Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy Hardcover – 21 Mar 2017
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A powerful personal story woven with a rich analysis of what we all seek in a way we can act upon--Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
About the Author
Mo Gawdat is the Chief Business Officer at Google's [X]. In the last ten years he has made happiness his primary topic of research, diving deeply into literature and conversing on the topic with thousands of people in more than a hundred countries. He is also a serial entrepreneur who has cofounded more than twenty businesses. He speaks Arabic, English, and German. In 2014, motivated by the tragic loss of his son, Ali, Mo began pouring his findings into his first book, Solve for Happy.
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Briefly, to move from suffering to happiness to joy, it is necessary to see through the six grand illusions, such as our illusions of control, fear, etc, and our seven blind spots, such as our tendency to label, assume, and rely excessively on our faulty memories, and come to terms with the five eternal truths, such as love, death and design.
The book is written in a friendly, engaging manner (with lots of smilies!) - the author comes across as highly likeable - examples are generally well chosen, and he has made a lot of effort to write a book that is easy to read and understand. A lot of what he says also makes sense.
Yet, I found the book frustrating at times with such a deep flaw running through it that I cannot give the book more than three stars. Basically, there's a major contradiction between what the book claims and what it delivers.
The whole tone of this book, particularly the front and back covers, with the word 'algorithm' used three times on the back, the (meaningless) equations on the front and words such as engineer, solve, and Google, is designed to give the impression that this is a rigorous, bolt and braces, book that will lead to happiness. It isn't.
Rather than being an algorithm as claimed, the book is a set of chapters discussing different principles that affect our happiness with some (often very good) suggestions at the end of each chapter. The happiness equation is not an equation but written as an inequality and is in fact a statement - 'if your perceptions of an event are at least as good as your expectations, then you'll feel happy'. Fair enough, but it begs the question what the oft repeated phrase 'solve the happiness equation' actually means. And is it just me, but are the scales the wrong way round?
Basically the author is rigorous when it suits him. Having minutely dissected what we are (are we our brain, our body, our thoughts, etc?), which was one of the strongest parts of the book, he'll then throw a sloppy unquantified statement such as 'life' 'nudging' JK Rowling in a particular direction so that she wrote her books. This pattern persists through the book, culminating in a chapter where he tries to prove that the universe is designed rather than random (a view that I'm not unsympathetic to). First, he's on shaky ground by trying to prove that something is very likely to be true (something my maths tutors at university would not have been impressed with!) and then by making a very convoluted argument involving the tiny probabilities of genetic mutations. Even with my very limited knowledge of the subject, it just seemed to be wrong, and having a niece with a severe and not particularly rare genetic disorder born from two healthy parents, his argument just did not ring true - I'd love to hear what someone with a background in genetics thought of the chapter.
With this highly selective use of rigour, I felt the author was trying to have his coffee and drink it (to adapt the common saying to his love of coffee), and someone of his high intelligence and level of education would have been aware of this falsehood running through the book.
I feel rather harsh for having been so critical of a such a well-meaning book with a lot of good advice in it. In fact I would recommend this book to people seeking to increase their happiness levels, particularly young people (older people who've been through the mill may find the chapter on blind spots to be teaching their grandmother to suck eggs), but the exaggerated claims of the book's scientifc approach really did rankle with me.
Although this book may not be a panacea for everyone, Mo's refreshing and honest account is a brilliant building block. He encourages us to take what is useful from his concepts and make it our own - solving for our own happiness.
Mo's book is highly relatable to all. For those at their lowest points - coping with bereavement, illness or significant loss, right through to the those who are at the top of their game, yet still not finding themselves happy. Mo provides readers with simple, practical suggestions that anyone can incorporate into their daily life - to help us all transition towards a happier and more peaceful existence.
A must-read!! I will be recommending this book to all family members, colleagues and friends.
My atheism was earned the hard way and I must point out that I see atheism as a very positive discovery for me to have made. It brings me exactly the same happiness as his god offers him. I have had very similar experiences to his but have come to the opposite conclusion. I respect his experience and his point of view but it is just that – a point of view. It is not based on solid science.
This is a scientific approach to psychology and, although some of the ideas have been expressed before in other ways, the very organised approach, and fresh style is particularly enlightening. Highly recommended!
Great read for anyone who wants to rethink their happiness or is already doing it, but needs a little kick with this book to really start living happy every day. I am recommending the book to my family, friends and colleagues that have every reason to be happy, but are just somewhere close to it.
The language is easy and understandable to read, even when it comes to more specific topics. Clear structure of the book makes it easy to follow and come back on important quotes.