Happiness is Overrated

Years ago, I knew a guy people came to for advice and counsel.  I’m not really sure why people came to him, because his advice was always the same.  “Be happy!  Smile!”

He said it sincerely, he meant it, and he lived it.  He was always happy.  But I didn’t want his life.  It didn’t appeal to me at all.

I once heard an interview with Kobe Bryant where the reporter asked, “You’ve achieved all of these things, but are you happy?”  It was a trap.  She was ready to reveal the ugly side of success.  Kobe doesn’t fall into traps, he sets them.  He responded earnestly without missing a beat, “I don’t believe in happiness.”

That inspired me.

Kobe played angry.  Jordan played angry.  Their fire didn’t come from happiness.  That doesn’t mean it has to come from unhappiness or bitterness.  But it’s not happy.

I’m an optimist, part natural, part learned.  I’m also what most people would consider a happy person.  I have fun, smile, and laugh easily and often.  But I’ve discovered that I don’t value happiness.  It may or may not be a part of my day, that’s not really important to me.  I’m pursuing greatness.  Growth.  Progress.  Relentlessness.  Fulfillment.  Happiness doesn’t do much for these.  In fact, it’s often a threat to them.  The pursuit of greatness is more likely derailed by a warm blanket than an epic battle.

Happiness is a social phenomenon more than an internal one.  It’s about pleasant alignment with the external world.  But change comes from dissatisfaction with the external world.  I like the combination of optimism and discontentment.

It’s felt good to free myself from the standard of happiness as perceived by the world – the thing the reporter was trying to make Kobe feel bad for lacking.  I’ll forgo the bargain with society to take the edge off my efforts and get some smiles in return.

I want drive.  Happiness is overrated.

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