The Road to Happiness

I was living the “good life” in NYC.

I worked at an investment bank. I lived in the high-priced area of midtown, and I could see the Empire State Building from my bedroom window. I flew first-class when on my business trips. I had one of the highest salaries you could get coming out of college.

But, I was miserable.

I had a wonderful girlfriend, but one whom I felt I couldn’t marry. I had a lot of money, but no time during my 90-hour work weeks to enjoy the income. I felt completely de-humanized at a firm that seemed focused more on face-time rather than outcomes and values.

I write this because I yesterday had lunch with a friend. This person talked a lot about choices in life and whether they do, or do not, lead to happiness. It was a great lunch, for it made me think.

I’m not writing this to beat down on i-bankers. I’m not writing this because I have the answers. But, I have observed this: you’re more happy when you focus on others and not on yourself.

It’s perverse, isn’t it? You go through life hearing the popular media talk about “self actualization,” “independence,” and “blazing your own trail.” As someone who also has followed the entrepreneurial calling, I agree with those assertions. I think they are necessary for happiness, but by themselves, they are insufficient.

When I started thinking about others, rather than focusing on myself, that’s when I became happier. They say it’s “better to give than to receive.” I think that’s right.

So, during that year in NYC, I made some drastic decisions. I pulled the ripcord. I ended my relationship with my girlfriend. I quit my job. I moved to Boston. I tried hard to think about others. I went back to Church. And, gradually, over time, I became happier.

True happiness comes from self-sacrifice.

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7 thoughts on “The Road to Happiness

  1. Jo,

    We have some mutual friends in common, and we met once very briefly at a book launch some time ago. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now, and wanted to share with you after reading today’s post:

    My organization, Dagbé (www.dagbe.org), works to support orphans, vulnerable children, and victims of extreme poverty and child trafficking in Benin, West Africa.

    This holiday season, my sister launched a blog to explore some of the topics that you discuss in your post (http://www.dagbeproject.blogspot.com) She wants to begin a discussion about what it means to live simply, how we can be more aware of all that we have and what we’ve been given, and how we can remember others who are much less fortunate. So, focusing on others and not on ourselves, as you say in your blog.

    What she and her friends have written in their first few blog posts is quite inspirational, and I thought you might be interested. Just thought I’d share in case you want to check it out.

    Take care,
    Sebastian

    1. Hi Sebastian, thank you very much for reading the blog and contributing a comment.

      It looks like a great cause. But, we’re already committed to a major program currently. Click here for details.

  2. Thanks, Jo. I’m sorry if my comment came across as a solicitation of financial support. My intent was actually geared toward connecting the two discussions – your thoughts on going outside of oneself and giving instead of receiving are timely reminders in this season where consumerism often takes over our society.

    Great to see you and the blog supporting the cause of Genesis II. Keep at it!

  3. What was missing from your wonderful girlfriend that made you feel you couldn’t marry her?

    And thanks again for coming out last night to our NAAAP event!

    -Ian

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