Don’t Take the Little Things in Life for Granted

Posted on Jul 20, 2010 | 89 comments


Yesterday I wrote about the importance of choosing happiness.  Today I want to write about a related topic: not taking the little things in life for granted.  I promise not to turn this blog into a personal self-help blog!  But today is a special day and I’m thinking about this topic so please humor me just one more time.  More later in the post.

When I was in my early 20′s I was fortunate enough to live in a small house in Manhattan Beach, CA with a beautiful ocean view.  Having been born in Philly and having been raised in landlocked Sacramento, CA it was truly an amazing thing to literally hear the ocean waves crash every night from my bedroom as I went to sleep and to see the ocean view every morning as I got ready for work.

For weeks or months I gazed at the ocean at every opportunity I could.  “Pinch me – is this my life?”  But slowly, strangely and without notice I stopped looking quite as much.  I’d love to say that I always appreciated the majesty of the ocean and the sunsets every night.  I didn’t.  Eventually the ocean view just became life and life was filled with work, stress, bills, cooking dinner, watching football, suffering hangovers, talking on the phone, whatever.  The ocean had just become a picture on the wall that I occasionally glanced at.  I wish I could say otherwise.

Through hard work and persistence I got transferred to Europe.  It’s a fun story how I got there but I’ll save that for another day.  By the summer of 1995 I was living and working in Rome, Italy.  To this date the six months that I worked in Rome goes down as one of my favorite experiences in life.  Il Bel Far Niente!  Every day I took a Roman taxi to work (and still lived to tell about it!) and every day we passed by the Monument of Vittorio Emanuelle II – so beautiful.  (although the Romans don’t all think so – they call it “The Wedding Cake” or “The False Teeth.”)  Me?  Sheer beauty.  We also passed by the Colosseum.  For weeks I gazed out every time and sucked in the experience.  But eventually I started zoning out on the drive in – just another day in the office.  And then I started reading the International Herald Tribune lest I miss my daily dose of international politics.

I think you see where this thing is heading.

In 1996 I worked (then later lived for 8 years) in London and passed daily through Trafalgar Square.  It’s beauty undeniable but as ephemeral as the others.

In 1997/98 I spent months in Barcelona.  I was initially in an aparthotel on La Ramblas and later in a stunning villa near Park Güell.  Every day I walked passed Gaudi buildings on my way in the morning and again in the evening.  For weeks, maybe months, I looked up every day.  If you’ve never seen Casa Batllo (It’s the image at the top of the post) I’m telling you there’s nothing like in the world.  It’s really that awe inspiring.  As are Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Park Güell and his many other creations.  (If you don’t know Gaudi or Barcelona enjoy clicking all those links. Really, it’s worth the 10 minute diversion).  Predictably over time I started more noticing the tapas restaurants below these buildings of splendor as I craved a morning fix of coffee and food to stave off my hangover.  Otto Zutz never let out early in Barcelona.  So Gaudi became commonplace.

And this is how I lived the first 32 years of my life until I met my wife.  And thus the reason for today’s blog.  It’s my eighth wedding anniversary today (don’t worry, she’s as the spa having a massage while I’m typing this!).  I was married July 20, 2002 when I was 34 years old.  I had the privilege of experiencing so many things in life by that point that by 34 I truly knew what I wanted.  And it was Tania.  For life.

I knew I was in love when we first took the Eurostar together to Paris for a long weekend.  We stayed in the Hotel Vernet in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe.  It was a majestic hotel in the city of lights and we strolled for hours and hours sucking in every building facade, every cafe and every bistro.  We sipped Cafe Creme in the mornings and Bordeaux in the afternoons.  We talked for hours.  We sang show tunes as we strolled through the Jardin de Tuileries.  Cheesy, I know.  But it was a shared common experience from childhood and to this day we still do it.  What can I say, I’m Jewish – show tunes are in my blood!

But long before I asked Tania to marry me I knew what I wanted out of marriage.  I came from a generation of people whose parents had big families and started at young ages (my mom was 23 when she had my older brother and had 4 kids by 30).  And many parents in that generation became de facto families rather than husbands and wives.  So I guess it was no big surprise that when the kids flew the coop many parents found themselves alone with partners that they no longer saw as their romantic “better halves”  and got divorced.  My parents included.  I’m sure they’d tell their story differently but this is my version.  And that of many of my friends and their now divorced parents.

I think that many of the people from my parents generation eventually took their marriages for granted.  I swore never to.  I wanted something different in life.

I only asked my wife for one big concession before we were married.  I wanted her to agree that we would be friends and lovers as well as parents and a family.  I asked her to commit to doing one night every week as “date night” away from the kids.  She agreed and we’ve stuck with it since Jacob was 12 weeks old.  7 years later we go out almost every week as a couple – sometimes with friends, sometimes alone.

