The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything

These were my favorite passages from Neil Pasricha’s The Happiness Equation. Thanks for the recommendation Adrian, its been truly such a great read.

“Be content with what you have. Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. —LAO TZU True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not. —SENECA You can’t have everything. “

“The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor says, “It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.” 

“The problem is we think we shouldn’t have negative thoughts.”

“Because life was mostly short, brutal, and highly competitive over the two hundred thousand years our species has existed on this planet. And our brains are trained for this short, brutal, and highly competitive world.”

“How did he famously put it? “Only the paranoid survive.” 

“It’s not just medical students. We’ve all been there. We scan the world for problems because that led to our survival. And our current design of the world only reinforces and grows these negative-lens feelings.”

“So 90% of our happiness isn’t based on what’s happening in the world! It’s based on how we see the world. What’s included in the 90%?” 

“physically active than usual.” It doesn’t take much: Half an hour of brisk walking three times a week improves happiness.” 

“Writing for twenty minutes about a positive experience dramatically improves happiness. Why? Because you actually relive the experience as you’re writing it and then relive it every time you read it. Your brain sends you back. In a University of Texas study called “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words,” researchers Richard Slatcher and James Pennebaker had one member of a couple write about their relationship for twenty minutes three times a day. Compared to the test group, the couple was more likely to engage in intimate dialogue afterward and the relationship was more likely to last. What does the 20-Minute Replay do? It helps us remember things we like about people and experiences in our lives.” 

“They felt good about themselves! People appreciated them. In his book Flourish, Professor Martin Seligman says that “we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.” 

“The Nun Study shows an incredibly strong link between how happy you are today and how long you’re going to live. And it’s not just length, either! Think of it: You will be happier through all those years, too. Happy people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything. Be happy first.” 

“started realizing that external goals didn’t help me become a better person. Only internal goals did.” 

“Do It For You Do it for you.” 

“I remembered writing articles for the Golden Words comedy newspaper at Queen’s University every Sunday for four straight years while in college. I didn’t get paid a cent but loved every minute because I got to hang out with a group of really funny people writing articles that made us all laugh. I loved it so much that I took a job working at a New York City comedy writing startup in my last summer at college.” 

“I started looking into this whole “extrinsic motivators kill intrinsic motivators” phenomenon and kept finding studies showing this to be true. Professor Edward Deci of the University of Rochester had students try to solve a puzzle. Some were told they were competing with other students and some were not. Guess what happened? The students who were told they were competing with others simply stopped working once the other kids finished their puzzle—believing themselves to be out of the race. They ran out of reasons to do the puzzle in the first place. But those who weren’t told they were competing with others kept going once their peers finished. When you don’t feel like you’re competing with others, you compete only with yourself.” 

“But often two corners of The Success Triangle actually prevent the third. How so? Well, sales success can block self success. That’s what happened when I got hooked on blog counters and bestseller lists. My personal goals suddenly took a backseat to more tangible commercial goals.” 

“This is the artist who sells out. There’s nothing wrong with that! But you can see how commercial success blocks personal success sometimes. And self success doesn’t necessarily have a marketable strategy—so no sales or social success follows.” 

“So why did my Harvard professor consider himself a failure? “I walk up to my office door every morning and see that the professor in the office to my left has a Nobel Prize . . . and I know I’ll never have a Nobel Prize,” he continued. “And I see that the professor in the office to my right has written twelve books . . . and I know I’ll never write twelve books. I haven’t even written one. Every single morning I’m reminded how inferior I am and it kills me.” 

“What do the truly confident people have? They have a high opinion of themselves. And! They have a high opinion of others. That is the true definition of confidence.” 

“There are three steps to achieving a high opinion of yourself. It is a torturous path! But we go through this journey with every part of ourselves that we eventually learn to accept. The three steps are: Hide Apologize Accept And here’s what it looks like.” 

“This allows whatever judgment that comes to be wholly owned by the other person.

“Buddha continued: “That with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting, that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting, that with which you have berated me, who is not berating, that I don’t accept from you. It’s all yours, Brahman. It’s all yours. “If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy. All you have done is hurt yourself. If you want to stop hurting yourself, you must get rid of your anger and become loving instead.” 

