A Little Happier: To Be Excellent in Some Areas, We May Have To Be Willing To Be Mediocre in Other Areas.

I’ve written two biographies: Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK. What a joy it was to write those books!

I’d also planned to write a book called Forty Ways to Look at Richard Nixon, and I did a tremendous amount of research for that book—until my editor said that she didn’t want to publish it, so I had to cancel the project.

This was a huge disappointment and shock to me at the time, but as it turns out, the book that I wrote instead was The Happiness Project, so that turned out fine.

We don’t always know what’s bad luck, and what’s good luck—if you want me to tell a story about that truth, it’s here.

One story that I often recall from the research I did at that time comes from Richard Reeves’s book President Nixon: Alone in the White House.

When Nixon was president, an advisor drafted a letter which he thought didn’t strike the right tone, and he sent it anyway, and repeated to an aide something that Eisenhower had once told him: “A true executive can sign a poor letter without changing it.”

I was very struck by this observation, and I often remind myself that to be excellent in some areas, I may have to be willing to be mediocre in other areas.




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