“The Algebra of Happiness” by Scott Galloway

Book Summary:

“The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning” is an unconventional book of wisdom and life advice from Scott Galloway–the renowned business school professor and NYT bestselling author of “The Four.”

Galloway’s book is a mix of anecdotes and no-BS insight to share hard-won wisdom about life's challenges, along with touching personal stories. Here are a few lessons readers will learn:

  • Advice on if you should drop out of school to be an entrepreneur (it might have worked for Steve Jobs, but you're probably not Steve Jobs),

  • Ideas on how to position yourself in a crowded job market (do something "boring" and move to a city; passion is for people who are already rich),

  • Discovering what the most important decision in your life is (it's not your job, your car, OR your zip code),

And many more.

Book Lessons:

1) Key Life Lessons

  • Happiness is usually highest during childhood, teen and college years.

    • It drops during your mid-20s because of work, stress and other hardships and stays around that level till your mid-40s, but starts to go back up once you hit your 50s.

  • If you want to be extremely successful in your career, you have to focus on work and not look for work-life balance.

    • By focusing on your career, you will have a lot more work-life balance later in life.

  • The ratio of time you spend sweating to watching others sweat is a forward-looking indicator of your success.

    • Spend more time playing sports than watching sports.

  • The most important decision you’ll make in life is deciding who will be your life partner.

    • Look for a partner with similar goals and one who approaches life the same way as yourself.

  • Two-thirds of economic growth over the next 50 years will be in supercities.

    • Opportunity is a function of density, get to a place that’s crowded with success.

  • Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.

    • Invest as early as possible: every $1,000 you put in today will be worth $10,000-$25,000 40 years from.

  • What is a man’s worst friend? Alcohol.

    • A Harvard happiness study tracked men for 75 years and found that the one thing that predicted unhappiness better than any other factor was alcohol–it led to failed marriages, careers and bad health.

  • To be happy, choose experiences over materialism.

    • Studies show that people overestimate the amount of happiness things will bring them and underestimate the long-term positive effect of experiences.

  • Nothing is ever as bad or as good as it seems.

    • You will experience failure and hard times in life, they will not last forever. Failure is often part of the road to success. The good times also don’t last forever, cherish moments of happiness.

Galloway’s book is based on his popular YouTube episode “The Algebra of Happiness.” Watch the video for more lessons.

2) Take risks and be okay with rejection

Train yourself to take some sort of risk (ask for a raise, introduce yourself around at a party) every day and et comfortable grasping beyond your reach.
— Page 95

As the old saying goes, “No risk, no reward.”

Galloway encourages readers to train themselves to take risks, even small ones such as introducing yourself to a stranger at a party. You never know, perhaps the women you introduce yourself to is your future wife (this is how Galloway met his wife).

He also adds that his willingness to endure rejection from peers, investors and women “has been hugely rewarding. Knowing what you want is a blessing, and fear of rejection is a bigger obstacle than lack of talent or the market,” which is why it’s so important to practice risk-taking and being okay with failing.

Failures can be both private and public.

If you fail to get into law school because you bombed the LSAT, no one will know unless you told them. However, if you start your own company and launch it into the public domain, and it fails, people will know. But that’s okay–the road to success is filled with ups and downs, you just have to keep going.

Even if your startup does well in the beginning, you will have to take on more risk and possibly face more rejections. This includes creating and selling new products, hiring new employees, seeking venture funding and finding companies to buy your business.

Life is filled with risks and rejections, don’t let that stop you.

3) Advice for a happy marriage

Studies show that marriage is advantageous economically. Having a partnership, sharing expenses and responsibilities, being able to focus on your careers, and utilizing the wisdom of crowds leads to better decisions.
— Page 119

Marriage is not only better for your personal life, but it is also better for your financial life. Galloway writes that a married couples’ household worth grows at an average of 14% a year.

By their 50s, married couples have 3x the assets of their single peers.

Here are a few pieces of marriage advice from Galloway:

  • Don’t keep score.

    • Aim to be as generous and do as much as you can for your partner instead of keeping count of everyone’s contribution and making a loser column. If your partner messes up, and they will, have forgiveness towards them.

  • Don’t ever let your wife be cold or hungry.

    • Most fights happen when either you or your partner are cold, hungry, tired or a combination of both. Keep a few snack and oversized scarves with you in the car or when on the go for emergency purposes.

  • Express affection and desire as often as possible.

    • Affection, touch and sex all reinforce that your relationship is intact, active and you have romantic feelings for your partner. People who don’t feel desired become insecure and can go down the path of feeling indifferent or disconnected which can lead to them cheating.

The two most rewarding things in life are family and professional achievement, writes Galloway. Life isn’t as fun if you don’t have a close partner to share all the great moments of life with. If you find someone who you can see spending the rest of your life with, make sure you’re a good partner and keep them along for the whole ride.

Book Review:

“The Algebra of Happiness” by Scott Galloway is a surprisingly entertaining and thoughtful book. Although its written by an angry, depressed business professor, Galloway does an excellent job combing research data with personal experiences to offer advice on living a good life.

The book gives tips on succeeding in business, finding the right partner and staying together for the long-term, how to be a good parent, how to take care of your health, and many more wise lessons.

This honest and direct book of advice is a wonderful read for recent graduates, millennials and anyone who feels adrift in life.

Thank you Portfolio Penguin for sending me a copy of this book!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you’re interested in this book, you can get it here.

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