The Happiness Formula #3 - Mambo no 5 !!!


DeBotton wrote about choice-induced unhappiness. Cause ? Try all you want, you'll never know yourself well enough to consistently make the right choices. Solution ? Cry and weep. No, no. Ok. How do we make sure our choices sustain our happiness if we don’t know ourselves ? There's work to be done pre and post choice. Most of the work though relates to the single moments of your life. You know ... the present moment. Like ... Right Now.

Interestingly, the best diets are not the ones that change an entire routine (i.e. good luck with juice fasting for 30 days). The best diets start by eliminating small bad habits and slowly implementing tiny good ones (i.e. swap munching for chatting with friends). Same for happiness. Let's start with Andy Warhol, switch to Mike Tyson and end with Bruce Lee :D


This is a pledge for getting rid of the wardrobe. Both literally (“The things you own end up owning you”) and personally ("You are not a special snowflake”). I can’t communicate this with words however. This lesson is a courtesy of life. Remember your last trip ? How much luggage did you need to be happy ? Here’s your argument to throw out everything. Remember your last honest laugh with friends ? Did you need to put on a show ? Here’s your argument to destroy all that hyper-structure you built around your Self.


Life is one hell of a boxer. But the Happy Master’s strength is that these never appear as punches but rather as nudges in the right direction. More so: Perspective doesn't only make a situation look better after it took place. It helps turn it into a thruster for betterment. This is courtesy of Stoic philosophers:

"The common refrain about entrepreneurs is that they take advantage of, even create, opportunities. To the Stoic, everything is opportunity. The Reverend Wright scandal (for Obama), a frustrating case where your help goes unappreciated, the death of a loved one, none of those are “opportunities” in the normal sense of the word. In fact, they are the opposite. They are obstacles. What a Stoic does is turn every obstacle into an opportunity." - Ryan Holiday in Stoicism 101


Imagination can also help in creating a different perspective. One practice is to mentally subtract something good from your life :

People spend a lot of time thinking about good things that didn’t happen, but might have done. But what about the good things that did happen that might not have? Say you’d never met your partner or friend or got that job? What would life be like without some of those things we take for granted? Thinking about what might not have been can be tremendously powerful if used in the right way. Counter-factual thinking can create meaning in life and, and can increase satisfaction with what you have (Koo et al., 2008)
— Jeremy Dean in Psyblog


Chade-Meng Tan runs “Search inside yourself" at Google. In his TED talk about compassion at Google he says: "Attention is the basis for all higher cognitive and emotional capability. The goal is to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time." Attention is about what you leave out, not what you put in. Weed out everything but the moment and the present task.

Attention in turn helps develop self-knowledge and self-mastery. Tan says "We create a high resolution perception into the emotional and cognitive processes. Observing one’s own thought stream with clarity, objectivity and from a 3rd person perspective. This creates the kind of self-knowledge that enables self-mastery". 


So let me get this one clear from the start as it’s the cornerstone: If you don’t accept your body as it is right now you won’t accept it after you’ve lost 8 pounds. No surgery or diet will help you accept it. If you’re waiting to be rich, you’ll never be rich. 50,000 dollar bonuses won’t do it. If you’re waiting for success and recognition, writing a best-seller won’t do it either. It’s like a shoe that  doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t fit now it won’t fit tomorrow. Because you’re in a state of waiting. Just doesn’t work. Accepting the now (your body, your financial situation etc.) 1) is key to accepting the future 2) doesn’t contradict with having wild ambitions 3) is crucial to happiness. It’s a skill.

This contradiction, and this tension … it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better
— James Sheldon


"Ladies and gentleman this is Mambo no 5. One, two, three for five". Instead of Lou Bega though, I'll let Bruce end it in this amazing story :)

Lee traces the thinking that originated his famous metaphor, which came after a period of frustration with his inability to master "the art of detachment" that Yip Man was trying to impart on him. Lee writes:

When my acute self-consciousness grew to what the psychologists refer to as the "double-bind" type, my instructor would again approach me and say, "Loong, preserve yourself by following the natural bends of things and don't interfere. Remember never to assert yourself against nature; never be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it. Don't practice this week: Go home and think about it."

And so he did, spending the following week at home:

After spending many hours meditating and practicing, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then – at that moment – a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? Hadn't this water just now illustrated to me the principle of gung fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might – yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.

Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then I was absorbing myself with the lesson of the water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the birds flying over the water? This was exactly what Professor Yip meant by being detached – not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.