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!” If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!” 

“Everyone is sitting on the bench instead of standing and screaming.” He smiled and said, “The college guys aren’t getting paid for it. They might never get paid for it. They’re doing it for themselves. Because they love it.” His words rang clear as a bell.” 

“Your amygdala is in the oldest part of your brain. It is responsible for scanning the world for worries. It’s a problem-scanning machine. Imagine, you have a problem-scanning machine, right in your head, always on, always scanning, all day and all night. When the machine finds a problem, or even thinks it finds a problem, it flushes your body full of adrenaline and stress hormones, sending you into fight-or-flight mode.” 

“I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel ‘Catch-22’ has earned in its entire history?” And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.” And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?” And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.” Not bad! Rest in peace!” 

“A famous Persian proverb hung on my aunt’s kitchen wall reads, “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” 

“And there is nowhere else in the deep distant universe where our species exists. Nowhere else we can breathe air, drink water, eat plants. Nowhere else we can find people to meet, fall in love, and make babies. We live on the only place that can possibly support life.” 

“We live on the pale blue dot. And it’s a beautiful dot. So on this planet, on the only planet in the universe where we can live, we get to be alive. You have to remember that most people who have ever lived on Earth are dead. There are about 7 billion people on Earth today and 115 billion people who have ever lived in the history of the world. That means 108 billion people are dead. Most people have already lived their lives.” 

“guess what they call retirement in Okinawa? They don’t! They don’t even have a word for retirement. Literally nothing in their language describes the concept of stopping work completely. Instead, they have the word ikigai (pronounced like “icky guy”), which roughly means “the reason you wake up in the morning.” You can think of it as the thing that drives you most. In Okinawa there is a 102-year-old karate master whose ikigai is to carry forth his martial art, a 100-year-old fisherman whose ikigai is to feed his family, a 102-year-old woman whose ikigai is to hold her great-great-great-granddaughter.” 

“She wrote “To turn young minds into future leaders,” and I wrote “To remind myself and others how lucky we are to be alive.” We leave the cards on our nightstands so we’re reminded of them first thing in the morning. We change what they say sometimes. I changed my ikigai to “Finish writing The Happiness Equation” for a while. Why do we have these ikigais? They are a reason to get up in the morning. With an ikigai card when you wake up . . . you know where you’re going.” 

“When you’re through changing, you’re through.” He gladly adopted the aphorism, which I’ve been attributing to him ever since. Combine those two bits of counsel—never retire, but plan to change your career to keep your synapses snapping—and you can see the path I’m now taking. Readers, too, may want to think about a longevity strategy.” 

Today study after study shows that it is our social connections that are the single biggest driver of our happiness” 

“Mr. Wilson taught me that retirement, as we think of it today, isn’t a dream we actually want. We don’t actually want to do nothing. We just want to do something we love.” 

“We want challenges. Challenges let us contribute a sense of giving, learning, and improving to ourselves and the world. We feel alive. We experience life. We feel like we can do anything.” 


“Because we give away our ikigai and we do it to ourselves, with planning, with purpose. Together with the sudden loss of Social, Structure, Stimulation, and Story, what we find in the barren tundra of retirement is the cold, wet, guilt-drenched thought that this is what we wanted, this is what we worked our whole lives toward, this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” 


“It seemed crazy to me, but all my friends were working eighty to one hundred hours a week. And a week only has 168 hours in it! Where was their third bucket? I remember thinking, Is everyone nuts?” 

“My point is to calculate how much you make per hour and know this number. Remember this number.” 


“And beware of feedback mechanisms. They often can’t be trusted. A big bonus rewards extra efforts. Customers send thank-you notes for bending over backward. Your boss congratulates you on hitting an aggressive deadline . . . and then presents an even more aggressive one. Is this feedback malicious? It’s not meant to be! But it’s a dangerous side effect of finding a business model that works.” 

“We move the best managers from city to city to city so they have a new community to learn and new social and work systems to develop. It gives the stores great energy to have new ideas. And when they get comfortable, we move them again!” 


“Happy people alternate between boxes. They flip-flop. They swirl. They jump. They know where they are and they know how to create space.” 


