In 1922, Albert Einstein was staying in a hotel in Tokyo. Without any money to tip a hotel deliveryman, he instead gave him a couple of notes on hotel stationery about happiness and success. While the man was probably unable to read the advice, he recognized their value and held on to them. In October of this year, the deliveryman’s nephew sold the notes for 1.3 million dollars.
One note said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The other said, “A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it.” Multi-millionaire Mo Gawdat curiously came to a similar conclusion as Einstein after trying to find his own formula for happiness. On paper, his life ticked every box. He was a top Google executive. He lived in a huge house. He married his university sweetheart and fathered two beautiful children.
He was incredibly wealthy. Once he purchased a vintage Rolls-Royce at the drop of a hat.
People thought he had the perfect life, but Mo was as miserable as sin.
Mo believed happiness could be captured in a computer code. He wanted to develop an algorithm which could bring complete happiness.
Together with his son Ali, they created a formula. Mo thought it nailed the art of happiness.
And then something terrible happened. Ali was rushed to the hospital for a routine appendix removal. A needle punctured a major artery by mistake. His 21-year-old son’s organs were failing one by one. The time had come to say goodbye.
Mo and his wife kissed Ali’s forehead and left the hospital. Grief overwhelmed them.
Mo blamed the doctors for his son’s death, and he blamed himself. His wife told him blaming other people would not bring Ali back. This struck a chord with Mo.
He began to look at Ali’s death in a different light. He heard his son’s voice in his head saying, “I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it.” Whenever Mo’s mind drifted toward negativity, he would ask what would Ali say in this situation.
In the wake of Ali’s death, his father remembered the happiness formula his son had helped him create. H ≥ e – E. “Happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.” He realized that his striving for material things wasn’t making him happy. And his expectations for the way he thought life should be also weren’t making him happy.
Mo says, “I’ve changed my expectations. Rather than thinking that my son should never have died, I choose to be grateful for the times we had.”
Mo now believes that happiness isn’t something we should strive for. It’s about enjoying the present moment and being content with what we’ve got as opposed to what we want.