Move and create
(A letter to my goddaughter, to be opened on or after 1 May, 2039.)
17 years ago, I promised you — among other things — that I’d introduce you to my passions and hobbies, try to be a good role model, and always try to make you laugh and smile.
I’m going to try to live up to these promises, in part, by sharing two guiding principles that have improved my life more than almost anything else:
Move and create.
When I was 18 years old I was obese, unfit, and pretty unhealthy. At age 24 I started running. At 35 years old, I’m a marathon runner with an excellent bill of health. I’ve probably given myself over a decade of additional healthy life by taking up running.
Very few things in life have as big an impact on happiness and wellbeing as physical health. But getting (and staying!) fit is hard — especially when you’re just starting out. It can feel impossible, painful, and embarassing. I know. I’ve been there. Please don’t let that stop you.
If you haven’t already been lucky enough to find a favourite sport or activity, do what you can to find one. Ask fit or sporty friends to bring you into their world, and try things on for size.
Once you know what you enjoy, make it a habit. Build it into your life. Prioritize it, always. Never apologise or feel guilty about making time for it. The years it will add to your life, and the happiness it will add to your years, are worth it.
Running changed my life. I wonder what activity will shape yours?
Every day, there are new ways to express creativity. Every day, consuming content becomes more addictive. These statements were true in 2022, and I bet they’re still true in 2039 when you read this. It’s hard to choose to create rather than to consume.
Yet almost everyone I know and love is happiest when they’re being creative. Maybe they write, or draw, or paint, or craft, or cook, or bake. Maybe they make music or write software. Maybe they create elaborate fantasy worlds.
What activity puts you in a “state of flow”? What are you doing when you realize that several happy hours have passed unnoticed?
Whatever it is, embrace it. Enjoy it. Prioritize it, at least a little, every week.
There’s nothing wrong with consuming great books, shows, music, games, video. But nothing will fulfil you like creating it.
A lucky few make a living through their creativity. At age 32, I quit my job so I could spend my days writing (and selling) software — the creative pursuit I’ve loved since I was 9 years old.
Is there a way you can make your creative passion a core part of your daily life?
These two principles have given me a huge amount of contentment and fulfilment. I hope they can do the same for you.