethers. I also thought that hanging out with business students would allow me take a break from my studies about God and religion. Sometimes, it was helpful to talk about less dense things like stocks, news, and events going on around Yale. However,  I was unable to avoid talk about religion when someone asked me,  “So what do you study?”

When I tell intellectual people that I enrolled at Yale Divinity School to study how religious faith shapes modern life, I usually get two reactions. The first being, “Oh, you must be one of those crazy religious types who believe in a superstition that should have died out centuries ago.” The other reaction is positive one that comes about from the open-minded attitude at places like Yale. They usually find it very interesting that I’d want to take a couple years of my life to study life’s hardest questions, even though I have no desire to become a priest or work in a church. Fortunately, the reactions that night were more of the latter. The business students saw their Ivy League degree as an investment to give them success in the business world; they saw my studies as an investment for me to succeed in the game of life.

Others in the room wanted to move on from talking about religion, but one named Harsh wanted to hear more on my views of my faith.

“Sorry, your name is, Harsh?” I asked this young man from India who looked my age.

“Yes, just like the opposite of kind.”

My first impression of Harsh was he would be the type who’d be a cruel boss who would demand a lot from his employees. While he may be like that in the business world, I learned that this was far from the case with his true personality. He is not only a kind, considerate person, but he also shares my interests of wondering if succeeding in life is something that is accomplished through religion, introspection, making money, relationships, social interactions, or a precise combination of all these.

That night we mainly talked about our views of religion. He explained that he had grown up as a Hindu in his hometown of Calcutta, India, but had been exposed to a variety of religions in his undergraduate studies at Duke University. He was very interested in religion, but he admitted that he had never had the opportunity to study it on a formal level as I was doing. Noticing that our conversation was something no one else in the room was particularly interested in, I asked Harsh if he would be free the next day to talk more. I always love sharing with others how my faith has changed my life

Because it was such a beautiful day in Connecticut, we decided to forgo sitting down in a coffee shop and decided to walk around Yale’s historic campus. What was supposed to be a 30-minute appointment on my schedule turned into a 2-hour walk during which we talked about life and how we are to succeed in it.

Experiencing success was not something new to Harsh. At 22 years of age, he had already started two businesses in India (an IT firm and a shipping company) one of which is still in operation. Before graduating college, he had made more money than what many of his countrymen make in their lifetime. In business terms, Harsh has already proven to be a success at the tender age of 22 years old. With the help of Yale’s MBA, he is sure to be a great business leader for the rest of his life. But even though he has so much going for him in terms of business, he admitted that he felt like there was something more that he needed. He felt that he would not be ultimately fulfilled if he were just to continue his career path and make a billion dollars or appear on the cover of Forbes Magazine by the end of his life.

The rest of our conversation led to discussing more topics that lie at the heart of the question, “What is the Good Life?”. We asked, “What is the standard for determininggood?” “Is there a universal standard that we can agree upon?” “What is more important: happiness, security, or success?” “How do we define things like happiness and success?”

I include my discussion with Harsh at the beginning of this book because it highlights a theme about the Good Life that I wish to make clear. Harsh is someone from whom I unexpectedly learned a lot about life – he is younger than me, works and studies in the business field, and comes from a completely different religious system – yet I have been able to learn a lot from his perspective.

As someone reading the reflections in this book, I do not want you to agree with all the worldviews of those I interview, but I hope you approach them with an attitude of wanting to learn from them. I have learned that no one has a complete understanding of The Good Life, so what I am hoping to do with future chapters is to give you different perspectives on it. These various perspectives should help you paint your own picture of The Good Life

I was early taught to work as well as play,
My life has been one long, happy holiday
Full of work and full of play,
I dropped the worry on the way
And God was good to me everyday.
– John D. Rockefeller, Age 86

It is one thing to wish to have truth on our side, and another thing to wish sincerely to be on the side of truth.
–Charles Koch

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

This is the Good Life. This is the phrase I say to myself while I stare out onto crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. I am feeling so great right now that it’s hard to believe it’s real. I’m roadside at a Vista Point on Hawaii’s Highway 72, but my surroundings shout “paradise.”

A hundred feet below me is a thin stretch of sand where surfers are trying to conquer the waves and children are attempting to build sand castles. Behind me is a majestic mountain range that spews forth triangles of green into the blue sky. Hovering over the mountain range is a rainbow that has appeared after the short rain shower that also cooled the warm summer air. Plus, there’s that gentle Oceanside breeze that keeps me feeling refreshed. I am close enough to the water that I can feel the salt in the air. If the natural beauty is not enough, I can stare at the beauty of the design of my rental car — a fiery red Mustang convertible (top down of course).

My stomach is still full from feasting the day before. One of my best friends, who is a culinary expert, gave me a tour of Oahu, showing me where to find the best Hawaiian and Japanese food on the island. Looking down at my stomach causes me to lift up my sunglasses. No, I’m not seeing things, my skin color is remarkably a golden tan; I guess this what happens after a week of enjoying life on Hawaii’s magnificent beaches. I look in the distance in the direction of Waikiki Beach. I can see most of the 7 mile run that I did the other day. Even though most of my run was uphill, leading to an extinct volcano, it was not all that difficult for me. “I should run another marathon sometime soon,” I tell myself.

Thinking about the future turns my attention to the girl I love. I’ll get to see her tomorrow; she’ll be there picking me up from the San Francisco Airport with that joyous enthusiasm in her eyes, even though it will be 6:45 am. “Ellen would love to see this,” I think to myself as I take out my cell phone’s camera to document proof that I am in the middle of paradise. I notice that I have already taken hundreds of pictures this week, most of them coming from a wedding of another one of my great friends.  It was at one of the most prestigious resorts in Waikiki, right on the beach. It was undoubtedly the most beautiful and elegant wedding I’ve ever seen.

Besides returning to California to see my wonderful girlfriend tomorrow, I’ll be returning to one of the world’s greatest cities without a mortgage, with no student loans, some savings in my bank account, and a great place to live in the heart of San Francisco.

This idyllic setting, my health, and promising future make me want to pray. I want to share my  thankfulness with someone. It’s times like now when I feel closest to God. When I’m in this state, I feel like I’m talking to God as if God were right by my side enjoying all this with me.

I open my eyes from my prayer, and I’m hit again by the beauty that surrounds me. Wow, it almost hurts my mind to try to take it all in at once – it’s that amazing. Amazing is probably not the right word – I’m not sure how to explain it. I just know it’s a part of the Good Life.

Composed on Nick’s iPhone
August 20, 2010

The above entry came during one of those moments where you feel at total peace because everything is all good. I call it having a “Good Life Crisis.”

However, I am not suggesting that spectacular getaways to Hawaii and buying red convertibles are the secrets to life. I just wanted to provide you a personal example in which I felt like I was experiencing “The Good Life.”

I believe there is a lot we can learn from the times when people say they “feel most alive,”  “feel something magical in the air,” “feel their lives are full of meaning and purpose,” or “feel close to God.” This is why I have spent countless hours interviewing inspiring people in some of the world’s greatest settings to gain a better understanding of “The Good Life.” By reading about their lives and wisdom they have shared, I hope you will be inspired to improve your life in a variety of ways . It is my goal in this project to give you a picture of how you can have a Good Life Crisis and confidently say, “I am living the Good Life.”

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.
–Robert Byrne

Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing.
–Oliver Wendell Holmes

The view from Highway 72


Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.