Uncovering and explaining how our digital world is changing — and changing us.
Scott Galloway — NYU Stern School of Business professor and co-host of our Pivot podcast — is known for opining on and forecasting the world of big tech companies, having famously predicted Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods on Recode Decode. He wrote about the most important tech companies in the world in his first book, The Four, but then decided it was time for something completely different; for his second book, Galloway decided to try to crack The Algebra of Happiness.
“You can get happiness from Chipotle, Cialis, and Netflix,” he said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “All those things will bring you short-term happiness. I think when we really talk about meaningful happiness, we talk about investments we make through the course of our lives and decisions in forgiveness we provide ourselves and other people, such that at the end of our life, we feel like we built a narrative of satisfaction.”
On the new podcast, Galloway talked about how he and others in his life who have tried to immerse themselves in money and sex eventually find it empty. Instead, he urged people to make a point of caring for others, taking risks, and investing in meaningful relationships so that they build on themselves over time, like money in a savings account gaining compound interest.
“Those little text messages, those little efforts to go to your high school reunion, those efforts to check in on people, those efforts to congratulate people when something good happens, those efforts to check in and tell them you’re sorry when you hear about something bad happening to them … There are these tiny little investments and then you wake up as someone our age and you have really meaningful relationships,” he said.
You can listen to Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Overcast. And if you like this interview, make sure you’re also subscribed to Kara and Scott’s weekly podcast Pivot, which you can find in all the same places.
Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Scott.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, editor-at-large of Recode. You may know me as Scott Galloway’s personal hero, but in my spare time, I talk tech and you’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast Network.
Today in the red chair is Scott Galloway, the co-host of my other podcast, Pivot. But he’s back on Recode Decode today. He’s been here twice to talk about his new book, The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love and Meaning.
Scott, welcome back to Recode Decode.
Scott Galloway: Thanks for having me Kara, I appreciate this.
No problem. Listen, later on Pivot, we need to talk about the black hole, but right now, speaking of black holes, I want to talk about your book.
Thanks for that.
Talk about … you’ve done how many books now? How many?
Let me see, including this one? Two.
This will be my second.
Is it? The Four was your one, right?
Yeah, that was my coming out before.
Explain that one, what you were doing there.
So, my process is pretty straightforward. The Dean called me up to his office, and when the Dean calls you and says, “Come upstairs,” it’s either very good or very bad news. And he says, “If you want to be taken seriously as an academic, you’ve either got to publish or write a book.” My process for books is I take what I think is my most popular class and then I do a video.
And if the video gets traction, I write a book. And so I do a class called The Four, which looks at the Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google platforms.
And you started that a couple years ago, right?
Yeah, I’ve been teaching that section now for five or six years because my feeling is …
Because it was early. You were talking about these issues of this power early.
Thank you for saying that. I’m at the bottom of the scrum.
Everyone says you’re piling on.
I’m like, “Well, you’ll find me at the bottom.” So anyways, I talked to the kids, 180 students, about these platforms and how powerful they are because the dirty secret of business school is the second year is just a way to charge them double tuition. We really don’t need a second year and if we were honest, the second year would have four classes, Amazon …
But it’s a luxury bland, brand.
Luxury bland, luxury brand. It’s a bland.
It’s a bland of luxury.
If we were honest and we cared about the kids’ futures, we would just teach them four classes: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, because if you understand those four companies, you understand media, you understand business, you understand … anyways, so I did a …
And you assign them all a thing. They each appeal to something, right?
As I recall.
Well, yeah. Brain, heart, gut, and genitals. I think these things are instinctual.
Will you link them?
So Google is God. It’s our … we trust Google more than any super being. Facebook is at least the promise of love and connections. Amazon is our consumptive gut, the more shit you have for less, the more likely you are to survive the winter. More for less is always the business gangster strategy. And finally, Apple says to the world that your kids are more likely to survive if you mate with someone who carries an iPhone than an Android, because whoever’s carrying an Android is a loser who doesn’t make a lot of money.
So, those four things. Instincts, marketing… Our class is very much based on kind of human needs, etc.
Anyway, so I did a video, got a million views. Boom, book, right? My test.
And your premise of The Four, your conclusion of The Four?
Oh, my conclusion is that one step, a giant step towards tyranny is when corporations meld with government. And what we have here is corporations that are becoming our de facto governments.
You had exactly the right term, it’s all gotten away from us. These things have gotten away from us. And when they have 88 full-time lobbyists in Washington just for Amazon, and when they’re too complex to regulate and 93 percent of our lawmakers can’t regulate them, we’re in trouble.
