May 2008

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« Oh Deer | Main | The Meaning of Meaning »


Mark Chambers

...some of the best books are short ones, Like others have quite rightly pointed out, I too wish people would get to the point and not wrap up 20 pages worth of great, incisive, dynamite stuff in 300 pages of bulk, blurb and hyperbole.

Write it - they will come.

You could use the income to fund your 401k, whatever that is.

David Butler

Sounds like something you could fit onto a single page of a web site, using collapsable/expandable menus (perhaps done in Flash). That way visitors can browse and expand your definitions at will.


By all means publish a 20 page book!!!!!!!!!

I'm so sick of people who publish thousands of pages to say something that could be said in 20 pages, I'm so sick of having to dig through such books to glean the hand full of nuggets of information I want from them.

I'd give pretty good odds on such a book selling on Amazon and Think Geek alike, I think you'd be surprised.


Two things:

1. Lots of people have already written short, long, and massive guides to happiness, and the more the merrier! And 20 pages sounds like a perfect comic book size...

2. Money is a subjective concept, really, since it only has value because we agree that it has value. If you were French in the Napolean era, money not only woulnd't buy you happiness, but it wouldn't buy you a loaf of bread either, since nearly everyone agreed that it was worthless. So, to me more realistic, you need to express your idea of money in more universal terms, such as "resources" or "access to necessary resources" or maybe even "power".


How about making it a 40 page book.

Pages 1 - 20 The Happiness Formula

turn the book around and upside down

Alternative pages 1-20 Dogbert's Happiness Formula.
I think Dogbert's take would be a slightly more interesting and truthful account (of human nature).


Make it into a poster! People might by that...

Chris Peterson

This sounds a lot like a (less than serious) book that already exists called "Geek Logik: 50 Foolproof Equations for Everyday Life":

Eduard F.

Dear Scott, maybe this post from Seth Godin might help you change your mind:

krishna kumar

Eerie.. i was pondering about this too here-

Dossy Shiobara

"Its power is in its brevity, and brevity is not rewarded in our economy."

Make it a free downloadable e-book. Along with the download link is a PayPal button where people can pay $1.00 for it--optionally. At, say, 20 pages, that's $0.05 a page--not a bad price. Also: the price is optional--if people don't think it's worth the $1, fine--at least if they benefit from reading it, someone wins. There's enough people with disposable income who love you, Scott, that they'd easily kick in $1 even if they didn't bother to read the book.

The wiki is a nice idea--perhaps start by collectively authoring the book's contents on the wiki. Once there's critical mass there, someone can take the wiki's contents and copyedit it into a manuscript that can be published as a PDF for download. Then, hook up the PayPal button, and go.

I'd be happy to help ...


If you're worried about length, consider the sensation that "Who Moved My Cheese" caused.

Also, if you're looking for a way to break down the information, there's a technology out there that breaks concepts down into it's most basic parts. I use it at work, and hell, if I'm gonna work it should at least be on something interesting. For once.

I would rather buy a funny book on Happiness Formula, than Who Moved My Cheese anyway. What a waste of money that was.


I would modify this slightly in that if your employer has 401k matching, you should contribute enough money to your 401k to get the maximum match even before you pay off your credit cards. Otherwise, you're turning down free money from your employer, which seems foolish. Then increase it up to the statutory maximum (currently $15,500 if you're under 50, $20,500 if you're over 50) as soon as you're debt free and have six months' living expenses in the bank. And definitely do the will thing.


My favorite book in the whole world is "Be Here Now". I found it among some other yoga and philosophy books that belonged to my parents back in the 70's. I doubt it contains more than 20 pages of "real content" (aka text); the majority of the book is illustrations. Yet there is something so compelling about the combination of artwork and the information contained in the book. Sure, a person could read it from cover-to-cover standing in Borders, but most of them would be compelled to buy it. It's the kind of book that you take off the shelf when you're cleaning, flip to your favorite pages, get a surge of happiness/confidence/peace/balance, and put back again. As an artist, I'm surprised you didn't consider the use of art to fill out your happiness formula book. I hope you write the book. If you don't, I will.

The Clerk

I'd buy the book. To "The Happiness Formula" I mean. For a few reasons.
1. It would look good on my book shelf
2. When people sit on your couch just hanging out, they like to read things like that.
3. A 20 page book isnt generally too expensive.
4. Your books have striking covers.
5. I have almost all the rest of your books, so why not this one.

Paul C

The confusion between Brits and Septics over the term "IRA" reminds me of the American fast-food company that got off on the wrong foot seting up its British operation. I'd like to think it was McSqualidburgers, but it was one of the lesser operators, I think Kentucky Fried Burgers, who goofed.

They were such cheapskates that they chose not to buy into specifically British payroll stationery for their employees.

They chose to use their American payslips, reasoning that even a fast-food worker would realise that if there was £85 in the envelope where it said $85 on the payslip, they'd soon grasp the general idea that they weren't being paid in dollars.

Alas, American employee payslips have a line on them that says "IRA Deduction".

The nearest British equivalent would be "Employee's pension contribution", but this little oversight was to cause grief.

The story soon got out that Kentucky Fried Burgers were run by sinister Irish-Americans of the worst kind, gleefully taxing their British employees to pay for Irish terrorism.

