The pursuit of happiness, while a powerful idea, isn’t phrased right.
One of my favorite all time lessons is a story from when I interviewed venture capitalist Albert Wenger ages ago.
“In my first startup, an internet healthcare startup, we brought in a very experienced management team. I thought that was a great day. Subsequently, it turned out that team, which was very experienced, made some decisions that ultimately led to the demise of the whole thing. It turned out not to be a good day. Conversely, when the deal to buy a software company fell apart, I thought I had a terrible day. I had worked intensely on something for 2 years and it fell apart. That, though, turned out to be one of the best things – I wouldn’t be here doing this with you if the deal had happened. I would be in Cleveland working with that company.
One of the things I have come to learn is that you shouldn’t get too depressed on the downside, or too excited on the upside – just keep plugging away. Eventually, good things happen.”
I’ve shared it a couple of times since to make sure every new group of ALearningaDay readers see this story at least once. It is a classic.
I have thought the story many a time in the past few years as it continues to remind me of something very important – don’t hinge your happiness on outcomes. First, you don’t control outcomes. And, second, you don’t really know if what you wish for is what you need.
So, it isn’t a good idea to pursue happiness because happiness is simply a side effect. It comes when we don’t care about it. Or, as Viktor Frankl eloquently put it, it cannot be pursued. It must ensue.
Engage with life and the people in it. Be the best version of yourself. And, pursue doing good work and making an impact on something that matters.
Happiness ensues from the pursuit.