“The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning by Scott Galloway

These were my favorite passages from Scott Galloway an NYU professor who has had a ton of life experience in business.

“Then, in your fifties (earlier if you’re soulful), you begin to register all the wonderful blessings that are everywhere. I mean everywhere. Beautiful beings that look and smell like you (children). Water that turns into waves you can ride and other wonders of nature. The ability to deliver some sort of sweat or intelligence that people will pay you for, that you can then support your family with.”
“This is partially built on talent, but mostly on strategy and endurance. My lack of balance as a young professional cost me my marriage, my hair, and arguably my twenties. There’s no user manual here, and it’s a trade-off. My lack of balance, while affording me more balance later in life, came at a very real cost.”
“WE HAVE a caste system in the United States: higher education. In addition, economic growth is increasingly clustering around a handful of supercities. Two-thirds of economic growth over the next fifty years will be in supercities. Opportunity is a function of density. Get to a place that’s crowded with success. Big cities are Wimbledon—even if you aren’t Rafael Nadal, your game will improve by being on the court with him. And you’ll either get in better shape or learn you shouldn’t be at Wimbledon.”
“Advice here is simple. While you’re young, get credentialed and get to a city. Both get difficult, if not impossible, as you get older. There will always be great stories about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other college dropouts. Again, assume you’re not that person.”
“But take notes on the things that give you joy and satisfaction, and start investing in those things. Pay special attention to things that bring you joy that don’t involve mind-altering substances or a lot of money. Whether it’s cooking, capoeira, the guitar, or mountain biking, interests and hobbies add texture to your personality. Being “in the zone” is happiness. You lose the sense of time, forget yourself, and feel part
of something larger. I found writing only several years ago, and it’s now one of the most rewarding parts of my life. Writing is my therapy. It’s a way for this shit banging around in my head to find an escape route. It’s a chance to immortalize how much I love my kids, miss my mom, and love Chipotle. Writing has reconnected me with people I care about and introduced me to new, interesting people. I hope that, after I’m gone, my kids will read.”
“By the time you’re thirty, you should have a feel for what your burn is. Young people are 100 percent focused on their earnings. Adults also focus on their burn.”
“The number one piece of advice seniors would give to their younger selves is that they wish they’d been less hard on themselves. Our competitive instincts lead us to anchor off the most successful people we know, and we’re disappointed when the person in the mirror doesn’t match those achievements. One of the keys to a healthy relationship is forgiveness, as you, and your partner, will at some point screw up. Your limited time here mandates that you hold yourself accountable. But also be ready to forgive yourself so you can get on with the important business of life.”
“It didn’t take long to realize that the secret is to find something you’re good at. The rewards and recognition that stem from being great at something will make you passionate about whatever that something is. Investment banking, for me, was a unique combination of boring subject matter and a great deal of stress. Figuring out early that my hunger to impress was leading down a road of misery gave me the confidence to get out. I quit the path of success devoid of fulfillment.”
“I believe most people are especially repelled by attributes in other people that remind them of things they loathe about themselves.”
“My dad reflects on these seminars as the happiest he’s ever been. He was where he was meant to be, in front of a group of people, speaking and teaching.”
“Seeing my dad in class reminds me that the difference between bribing people to listen to you with lemon squares and being paid $2,000 per minute at corporate gatherings is not talent—my dad has more of that. The difference is being born in America, and the generosity of California taxpayers, who gave the child of a secretary the chance to attend a world-class university. The mix of my dad’s talent and the confidence I got from the abundant love of his second wife gave me the skills and opportunity to stand in front of a room full of people, look each in the eyes, and say, “I believe this to be true.”
“I don’t act like an employee at Stern, but a free agent, and it frustrates them. My star is burning bright right now—I’m good at teaching and I strengthen the Stern brand, so they tolerate me. But when my value begins to wane (and it’s only a matter of time), they’ll drop me like second-period French. “
“you’d better be damn good at selling if you plan to start a business. Selling is calling people who don’t want to hear from you, pretending to like them, getting treated poorly, and then calling them again. I likely won’t start another business because my ego is getting too big to sell. I, incorrectly, believe our collective genius at L2 should mean the product sells itself, and sometimes it does. There has to be a product that doesn’t require you to get out the spoon and publicly eat shit over and over. Actually, no, there isn’t.”
“Google has an algorithm that can answer anything and identify people who have explicitly declared an interest in buying your product, then advertise to those people at that exact moment. Yet Google still has to hire thousands of attractive people with average IQs and exceptional EQ to sell the shit out of . . . Google. Entrepreneurship is a sales job with negative commissions until you raise capital, are profitable.”
