A lesson on Being Complicated

I have a friend named Peter. He’s the youngest of three, comes from an extremely athletic family, and is by far the most gifted athlete in the group. Growing up, he was the kid on the playground constantly frustrating the other kids with his obvious athletic superiority. But maybe the most frustrating quality Peter had on the playground was his laissez-fair attitude toward the outcome. Even today, while playing with or against Peter, he never lets the outcome dictate his day, or even his life.

It has taken some keen observation, but watching my friend over the years, I’ve noticed what Peter chooses to spend his energy on. He’ll get month-long inspirations to achieve the seemingly most tedious, mundane, and irrelevant skills. One summer he became obsessed with trying to get better throwing balls with his opposite hand (he was in his 20’s when this happened). One winter had him focusing on slight-of-hand card tricks. A lover of music, for two years straight, he spent almost every free day going to concerts.

But that’s not all. Peter has also focused on a wide-range of long-term goals. Inspired by his older brother, Pete wanted to learn to row, and ended up making the varsity boat of his collegiate team. He wanted to write and perform songs with his guitar, and managed to release an album while in college. Then he started playing at coffee shops and restaurants to further himself. Pete got a degree in finance and started working in that industry, but realized he was interested in the sales-side of business, and two years later, made President’s Club at his firm in San Francisco.

Whether throwing with his left hand, performing in front of a small group at a wine bar, or lining up to race in a collegiate rowing regatta, Pete puts all his effort and energy into the task at hand. Because he’s been so easily inspired by such a wide range of activities, he never became as good a rower as his brother, or a professional singer/song-writer, or even a magician. He just never had the time. Pete could probably be famous for something by now, but he’s not. Instead, he chose to let himself be defined not by one thing, but by many – a true “Jack of all Trades”.

The result? Today Pete is one of the most interesting, talented, well-balanced, modest, and well-liked men you’ve never heard of. He’s well-liked not just because of his temperament, but because of his ability to seamlessly slip from one conversation to the next, always having a way to relate to the person he’s talking with. He’s modest because he’s secure in the accomplishments he’s achieved up to this point in his life, and doesn’t feel the need to constantly reiterate them to others. Pete’s well balanced life comes from not resting his entire happiness in the achievement of one particular goal or possession. He wins and loses, like us all, but unlike many of us, properly proportions his celebrations and lamentations.

This unique approach to life makes Pete an interesting guy. Pete’s complicated and hard to nail down. He’s original and certainly not one who naturally goes with the flow. Pete thinks in ways that we should all be thinking – and that is, in many ways. There is no recipe for happiness, as we’ve been told so many times before. But whenever I’m with Pete, and see him with his broad grin and lovable demeanor, I am reminded of a Peter Pan whimsy, and think maybe he’s got something. Maybe he’s got the closest recipe so far.

The richer person is one who’s known for many things, rather than the person who’s known by many for one.