The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything – Neil Pasricha

Here are five ways to increase your happiness:

What is the equation for happiness? According to Neil Pasricha, Canadian author, entrepreneur, Harvard MBA graduate, and public speaker, he states that it begins with wanting nothing and doing anything. So what exactly does that mean? Wanting nothing is the concept of living your life on your terms and not so much based on the perceptions others have of you. In other words, it’s “the subtle art of not giving a f*ck” as Mark Manson states bluntly. Ultimately, happiness begins from oneself and then through achievement (doing anything), it breeds further happiness. Believe it or not, the concept or notion of happiness has only really been new to us in the past century. Why’s that? Only within the past 100 years have humans started to have free time to do whatever it is that they want. Before, humans really had no choice but to spend their waking hours producing to make a living; the idea of a vacation or free time wasn’t very common. However, these days with the prevalence of technology, we’re now able to set up systems that allow us to relax more. With less to do in order to meet our basic survival needs, that extra white space on our calendars have allowed us to get out of scarcity and into abundance and thus creating happiness.

This is a great book on happiness and I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking to further understand how we humans derive happiness. Not only does Neil talk about the underlying concept of happiness and how we derive it, he also gives very practical and useful tips on how we can increase our happiness levels starting today. In addition, he includes some illustrations/graphics that strongly support his points and give off a very profound effect upon looking at them. I personally enjoyed reading this book as he addresses some points in the latter half of the book that blew my mind and changed my perspective on certain things in life. Here are some of the highlights to the book:


1. Happiness precedes success, not the other way around. Let’s start off with some bad news. The happiness model we’re taught from a young age is actually completely backward. We think we work hard in order to achieve big success and then we’re happy. We think the scribble goes like this: Study hard! → Straight A’s! → Be happy! Interview lots! → Great job! → Be happy! Work overtime! → Get promoted! → Be happy! But it doesn’t work like that in real life. That model is broken. We do great work, have a big success, but instead of being happy, we just set new goals. Now we study for the next job, the next degree, the next promotion. Why stop at a college degree when you can get a master’s? Why stop at Director when you can be VP? Why stop at one house when you can have two? We never get to happiness. It keeps getting pushed further and further away. What happens when we snap ‘Be happy’ off the end of this scribble and stick it on the beginning? Then these important six words look like this: Be Happy → Great Work → Big Success. Now everything changes. Everything changes. If we start with being happy, then we feel great. We look great. We exercise. We connect. What happens? We end up doing great work because we feel great doing it. What does great work lead to? Big success. Massive feelings of accomplishment and the resulting degrees, promotions, and phone calls from your mom telling you she’s proud of you. Harvard Business Review reports that happy people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales, and are three times more creative than their counterparts. So what’s the first thing you must do before you can be happy? Be happy. Be happy first .


2. Do it for you. 4 simple words that block all criticism Do It For You Do it for you. Don’t do it for others. It’s hard to compete endlessly because there’s always more to compete with when you get there. Remember we will always be number two to seven billion at everything in the world. And every level we go up has new peers, new benchmarks, new competitors. A CEO once told me, “You always think the geniuses are at the next level.” But the next level never ends unless you are literally the best in the entire world . What are the odds of that happening? Well, they are one in seven billion. You have better chances of getting struck by lightning every single day of your life.” He later states, Studies show that when we begin to value the rewards we get for doing a task, we lose our inherent interest in doing the task. Like, we literally lose interest—as in, the interest we have becomes truly lost in our minds, hidden away from our own brains, as the shiny external reward sits front and center and becomes the new object of our desire. While at Brandeis University, Dr. Teresa Amabile performed experiments on elementary school and college students and asked groups they were getting rewards for their work and some were not. What happened? Based on independent judges, who didn’t know who was getting paid, the least creative projects by far were done by students who were promised rewards for their work. Dr. Amabile said, ‘It may be that commissioned work will, in general, be less creative than work that is done out of pure interest.’ Makes sense. When you’re not doing it for you . . . you’re not doing a good job.


3. Really think about the purpose of why you’re doing the things you’re doing. What is the end goal for you? A boat is docked in a tiny fishermen’s village. A tourist wearing expensive sunglasses and a fancy watch walks by and compliments a fisherman on the quality of his fish and asks how long it took him to catch them. ‘Not very long,’ answers the fisherman. ‘But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?’ asks the tourist. The fisherman explains his small catch is enough to meet his needs and those of his family. The tourist asks, ‘But what do you do with the rest of your time?’ ‘I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.’ The tourist jumps in. ‘I have an MBA and I can help you! You should your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.’ ‘How long would that take?’ asks the fisherman. ‘Twenty or twenty-five years, at most,’ replies the tourist. ‘And after that?’ ‘After that? Well, my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting,’ answers the tourist, laughing. ‘When your business gets really big, you can sell your company stock to the public and make millions!’ ‘Millions? Really? And after that?’ asks the fisherman. ‘After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and playing guitar with your friends.’