“The good news: If you like to sell and are good at it, you’ll always make more money, relative to how hard you work, than any of your colleagues, and . . . they’ll hate you for it.”
“Being successful in a big firm isn’t easy, and it requires a unique skill set. You have to play nice with others, suffer injustices and bullshit at every turn, and be politically savvy—get noticed by key stakeholders doing good work and garner executive-level sponsorship. However, if you’re good at working at a big firm, then, on a risk-adjusted basis, you are better off doing just that—and not struggling against the long odds facing a small firm. For me, entrepreneurship was a survival mechanism, as I didn’t have the skills to be successful in the greatest platforms for economic success in history, big US companies.”
“They want to sound inspirational and give you a sound bite, because the truth that success requires sixty- to eighty-hour weeks for several decades doesn’t get applause in graduation speeches.”
“3, 4, and 2. I’ve started nine companies: three were wins, four were failures, and two were somewhere in between. I don’t believe any culture or country, other than the United States, would have given me this many chances.”
“For the first time, I sensed unchecked emotion from David (he’s a rock). He replied, “I want to help young people, and I’m sick of firing my friends.” It’s easy to be admirable when you’re an executive in a sector growing 50 percent a year. To leave the print industry with friends and reputation intact is to win the Boston Marathon sporting a 104-degree fever. David is a role model for me. Not because of his professional success; I know a lot of very successful people. But because David never lost the script . . . as I and many, or most, ambitious people have at some point in our lives. Professional success is the means, not the end. The end is economic security for your family and, more important, meaningful relationships with family and friends. David has been married to Laurie for over three decades, has four impressive adult children who are always around (always) and clearly adore their father. He has friends who admire him and feel admired by him.”
“and fear of rejection is a bigger obstacle than lack of talent or the market. Train yourself to take some sort of risk (ask for a raise, introduce yourself around at a party) every day and get comfortable grasping beyond your reach.”
“The most rewarding part of my job is when young people who trust me seek counsel from me about their next move or other work matters. At this age, some of the kids, as I call them, become your adult kids, and you become concerned about their well-being. It’s rewarding, as it scratches a maternal/paternal itch we have as we get older.”
“More important, at thirteen, I was visible. Visible and worthy of an impressive man’s time, every day. Randy and Cy instilled in me that remarkable men can become irrationally passionate about the well-being of a child . . . who isn’t theirs. After heading to high school, I lost touch with Cy and, several years later, sold the stock to pay for a road trip to Ensenada with my UCLA friends.”
“In my forties, I became blessed with greater self-awareness. Aware of my strengths, weaknesses, blessings, and what makes me happy. Problem is, I also became more aware of my deficits—where I had taken more than given. Friends who invested more in the relationship than me. Partners/girlfriends who had been more committed and generous. Even California taxpayers, paying for my education at UCLA, and me reciprocating with striking underachievement—a 2.27 GPA (no joke). Taking, always taking.”
“I tell the story to my class when discussing mentors and how many strangers’ acts of kindness have had an impact on my life and prosperity. For the last decade, I have challenged them (offering a $5,000 bounty) to find Cy, as I know they’ll come up empty-handed.
something in return—their love, security, or intimacy. Then there’s complete love, surrendering to loving someone regardless of whether they love you back, or whether you get anything in return, for that matter. No conditions, no exchange, just a decision to love this person and focus solely on their well-being.”
“To love someone completely is the ultimate accomplishment. It tells the universe you matter, you are an agent of survival, evolution, and life. You are still just a blink of an eye, but the blink matters.”
“As we get older, we get more reward from giving.”
“My biggest fear is that my selfish tendencies translate to a lack of investment in relationships, and I’ll die alone. One place I’ve invested, early and often, is in my boys. I’m banking on the small investments made several times a week in the middle of the night paying
toward one goal: that they will remember their parents chose them over anything else.”
“Soon after, they took stock of their blessings and asked each other, “What could we do to better seize the moments that are our life?” The husband is an adventurer and proposed that, with their three kids, they circumnavigate the globe in a high-tech catamaran. This would be insane if they weren’t both uber-competent people whom others trust with their lives and livelihoods (she’s a doc, he’s a CEO). Even so, cruising around on the open ocean supported by two giant boogie boards feels a tad crazy.”
“The husband’s joy was evident, even in 2D. To be with his family, applying their skills, strength, and wits to embrace and conquer nature made him glow. No filter. Partners who can take what they’ve built together and throw the full force of that at each other’s happiness are likely the root of our prosperity as a species.”