It’s not for everybody.  Some of my closest friends refused to go out without their kids when they were young.  They wanted to be families 24/7.  One even later admitted to me that they felt kind of sorry for us that we didn’t see our family this way.  He admitted this to me in a bar after his wife left him by announcing that “she didn’t love him anymore.”  She didn’t even make a real effort at reconciliation.  He (and I) were devastated.  They have two lovely kids.  I don’t think that the lack of date nights was the cause but I do think that there was a certain amount of taking each other and their marriage for granted.

I don’t take my wife for granted at all.  Whenever I come home from a day of 8 meetings plus an evening speaking event I always instantly feel serene and I always thank her for that.  I am fortunate to come home to my understanding wife who knows what it is that modern workers go through.  And I know that I’m not the easiest person in the world: I have strong opinions, I’m self righteous, I’m stubborn and I’m less organized at home than I could be.  I’m grateful that I have a true friend & partner who loves me for who I am rather than for my potential.  And I’m grateful to have a wife who doesn’t bust my chops when I start writing blog posts as 10.30pm in the evening as I so often do.  She knows writing makes me happy and she is unbelievably supportive (except when I come to bed at 2:30am ;-))

And that’s why 8 years into this marriage and 10 years since dating I can say that I’m as happy with my wife as when we met.  I now have a family with two kids, whom I adore.  But our life is a strain like for any family.  They don’t want to go to bed and night, they refuse to eat vegetables, they have everything in life and are not as grateful as you might expect.  So life becomes a routine.  But not one that I take for granted.

Sleeping faces are my modern day ocean views and I look EVERY night.  I’m conscious that “the days are long but the years are short.”

I love you, Tania.  And I don’t take our happiness or our relationship for granted.

[and to readers I promise not to make this an annual post or to be this mushy on a regular basis.  Please just think about what you have in life for which you are grateful and find ways to make sure you don't take it / them for granted]

  • http://satishmummareddy.tumblr.com/ Satish Mummareddy

    aha. a new side of mark for the ones who know you only through your blog. :)

    Congrats and I believe you will write a similar post in another 20.

  • http://foodzie.com Nik Bauman

    Just awesome. Your love comes through well in this post. :)

  • http://twitter.com/thepinklocket KamiC

    Thanks–well needed!

  • http://twitter.com/blairjwilson Blair Wilson

    When we stop and think, there is always so much in life to be grateful for. I'm on the path of 3 kids by 30, and love every minute of it. But I agree 100% of the distinction and importance of families vs. husband and wife and how it can be easy to lose that with the pressures of parenting.

    I really enjoyed your perspective and seeing the other side of your life. Cheers.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you, Satish. I appreciate the kind words

  • http://tonystubblebine.com/ Tony Stubblebine

    I think it's interesting when successful people talk about how important their significant other is (and back it up by spending time with them). Does it say something about the relative satisfaction from different forms of accomplishments? Compared to some level of wealth, fame, power, influence, and impact, there seems to be something really satisfying about investing in a relationship that works.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Blair. And good luck with the new addition.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Relationships come first – by a long shot. I learned that 20 years ago when I read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” You need to have principles, purpose and be truly happy with yourself. But physical possessions never bring true happiness. I believe only relationships and accomplishments do.

  • adbomaha

    Nicely done. We all want professional success as well as love. We just don't talk about the love part that much.

    Congratulations to you both.

  • http://twitter.com/mattamyers Matthew A Myers

    This was the first post I fully read of yours. Congrats on what sounds to be a wonderful 8 years, and certainly many more decades to come.

    I'm going to go read your post on choosing happiness now. :)

  • http://www.efficiencymatch.com Laurie Deneschuk

    Mark, this blog post does not in any way shock me as when all of us geeks were walking in the forbidden city it was your wife and children that were also on your mind amongst all that ancient beauty. It sounds like you are all so fortunate to have each other. Good for you and here is to not taking anything in this life for granted! Happy Anniversary!

  • http://www.twitter.com/biggiesu Mike Su

    Happy anniversary Mark!!

    +100 for the 2nd to last paragraph!!!! No matter how much of a devil the kids are during the day, they are such amazing angels at night (actually, they seem more angelic the worse they are during the day). More and more so lately I end up missing putting the kids to bed at night cause of work, which usually means things are stressful, but nothing melts that away than seeing your kids sound asleep at night. It's magical.

  • Gregmand

    I think your wife is pretty awesome as well. :) Happy anniversary!

  • Eflynn

    great post, mark.

  • http://twitter.com/juney Juney Ham

    Great perspective on life, and while the impetus for the post was surely relationship- and anniversary-driven, it's applicable in ways far beyond with whom we decide to spend the rest of our lives with.

