What To Know about “The Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha


Want nothing +Do anything = Have everything

Well that sounded good to me, so I bought it.

It could be reformulated as

Contentment + Freedom = Happiness

Why am I inviting you to read this?

Would you like to feel happy more often? Do you believe that it’s possible?

Do you feel grateful for your life?

Do you feel like something is lacking in your life? It might be this.

This is my invitation to you to read the “Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha

Let’s have some fun with this.

Watching this invitation doesn’t give you the full experience of reading the book.

As you continue to watch, you’ll decide for yourself if you want to.

First a little background about he author. He had a bad year where he got divorced and a close friend committed suicide.

To cheer himself up, he created a blog of awesome things in his life. He later turned that into the book of awesome. It was an international bestseller for over 2 years.

The book of awesome was full of things that Neil appreciates, like snow days, free refills and Canada. Three things that I am grateful for as well.

In this book, Neil has brought together the most effective methods from happiness research, that’s a thing, into one book.

He states his life’s purpose is to remind you of how lucky you are to be alive.  With “the happiness equation” he’s done a good job of it.

The first page is “3 ways to get the most out of this book” and the first line is “agree to disagree”. Well, I don’t agree with that!!

It’s like he had an argument with me before I showed up.

Anyway, have you ever thought, if I do great work, succeed at it, then I’ll be happy?

For example, if I work hard, exercise and eat healthy to lose fat then I’ll be happy.

I think like that.

Neil reports that we never get to longterm happiness with that approach. I agree, it hasn’t worked for me. Even when I succeeded, I  created a condition where I got to be happy for only a day or two.

So be happy first.  Don’t make your happiness dependent on some condition. Well, that’s easy to say.  Be happy for no reason, which is another book.

But how can you be happy if some external condition isn’t met? Studies have revealed that if I knew everything about your life, I could predict only 10% of your happiness. 90% of happiness comes from the way your brain processes your life.


More or less

It’s just a change in me

The Verve got it right in “lucky man”

Have you ever thought, if I win the lottery, then I’ll be happy?

I have.

Judging by lottery ticket sales, I bet you have too.

That’s looking for happiness due to a condition being met and it turns out it doesn’t work.

This is important.

Cultivating happiness could be a matter of life and death.

Have you heard of celebrities who had great wealth, good physical health and fame with millions of fans and they weren’t happy?  Life was so painful that they killed themselves. There was even a billionaire who killed himself.

So how can you be truly happy now? Without being at your ideal weight or winning the lottery.  “Don’t worry, be happy” was a great song by Bobby McFerrin, but there’s more to it than that.

Now, Neil doesn’t make this claim, but I imagine that widespread practice of the ideas in this book would reduce the suicide rate.

Happy people don’t kill themselves.

Neil has condensed Happiness research into 9 methods that are proven to work for lots of people. They’re worth testing on yourself.

Neil ties each method to a story. He and I must read the same books as I had read of these ideas before. But, when I catch myself thinking “I know that” I ask myself “Did I do it today?”  It’s not what you know that makes the difference, it’s what you do.  The odds are good that practicing these habits will result in you feeling happier.

There are other habits that I consider fundamental which aren’t mentioned in this book.

I talk about them in my invitation to read “How to fail at everything and still win big” by Scott Adams, be sure to watch that if you want to be happier.

First, be physically active every day, such as half an hour walk or any activity that you enjoy. That one works for me. I feel better when I do it. It doesn’t make much difference to my excess fat, but it improves my mood and my ability to think clearly.

Second, set aside 20 minutes to quietly write about a positive experience. Remembering it, describing it in detail.  Try writing about someone you love and special memories you have with them.  I had a tough time with that one.  Maybe you’ll have better luck.

Third, perform an act of kindness.  My favourite way to practice kindness is to be tolerant when I feel like being angry.  I wrote a book about that.  You can watch my video for it at www.TheRakeBook.com.  It won an award in a juried competition from a selection of 5 authors. Creating The Rake book was an act of kindness for me.  I felt happy doing it and with the reaction to it.  I’m still happy about it. Plus, it’s fun to say I’m an award winning author.

