Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 04/19/2021
We had a substitute teacher one day in grammar school, sixth grade, and he gave us an assignment to sell something to the class the next day. Kids sold cuff links, perfume, bikes. I attempted to sell happiness, offering a money-back guarantee. He said, “Weiss, that’s just stupid, sit down,” sort of like that famous song in A Chorus Line. (I was never enthralled with substitute teachers ever since one told me that I was wrong in third grade because I said “xylophone” began with an “x” and she condescendingly told me that it began with a “z.”)
I believe in happiness. My colleague and guest speaker, Dan Gilbert, the rock star of psychology up at Harvard, has written Stumbling on Happiness and his TED talk (one of the few decent ones) drew over 15 million views. We both believe that “synthetic” (my word) happiness (“Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me”) is as important as genuine happiness events (weddings, anniversaries, births, etc.).
I also believe that no one has the right to consume happiness (or wealth) without commensurately creating it. But what makes people happy? What is happiness really? Can there be a money-back guarantee?
My belief is that happiness is unrelated to material assets and money. It’s rather directly connected to personal fulfillment: Is my life meaningful? Am I leading a life of worth?
I’ve found newspaper delivery people, restroom attendants, and receptionists entirely fulfilled, cheerful and helpful, obviously believing that their jobs have meaning and are important. I’ve found entrepreneurs and executives who are miserable, despite the mansion, the big boat, and the diamonds. In the scheme of things, how much of a “calling” is merely making money? There is a lacuna sharing their lives with them.
I’ve encountered a great many people, while watching their unhappiness and unfettered appetites for more and more, to whom I want to shout, “At the end, are you going to say to your family, ‘this was my calling’? This is what you’re proud to have done?”
If you’re not happy, consider whether you’re doing something meaningful, or just marching alongside a gerbil. And then think about changing. Once you do change you can say, “This is the best thing that ever happened to me….”
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go. —Oscar Wilde
It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. —Agnes Repplier