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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Paul Ollinger

In Forge. More on Medium.

As the pandemic inches toward completion, here’s an important message: You’re not done yet

Photo: John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

Heading into the final stretch of the women’s snowboard cross race at the 2006 Winter Olympics, American Lindsey Jacobellis held a commanding lead over her competitors. As she ascended the second-to-last jump, Jacobellis looked back to confirm her lead, flew into the air, then grabbed her board in a celebratory display of swagger. The showboating would have been no big deal except that when she landed, Jacobellis fell on her backside while Tanja Frieden of Switzerland zoomed past to win the gold medal.

This kind of showy blunder happens all the time in sports. NFL players DeSean Jackson and Danny…


The struggle to attain a deeply meaningful life may be an issue of language

Illustration: Dora Godfrey/Medium

Over the past two years, I have conducted more than 100 podcast interviews with best-selling authors, prominent academics, and other high achievers about the connection of money, happiness, work, and meaning. In each of these conversations, I make a point to ask these thinkers how each of us can lead a happier life. Again and again, the same answer keeps coming up: “Lower your expectations.”

The first few times I heard this advice, I refused to accept it. “Low expectations” sounds defeatist. It sounds like giving up on happiness altogether. But over time, I’ve realized that the gap between their…


Paul Ollinger

Why 10,000 hours doesn’t guarantee the success of your dream

Illustration: Dora Godfrey / Medium

In‌ ‌his‌ ‌2008‌ ‌bestselling book ‌Outliers‌,‌ ‌Malcolm‌ ‌Gladwell‌ ‌delivered‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ mainstream‌ ‌the‌ ‌theory‌ ‌that‌ ‌gaining‌ ‌mastery‌ ‌of‌ ‌any‌ ‌craft‌ ‌requires‌ ‌10,000‌ ‌hours‌ ‌of‌ ‌dedicated‌ ‌practice — as he calls it, “the magic number of greatness.”

The‌ ‌trade‌ you’re in doesn’t‌ ‌matter‌ ‌much‌, he argued, ‌because‌ ‌what‌ ‌all‌ ‌skill-based‌ ‌pursuits‌ ‌have‌ ‌in‌ ‌common‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌repetition — at‌ ‌the‌ ‌scale‌ ‌of‌ ‌years‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌life — is‌ ‌the‌ only path ‌to‌ ‌proficiency.‌ ‌Similarly, the actual number of hours may vary, but that’s not the point. In‌ this ‌controversial model,‌ “10,000‌ ‌hours”‌ ‌plays‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌symbolic‌ ‌role‌ ‌as‌‌ ‌“40‌ ‌years‌ ‌in‌…


Meditating on our fleeting mortality might sound like a downer, but the ancient practice can help us find more tranquility while we’re here

Photo illustration; Image source: Westend61/Getty Images

A couple weeks ago, I felt a dull ache in my abdomen. It wasn’t painful, but it was persistent and, since the belly houses several mission-critical organs, I decided to get it checked out. My doctor seemed puzzled by my nonspecific symptoms, especially since a recent colonoscopy and upper GI scan indicated all was good. So he ordered a slew of tests and an ultrasound, which he scheduled for the next afternoon.

After I left my samples and departed the office, I spent the next 24 hours Googling “stomach pain” while contemplating my imminent death. The internet suggested I had…


If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that life is local. Research from the World Happiness Report backs this up.

Photo illustration; Image: FilippoBacci/Getty Images

A few years into my marriage, my young family relocated to my childhood hometown of Atlanta. After a couple of decades moving all over the country for a series of new schools or job opportunities, I felt it was time to pick a place and put down some roots.

But after several months back home, things weren’t gelling socially quite the way I had hoped. So I called my former leadership coach, Alpesh Bhatt, and confessed that I just wasn’t finding the community I had hoped to rediscover. Al, who seemed to know me well from the first day we…


Lessons from my father on gratitude, service, and the power of showing up

Photo courtesy of the author

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

My dad died the other day. He left this world while napping in his favorite recliner surrounded by his children. He was 93.

Despite my love and commitment to my father, I have shed zero tears over his passing. I promise I’m not an unfeeling monster (I cried at least once when I took my daughter to see Wicked). …


COLUMN

How to quit measuring success by net worth, fancy titles, or TikTok views

Photo illustration; source: Stuart Walmsley/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

A few years ago, when I was looking for a new workout routine, my wife suggested I take a spin class at a place called Flywheel. The last time I had biked en masse was at a fancy California health club, so Flywheel’s spandexed clientele, neon lighting, and ebullient instructor were not new to me. But one thing did stand out: Behind the coach hung a flat-panel screen displaying each rider’s name, bike number, and total “power points.” It was a scoreboard.

Giving it little…


Column

Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, tells us what the Danes know about converting wealth into well-being

Filtered image of a person’s legs dangling over water with European buildings in the background.
Filtered image of a person’s legs dangling over water with European buildings in the background.
Photo illustration; Image source: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

Winters in Copenhagen are long and dreary. Denmark’s tax rates are legitimately scary. And Hamlet was a bit glum, to say the least. But year after year, the Danes place at or near the top of the World Happiness Report, a global ranking that uses Gallup World Poll data to measure contentment by country.

By comparison, the United States seems like it should score very well on a happiness test. Winters here are, on average, far more temperate. Our tax rates are relatively benign. And…


What I’ve learned after years of studying money and happiness

Black and white photo of one USD bills against a purple gradient background.
Black and white photo of one USD bills against a purple gradient background.
Photo illustration; Image source: LEREXIS/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

In the oft-quoted climax of the 1996 blockbuster Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise stares through teary eyes at Renée Zellweger, the love interest he’d almost let slip through his distracted, metaphorical hands.

His last-chance pitch to win her back: “You complete me.”

This sincere vulnerability captured her heart and five Oscar nominations despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that his revelation perpetuates a prevalent but childish fantasy: that each of us is an incomplete person lacking only a tiny gift from the universe…

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