And I think we’re … you know, there’s trouble in Houston here. And you know, you were saying this earlier, I was saying this earlier, now everyone seems to agree, which is a good thing. So anyways, my last class, and the most popular class is a class I’ve badged “The Algebra of Happiness.”
Okay. You’re just trying to get the kids in there and get like a good Yelp score or whatever they do in college, right?
We don’t have Yelp scores.
Yes, there are. What are you talking about? There’s totally …
We have Yelp scores?
Not Yelp, but there’s things like that. My kid showed them to me.
I’m not fucking Chipotle. I got a Yelp score …
I’m just telling you. I’m sure there’s a score for Scott Galloway somewhere.
Well, we got ratings up the ying-yang. I don’t read them anymore because they hurt my feelings.
Ratings, all right. Oh, my God.
Anyways, so I do this class called the …
They hurt your feelings?
Ah, the ratings are so brutal.
Oh, the comments are so brutal.
Because they’re true usually, which really hurts.
When you know they’re correct, you read it and you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. And you’re like, “Oh, my God. That must be true.”
What do you care? What do you care?
I care a lot. I want to be loved.
Did your parents not hug you enough? What happened?
You see, this is why I think you’re totally full of shit. Anyone who claims not to care as much as you, cares a lot.
I really don’t care.
Twitter, when people say means things about you on Twitter and there’s some truth or credibility to what they’re saying, doesn’t it bum you out?
No. I say, you’re right. I go, “You’re right.”
Well, you’re much more evolved than me.
So, anyways, I think the kids …
Or else I say, “Fuck you.” But go ahead.
There you go, that helps. I’m good at that. I’ve adopted that. So, the kids come to business school, they think to establish domain expertise and currency to create economic security within their families.
I think what they’re really coming there for is the step to leading a satisfying life.
And building a narrative of satisfaction. And so, I go through a series of algorithms on trying to distill down my observations on what is the difference between the people who are successful and happy and a lot of people I know who are very economically successful and not happy.
Where did you come to this idea to do this? Because it’s a little bit off-brand for you, happiness.
Sure, I struggle with anger and depression. And I want to figure out a way to manage it without drugs. And so, I’ve taken it on as a personal kind of study and domain expertise, trying to develop … I read a lot about happiness, I read a lot about what are the signals and drivers of happiness, because I’m blessed on a lot of levels, but I still find during most of the day, I’m generally pissed off. And I want to manage that, and I want to figure out a way to create my scenarios and my opportunities and my blessings in line with my mood every day. And they’re not in line, they’re not congruent with my blessings.
Right, right, and many people study this. This is a big …
It’s a huge topic. There’s a lot of fantastic research. So, I take my observations. I did a tremendous amount of research. I’ve tried to distill it down to a series of algorithms and equations and then I take them to the class … Take them through these things. It’s my most popular class.
Like, how many people go to it?
Well, I have between 120 and 180 kids in every class, but there will be … people do show up, and they have to have security and not let unregistered students in. I mean, I do get a lot of people in the course. But it’s a low bar. A lot of the professors light a room by leaving it. Some of the courses aren’t that exciting.
They’re bored, they’re trapped at business school. So, they show up. I did a video, the Algorithms of Happiness. I got 2 million views. Boom, that’s my next book. So, the first few chapters are these equations and then I have a series, I do a Friday blog post. I talk a lot about my personal life, my mom, my kids, and it’s a series. I’ve tried to string together …
So a lot of feels, Scott. A lot of feels.
Yeah, hold me, Kara.
No, that’s never going to happen.
Ever on this planet.
You have hugged me. That’s where …
I have not hugged you.
Oh, my God, you have so hugged me.
I’m so not hugging you.
You have so hugged me.
Maybe it was one of those distance hugs, a little pat, a pat-hug maybe.
You literally hugged me.
It’s under duress.
And I felt triggered. I felt triggered.
It was under duress for sure. But here’s the deal. So wait, it’s the algebra.
So you think it could be done in this mathematically … Why wasn’t it the geometry or the calculus?
It probably should have been. I just like …
Calculus would have been better.
Calculus is better. I just liked the term.
I never took calculus, so.
I took it and failed it. I just … algebra’s a cool word. But yeah, it doesn’t really make sense.
Just so, talk about the mathematical idea behind it. Why algebra, that you could become …
Oh, shit, you’re calling me out.
No, I want to know about this book.
You wanted me to talk about your book.