“As my first marriage was crumbling, part of my penance was going to couples therapy. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. Our therapist was a smart, caring man who seemed generally interested in my favorite topic . . . me.”
“By this measure, I had never really loved anybody until I had kids. Instinctively and proactively, we suspend our lives and shape them around our kids.”
“Different ways of saying the same thing: My life is yours, and I love you.”
“What was clear is that, six times, he told his grandson, “I love you.”
“She loved me so much . . . Having a good person express how wonderful you are hundreds of times changes everything.”
“She was also a good person who made me feel connected and, while waiting for our Opel, gave me the confidence that I had value, that I was capable and deserving of all these things. Holding hands and laughing, I was tethered. What Makes a Home IN A capitalist society, we mark life by our purchases.”
“She looked at me and asked if it was too loud. My mom was sitting upright on the edge of her bed waiting for me. She looked at me and said, “I don’t want to be here.” All the fucking fake relevance, semi-internet fame, money, and living large . . . and my ninety-pound mom was trapped in a place that reeked of urine. I had failed. I helped my mom pack her stuff and told the nurses I wanted to take her home. They said that would be “against doctor’s orders” and that they would call security if necessary. I went outside and told the driver who’d brought me there that I would be bringing my mom out in a wheelchair, and that we needed to get her in the car and leave promptly. I went back into the facility, got a wheelchair, put my mom in it, placed her bag on her lap, and headed out. As we passed the nurses’ desk, they looked calmly at us, and a large security guard positioned himself between my mom and me and the sliding exit doors. He didn’t say anything, just stood there.”
“I think he felt sorry for us. He turned his gaze to the floor and walked away, and we left. My mom passed seven weeks later, at home.”
“Your first house signals the meaningful—your future and possibility. Your last home signals the profound—the people who love you.”
“Your accomplishments indicate your parents were able to create a positive environment to raise you in. Key to this is economic security, which at your age you need professional momentum to establish. I’d speculate your dad would appreciate you adapting your life, but not transforming it or putting your career on hold. You will likely have kids of your own, and your parents’ grandkids will also need a mom who can provide for them, and feels relevant professionally. Only you can decide what this balance is.”
“Learning: People will surprise and disappoint you. My mom had several close friends who never visited or even called much. It was as if they were worried they might catch her cancer. I don’t think these were bad people—they just dealt with it differently. Conversely, her last boss, a successful guy 20 years younger than her, with his own family, would get on a plane every four weeks, come sit by my mom’s side (where she would vomit into a plastic container every 15 minutes), and would talk to her for an hour before heading back to the airport. His name is Bob Perkowitz and he’s not just successful, but kind.”
“To know their family loves them immensely. 2. To recognize that their love and parenting gave their children the skills and confidence to add value and live rewarding lives.”
“Linda had found the time to get me pajamas to ensure I knew she still loved me. Some people are . . . just born wonderful.”
“Until I had kids, my life was “More . . . I want fucking more.” The only time I’ve ever felt sated, ever, is with my family.”
“He drifts into sleep, wakes up, discovers me next to him, rolls over, flopping his outer leg and arm on me, and returns to his slumber. In that moment, “this” all makes sense: I’m with my family, watching over them, strong, timeless, immortal. My child, assessing my worth on things that have nothing to do with our modern, material world, chooses me. I’m with family, loved, and at peace. I’m in heaven.”
“And then, he calls my bluff: “I want to go to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay.” No. Please no. It’s as if we hired a consultant to coach him on how to extract something his dad would never consider, ever, for anybody.”
“Spoiler alert: It’s love. However, there is nuance. Getting to a place, economically, emotionally, and spiritually, where you can love someone completely, without expecting anything in return, is the absolute.”
“The feedback, burst of PVCs, and two hundred people staring up at me took my heart rate way up. I tried to calm myself by looking at the bright side: if I collapsed and died onstage, I’d get a shit-ton of views on YouTube.”
“When he rests on me, I am whole . . . and everything makes sense. I drift back to sleep knowing I matter.”
“In the end, relationships are all that matters.”
“I remember the juxtaposition of more than a hundred people crying, his three grown sons (from his first marriage) sobbing uncontrollably, and Karsen, wearing thigh-high leather boots, welcoming everyone.”
“Karsen and Charly Evans were the most impressive people we knew, on top of the world, and they both died alone. Karsen was an addict whose only family or friend was my mom. Charly was too sick to feel the love of his family. I’ve become an addict of sorts as well. Addicted to the affirmation and economic security that comes with professional success. I look at the belt and feel the need to invest in relationships in case they are all I’m left with, and to maintain the perspective that, in the end, that is all we have, and all that matters.”

 

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