A kindness could be paying for the coffee of the person behind you at Tim Horton’s.  It’s inspiring when I hear of people that keep that going for hours.  The important thing is that it’s something you freely want to do.  If you feel obligated, then it probably won’t make you feel happy.

Fourth is my favourite method to be happy.  Be in the flow, focused on what I’m doing.  You can lose your self in the moment.  Eminem knows what I’m talking about.

There’s a book called Flow that’s all about that.  I get in flow studying a great book like this one, taking notes, recording this video for you.  As an IT manager, I get in the zone when I do requirements analysis, design and code a program, solving a hard problem, especially when the stakes are high.  Have you ever lost yourself in an activity that challenges your skills? That can trigger the flow state.

I feel like I’m in the flow when I get my knee down on the track.

There’s lots of ways to do it.

The fifth habit is to write down one thing a day that you’re grateful for.  This was a good one for me.  After a while, I couldn’t think of anything new each day.  So I started looking for things to be grateful for, so that I’d have something to write that night.  Doing that shifted my focus to pay attention to what I can be grateful for, which is plenty.

That reminds me of something Olympic Gold medalist, Mark McCoy told me.  The bronze winner is often the happiest.

The athlete who wins gold may feel like it should have felt more amazing to win than it did.  They’ve reached the pinnacle.

The athlete who wins silver is thinking with a bit of luck, a tiny difference, I’d be number one, instead of the first loser

The bronze winner is often the happiest, they can always say they are an Olympic medalist and they may improve and win Gold next time.

Pick one of those happiness tactics and test it out for yourself for a week or two.  If you don’t like it, try another.  Don’t try them all at once, because that’s overwhelming. You wouldn’t want to be too happy would you?

So, that’s the first secret of happiness, that you can be happy now.  Happiness is a state of mind that has little to do with your circumstances.

On page 77 I was fascinated to find the phrase “keeping up with the Jones” originated in a 100 year old comic strip.  I’ve heard that all my life, but never knew where it came from.   People who are obsessed with having what others have, know the recipe for misery, that’s keeping up with the jones. If you want to learn English idioms and expressions, check out my Fun with English course.

The third secret is to appreciate what you have.

Neil showed me that just by being here now, it’s like I’ve won the lottery.

I have the ability and time to read this book and the money to buy it.  I can record this video for you. I already have it better than most people in the history of humanity, so be grateful and happy about that.   For under $20, I have more delicious choices for my next meal than any king or billionaire of 100 years ago. Within 20 minutes of my house I can get Indian bhel poori, onion kulcha, vindaloo, dosa,

Quebecois poutine, Mexican tacos, British fish and chips, Japanese sashimi, Korean bulgogi, Vietnamese fa, Italian lasagna, Thai crispy beef, Greek Gyros, Afghan bolanee, Swiss Chalet chicken and fries, Harvey’s burgers.  Hundreds of restaurants are open, ready to take my order right now.   It’s fantastic.

I can even order online and have it delivered to my door.

I grew up in the ghost town of Brudenell, Ontario which is over an hour away from the nearest drive thru. Having food delivered to my door is especially decadent to me.

Starting at page 116 Neil makes the point that we all have 168 hours in a week, and typically we use one third 56 hours for work,

another third 56 hours for sleep and that leaves 56 hours to do with what we choose.

Fill that third bucket with what you love to do.  Do what you are passionate about.  Would you stop doing what you love just because your turned 65?  That’s the 4th secret, never stop.  Always have something useful to do, something to look forward to.

Starting at page 139 Neil explains how to make more money than a Harvard MBA.  He ought to know, he’s earned his Harvard MBA.  I’m impressed by that accomplishment, that’s the power of a brand.

The fifth secret, know what your time is worth and value the time you have left.

On page 185 he suggests a straightforward approach to cut meeting times in half by allocating half the time. So cut meeting times in half by cutting them in half.

He quotes from Jack Welch, named the best manager in the world, whom I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with. Jack explains that organizations must be simple to be effective. To be simple, people must have self-confidence and intellectual self-assurance.  Insecure people create complexity.  They fear being simple.  They worry that if they’re simple, people will think they are simpleminded. In reality, the opposite is true. Clear, tough minded people are the most simple.

I’m a simple guy

Happily, on page 195 Neil takes on the myth of multitasking, which is making a mess of two or more things at the same time.