(Note to Americans: we take it as an article of faith that ALL Irish-Americans hate us and have a chip on their shoulder about wehat the bloody Brits did to your umpteen-times great grandfather in County Guinness in 1645 or whenever it was. And we know your lot fund the terrorists)

This got to the papers; Kentucky Fried Burgers issued a denial; and of course everyone knows thatwhen a big corporation denies something in print, it's true.

So to save two or three thousand dollars in payroll stationery, they incurred millions in bad publicity...


I am not very good at explaining things so I hope this does not sound too confusing.

Might it be that people confuse happiness for joy? Happiness is totally independent of all the things mentioned thus far, health, wealth, love etc. Joy on the other hand is very dependent on those things. Sadness is the opposite to joy, not the opposite of happiness. Anger is the opposite of calm not the opposite of happiness. I don't even think there is a word for the opposite of happiness other than unhappiness which doesn't count really. So if happiness is not joy and is independent of all things than what is it and how do we get it? I think that maybe, happiness is when you're in control of what you are feeling. So for example, someone cuts you off in traffic and it doesn't phase you then you're happy. If your dog dies and you mourn its death, greiving and sad, you're not joyful but you can be happy, you choose to feel this way to show your love for your dog. You go to a sad movie, you cry because you want to, that's happiness. Your child throws a tantrum, you react by screaming and hitting the child, you're not in control so you're not happy. You get angry at someone who's been hitting on your spouse, if your anger is a controlled action than you're happy, if it's an uncontrolled reaction than you'll be unhappy.

I may not be explaining myself well but the happiness formula does not reflect reality. I know some people who have serious disabilities but are happier than many abled people. I know some people who are struggling financially but are happier than some rich friends. I also know rich people who are happier than poor people. The point is that the one thing I've noticed that regularly happy people have in common is that they choose their feelings, they control their emotions, they don't allow outside forces to control their feelings whether those outside forces manifest themselves as health, sickness, wealth, poverty, being alone, being popular, being pretty, being ugly, you get the gist. They act consciously instead of reacting subconsciously. I could be wrong of course and that would be fine.

By the way Scott, I get a lot of joy from reading your posts. Thank you.


A woman called Gretchen Rubin also has come-up with her own happiness-formula: It's about feeling good, feeling bad and feeling right (

At Partners-Inc ( we're trying to set-up just such a community (the ultimate human services website), and I'm very interested if you have any ideas to make such a thing work!


Happiness is meeting your life's goals. Having low expectations and surpassing them will make you happy. Striving for success, wealth and material possessions and not getting them will make you unhappy. Unfortunately Americans right to the pursuit of happiness (not the right to have it) is largely based on material things and comparing these with your neighbours.

In a recent Scientific American article on happiness it was noted that given a constant of level prices/expenditure for necessities (food, housing, medical care etc) which was lower than one's income, then most people expressed a preference to earn $50,000 a year if the average was $25,000, rather than $100,000 if the average was $200,000. (I don't have the excact figures to hand but the principle is what matters). Rather than being satisfied with what they got they just want to be ahead of the others.


Further to my previous post for the enlightenment of non-US readers, the 401K is an employer sponsored retirement account. Unfortunately, both the UK and US have had problems where company schemes have gone bust and left the employees with next to nothing. Lesson - never put all your eggs in one basket.


For the UK readers (of which I'm one) who don't know what an IRA is - its an Individual Retirement Account, rather like our SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension).

And for those who don't want to invest in companies because of their perceived negative moral aspects why not try an ethical or green investment fund?

Brion Emde

What about an interactive web application that would let people explore the Happiness space, with real life financial examples, information pointing to health, wealth, uplifting material throughout, showing how to do the math and all, incorporating an inclusive, non-judgemental attitude?

The point being the ultimate human services website; an all-around school of life experience, presented as a series of interesting, engaging lesson spaces presenting the big lessons of life.


Hey volum (brother of Gollum, I presume?)... you're not very happy, are you?

I think Scott needs to put "be smarter than a box of rocks" in there somewhere.


Sorry, I think money should be entirely left out of your equation.

And to call investing in stocks, a good solution, well I have a 401K in Iraq to sell you. Stocks and most of the investment world, and all of Wall Street, are probably the thing that makes bile rise in my throat quickest.

The concept of giving my money to corporations who destroy this planet, enslave its people, and ruin our politics, just so one day maybe I can make a couple extra dollars is so appauling it makes me sick. And I'm pretty surprised that someone as liberal-ish as you could overlook these glaringly obvious issues.

Also, as for your 401K scheme - I'll ask my brother who just LOST NINETY PERCENT of all of his 401K savings (almost $60,000.00) after the Delphi fiasco, what he thinks of that.

401K - give halliburton your money, and maybe one day we won't just steal it from you to never give it back.



That's a great analogy, I think you can definitely get your point across more with more than 20 pages - I don't know, may be you can take some random examples like - Tibetin monks or some low life souls in third world countries, believe me they are the most happiest people on earth though they lack wealth, they are still happy... They are happy until they fall in some kind of catastrophy (could be health related or whatever) where they need money and since they don't have money they cannot get the problem fixed and they become sad... Again I don't know!

This may sound "blah... blah" but there is a similar analogy, very close to your theory of happiness in ancient Indian scriptures - It's called "Shadvidha Aiyshwaryaalu" - It goes something like this - In order to be happy you need 6 elements - Health, Wealth, Love, Knowledge, Fame, Enthusiasm towards meaning.


Scott, to make the book, add enough Dilbert comics to make it marketable and use the formulas as chapter headings.
Marketable Book = Happiness Formulas + Dilbert Comics

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