Core Competencies, the Happiness Project, computer woes, and being me

After meeting Gretchen Rubin at the BlogHer conference two weeks ago, I reread The Happiness Project. One of her themes in the book is remembering to “Be Gretchen,” that is, accepting her quirks rather than dwelling on them. While going to a jazz club at midnight sounds appealing in theory, she knows she will never really enjoy it. Happiness comes from knowing ourselves.

In 168 Hours, I talk about “core competencies,” which touches on a similar idea. These are things we do best that other people cannot do nearly as well. While this frames the issue positively, recognizing that we maybe have half a dozen core competencies suggests a corollary — namely, that there are many things we don’t do well. You can spend tons of time trying to improve on these things, or you can just admit you don’t like them and then ignore, minimize or outsource them. Not only will this make you happier, it may save you time. Even if it doesn’t seem to.

Creating nice, organized systems for things falls into the “ignore” category for me, even though everyone tells me how much time being organized will save. I don’t organize papers on my desk. I don’t file my emails. And I don’t have any good system for backing up my files. Oh, I know I should in theory. But I don’t. I email myself the word documents or the occasional picture I believe I should keep for posterity, but perhaps I don’t harbor the illusion that everything I create should be saved.

Which is good, because now it isn’t. I’m typing this blog post on my new MacBook Pro (my little brother convinced me to buy it. He also convinced me to buy an iPhone — is Steve Jobs paying him or what?) My Panasonic Toughbook pretty much died yesterday morning. The machine had been ailing for the past few months so I knew it was coming, but nonetheless, a computer’s death always seems to catch you by surprise. I have fond memories of that little 3-pounder. It saw all the platform-building articles I wrote before I got the contract for 168 Hours. I wrote the book on it, and many articles and musings I rather enjoyed.

Now I’m not sure what files I have and what I don’t. Perhaps I’ll spend some time this week figuring it out. Or not. I’m actually surprised how calm I am about it. I’m starting to feel that way about my messy house as well. I could spend a lot of time organizing it, and then get upset when the tornado that is my kids destroys it again and again. Or I can just accept that while a neat house is as nice as a jazz club in theory, it’s just not going to happen for me. Better to Be Laura — focused on my next project rather than preserving the last one.

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