May 2008

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« Happiness Formula | Main | Big Trouble »



Extremely well said and very uplifting. (Starting the day on a very nice note, so thanks).

BUT, I think a little dysfunction can go a long way in making the world a better place. I fight with insurance companies for a good part of the day. I have to get nasty, and play all kinds of mind games to get people the care the need. I often remind my victims at the insurance company on the other end of the line or letter that I understand they have their scripts and limitations on what they can and can't say/do, but that we have to go through the tortuous dance before I can tee their company up to take it in the shorts. Is it wrong and evil? I'd absolutely say yes. But would the people I save thousands of dollars for and get them the healthcare the need agree with me? I like to think no (And it lets me sleep at night).

Sometimes I guess we really do have to just focus on the ends justifying the means and forgo the luxury of being a person one can be proud of... :-(

Naveen Sundar G

It all makes sense if you think of it. But there are exceptions like Einstein. In Einstein's case he wasn't worried about money and wasn't that rich and chose to go after meaning in life. The same holds for Gandhi, Tesla, a lot scientist/engineers/inventors. It is these people who move civilization forward. People who go for meaning and only meaning. Though only some succeed. They find meaning for humanity as a whole.



Whilst you tell it how you experienced it it definitely isn't the be all and end all.

Having a crap day and feeling like an emotional basket case?

Try going out of your way to do something nice for someone else. Chances are you would feel better.

I actually think looking outward is the best way to change what is inside.


Wow, that was the sweetest "holier than thou" post I have ever read.

You don't necessarily have to be fully fixed before you start serving a higher purpose, though. Sometimes, just being a good person will rub off on people (and a person can do that before you finish kicking that smoking habit.)

I fully believe having a policy of "having a good reason before getting mad" is a step that would exponetionally improve the world.

Perhaps a good tagger to your theory is, "if you don't fully believe that the world would be at least a little better if more people were like you, you're doing something wrong."

Also, I'm sure there are people who had jam packed funerals, but weren't good people. Maybe success should be, "how many people cry at your funeral" that way some famous jackass can pad his numbers with people only there for photo ops.

Matthew Kovich

Awesome, Scott. Thank you.

"always the beautiful answer who asks the more beautiful question"
-E.E. Cummings


OK, I have never commented here before, though I often visit, enjoy the writings and the comments. I have another way of looking at "meaning", ---I have, generally, always been a happy person despite some adversities, though I am thinking, fewer than most, but hey, that might just be the way I look at things. Dysfunctional family, alcoholic father, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I always thought my family's dysfunctions were rather great examples of "what doesn't work!" and made my life choices based on those observations, that is to say I took other routes whenever I could. I used to think about meaning in life, but don't really give it much thought any more. I accept that if I work to make myself happy, that is do what pleases me, it automatically spills over. Some good automatically comes from people who are happy, whether they are focused on specifically doing good deeds or not. Happy people aren't mean, evil, etc. It has been my observations that doing good deeds when you are not a happy person does not produce all the good that it could, nor does it "make" people happier. (part of Scott's theory that you need to "fix" yourself first) It is very difficult for someone to be truly happy and be mean or ugly at the same time. I think that all the beauty and wonder that is constantly around us, whether we see it or don't, is our "test." Happy people do see the beauty and wonder no matter what difficulties or challenges they are facing. So basically, when asked to volunteer, etc., I simply choose the ways that will make me happy to do that job, task, whatever. Bingo, I am happier, and have done some good, maybe, but it really doesn't matter. The only downside of accepting that your life has to have "meaning" is that it usually entails some sort of measurement of results, etc. and that is often counterproductive. I say if you enjoyed what you are doing and Scott obviously does get great pleasure out of making us laugh and think, then do it, just skip the part about what you might expect as your reward, the doing is it's own reward, pleasure to you--and yes "that is all there is." (somewhere the old Peggy Lee song just popped into my head, "Is that all there is?" and I now realize what a huge impact that song had on my thinking. I remember the first time I heard it, it haunted me for a very long time, it seemed so sad and filled with despair. I'll skip the booze but will still keep dancing-----because "all there is" IS enough, in fact it's all pretty wonderful.


I think I can relate that and the happiness formula to myself pretty well. It's a good fit.

I know I'm not as happy as I could/should be.

I'm not fit - I need to lose weight and stuff, but I'm working on that, so I feel kinda ok on that score.

Money's a huge worry - too much debt, too many outgoings, not enough incomings, spend too much trying to feel better which works for a while until I realise that I've just made it worse.

Social life - not much, though force myself occasionally (see above).

Meaning - well at the moment life is all about finding ways of sorting out the money thing and no matter how much I try or plan it doesn't work, so that can't be good. Don't know what I'd do if the other 3 things were all 'fixed' - I have all sorts of fine notions about voluntary/charity work, but I'll never know for sure will I?

So money might come after health priority-wise, but it's a huge chunk of the formula which I have a nasty feeling I'll be chasing til the end of my days....anyone want to give themselves some meaning by helping to 'fix' me? ;)


Not to be a dick, but you could have just written "I'm better than you, but keep at it sport, you'll get there someday!" Much more succinct and it conveys the basic idea of your post today.


i really enjoy your blog, and the dilbert comic that i get emailed to me every day. thanks for providing all this to me for free, i appreciate it : )


dear scott-
funerals are overated. invest in eternity. Jesus can save you from all that you are.


"Hi Scott,

There is no need to get obscenely rich to get the outward orientation you speak off. Intelligence, deep thinking could be good substitutes to obscene levels of material prosperity to achieve that outward orientation.

Posted by: Kiran | "

Hehehehe Idiot.