“He mistrusted working under pressure, and he would say, ‘We’re pressing, we’re pressing, we’re working too hard. Relax, it will come.’ And of course it finally always did.” 

“My unconscious and conscious are calm and I am no longer aware. When I reach the void, I am totally consumed with pushing paint on canvas. A sort of meditative state. Around me is just white noise—a humming of nothing—devoid of thought, sound, and everything physical, other than my paint and canvas. In the void I never remember how much time has passed or what I was doing before or during. It is my most productive creative time. It is where some of my best work happens.” 


“Customers get the opinion of a trusted source. Someone you trust has made picks so you don’t have to. Nobody has time to wade through foggy seas of endless decisions. They give up. Or make bad choices. That display says here’s the color, here’s the style, here’s what you want. Take it or leave it. There are less decisions so you feel confident and trust the opinion.” 

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I realized fewer choices means faster decisions. Our brains don’t need to mentally step into each new option and stretch out inside them, picturing them, evaluating them, holding them in our heads while we step into the next option. Fewer choices means faster decisions.” 

“What does President Obama tell us about making every decision at twice the speed? “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said in a 2012 Vanity Fair article. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia. What about Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook? “I own maybe twenty identical gray T-shirts. I mean, I wear the same thing every day, right?” he said in a Today interview. Mark’s not turning heads on the runway, but he doesn’t care. His goal is building the world’s largest social media company. A minute more a day picking a T-shirt is a minute less a day he’s thinking about his company.” 

“I calculated that never thinking about what to wear, doing laundry once a month, and going shopping once a year saves me fifteen minutes a day on average,” Ben continued. “Maybe more because I don’t lose any ‘frictional time’ jumping between thoughts. So I get eight to ten hours back every month. That’s an extra week of waking hours each year. Do you know how much I can get done in an extra week?” I knew how much Ben could get done in an extra week. He was on the fast track, delivering results, well liked by peers and bosses. Although he worked long hours like everyone else, he wasn’t working more hours than everyone else. He simply made better decisions, by making fewer decisions, by reserving his decision-making energy for things that mattered.” 

“Ben outsourced his clothing decisions! What could I outsource? This is the first step to understanding which decisions you can chop. An annoying process. But worth it. Here is every decision I made in one day: Should I get up now or sleep a few more minutes? Should I get up now or sleep a few more minutes? Should I get up to go to the bathroom?” 

“He says: “Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car.” 


“Rules. Limits. Barriers. Creating mental brick walls to stop making decisions.” 

“But having more choice reduces our happiness. We get decision fatigue. What happens? We avoid the decision or we make a bad decision. And we always worry we made the wrong choice.” 

“Freedom and autonomy are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy,” says Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice. “Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.” 

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Effectuate—Grabbing the kids from day care. Eating dinner with the family every night. Saying hi to your team every morning. Effectuate is a big word with a simple meaning: Git ’er done. Nail it. Just do it. If it’s low in time but high in importance, your goal is to just do it. There is no decision to make. Simply effectuate. Regulate— Checking email. Managing your calendar.” 

“For a large organization to be effective, it must be simple. For a large organization to be simple, its people must have self-confidence and intellectual self-assurance. Insecure managers create complexity. Frightened, nervous managers use thick, convoluted planning books and busy slides filled with everything they’ve known since childhood. Real leaders don’t need clutter. People must have the self-confidence to be clear, precise, to be sure that every person in their organization—highest to lowest—understands what the business is trying to achieve.” 

We introduced the concept by saying “If you can’t say it concisely in five minutes, you can’t say it. By then people doze off or start checking their email.” 

“Do only nerds do their homework Friday night? Maybe. But they’re the ones with the whole weekend to party.” 

“I nodded, thinking about all the emails I got from Casey and coworkers. “I do read emails, but the ones looking for something are always much less urgent than they seem. When I don’t respond, one of two things happens: The person figures it out on their own, or, They email me again because it really was important.” 

“Why? Because people would drop everything to reply. And they would expect me to reply to that. Basically, if I sent an email, it would never end. So I end it.” 

