box of chocolates

This is the Good Stuff

I’m in the Denver airport, on my way to Tucson for my former partner’s funeral.

In my lap is a box of chocolates.

The chocolates are super fancy, a gift from a client a few months ago. 

Chocolate can be a good thing to have during a tough time, but that’s not why I grabbed this particular box on my way out the door, nor why it’s in my lap right now.

They weren’t just a gift, actually. 

They’re a teaching tool. A mindset tool.

My client and friend Andy Eby handed these personalized boxes of chocolates out to all 200 attendees of the company gathering he recently hosted.

The theme of the event was “Love Wins.”

It had included a presentation from Andy’s friend Jon McGraw, a former NFL player turned performance coach

Jon taught about the brain science of feeling like you’re winning. 

Dopamine, he pointed out, helps you feel like you’re winning. 

So how do we create dopamine?

Our brain gives us a hit of it when we’re in pursuit of our goals and believe we’re on the right path.

You may think of dopamine as a reward for some result.

But Jon taught it’s also possible to attach dopamine to the effort we’re making, not just the result.

Basically, if we reward the friction, while we’re in the effort, our brains release dopamine.

We feel like we’re winning as we’re working hard, and we become more resilient. 

Jon invited us to tell ourselves, “The effort part IS the good part.”

He had everyone in the room write down the most challenging part of their lives that day — personally and professionally. 

Then he invited us to say to ourselves and each other, “This is the good stuff.” 

My kid failing math? This is the good stuff.

Not hitting our weekly targets? This is the good stuff.

Feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list? This is the good stuff.

The dog that’s driving me crazy? This is the good stuff.

We practiced that day in the room.

And as we were leaving, Andy handed everyone a fancy chocolate to eat, and another box of them to take home.

He guided us to think of our challenge in the moment, and savor the chocolate slowly, saying, “This is the good stuff.”

And he told us to save the box of chocolates for moments we need to remember to embrace the pain, to find value and meaning in the difficult parts of life.

So as I’m sitting in the airport on my way to bury a 45-year-old man who I loved dearly but couldn’t speak to lately, as I’m preparing to face myself and his family and who knows what else, I pick a chocolate.

I sniff it, admire its colorful beauty.

And I bring it to my lips, saying, “This is the good stuff.”

And later the next night, as I’m lying awake in the hotel at 2 am, the ache of grief twisting my insides, I remember to say it again: “This is the good stuff.”

I don’t have any idea HOW it’s true.

I’m not trying to create a story with my mind that makes me believe it.

I’m just trusting that pain has value too.

That suffering has growth inside it.

And that it’s worth noticing that even the hardest moments don’t mean we’re not on the right path.

Whatever’s got you down today?

This is the good stuff.

Exquisitely yours,


PS – Thanks for all your beautiful responses to last week’s grief missive. I’m hanging in there. And also mostly on a break from any ambitions until at least May 27.

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