For example, okay. Fractions are somewhat algebraic, although it’s more of an equation, but one of my first things …
Equation of happiness.
The ratio of time you spend sweating to watching other people sweat is a forward-looking indicator of your happiness. So, show me somebody who does …
A release of norepinephrine. Show me someone who does SoulCycle three or four times a week and then goes to sporting events to be social or to take their kids or to do something interesting, I’ll show you someone who’s good at life. Show me somebody who watches ESPN two hours a night and then golf or football all day on Sunday, I’ll show you a future of failed relationships.
Oh, wow. So, I should be thrilled. I’m in SoulCycle all the time and I sweat a lot, but I think that’s menopause, but keep going.
Oh, I’m going to avoid that one. Okay, so, but I generally believe we are happiest when we’re moving and when we’re around others.
And there’s a lot of research to back that up. And I think at some point, we’re going to decide that spectator sports are the new cancer and I don’t think you should allow yourself to engage in spectator sports for any more time than you actually spend sweating yourself.
I hate watching sports. You know that.
Yeah, I don’t enjoy it either.
I call it sportsball. I’m the only lesbian in America who doesn’t like watching sports.
Lesbians are into sports?
Yeah, I didn’t know that.
Not this one.
So, but technically, that’s an equation. I think there’s three key components that make a good relationship with your spouse. I think it’s one, obviously physical attraction. I think sex and affection kind of connote your relationship, singular.
Two, I think values that young people never discuss are how close are we going to live to your parents? What is the role of religion in our life? What do we think about politics? What’s our view on the number of kids?
And then the third thing that people never want to talk about because it’s crass, but it’s the biggest source of divorce, is your values around money. How much money do you think we’re going to make and spend? What lifestyle, what weight class do you expect us to live in and who’s going to contribute to that? Who’s responsible for it?
And I think for the most part, young people pick their relationships mostly on the first. Oh, you know, he’s cool. She’s hot, whatever. I’m attracted to this person.
And they don’t focus on numbers two and three. A bunch of them. Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. I think that’s …
Let me ask you.
Using the title The Algebra of Happiness, you’re pushing out the idea that there’s a formula for this.
There’s a formula, yeah.
And that there’s a solution.
Which is probably wrong.
Right? There’s probably no users manual. I think there are signals and best practices. And I also want to acknowledge that there are some forms of depression that require outside medical intervention. It’s not like “read this and be happy.”
The tagline is, “observations on the pursuit of success, love and meaning.”
And I say “observations” because …
I have no academic credentials here and I have no medical training to talk about this.
So I can only say these are my observations and I’ve done a decent amount of research. But yeah, there’s no users manual. I talk a lot about the importance of money in people’s lives and for some people, they have decided their path to happiness doesn’t involve a lot of money.
And I get that. Majority of the kids I’m around are in business school, are very focused. For example, I do a survey, what percentile do you expect to be in terms of income earning? And what percentage would you say …
This is in class, right?
In class, right. And I ask them how much money they expect to be making in 10 to 20 years. And almost all of them expect to be in the top 1 percent. I mean, literally five of them who’ve decided, “I’m going to go work for charity:water or Teach For America.” Give a salary and they’re in the top 1 percent.
And the reality is, one of the learnings is, if you expect to be in the top 1 percent, you need to acknowledge that balance is a myth in your 20s and 30s. I don’t know anybody, I mean, everybody knows … I should back up. There’s always one person that’s such a genius and so good at what they do that money just kind of falls into their laps.
They have a great relationship. They’re great looking. They get along with their parents, they volunteer at the ASPCA and they have a food blog. You should assume you’re not that person, right?
And the majority of people that I know that have managed to get to a certain economic weight class without inheriting that money, pretty much give up their 20s and 30s for work. And we pretend to kayak and we pretend to be really interested in some philanthropy.
Do you pretend kayak, Scott?
My god, I am a kayak pretender!
Do you wander around with a paddle around the streets of Manhattan?
And you know how you know if someone does CrossFit? They tell you. I do CrossFit, Kara.
There’s a lot of CrossFit people in the Silicon Valley.
But did you have a lot of balance in your 20s and 30s? You’re successful.
I worked a lot, but I love work. I love it. I’m so happy.
Well, okay. So, you’re blessed. You got to do something you like.
I love it.
Which takes me to another myth or truism. I think it’s total bullshit when people tell you to follow your passion. I think it’s total bullshit.
Oh, really? Interesting.