4. You and everyone else you know have already won the lottery. We live on the pale blue dot. And it’s a beautiful dot. So on this planet, on the only planet in the universe where we can live, we get to be alive . You have to remember that most people who have ever lived on Earth are dead. There are about 7 billion people on Earth today and 115 billion people who have ever lived in the history of the world. That means 108 billion people are dead. Most people have already lived their lives. Put another way: Fourteen out of every fifteen people who have ever lived will never see another sunset again, have a bowl of chocolate ice cream, or kiss their kids good night. Fourteen out of every fifteen people will never stroll by the smell of their neighbor barbecuing, flip to the cold side of the pillow before sleeping in on a Sunday, or blow out the flickering candles of a birthday cake in a dark kitchen surrounded by their closest friends. Being alive means you’ve already won the lottery. You are among the wealthiest people in the entire world. The average world income is five thousand dollars. Are you higher than that? Then you’re in the top 50%. And if you’re higher than fifty thousand dollars you’re in the top 0.5%. Do you need much more than 99.5% of people alive? You either have the money to buy this book or you have the time to read it. Either way, you have it good! You already have more than almost everybody on the planet. On your very worst days, you have to push your negative thoughts. You have to take a step back. You have to remember the lottery. Because you’ve already won.


5. Never “retire.” Have a purpose/drive to get you up in the morning. Retirement is the death of you. “Researchers from National Geographic were so fascinated by Okinawans that they studied what helped them live so long. What did they find out? They eat off smaller plates, they stop eating when they’re 80% full, and they have a beautiful setup where they’re put into social groups as babies to slowly grow old together. But they also have an outlook on life that is very different from ours in the West. While we think of retirement as the golden age of putting greens, cottage docks, and staring at the clouds, guess what they call retirement in Okinawa? They don’t! They don’t even have a word for retirement. Literally nothing in their language describes the concept of stopping work completely. Instead, they have the word ikigai (pronounced like icky guy’), which roughly means ‘the reason you wake up in the morning.’ You can think of it as the thing that drives you most. 


6. Your earnings on a per hourly basis should be looked at more than the actual total of how much you make. “The way to make more money than a Harvard MBA isn’t to get your annual salary over $120,000 or $150,000 or $500,000. It’s to measure how much you make per hour and overvalue you so you’re spending time working only on things you enjoy. The average life expectancy in our world today is seventy years, and we sleep for a third of that. That means you have four hundred thousand waking hours in your life total. You have four hundred thousand hours to spend in your life total. Understand how much a Harvard MBA really makes and overvalue you so every single hour of your working life is spent doing something you love.


7. We unconsciously suffer from analysis paralysis. Minimize your available options. Early in my career I worked a summer job helping a buyer for fish in an American supermarket chain,’ he continues. ‘We had every kind of fish. We had every kind of seasoning. It was all fresh. It was priced well. But nobody bought it. We couldn’t figure it out. Finally we realized customers were scared of buying fresh fish. Which one tastes best? How do you season it? How do you cook it? Too many decisions. So we changed our section. We only carried three kinds of fish at a time. Not ten, not fifteen, three. And we had one kind of seasoning for each. So you suddenly only had one choice to make. Cajun trout, teriyaki salmon, or lemon sole? Once you made your pick, the fishmonger dipped your fish in the seasoning and the label printed off the instructions on how to cook it.’ What happened? ‘Sales were up over five hundred percent.’ I realized fewer choices means faster decisions. Our brains don’t need to mentally step into each new option and stretch out inside them, picturing them, evaluating them, holding them in our heads while we step into the next option. Fewer choices means faster decisions.


8. Create false deadlines. We hustle more/become more focused when there’s a deadline. Sam Raina is a leader in the technology industry. He oversees the design and development of a large website with millions of hits a day. He has more than sixty people working for him. It’s a big team. There are many moving parts. From designers to coders to copy editors. How does he motivate his team to design and launch entirely new pages for the website from scratch? He follows Parkinson’s Law and cuts down time. He books his entire team for secret one-day meetings and then issues them a challenge in the morning that he says they’re going to get done by the end of the day. There is only one day to make an entire website! From designing to layout to testing—everything. Everyone freaks out about the deadline. And then everyone starts working together. ‘The less time we have to do it, the more focused and organized we are. We all work together. We have to! There is no way we’d hit the deadline otherwise. And we always manage to pull it off,’ Sam says. By spending a day on a project that would otherwise take months, he frees up everyone’s thinking time, transactional time, and work time. Nobody will be thinking about the website in the bed, bath, or bus again. They can think about other things! There will be no emails about the website, no out-of-office messages, no meetings set up to discuss it, no confusion about who said what. Everyone talks in person. At the same time. Until it’s done! What’s the counterintuitive secret to having more time? Chop the amount of time you have to do it.


9. Not sure what to do with your life? Do the “Saturday morning” test.Ask yourself that one crucial question, think about it for a second, and answer it out loud. What do you do on Saturday morning when you have nothing to do? Do you go to the gym? Do you record yourself playing guitar? Take whatever answer you have and then wildly brainstorm ways you can pursue opportunities that naturally spew from that passion. There will be hundreds. Love going to the gym? Personal training, coaching a baseball team, volunteering for a walking group, running a yoga studio, teaching phys ed, starting a supplements company. And it goes on. Love recording yourself playing guitar? How about teaching guitar online, editing music, learning to DJ, starting up an instrument company? One of the happiest people I’ve met was a high school music teacher who decided to start importing, selling, and teaching the ukulele. Your true self will be drawn to these ideas. They make you richer, stronger, and happier in your work life, too. Dale Carnegie said, ‘Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.’ The Saturday Morning Test asks you to lean in to your natural passion to enrich your work and personal lives.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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My rating:
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