The Pursuit of Happiness in Silicon Valley.

Notes from Palo Alto and San Francisco Meetings:

  • Need to be part of broader cause
  • Creating something, not doing something
  • Two kinds of people: maximizers (always trying to one-up what they did before...if stayed at Four Seasons, next hotel has to be even better) and satisfiers (hey -- this is great! Esp when compared to third world etc).
  • Detachment from outcome -- being content when goals don't work out. Need to find joy in the journey.
  • Internal vs. External factors. So easy to gauge well-being on external factors, it's the default mode. Clearly happiness must come from within. Amish ban external factors. People lose individual liberty, but are happy!
  • Do major events (winning lottery or losing loved one) affect your happiness in long run or just blips?
  • Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy your way out of a lot of misery.
  • Visit 3rd world always keeps it in perspective. Perspective from comparison.
  • What's the role of introspection and self-knowledge in happiness? Are introspective people usually more happy, or more cynical? If someone is happy and clueless, don't fix it!
  • Why is happiness even relevant?
  • Are there activites that are "fulfilling" but don't contribute to happiness?
  • When do people most feel "in the flow"?
    • When connected to people and to communities
    • When I live most honest to who I am
  • Aimless joy is pure joy
  • Childhood and parental influences on happiness -- if you grow up in hyperfrugal environment, feel guilty buying material "excesses" later in life.
  • Is it bad that consumption can make us happy?
  • Happiness and contentment are different -- strive to never be content
  • Hard to tell when you're happy, very easy to tell when you're not happy. Thinking about it in the negative helps.
  • "Something to do, something to love, something to hope for."

Palo Alto Participants:
Ben Casnocha
Chris Yeh
Zoli Erdos
Olivier Marchand
Client Services Director at software company
Jan Leeman
Entrepreneur and investor
Eric Case
eric [at]
Don Yates
Management theorist
Dale Edmondson

San Francisco Participants:
Ben Casnocha
Susan Etlinger
The Horn Group
Larissa Lorian
World Trade Club
Gabe Rosen
Robi Papp
Renee Blodgett
Paul Roales
Podcast advertising company
Tim Taylor

Questions to Chew On Before the Meeting:
  • Do you actively think about your pursuit of happiness?
  • How are you affected by thinking relative to your neighbors and peers? Living in the Bay Area, with billioniares all around us, how do we overcome constantly feeling inferior?
  • What does it mean that the "pursuit of happiness" was endowed in our country's founding documents?
  • What is "the good life"? Socrates said that living a good life of high moral standard is the key to happiness.
  • Do you buy "positive psychology"? Are there states of mind or places or habits that make you more happy? Is happiness a condition to be cultivated, or is it more genetic?
  • Is it immoral to be unhappy?
  • What is the role of work, family, and leisure in the pursuit of happiness?
  • To what extent is happiness universal vs. unique to the individual?
  • What are the things in life that have made you happiest?
  • What is the role of geography, nationality, and culture in happiness?

Recommended Reading:
The Fragility of Contentment - New Yorker

This I Believe: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness by Andrew Sullivan

Eudaemonia by Martin Seligman

Ben Casnocha's "happiness" tag:

Chris Yeh's "happiness" tag:

Eric Case's "happiness" tags: