Today, is November 30, the last day of National Novel Writing Month. I’m supposed to be completing my 50,000-word novel today, but I probably have 14,000 words written on Tesla’s Ghost this month. Instead, I am philosophical about it. I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, not because I had anything to prove–I’ve won five times before–but because I thought it would be a good incentive to help me get some more done on my book.

And it did help, to some degree. But as usual, real life got in the way, and this particular book has been exceptionally challenging. So I didn’t get as far as I liked. Not that big of a loss.

Instead of grousing about that, I’m thinking more about last week. I had a great Thanksgiving week. Both my kids were with us, as well as my daughter-in-law and my grandson, Gavin. I enjoyed some quality time with him, putting up birdhouses and working on his treehouse, and even teaching him how to ride his bicycle without training wheels. Shelly had to work on Thursday (she’s a nurse), so we ended up celebrating Thanksgiving on Friday. We share the same tradition of many people, of pausing before the meal and saying what we are grateful for. I took the time to talk about success and how I have learned over the years that there are many ways to measure it, but that the best way I’ve found is just whether you are happy or not.

And that’s the bottom line. I’m happy. Once upon a time, I gave myself the goal of someday winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since that time, I’ve realized there are more important goals out there, and many more things to be grateful for. Here’s my list for this year:

  1. I’m grateful that I have a day job where I get to stand in front of a classroom of college students and share what I enjoy. Some of them are interested in the subject, some are only partially interested, and some never will be. But challenge makes life interesting. Every classroom and every class is different, because the students in it are different. I find it fun, and consider myself a lucky person after all these years to be able to do this kind of work.
  2. The reward of all those years of teaching is being able to see the success of my students and say, hey, I had a part in helping them get there. I have former students who are attorneys, pastors, journalists, communication directors for church organizations and lots of other responsible positions, but like I said earlier, what’s important is whether they are finding happiness in their lives.
  3. I’m grateful that I can write books, stories, articles and blogs and get other people to read them. Getting paid is a plus, but what’s more important is that I am sharing my ideas. As I get older, I recognize that someday (hopefully not too soon) my physical abilities and my cognitive abilities will diminish to the point where I will have to hang up the keyboard. But until that day, I have many more stories to tell, and hope that I will always find someone to read them.
  4. I’m grateful that I have a wife who has stood by me for 41 years, tolerated my shortcomings, endured my bad jokes, suffered through my mistakes, and celebrated my victories with me. She has made my life a lot more fun.
  5. Finally, I’m grateful that I have hope. My end-time book, If Tomorrow Comes, is all about hope, something I didn’t even realize when I wrote it. But it’s important, especially in these dark days, to have hope for the future, and that comes from knowing Who is in charge. And I have news for Donald Trump: it’s not him.

So there it is. It’s good to have goals, but in the end all they are is marks in the sand. What matters in the end is being content.

We have a sign above the toilet in our guest bathroom at home that I think best says it:

“A Good Life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realize how blessed you are.”