The Happiness Equation – My Favorite Happiness Book Summary

The Happiness Equation is so far, my absolute favorite read on happiness. The stories in it were super fascinating and Neil Pasricha did a wonderful job integrating studies and facts with his own stories.

The author starts off the book by showing the most common flowchart for happiness. First you work really hard, then you become successful, then you become happy. Train, then win, then be happy. Well, that’s a misconception and causes a lot of unhappiness. Similar to the Happiness Advantage, he shows that most people work better when they are happy, and better works leads to a higher chance of success, which reroutes the flowchart backwards.

Right into the first couple chapters, Neil gives you 7 ways to be happier in just a couple days. One of the ways was to write down, or journal, when you feel happy. Not only will this extend those happy feelings, but it will also give you something to read when you are feeling unhappy. Another tip he gives is to perform a random act of kindness. In fact, he quotes Martin Seligman “we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.” Try it out, perform 5 random acts of kindness this week, and don’t forget to write about them and how you feel in a journal! One last tip he mentions is to come up with 5 things you’re grateful for. He turned this into a business, creating a blog and eventually a book by listing things from “wearing underwear fresh out of the dryer” to “riding on someone’s shoulders when you’re a kid”.

But before he goes any further in the book, he wants you to understand WHY it’s important to be happy. So, he pulls out a study about nuns. Some researchers found a bunch of handwritten autobiographies of nuns who joined convents in the 1930s. What did these researchers do? They read all the notes, and sorted them into two groups based on how positive the attitudes were. The cool thing about this study is that this study group had no outliers – none of these nuns drank, smoke, had children, married, and they all lived in the same city, and even ate around the same food – so their relative happiness must be closely related to their attitudes. What did the researchers find? On average, the happiest nuns lived 10 years longer than the grumpy ones. Also, by age 94, 54% of the happy nuns were still alive, but only 15% of the least happy ones were. This famous nun study helps us realize how important it is to stay happy!

Something I found relatively useful in this book is to change the way you think about goals. A lot of people pick goals they can’t specifically control. For example: I want to lose 10 pounds, I want to reach 1,000,000 subscribers, I want to reach $1000/month in my side hustle. Here’s what you goals should look like: I want to work out 3 times a week, I want to upload a high quality video every week, I want to publish 12 E-books this years. Those are things you can directly do, while the first goals were dependent on how much food you ate, the Youtube Algorithm, and how people react to your writing.

Let’s move onto the next study, this one is my favorite, oh man I get excited about this topic. So, there’s this island called Okinawa, and what’s special about it, is that people live the longest there, and they live the longest without disability too. Here’s some examples. A 96 year old man defeated a 30 year old boxing champ. A 105 year old killed a snake… with a flyswatter. So yeah, obviously some pretty cool stuff happens here. Anyways, scientists were interested in this so they started studying these people, and the found a couple things.

  1. They ate on average smaller meals than most humans do
  2. They stopped eating earlier – when they were 80% full
  3. They were born into social groups and stayed in the social group until they died
  4. They didn’t have a word for retirement

In fact, they never retired. They never stopped working. The Japanese call this Ikigai, which means a reason to wake up in the morning. Do you have one? Here are some examples: One guy’s purpose is to teach martial arts and keep the art alive, he is 102. There’s a 100 year old fisherman and his reason is to catch fish and feed his family. Oh yeah, theres this 102 year old woman, and her reason is to hold her great, great, great, grandaughter. That would require 6 generations of the family. That’s nuts.

So, the moral of this study is to find your purpose, find your Ikigai and you’ll live longer.

Also, Neil point out three main things about retirement that you might want to consider:

  1. It is new. Nobody retired before the 18th century.
  2. It is a Western idea. Nothing wrong with this, but it doesn’t encourage as much contribution to family and society as a whole.
  3. It is broken. It’s based on
    1. We enjoy doing nothing as opposed to being productive.
    2. We can afford to do nothing for decades.
    3. We can afford to pay others for doing nothing for decades.

I feel 100% more fulfilled when I’m doing something productive, and it’s probably no coincidence people say “The two most dangerous days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you retire”.

Now let’s get on to how you can make more money than a Harvard MBA.

First of all, let me show you this graph, so you can understand it without me saying a whole bunch of words.

Let’s compare the salary of a Harvard MBA, an average retail assistant manager, and a teacher, with salaries of $120,000, $70,000, and $45,000 respectively.

Now add in vacation. Now let’s calculate how much each person actually works per year by multiplying how much they work per week by how many weeks they work in a year. Now you just divide their total salary by how many hours they work, and with these numbers, all of them come out to $28 per hour. This means that each hour someone is working with one of these jobs, they are earning $28/hour. A Harvard MBA graduate just works more hours per year, and that means they earn more, even if the rate is the same. Would you rather work an average of 81 hours a week, or an average of 30 hours a week? That’s the difference, just how long each person works. I bet the happiness of each of these people correlates to how much they enjoy their work.

One more big idea I got from this book is that happiness, well, self-satisfaction is when “what you think, what you say, and what you do” are all in harmony. In my past video on Outwitting the devil, maybe that is what Napoleon Hill meant about harmony.

The last thing I want to leave you guys with is that some of the best advice Neil said he got was not to follow advice or common sayings. He found that many common slogans are actually just catchy, and not always true. Here are some contradictions as examples:

  1. Birds of a feather, flock together = Opposites Attract
  2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder = Out of sight, out of mind
  3. You get what you pay for = The best things in life are free
  4. Good things come to those who wait = The early bird get the worm

Anyways, I really, really enjoyed this book, and I hope you enjoyed my review! If you want to read this book, I’ll put the link in the description, and if you want a free trial to Audible, to listen to this book while you’re doing other stuff, there’s a link for that too! Thanks for watching, and I hope you learned something!

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