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« Happiness Formula | Main | Big Trouble »



You must take this further! This sentiment has been recognised and documented for 1000s of years by several philosophers but rarely successfully taught. (Which I am sure you are aware of). It is a lesson that is almost unteachable. e.g. Jesus was a great teacher but clearly the vast majority of his flock just don't get it. (Granted many good works are done without this understanding). It is almost exclusively obtained by self-realisation at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of needs. Sadly I needed that to understand it. After a year at my leisure by the sea I returned wanting for nothing except to serve. What a gift it would be to be able to teach this to children! Maybe you have that elusive gift dear reader! Use it!


Interesting post. You might enjoy reading a popular science book called "Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile" by Daniel Nettle ( URL below) which has an evolutionary psychology view of why success does not tend to make us happy.


I'm glad you've figured out what makes you happy. Now if only my genetic research would cooperate, I'd have it solved for myself! :-)


True that - all the rich peaople sooner or later get into that sorta thing - Angelina Jolie goin all the way to africa, Gates going filantropic etc.
Personally, I hope I don't reach that certain point in my life when I'll need to go to such lengths to feel better about myself and impose my supiriority in the matter of morality on others.
By all means one should do whatever makes him happy - but i respect filantropy when the subject is aware he's doing i for a selfish feeling he gets out of it. I can imagine that givin a 7 digit sum to some charity scores you high with a couple of hot chicks that are gonna be attending the banquete thus decreasing ones fuglynes factor visibility. So yah I can see myself resorting to such donations with that in mind.
But I get the feeling you consider this 'outwarding' as a type of maturing, and feel pretty smug about it. I can't help to lose respect to celebrities that turn to that. Gives me the impression they wonna prove to others that they're not only better craftsmen/actors/buisnesmen/comedians than me - but also a better human beings.
I ask myself whether they'd be doing the same thing if the camera's weren't there to capture it.


Nice to see u write something serious after a long time.
I mean though its reinvention of Maslow's Hierarchy, people needed someone to remind them of that. After all life is all abt reinventions! Kudos to that!


Ya. Good post. Fascinating really. I think a lot of formulas would work, if we all weren't bombarded with violent images on the tv all day. That probably happens whether you're rich or poor because there's nothing else to do. Our 'hard psychology' is all screwed up. There's still lots of people who think porn and cussing are worse for people than violent images. Many of them religious who have no idea how psychology really works. They only really scare me when they act like psychology isn't real at all. Most of us aren't smart enough to create our own fun all day. I know I'm not. That's why I think the extraordinarally healthy rise to the top eventually, and the rest of us stay wherever we are and need to be entertained by them. It would be a good system if psychology were taken seriously. I only need enough money to eat and sleep properly, and be able to have hobbies, which brings me friends and everything takes off from there. The only other thing I want to say on here (and tx Scott for giving me a place to say it) is when people say something really negative on here, they should back it up with some deep thought. Otherwise, why say it? Opinions are what it's all about for me. Tx. Oh yeah, I'd attend your funeral if that's what matters to you.


Scott, PLEASE be careful. You could get lynched for this. I'm not joking. It's happened before.

Please take the advice of your biggest fan in the world (yours truly) and please delete this post and all the comments below it.

In the meanwhile, I'm wringing my hands, hoping no fanatic is reading this blog :-(


Cheers mate!


Is there something wrong with me if I view "reaching outward" as working toward being a tyrant, worthy of history books?


Scott, what about the people who have meaning as their first priority, and find it difficult to focus on the other three things?

Are they doomed? I'd like to know what you think about that scenario... I'm sure you must've met some.


did you change your name to Pollyanna when I wasn't looking?


I'm surprised that nobody else has mentioned children yet. Maybe the reaction to preceived success in us moist robots is supposed to be a trigger to have kids. The feeling that we have enough time/space in our lives for more than just ourselves.

True it's not innovative or far reaching, but to be a good parent isn't a leisurely pursuit. So maybe the way to put it is that I'm making a serious huge contribution to two lives rather than a small to many.

I love my work and other pursuits but my life would just seem wrong if, through whatever means, I became just a parent or not a parent.



Ah, Scott, at last you show the beginnings of wisdom.