    Congratulations Mark! I wish you the best.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you, Laurie. Hope you're well.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Bedtime is the best, isn't it? It's the one time that the just want to cuddle, talk and tell stories. Otherwise, boys can never sit still!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Greg. Appreciate it. And the email ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Juney. Hope you're doing well.

  • http://communico.co.nz Julian A Waters

    Tony Robbins talks about 'maintaining attraction' in a relationship, which seems to be part of what you're saying. I often challenge people about the 'quality' of the time they spend both together as a couple and also with their children. Like business, you can spend a lot of time on it but if it's not doing the things that matter it is doomed.

    And fortunately for some of us who maybe rushed in the first time, we might have another shot at getting it right… great to share in your joy through post.

  • Alexander Rink

    Mark,

    It is ironic that your bio statement says that you have “gone to the Dark Side of VC”, and yet your last two posts (all of them, but especially these last two) have displayed vulnerability and tenderness. As a serial entrepreneur with four kids who lived abroad for 5 years earlier in my life, I can empathize with much of what you write. Thanks for sharing, once again.

  • http://www.justinherrick.com Justin Herrick

    I as going to ask why you seemed so sentimental in this post and the last, but that sums it all up perfectly. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a romantic (and the ladies never complain), and as such I can only say that its an encouragement to hear stories like this.

    The title is the take-away from this post, just dont allow yourself to take the little things for granted, or the big things like your wife.

  • http://donaldryan.net DonRyan

    No need to apologize for this post. It was lovely. My wife and I will celebrate number 21 next week (we started very young). Congrats to you and your wife. Best wishes for many more happy years.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    Mark…Mazel tov on your anniversary.

    As someone who knows Rome, Barcelona and Paris pretty well…its hard not to feel this story. Ah…Park Guell!

    Thnx for sharing.

  • http://davidlew.is thedavidlewis

    Mark, that is a great post! You are dead on. My 9-year-old daughter gets what my ex doesn't: It takes two. One small change to what you wrote, instead of “rather than for my potential” it is often “rater than for what she wants to make me.”

    You are right about never losing an appreciation for it all. I read to my children every night (well, 50% of the nights) and they are 9 and 12. I didn't think they'd still let me. It's the best!

    -David

    P.S. I hope the VC world doesn't consider this your Jerry Maguire moment. If so, please join us for round 3 of your entrepreneurial career.

  • http://www.researchandcompare.com Alex

    Mark,

    Great post. You give a lot to the people you work with and the people in the community. I started watching (catching up on) your TWIVC videos this week and am greatful for what you do.

    We are all trying to do something to change the world in one way or another. Regardless of the businesses we help build or start or fund, the most important change we can offer is to raise great kids and take care of our families!

    Stay balanced, keep both feet on the gas pedal and your head high enough to be in the clouds! I look forward to your post next year.

  • John

    No need to excuse yourself. I hope you will offer these personal insights like this regularly.

  • http://twitter.com/slobotski Jeff Slobotski

    Thanks for sharing, and inspiring Mark…

    10 years, and 3 kids later, many thing you've said are things that I needed to be reminded of…

  • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

    congrats Mark. nice heartfelt post.

  • http://twitter.com/KellerII JT Keller

    Great post Mark! No need to apologize for sharing your personal insights. I've enjoyed them just as much as those that are more business-centric. My wife and I are about to celebrate our first anniversary this Sunday…so great timing.

  • Ldmangin

    Congratulations!

  • Jens Klaerner

    Dear Mark,
    Happy anniversary! Your blog post is really lovely and inspiring. You could make it as a songwriter. I totally love your line: “Sleeping faces are my modern day ocean views and I look EVERY night.”

    While reading your post I was thinking about an advice that often helps me to refocus and get happy (it's a bit lengthy): “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” – Alfred D Souza

    Not taking things for granted. So true, and yet so often I have to remind myself. Thanks for that! Best advice, although Baz Luhrmann would say sunscreen would be it ;).

    Cheers to the happy family!

  • V N Sivakumar

    Happy Anniversary Mark….Hope you had a wonderful time. These kind of posts also are necessary for all of us apart from the regular ones which you write. You had proposed it so well to you wife, that if most of us follow it then the life will always be joyous. Siva

  • http://twitter.com/davidsmuts David Smuts

    The self-help themes are pretty cool Mark, makes for interesting content beyond the hardcore business stuff. Congrats on the anniversary too!

  • KenMcArthur

    You are a lucky man Mark. Congratulations on all your success.

    I'll be 102 years old when you celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary. Would love to be there for that one!

    All the best,

    Ken

  • http://terezan.tumblr.com/ Tereza

    Not sure I even need to mention that I think Tania is utterly fabulous too! My digicarpathian Wharton twin sistah, LOL.

    Hey, you're pretty awesome too! ;-)

    Happy anniversary, Suster Family!