It seems to me like your purposes with meaning would destroy the world

Save the whales - Starve the Chinese
Feed the poor & Shelter the homeless- encourage thelazy
March for peace - Allow millions to be killed by evil dictators
Serve your notion of God - Fly a plane into America

Alexis Argyris

Hi, I'm one of the countless people who you "make happy". Everyday I read your cartoon and blog and most times marvel at your humor and spirit and common sense and this strange feeling that your words might very well be my words, if only I was as gifted and hard working as you are.

But (I'm sure you realize that I only said all these good things above, so that I may now continue with my "but" thing...). Today's post, although I fully agree with it, left a very strong taste of self centeredness in my mouth. Especially the last part "..if you are not yet ready, don't worry, we will be waiting for you". Come on! Even if absolutely true, how is one supposed to feel about such a statement? Say "thanks"?

So, I think that you certainly missed this one, although your intentions were undoubtedly excellent. But don't you worry, tomorrow, as usual, we'll be waiting for you (sorry, I couldn't resist).


I was thinking that maybe you could include the happiness formula as a chapter in one of your Dilbert books. Though I suppose that if you did that nobody would take it seriously... pity.


Can I be a part of the people that you made happy with you extra-money?

PS : I love your work, and I hope I can attend your funerals someday :)

Your biggest fan from Paris,


When I serve a purpose larger than yourself, I feel so tired.


Beautifully written!...unless this is one of your "you bunch of morons! ha ha! I tricked you into following this crap" sort of posts...

I almost thought you couldn't meaningfully write any the pun :-)

Kevin Kunreuther

The affirmations experiment I began seems to work ...
So ...
I'll be sheep and try out the formula. Obviosly this will take awhile. A good long while.
If I find it appears to work for me, I'll happily package and distribute it, attribute it to you of course, and make more people feel happier.
Meanwhile, I have to hope the world doesn't blow up in the meantime because one group of assholes hates another group of assholes, and I wind up being the sphincter in the middle who gets violated.

Stuart - Velkairiwyth

Random Question:

At what point did you start drawing Dilbert with Flatscreen monitors? Did you but one yourself or did you just slowly integrate it in? Ive got some old and new comics pinned up at my semi-cubicle here at work, and notice theres some with CRT and some with TFT monitors drawn in :)

Yep to keep it on topic, my meaningness is randomness. A random lifestyle keeps it interesting and fun :D



agree with harriot! reminded me of maslow too..:) very much.

Its very natural i guess.

And thanks to the author for all the other posts too.. makes for good reading and also makes life a lil more worth living(??). :)


Well i always thought passion for work should be there somewhere? is there something i am missing


Hi Scott, just read your post and what you described sounds just like how i feel right now! I spent the last god-knows how many years doing GCSEs, A-Levels, a Degree and an Masters (UK qualifications) finally earning a job on one of the best graduate schemes in the UK. I spent so long striving to get where i thought i needed to be, now i'm there i'm completely lost! I'll prob never worry about money again, but now i've realised how unimportant that ever was. Coming from a poor background it was always deemed the paramount goal. I now always scour the net/books and life trying to find some kind of meaning, but to no avail! Every day I spend in this corporation I see your cartoons come to life and it worries me! It's always good to read things like your post to realise that it's not abnormal to feel like this! I feel a lot better recently as i think i've turned a corner but it's taken almost two years to get here! You're right though, start looking outward and everything else falls into place!

Lily Tinkle

"Don’t worry if you aren’t ready to serve a higher purpose. Fix yourself first. We’ll wait for you. You’ll know you’re ready when serving the higher purpose seems easier than not."

The kindness shown in that sentence truly reflects
the mindset of someone who has turned outward. I can think
of many styles in which your key points could have
been written that would have revealed a different
basis of your outlook on life (arrogance, self-satisfaction, didacticism, I'm sure you and your readers can think of others ad infinitum) .
The clarity and breadth of your thinking always
impresses me, but today your blog has also uplifted
me. I wish for you a similar moment of elevation
(described by anthropologist Jonathan Haidt as "a
warm uplifting feeling that people experience when they
see unexpected acts of human goodness, kindness,
and compassion") today.

Ceris Pseudo

Interesting perspective Scott. I've been reading your blog since it started 1.5 years ago and I've really enjoyed your different sense of humor. You almost make some good points, especially about the basic ideas for the happiness formula. However, I would say that one doesn't have to totally fix themselves to have a greater meaning. Indeed there are many who choose greater meaning (helping others, religion, serving in some organization) as a way of "finding themselves" or at least doing some self-improvement. Given that no one is truly perfect (and many would say they could always improve), I would say that meaning is something that is more integral to life than many would think - that is to say, meaning can be very closing related to the other areas of your happiness formula and doesn't necessarily need to be dead last.


OMG, like, you totally said it way better than, like, I ever could! *flicks hair*

Seriously though, you did say it concisely and I admire you for that. I'm glad you're famous, because then you can reach out to more people and that number-of-people-at-funeral can grow faster.

I have found that it's quite feasible to keep looking in and out, in and out and gradually decreasing the in/out ratio to a comfortable equilibrium (but still oscillating about it), while "fixing myself"... it's sort of more efficient, I find. =)

OK I haven't read all of the comments on your blog, but you could refine your happiness formula (oh yeah, isn't plural of formula formulae?) as a weighted average of the factors you discussed. This 'weight' accounts for the prioritisation (as, I guess mathematically, adding terms in different orders is really the same thing). The total weight would equal unity of course. say,
Happiness = sum (weight-of-factor x factor-accomplishment-index), where weight of all factors = 1

By this formula, there is no upper limit to happiness (if either the number of factors and/or the factor-accomplishment-indices were potentially limitless, although the former being limitless makes more sense)... which makes sense because for some reason, people seem to think happiness is conserved in the world, which isn't necessarily true, is it?

OK I told you I wasn't concise.

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