I ran across this article yesterday by philosopher and writer Alain de Botton titled “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” and it reminded me of the work we do as movers. What connection could there possibly be between marrying the wrong person and moving furniture you ask?
I’ve followed Alain de Botton for a while now; he’s the founder of an organization called The School of Life, a nonprofit based in London that offers classes on how to live better, happier, more fulfilling lives. It’s self-help, but self-help for people with graduate degrees.
If you don’t have time to read it, the gist of the article is that, for various reasons mostly having to do with our own confusion and misunderstandings – about ourselves, about others, and about the institution of marriage itself – we’re doomed by forces almost totally beyond our control to marry the “wrong” person.
Alain de Botton’s solution to this problem? Pessimism. An acceptance of the fact that you will marry the wrong person because the absolute “right” person doesn’t exist, at least not in the Romantic, one-true-soulmate sense. To know that you’re bound to be disappointed by your mate (and that your mate is bound to be disappointed by you), takes the burden of unrealistic Romantic perfection off your shoulders, de Botton argues. By being more pessimistic, by lowering your expectations for marriage, you increase your happiness.
People tend to think that moving is hard work because it’s physically challenging. It’s a work out, of course, but once your body is used to the demands of moving, it’s actually not that hard physically, certainly not nearly as hard as the kind of high intensity training an athlete does in the gym or on the track.
People are often surprised to hear me say this, but the real challenge of moving isn’t physical but mental. And one of the key mental challenge of moving? Managing your expectations for how quick and easy, or how hard, your work day will be. We try our best to know exactly what’s going to happen on move day, but our expectations are often crushed: the customer who said they’d be all packed up still hasn’t finished packing the basement or the attic when we arrive; the closing that was supposed to go without a hitch ends up stalling for mysterious reasons; the move that was supposed to be big stuff only turns into an everything-and-then-some move.
Moving breeds chaos in peoples’ lives, and sometimes that chaos makes it’s hard for a mover to know what his work day is going to look like, how long and difficult it’s going to be. Experienced movers learn to approach each day either with no expectations or with a philosophy of pessimism – an expectation of the unexpected, a wary watchfulness for things not to go as planned. It’s a kind of philosophy born of disappointment, a protection against the pain that comes when our expectations of a smooth and easy day aren’t fulfilled. No one teaches it to us – we just learn to protect ourselves by killing our impulse to have any expectations at all, or by gently and lightly expecting the worst. Like Alain de Botton, we believe that expecting to be disappointed is a good way to find happiness.
By girding ourselves for disappointment or struggle every day, we’re not so discouraged when the inevitable set-backs and surprises arise. And when things do go more easily and quickly than we expect, and we’re back home in time for that important dinner with family, then we’re pleasantly surprised. Overjoyed really. The happiest of pessimists.