But don't overlook the truth that you don't have to have taken care of yourself FIRST before looking outward. In fact, looking outward at the same time as looking inward will speed up the process, as well as make it more thorough.

Of course, all this flies in the face of your belief there is no free will -- without free will and its precursors/repercussions, you cannot actually be experiencing or choosing anything. You see, even your language betrays your inner beliefs regardless of what you type in your blog.

I am certain if you actually believed you had no free will, you would be able to write coherently without using the language of choice, etc.


This is priceless:

"PS: your funeral is going to have a massive turnout, Be prepared!!!!
--Posted by: Himanshu | March 26, 2007 at 06:48 AM"

One should always be well-prepared for one's own funeral, in the larger sense.

And I'm partway through your formula. I've already fixed myself, and just last week fixed my cat. My man is looking a bit nervous now, though.


i think you should read the sirens of titan (kurt vonnegut)
and then i want you to tell me what you think of that.

your definition of meaning is on a very small human level.
i suppose if you tried to reach outward into god or the designer or whatever, you might become depressed.

Ms. Pons

Success is feeling good about yourself and what you do. Success doesn't mean having so much money ... but having so much feeling of passion for life... I think.

Angry Lab Rat

Wow, Scott. Thanks. This is perhaps the most poignant and sincere blog post I think I've read on your site. As a community activist, I can't help but empathize, even though I'm not exactly financially well off yet, and still overweight. Your argument makes some sense. Sadly, I'm not sure most people would be able to meet your criteria for achieving health, financial solvency, and emotional stability, in which case there wouldn't be much community volunteerism, but we can at least get close.

Peter Fleming

It never ceases to amaze me how so many people can read the same thing (in this case your blog entry), and have such different reactions. Some people were genuinely upset, some said thanks, some felt you were "holier than ..." and some only wanted to prove you wrong with exceptions. It is interesting that so many people with so many reactions to the same thing can co-exist on one tiny planet. I suspect those who say thanks may have at least 50% of your formula solved, and those who express outrage will never understand your formula. I especially enjoy that some take your last sentence as being smug, while some seem to interpret it as "Scott has confidence that I will be happy (i.e. fix myself) and then the "meaning" will come naturally in the near future", almost a statement of hope. I wonder if because I enjoyed the blog and the posts, instead of being outraged if that means I'm happy?


2 Words - Maslow's Hierarchy !


I love how people think you're a "dick" or have a big ego just because you see yourself this way.

Do it in whatever order you want to people! Do what works for you...but I'm thinking; if you're so good at it (person that called Scott a dick) then why would you need to call Scott a dick? If you're so happy and all...

Anyway, you are great Scott and what you share with the world is wonderful! But you don't need me to tell you that, do you? ;-)


This post exemplifies the critical difference between the religious and non-religious. A religious mind would take a different path than Scott. Your argument may be sound, but the goal is different. Your formula's goal was happiness. But how would health, money, social life, and meaning be rearranged if the goal was, lets say, knowing God (in whatever form he may be to you) more. Your order could very quickly throw money or health to the end of the list. Not that they're using any less organizational skills, but there are different aspirations.

The difference between religious and non-religious is not their arguments, it is what they are striving for (with exceptions of course).

Doctor Dan

So the equation in the previous post is wrong since happiness doens't seem to depend on its factors linearly. It looks like a logarithm is more accurate (to get another unit of Happy you need to double your health, money, social life or meaning). At least this is what this post hints at.

H = ln(h) + ln(m) + ln(s) + ln(M) = ln (h m s M).

This has another intuitive consequence: if any of h, m, s, M is 0 then H = 0.

I think it's cooler to write

e^H = h m s M.



I'm a lazy slob.

Jim of the West

I, for one, would never attend your funeral. You would be dead, and could not appreciate the effort - I have no interest in gawking at non-functioning moist robots - and the only potential value, that of offering emotional support to surviving friends and family, would seem to be best served by strangers and outsiders respecting their privacy. Sending flowers with a note would perhaps be best. That said, if you feel this sentiment qualifies, then increment your counter by one on my behalf, for I would surely make that gesture on the off chance that I outlive you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.


Thank you, Scott.


Someone once said that you can't worry about feeding the hungry if you yourself are hungry. You have to feed yourself first. Then you can worry about others. It's surprisingly simple and seemingly obvious, yet many don't seem to get it.

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