  • http://stickyslides.blogspot.com Jan Schultink

    Congratulations and thank you for sharing this personal story.

    Maybe it is the sequence of your life events:
    Beach front home – London – finding your life partner

    My sequence:
    Finding your life partner – London – beach front home

    Still loving the sound of those waves crashing 7 years later :-)

  • http://www.davidblerner.com davidblerner

    what a mensch!! i am not surprised…. all the best to you and congrats!

  • http://twitter.com/nitinmittal Nitin Mittal

    Thanks for the post and for sharing. This and your previous post provided much need prospective. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Please be sure to keep your writing this well-balanced between life and work.

  • http://www.maritalmediation.com Marital Mediation

    Happy anniversary!

    We've enjoyed your blog for the tech startup angle, now you've given us a post which fits our mission exactly.

  • http://blog.tumbledesign.com/ Nicky Hajal

    Mark, happy anniversary and thanks for the honest, heartfelt piece!

    Something I would add is that a lot of the things you mentioned weren't so small – relationships, spectacular scenery and architecture, etc.

    I don't have those things in my life right now, but I do have other things less grand that I appreciate just as much (and need to remember to down the road). Things like being able to go for a walk and think through things, having control of what I work on, the beauty of even just the ordinary nature around me – and none of that is mentioning the basics like shelter, food and so on!

    It's understandable that we get wrapped up in our day-to-day lives, but man there is always so much to be appreciative of.

    Thanks man, enjoy!

  • laurenporat

    Mark – this post is reason #427 I constantly feel as though you are speaking *directly* to me on this blog. Show tunes and sleeping faces? Love it. (I have 2 boys myself – 3 if you include my husband and 4 kids in total including my business :) )

  • jamespatterson2

    Perspective matters. We need more posts like yesterday and today. As the perils of bringing up a database are facing me last Sunday, I played with my nephew, Samuel, in from St. Louis. He was born last year at 21 weeks, a mere 20 ounces, about the length of your index finger. Sixteen months later, he's breathing normally (even has some lung capacity), a strong crawler (almost walking), and definitely has his wits about him.

    There is a purpose for everyone, and to everything there is a season.

  • http://twitter.com/nielspeter16 niels

    Great post Mark – thanks for sharing. I think often many type-A startup personalities are so passionate about what we do that we sometimes “forget” about the other and larger passion of our existence – enjoying and appreciating life with the people we have around us. Wish you and the family a great anniversary.

    PS: My bedtime routine also include watching the sleeping faces of our kids; no matter whatever work or personal issues are on my mind the view of kids always bring a calmness and the best way to begin a good nights sleep.

  • http://twitter.com/kernwill Will Kern

    Mark,
    Thanks so much for this post. As someone who has been married for 12 years with 4 kids and taken their marriage and family for granted far too often, this is a nice reminder of what is the most important thing in life – my wife and kids. Unfortunately I am going through a very rough time right now, and do not know what the next chapter of my life, not to mention ours will be, but reading this reaffirms to me what I have always wanted out of life – a partner that is not only my wife, but my best friend.
    Thanks for the reminder of what is important and thanks for the words of encouragement I needed.

    Will

  • http://twitter.com/kernwill Will Kern

    Mark,
    Thanks so much for this post. As someone who has been married for 12 years with 4 kids and taken their marriage and family for granted far too often, this is a nice reminder of what is the most important thing in life – my wife and kids. Unfortunately I am going through a very rough time right now, and do not know what the next chapter of my life, not to mention ours will be, but reading this reaffirms to me what I have always wanted out of life – a partner that is not only my wife, but my best friend.
    Thanks for the reminder of what is important and thanks for the words of encouragement I needed.

    Will

  • Dvasefi

    Happy anniversary Mark, completely agree with your points in both posts.

    A prefect example of the importance of attitude in life
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc4HGQHgeFE&feat….

    Best,
    Darius

  • jorgefsb

    Left a reply for you in cloudave.

    “I’m grateful that I have a true friend & partner who loves me for who I am rather than for my potential” – wow..

    Thanks for this man.. really.

    Best…
    J.

  • Brian Li

    Mark, first of all congrats~! I now see you as a dedicated hard working, intelligent and family man. Many of us who strive to strike the right balance in life are looking to you as inspiration. Best wishes to you and Tania.

    An occasional post about a true love story is always appreciated. Oddly enough, BSOTT can also relate to dinner dates at a restaurant…

  • furrybeasty

    Thank you, for an extremely well-written and clearly heartfelt piece. Your situation closely parallels mine, with early opportunities for exciting experiences that too often I allowed to fade too quickly, and a blissful current family life in the midst of stress & struggle. Your sincere and reflective approach has reinvigorated me, at least for today, and that's a lot for the price!