From time to time, I post short interviews with interesting people about their insights on happiness. During my study of happiness, I’ve noticed that I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. There’s something peculiarly compelling and instructive about hearing other people’s happiness stories. I’m much more likely to be convinced to try a piece of advice urged by a specific person who tells me that it worked for him, than by any other kind of argument.
Guy Kawasaki wears innumerable hats – among other things, he has been an entrepreneur, investment banker, venture capitalist, and general visionary. He’s written eight books – my favorite is The Art of the Start – and recently founded an extremely useful, addictive website, How to Change the World. I’m sure he’s doing a lot more things that I don’t even know about, even though I follow him on Twitter.
He’s a person who conveys tremendous passion and enthusiasm about his interests and his work, so I was curious to see what he had to say about happiness.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Guy: Playing hockey. Nothing is more absorbing to me, so that I forget about everything else. It’s blissful for me, and I’m not even good. Maybe if I were good, I wouldn’t be absorbed and then it wouldn’t be as happy playing it.
Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn¹t know when you were 18 years old?
Guy: One can be happy driving a beat-up minivan. I really thought one would have to drive a Porsche to be happy when I was 18.
Gretchen: Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Guy: Answering email.
Gretchen: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve find very helpful?
Guy: No, not really. I’m too busy answering email to remind myself of mantras.
Gretchen: If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?
Guy: I very seldom feel blue. Honestly. I have a great family, a rewarding and fun career, and my health is pretty good. What’s to feel blue about?
Gretchen: Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
Guy: The problem I see is that many people get upset when they cannot control everything. My logic is that you do the best you can and let it rip. If you don’t succeed, you just need to live another day to fight another battle.
Gretchen: Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy, and if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
Guy: The only sustained period when I was truly unhappy was when my wife and I were separated about twenty years ago. Those were the most painful days of my life. Luckily, we worked things out.
Gretchen: Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Guy: I really don’t work on being happy. I work on episodes of joy and try to string as many of these together. Allow me to backtrack: “Happiness” is over-rated in the sense that one can achieve a state where everything is great. That’s impossible.
What I try to do is short bursts of joy–like scoring a goal, playing with my children, being with my wife, launching companies. Between these episodes, there are times of pain, boredom, and frustration, but to expect that one can every achieve a time of nothing but good stuff is sure to lead to an unhappy life. How’s that for irony?
Gretchen: Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t–or vice versa?
Guy: My biggest discovery is that my children bring the greatest joy to me. Nothing comes close. I never knew that prior to having children. I feel for people who have never had children.
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