The Happiness Equation

Develop your internal motivation. Focus. Be kind. Ignore the rest.

I read Neil Pasricha’s 2016 book The Happiness Equation as part of a pandemic-fatigue powered period of self-discovery. It certainly has its gimmicks and many of the concepts felt familiar to me. Still, I did appreciate the book and came away refocused on returning to being a happier person during such a tumultuous time.

Below I share a few of my notes from reading the book, though I recommend you buy a copy yourself.

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One year later, here are my first small pieces of advice for new parents

A common joke I’ve heard among parents goes something like “The only parenting advice to take from other parents is to not take any parenting advice from other parents.

Yes, you can get too much advice; yes, each kid is a bit different and every family dynamic has its own quirks. But I really did get value in speaking to lots of friends and family before the birth of my first child a year ago. Granted, we spent the last year in a pandemic lockdown, so much of our experience won’t be recreated.

Exactly because of that, I won’t be overdoing it with advice. Still, I do think a few short pieces of advice were most helpful for me. Take it or leave it.

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Here are a bunch of rules to live by from other people I love

Short, sweet, meaningful rules to live by are a delight.

Last year I shared my own, inspired by the book, and it became a talking point among friends and family for much of the year. I love hearing anyone’s rules; even if I don’t agree with them, they’re telling of that person and a worldview. They make me think.

So, without naming any names, below I share a few sets of rules I heard from others because I just think these are so much fun. I’d love to hear yours too.

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Notes from ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz

Prominent investor Ben Horowitz’s 2014 book ‘The Hard Thing about Hard Things’ is among the seminal business philosophy books from this era of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship.

Horowitz is half of the founding team of Andresson-Horowitz, an iconic Sand Hill Road software-focused venture capital firm. His work and perspective has influenced today’s funding and startup climate, and so I finally dug into the book.

I enjoyed it and took away several insights. As per my habit, find some of my notes below.

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This is a better question for getting perspective to make a decision

I’ve started to replace a common question with something a bit different.

I love making decisions informed by consensus. As I’ve gotten older and taken on different roles, I’ve made it a point to be more decisive and clear in being responsible for the final decision. But perhaps from my journalism roots, I commonly want to get other people’s opinions on a matter.

It’s important to understand their vantage point: in a leadership function, you are responsible for having a wider understanding of a situation. But with the right balance, knowing more focused opinions are crucial.

But I think there’s a better question than simply: “what’s your opinion on this?”

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My 12 Rules to Live By

Anybody worth learning from has plenty they stand for.

I love hearing the rules of thumb, the standards, the conventional wisdom and the accrued learnings of these people. Similarly I try to capture tightly-phrased aphorisms and holding myself accountable with plenty of direct and specific lists and resolutions.

So of course I was a sucker for the concept of ‘12 Rules for Life.’ It’s a book published early this year by Jordan Peterson that spiraled from popular to, fitting for today’s era, being engulfed in a strangely hyper-gendered debate. The book’s over-simplified approach of ordering one’s life with structure did gain positive feedback, including a podcast episode from Malcolm Gladwell. But because Peterson is aflame in lots of identity politics, I walked away from the the book less interested in adding to that debate than with something else.

I spent the last several months taking notes of the many universal truths I held myself to, and recommended for others. It became a fun game for parties among friends and family: what are your 12 Rules to Live By?

Let me share. (I collected ones from friends and family here)

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Build the habit of making habits: resolutions of mine that stuck

A friend asked me what I thought is the best skill to develop. Build the habit of habits, I told her.

That’s how you get the most out of yourself and your place. It won’t always work but if you develop the rigor and constitution to choose to add a habit and then go and do just that, you’ll be gold. That is how you develop discipline.

My method for doing this is my near obsessive approach to annual resolutions. Each year, I put forward a dozen of them, many straightforward goals but often several tied to habits I want to add to who I am. I tie them to individual months but in truth I plan to do many of them throughout the year and beyond.

Recently I was considering how many personality traits of mine I believe started as resolutions. I think they’re a good example of building the habit of building habits. I wanted to share.

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You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

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Beat reporters: here are some tips for interviewing efficiently and effectively

For as important as a skill as we consider source interviewing, we don’t talk much about it as being something that has changed amid so many other changes in journalism and news gathering today.

In my experience working with mostly young reporters, talking about interviewing is very much an after-thought. The assumption is you got some instruction at school somewhere and some experience at college media and then refined elsewhere. But, gosh, looking back, we leave a lot of that to chance.

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Here are a bunch of ways to build a personal network with less time

Involved people face pretty common time constraints: you want to be present in more places than your calendar allows.

This is true of beat reporters and community organizers and advocates and activists alike. Recently I was talking about just that topic with a friend, and we found ourselves exchanging a few tricks we each had for accomplishing our goals: expanding a network while maintaining relationships with others.

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