“I can’t sleep, cuz my bed’s on fire…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)
I’ve been studying happiness just as long as I’ve obsessed on becoming successful in biz…
… and you know what?
The two barely intersect at all.
I wouldn’t want to spend two seconds inside the skin of most of the richest people I know. They’re miserable. They never have enough to fill the bottomless need that fuels their quest for “more”.
But I’m not smug about it.
We all share the same basic malfunctioning default system bug — when we’re sad, we crave happiness…
… and when we’re happy, we’re either unconsciously looking for ways to fuck it up, so we’ll be sad again…
… or we’re terrified that we’re missing something that will take it all away.
Pure happiness is unsustainable. It’s an outlier emotional state, requiring some fairly substantial hormone dumps from glands that simply can’t supply vast amounts.
Zen thinking tries to get us into a more reasonable contented mode.
Moderation is sustainable pretty much forever, with the right mental tools and a little breath training.
But the human brain loathes moderation, and craves excess.
It’s a bug in the system.
I’m leery of anyone who promises too much joy, especially if they’re selling it.
And yet, the suckers line up to quaff the nasty brew in endless lines.
Being human is hard, in this concrete jungle.
But given the choice between wealth and contentment, I’d choose the latter every time.
Now, that is. As a young man, busy chewing up scenery and consumed with lust, I danced near the edges of bliss and despair as much as possible, and sneered at those who would harsh my wild swings.
Life blows by in a blink, folks.
You’ll never quite figure out the meaning.
But it for sure ain’t unbridled wealth.
Beyond accumulating what you can spend in a hot-blooded lifetime, you’re mostly wasting your time.
You disagree, of course…
P.S. That blurry photo up top is me, in my arrogant twenties, mocking death. It was Halloween, somewhere in the murky depths of the seventies.
Fun times. We thought they’d last forever, as life continued to lavish energy, fun and health upon our undeserving heads.
Now, the photo is just a reminder to watch my diet, exercise more, and avoid dying as best I can.
Take care of yourself, you.
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Nice post. Contentment and gratitude equate happiness for me. Anything beyond that is what I call bliss and those moments are fleeting.
That’s a good way to think about happiness, Paul.
Everything in moderation… including moderation.
My saying is: All vices in moderation.
With the emphasis on “all” — I’m implying that going after vices is a good thing in a well-lived life, but only in moderation.
It’s impossible to be a great writer without having sampled all of life’s gnarly and amazing and delightful offerings. But you gotta be wary of the traps…
I like your thoughts here. Your post intersects with my current research. I find that biz success and contentment can be aligned by what is MEANINGFUL.
Pursuing what is meaningful is more sustainable, when most of life involves suffering and setbacks, than the short term existence of happiness.
Now if you USE the success in biz as way to achieving more meaning in life, then a steady daily flow of gratitude is possible. From that we find contentment.
Thanks for the note, Matthew. I agree…
As long as I breathe I’m quite content. Focus on not the outcome, but the here and now and your life will be forever in the moment…
Love your blog by the way, great fan of your email.