“Block access. Protect your brain. Guard it. Remove all entry points to your brain except a single one you can control. In addition to Roger’s approach to email, I learned later that he didn’t have a desk phone, personal email address, or any social media accounts. Fuel your brain and let it run wild by removing access points. Close the doors and lock the windows, but answer the bell.” 

“As my friend Mike once told me, “Screwing up two things at the same time isn’t multitasking.” 

“Remove access. Close the doors. Lock the windows. And pick the bell you will answer and focus on. Delete and remove all access to yourself except for that one. Watch as your productivity spikes, your days become more productive, and you create beautiful space. 

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What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs, And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance. No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.” 

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. —C. G. JUNG When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life. —ATTRIBUTED TO JOHN LENNON Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself. — MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO” 

“Within two minutes I realized I fit in. Who was with me? Recent immigrants from landlocked countries, those with more traumatic childhood experiences than mine, and people from families that didn’t have money for swimming lessons when they were kids. I wasn’t the worst swimmer in the group for once. We all sucked! Trust formed quickly. Within an hour I was flutter-kicking in the deep end, wearing a life jacket. Within a couple weeks I was jumping in. A month later I was treading water. And by the end of the classes I was doing the front crawl.” 

“An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted on by a larger force.” Put it another way: Start doing something? You’ll continue. Why?” 

“Because motivation doesn’t cause action. Action causes motivation.” 

“KEVIN: I’ve always been afraid of our basement. It’s dark, there’s weird stuff down there, and it smells funny, that sort of thing. It’s bothered me for years. OLD MAN: Basements are like that. KEVIN: Then I made myself go down there to do some laundry and I found out it’s not so bad. All this time I’ve been worrying about it, but if you turn on the lights, it’s no big deal. OLD MAN: What’s your point? KEVIN: My point is you should call your son. OLD MAN: What if he won’t talk to me? KEVIN: At least you’ll know. Then you could stop worrying about it. And you won’t have to be afraid anymore.” 

“Very low. The greatest leaders just try and try and try. They try. And then they try. And then they try some more. Sure, you will fail at some things. But you’ll keep moving. And more often you’ll succeed. Little wins turn into confidence and desire to try again, which leads to bigger wins. You gain momentum. What did comedian Steven Wright say about building momentum? “I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” In that quote, he’s describing that invisible butterfly feeling of forward progress we all get in our stomachs when we suddenly just start.” 

“As John Lennon said, “It’s weird not to be weird.” 

“So what’s the simple way to master your most important relationship? Be you. Be you. Be you and be cool with it.” 

“There is nothing more satisfying than being loved for who you are and nothing more painful than being loved for who you’re not but pretending to be.” 

“Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men is trumpeted online with five-star reviews. Rosey let his heart lead him and look where it led!” 

“Be you. Be you and be cool with it. Love your tics and nicks and loves and scratches and fears and passions. Knowing them leads to living them, and living them leads to loving them. Your relationship with yourself” 

“But any misalignment between what you’re doing and what you want to do allows a dull and invisible unhappiness to fester. Confusion sets into the heart and mind about values. That brain jam—also called cognitive dissonance—isn’t just exhausting. It’s dangerous. Why? Because your unique sense of self is at risk of being drowned.” 

“Your true self will be drawn to these ideas. They make you richer, stronger, and happier in your work life, too. Dale Carnegie said, “Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” 

“Then I sat in the bench for an hour and listened. I watched the students and listened to all the conversations around me. I listened to what was important to them, how they talked to each other, what they were excited about.” “How’d you decide to do that?” “Well,” Fred continued, “I figured most of my time over the next four years would be spent doing exactly what I was listening to. Going to classes was twenty or thirty hours a week, tops. The rest is making friends, chatting on the way to class, figuring out plans. Basically, my experience was going to be the sum of all the conversations I had over four years. So I tried to hear those conversations and figure out if they were a good fit for me. I tried listening to my authentic self and letting it lead me toward the right decision.” I was impressed.” 

“The Bench Test is immersing yourself in a new situation and observing your reaction to make sure your decision is aligned with your authentic self.” 

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me—This was the most common regret of all.” 


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Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills

People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.


Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.

It was hell.

After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.

Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.

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