Category Archives: Happiness

Redeemable with purchase

I like to think of myself as a modern man, without a need for a lot of ritual and ceremony in my life. I’m content to let science explain how the universe works, and base my beliefs on the observable behavior of things. Still I find myself wanting to believe in a system that compensates me when things don’t go as expected. This cosmic insurance is the spiritual hedge fund we call faith; the belief in all things supernatural. But I know that looking above for answers will only keep me from looking within. Continue reading

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The five faces of Shiva

What do you do in your free time? We ask this harmless question to better know a person by their interests or when we want to steer the conversation away from work. I pose it when I sense that people aren’t inspired in their career, because of the way they say things like, “It’s just a job”, with the same tone of resignation one might use in the phrase, “But I can control it with medication”. Free time is a strange concept, because it implies that the rest of our time is not free; we pay for it with our labor. It is only the small remainder of spare time that we can call our own; the leftovers from the banquet of life Continue reading

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In the shadow of leaves

“We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one’s aim is a dog’s death. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling. — Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, “The Book of the Samurai” Continue reading

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The happy nomad

Since I started writing on UnboundedLife, I’ve given a thought a lot to what freedom is and what it means in the context of human nature. One theme that I’ve come back to repeatedly is mobility; designing a life from a purposeful future, versus living out an extension of the past. It’s a lofty idea that is easy to talk about but as narrow as the razor’s edge to walk. Last month I was planning to write about how I walk it in terms of the life I’m choosing, but I found myself preoccupied with painful events of the recent past. I felt like until I had honestly moved beyond the sadness of re-experiencing this loss, it would be inauthentic to write about living into a self-chosen future. Kind of like an overweight personal trainer talking about losing weight. Continue reading

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All that we keep

This week I’ve been devoting considerable mental bandwidth to wrestling with yet another paradoxical facet of my human nature. On the one side is my desire for simplicity. I did a stint as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka years back, that’s how much I dig the minimalist lifestyle. But this ascetic existence didn’t really work out for me in the end, as I also love stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but nice stuff. It’s hard to be a renunciant with a Brooks Brothers card, but it is possible to reconcile this contradiction in a way that allows us to enjoy all the pleasures of material wealth, without indulging in it for its own sake. Continue reading

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Happiness by the numbers

During a recent meeting with a Hong Kong restauranteur whom I’ve known for many years, the question of business metrics came up. Actually, he brought it up and it really showed what different approaches to business we have. As we sat on the terrace of his popular cafe sharing ideas about a potential joint project, he began peppering me with questions. “So Chris, what’s your estimated return on investment timeline for your new hotel?” “I don’t know,” I admitted. “Well,” he continued, “How about your restaurant revenue per square meter?” “No idea,” I answered honestly. He became more insistent, “What about hourly turnover? Wine sales as a percentage of revenue? Gross margins on food items?” “Dunno,” I shrugged. I wasn’t being evasive, and it’s not as if I have no idea how my business runs, I just look at it more as a labor of love, rather than a game of numbers. Continue reading

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The big swim

After our baby’s recent Kasai procedure (liver duct bypass surgery), my wife and I are optimistic about her chances of full recovery. While we love seeing Nat as her active and cheerful self these days, we also know that there’s a strong likelihood that she will soon need a liver transplant. While most people would look upon this as a catastrophic, I feel a sense of serenity. It’s as if I waded out into a violent surf, was knocked down, tossed around pulled out into the calm beyond the breaking waves, where I can now contemplate the nature of the ocean without drowning in it. Continue reading

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