Things I’m grateful for

Comparison is the thief of joy – Teddy Roosevelt 

Bottom line: I suck at appreciating what I have.

This essay is an attempt to codify life’s good stuff. In shitty times, I can re-read this and remind myself of how fortunate I am.

1. Family

So important. Dominic Toretto values family:

O’Conner: Maybe the Letty we once knew is gone
Toretto: You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do

In better times
In better times

From a biological perspective, we’re here to make babies. The Gao’s have been doing so for generations which is why I’m alive.

That means at some point I need to find a wife, have kids, and do a semi-competent job raising them.

Clay Christensen talks about how we often underinvest in long-term goals (like actively raising our kids), and overinvest in short term ones (like answering work emails). Then we hit 50 and wonder why our kids don’t come home for Christmas holiday. Hmm…

Family knows you.

Your mom cleaned your naked, super-smooth baby butt countless times. She loves you unconditionally. I couldn’t even begin to describe how much moms must love their sons. Something we miss out on as dudes.

Imagine feeling a LIFE grow inside you, heart beating, legs kicking, getting bigger in your stomach and then it comes out and it grows and one day it’s taller than you and healthy and beautiful.

And YOU – as the mom – made that happen. Sure sperm played a part, but the sperm were involved, the MOM IS COMMITTED.

I won’t even begin to talk about dads, cousins, uncles and aunts, etc. Needless to say they have always been there for me and for that I’m incredibly grateful even if I sometimes do a poor job showing it.

The only problem with family is that they know the worst sides of you too – all the embarrassing mistakes that you’ve tried to forget. Sometimes the distance we feel with family members is because we push them away – but that’s just a reflection of our own insecurities.

I notice as I get older: The things I dislike in others? It’s really just what I dislike in myself.

2. Health

The very fact that I can walk to a coffee shop and write this blog post means I’m blessed.

I’m blessed to have the physical strength to walk, the mental strength to write, the overall health to be productive.

Health is one of Maslow’s fundamental priorities. We take it for granted because it’s always there, until it’s not. The minute it’s taken away is when all the so-called-priorities in life, like getting laid or making that first million, seem less important.


I’m starting to understand why people who lose their legs in catastrophic accidents return to their pre-accident happiness levels in 6 months. Whether conscious or not, they’ve replaced what they had taken away with an increased appreciation of what’s left.

If you play chess, imagine losing your queen. You appreciate your rooks so much more.

I’m obsessed with living forever not because living to 250 is the most important thing in my life (although who am I kidding, that’d be awesome), but because it reminds me to do important things like exercise, socialize, get proper sleep, and eat healthy foods.

3. Friends

I’m grateful for friends who put up with my shit. I think guys mellow out over time, and I’ve mellowed out some, but I can still be a pain-in-the-ass and I’m thankful for patient friends who try to focus on my good qualities. The stories, the trust, the respect that builds over time.

In general, I’m grateful for GOOD people. Most moderately successful people are selfish and full of ego. To be truly good – considerate, genuine, and reliable – is a gift. One I don’t yet have.

4. Abilities

This is a catch-all, but includes things like:

  • The ability to earn a living doing what I enjoy – starting companies, creating technology, writing
  • The ability to define meaningful goals and act on them
  • The ability to travel and live in new places
  • The ability to choose the people I spend time with, in every capacity

I believe ability is not given to you at birth – it comes from lots of focused hard work. Just read The Talent Code or Outliers if you don’t agree. I hope to respect and nurture and continue investing in them.

So that’s it. There are many other things – like these lists that pop up all the time – but I’ll keep this post short by my standards :)

What are you grateful for in your life? How do you continually remind yourself of those things?

Click here to read about the daily habits that I track and why.