Figure out what makes you happy — and do it

One recent morning, as I rose for my usual workout routine (a brisk walk to the front lawn to pick up the newspapers and then a single leg-squat at the breakfast table), I noticed a light on in a portion of the house usually dark at 6 a.m.

There, reclining on the couch and watching ESPN’s SportsCenter, was our 10-year-old son, intently studying a recap of the previous days’ major league baseball games.

Why, I asked him, are you already up?

“Because today is the day of my first start as a pitcher in Little League,” he excitedly replied, grinning from ear to ear.

Now, the Little League game started at 6 p.m., a full 12 hours later. But his excitement spoke to something worth recalling during this month of commencements and new beginnings.

When he’s 18, or when he’s 28 or 38 or 48 or 58 or 68 or 78, if our son can be as excited about something — anything — as he’s excited today about baseball, odds are pretty good he’ll be a happy and successful guy.

From preschool on, we assume it’s a necessary evil to program our kids to spend their energy enrolling in the “right” schools, padding resumes with the “right” interests and hanging out with the “right” people. As I grow older, though, I’m starting to wonder if the planning and conniving is worth it.

Happiness doesn’t come from friends and cash, although both can be nice companions. Instead, it comes from that elusive holy grail of life: finding something you really like to do and doing your best at it.

I’ve wasted too much of my life and my career not saying things I wanted to say and not doing things I wanted to do, all in the name of building for a greater success somewhere down the road.

Yet, if I could just wake up every morning wanting to do something as badly as our son wants to play baseball, I’d be a pretty happy guy, too. With that enthusiasm for life, it’s inevitable I’d be making a difference in the world in some small way.

And isn’t that what it’s supposedly all about?

Now, as with all graduation-related advice, I expect this will go in one ear and out the other as our graduates exercise their right to learn things for themselves. But maybe if this magazine is accidentally used as a yearbook bookmark, and if it’s pulled out in 10 or 20 years after a few of life’s hard knocks have softened up the skull bone, maybe — just maybe — someone else will realize the importance of playing their own Little League game every day.