Harvard researchers estimate 20% to 40% of a typical office workers time is wasted due to the overhead of switching tasks. That’s 1 or 2 days out of 5 wasted.  From what I’ve seen, its true.

As a manager, I reduce switching tasks by having a system that delivers work one task at a time.  When work is requested by text message, email, phone calls, voice mail and in person it adds to the overhead of managing to get things done.  Switching tasks and then getting back to where you were before the interruption is a huge time waster. What do you do if you get a text message, an email, a phone call and have two people at your desk at the same time?   Then you’re in what Neil calls a “response selection bottleneck”, in computer terms we call it trashing.  Everyone’s frustration rises and nothing gets done.  You end up TALKING about doing the work instead of actually doing it.   To avoid that, when I set up an IT department, I insist on a single ticket system.   That funnels all the work into manageable chunks that can be prioritized and scheduled.

The 6th secret to happiness is don’t be constantly busy.  Take time to think and to relax, doing nothing for a time.

Starting at page 231 he explains that you can overcome fear of failure by taking a small step towards doing whatever you have in mind.  The more you do it, the more you can do, the more you can do, the more you want to.  It’s a virtuous cycle.

If you’ve learned any skill that was challenging for you, swimming, learning to drive, touch typing

then you’ve already been through the process.  Apply that skill to something that you imagine will make you happy.  Have you always wanted to learn to cook tasty and healthy meals?  Then start, try a recipe, book a lesson.  Don’t wait until you are confident that you can do it, start in small ways and build on it.

Just do it, that’s the 7th secret.

Starting at page 254 Neil encourages you to value the time you have left.

I figure I have more years behind me than ahead of me.

The at line from Fight Club is true.

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time

cut to Norton’s character

This IS your life and it IS ending one minute at a time

Imagine that you are going to be dead 6 weeks from now.  You’ve got 6 weeks left, what are you going to do with it?

Would you sit down and cry “Why me! I’m so young”   WHY!!

I’m going to play for you a graphic scene from fight club.

Imagine that you are Raymond K Hessel, the convenience store clerk.

As you watch, pretend that it IS you on your knees, with a madman holding a revolver pointed at the back of YOUR head.


If you knew you were going to be die soon, what regrets would you have?

Would you wish you had expressed your true feelings?

Would you apologize to someone?

Would you wish you watched more TV? Played more games?

Would you forgive someone?

Would you wish you had done more of what makes you happy?

Are there people that you wished you had stayed in touch with?

Would you spend more time with your family and friends?

What is it for you?

Whatever it is, you’re not dead yet and hopefully you’’ll be around for many years to come.  So be your authentic self.  It might be entertaining.

That’s the 8th secret. Don’t hide, don’t pretend to be what you imagine others would have you be.

You need to be yourself

You can’t be no one else

For example, I’m showing my enthusiasm for what I find useful.   I’ve been criticized for that, but I’m no longer letting that stop me. I’m creating these what to know videos. Maybe you and I will connect on a deeper level because of it. Maybe you’ll read this book and create more happiness for yourself.

That would be awesome.

Finally, starting at page 268 Secret 9 is don’t take personal advice, when we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.  Someone who agrees with what we’ve already decided to do.

Don’t take advice

Take a chance

Roll the dice

Learn to dance

My thanks to Ken Hong for suggesting todays show.

Thank you Neil Pasricha for an excellent book that makes the latest research on happiness accessible.

thank YOU for watching.

Is there a show you want to see? Email [email protected] and maybe I’ll make one for you.

Be happy.

Be seeing you.

Show Notes

Your invitation to read The Happiness Equation http://amzn.to/2zdE0aU by Neil Pasricha

Founder of the Institute for Global Happiness https://globalhappiness.org/about/our-team/

Neil Pasricha blog http://1000awesomethings.com/

Neil Pasricha TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome

Www.TheRakeBook.com by Peter Whelan is my award winning book about anger and revenge.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH6TJU0qWoY Lucky Man by The Verve

https://youtu.be/lKUKYQ1Zz7I?t=10s The Natural Edge by David Wilcox

https://youtu.be/BJKpUH2kJQg?t=2m10s Supersonic by Oasis