How to Live a Good Life: A Recipe for Compassion and Meaning
If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me mention Jonathan Fields. He’s been a good friend of many years and we’ve been part of many events together, from speaking at SXSW in Austin to all six (!) WDS’s from 2011-2016 in Portland.
I’ve probably learned more from him than anyone else in the world of publishing and community building—and I know a lot of people!
His new book is out today, and it’s great. Instead of asking for his life story or what we can learn in this book, I wanted to ask him three simple questions: why this message, why this book, and why now?
Check out his answers below… and be sure to pick up at least one copy of the new book. I have a dozen on the way myself, and will be gifting the extras to friends.
Q: Why this message?
A: Because, somehow, while the potential for kindness, compassion and understanding has never been greater, there’s been a retreat to separation, scarcity and anxiety. Empathy is losing the battle to apathy, and that’s not okay.
Because, we’ve surrendered the state of our lives to the compounding agendas, stories and demands of a million others. We’ve settled into a rut of reactivity, sidestepped intention, and now spend a gobsmackingly large percentage of our waking hours just trying not to fall too far behind. That’s not okay. And technology, while opening so many doors, is also fostering a life-stifling level of complexity, autopilot addiction and pace. We need to rediscover grace, deepen into presence, meaning and connection and own, rather than be owned by our devices. Not someday, but today.
Because, despite having all the “information” we’ve needed for thousands of years, we’re still suffering, unable to step into our full potential. Unable to find solace, joy, lightness and purpose. What we need now is a better way, along with tools that don’t just tell us what to do, but also help us do it.
Because meaning matters. People matter. Love and belonging and friendship matter. Our bodies and minds matter. Yet, so much of our lives is spent in the pursuit of surface metrics, power, prestige, money and status that give us short-term dopamine hits, then leave us crashing hard and wondering why, year-after-year, we don’t “feel” better.
Because, we’ve only got one pass through, no guarantees of tomorrow, and this moment, this day matters.
Q: Why this book?
A: Two reasons. One, its the thing I couldn’t not write. And, trust me, the process has relatively brutal. As Paulo Coehlo offered in The Alchemist, the universe tested me and the closer I got, the bigger the mountain grew.
I also turned 50 last year. It made me reflect on my time on the planet. On the work that I do, and the writing, teaching and helping I still have inside me. I’ve been blessed to go on many adventures, be a dad and husband, brother and son, build a number of companies and communities, cultivate deep relationships, and learn at the feet of stunningly accomplished teachers.
Through this, patterns eventually began to emerge. It took years, in truth, more like decades (hey, I’m a bit slow). I refined these patterns into an almost deceptively simple model, the Good Life Buckets–Connection, Contribution and Vitality–and a deceptively simple idea. A good life is about filling all three buckets a little bit every day, keeping them full and never letting any one run dry.
The nice thing about this idea is, you hear it once, remember it for life and it guides your behavior. You can wake up in the morning, ask which bucket needs a little love, then prioritize actions that fill it. It also positions a good life not as a place at which you arrive, or a quest to be mounted, but more as a daily practice that you grow and nourish a little bit every day. In this way, nobody is excluded, you don’t have to wait. Anyone and everyone can begin living a good life now.
I didn’t want to stop at sharing this model, though. It was important to make it actionable. So, I created a 30-day adventure that takes you by the hand, shares 10 ways to fill each bucket, then invites you to do one each day. You can do the book, 30 chapters in 30 days, in order, or cherry-pick the ones that call to you.
Q: Why now?
A: Because now, more than ever, we need to believe in possibility. The promise of a better life. A better world. A way of being that acknowledges the real challenges of everyday struggle, doesn’t sugarcoat or require you to buy into any dogma, beliefs or complex theories, and also offers not just hope, but direction and support.
We need a good life wake-up call, something that’ll serve as an inciting incident. One that says slow down, touch down, breathe, reconsider what you’re measuring and working toward, who and what you’re worshiping and, more than anything, be mindful. Be intentional. Live, don’t be lived.
Because, if not now, then when?
Q: Bonus question: If your wildest dreams could come true, what do you hope will come from it?
A: In my wildest dreams, it would help others rise.