A majority of speakers at Stern have two things in common. They’re usually billionaires. You know, “You’re a billionaire, come talk to us.”
And two, they end their speech with “follow your passion,” which is usually being preached to by a guy who’s onstage who made billions in iron or smelting. And my feeling is, your job doesn’t define your passion, but to find something you’re good at and then invest in it and then become great at it.
Yeah, I think that’s true. That’s true. You know what my passion was?
I love architecture. I wanted to be an architect. I took a course when I was in high school.
Well, writing has a structure.
I went to Harvard. No, no. Here’s the thing.
I was a shitty architecture student. I was terrible. Everything I designed, I loved the drawing and the precision of it. I loved the T-squares.
You just weren’t good at it.
And stuff like that, I wasn’t and I was very acknowledging that I wasn’t good at it. Everything I designed was ugly.
And I knew it. And so I thought, “I would love to do this, but I’m actually good at this other thing.”
And I remember thinking, “I can’t do that because it would have been ugly. It would have been a series of ugly homes that I would have designed for people who didn’t like them.”
But this is … I’m going to put out a thesis and you tell me …
Yeah, all right.
You started out in journalism and you were good at it. Maybe not great at it, but good at it.
And then you worked at it.
The best. No, I was right.
Then you became great at it.
No, I won the award my freshman year.
There you go, there you go.
That was the best. Only kidding.
Only you, all right.
No, I won the Bunn Award at Georgetown.
Oh, Jesus Christ. Here we go.
I was a freshman. It was a senior award.
Here we go.
I won. I had the best bunns.
Oh, God. Okay. Anyways, so most people …
That’s what happened. I have a medal still. I wear it sometimes.
Most people find something they’re good at, invest and become great at it and then the accoutrements, psychological reward, money, you know, respect, they come from being great at something. That will make you passionate about whatever it is.
So, if you have a gift with numbers and you understand tax law, the best tax accountants in America, A) get better healthcare, get more money, and have a broader selection set of mates and marry people better looking and more interesting than them. You can be passionate about achieving all those things.
But the problems with telling kids to pursue their passion is that when they hit a roadblock and shit gets real at work and it gets hard, they think, “Oh, this must not be my passion. I should find something else.”
No, that’s called work.
So, you don’t want to hate it. You can’t hate what you do. I don’t think you can be great at anything you hate. But if you have some aptitude at it, you can become great at it and then I promise you’re going to be …
Right. More formulas. These studies that you looked upon.
Because the next segment we’re going to talk all about your obsession with the internet ruining everybody’s feelings.
There you go.
But anyway …
Okay, the ratio. Your perception of good things and your perception of bad things is always exponential to what the reality is. And that’s a fancy way of saying nothing’s ever as good or as bad as it seems.
And this is really important because there will be moments in your life where you’re killing it and you’re doing really well and what you have to realize is, that’s not your fault, or it’s not entirely your fault. It’s a function of the environment, the markets being way up. And when you start believing that this really is good and I’m really great, you stick your horns out too far, you become too risk aggressive and the market has a way of regressing you to the mean and really hitting you hard.
At the same time, when bad things happen to you, you also have to realize it’s not entirely your fault and it’s probably not as bad as you think. And when something … you know, we all have bad things happen to us where that night we’re just a chocolate mess, or at least I do. And something that’s comforting for me is I realize nothing’s ever as bad as seems.
What’s a chocolate mess, I’m sorry?
Staring at the ceiling upset.
I can’t think about anything. Nervous, anxious, don’t want to eat. That’s how I’m a chocolate mess.
Anyways, you don’t recognize that.
Anyway, there you go. Yeah, you just go hit a speed bag or something?
No, I just go, “Oh, well.”
And collect more medals for your journalism?
I’ll explain my theories later, but let’s talk about yours.
I like that.
It’s all … death is the way I motivate myself.
Are you an atheist?
No. Why would I be an atheist? Why would I know? I’m agnostic. How’s that?
Agnostics are closeted atheists.
No, they’re not.
No, no. N to the o.
Agnostics are atheists who are wimps.
Come out of the closet and say you’re an atheist.
I’m not an atheist. I’m not.
Agnostic, free to be you and me. That’s such bullshit.
You know, sometimes I look at the moon and I think, God.
There you go. But … okay, so but ..
Is it because you have a finite nature of life?
I think this is important.
I’m very aware of death.
Yes, my dad died when I was little and that gives you a lot of …
And it’s coming faster than we think, right?
Absolutely. I’m very aware of every second.
And it makes you more deliberate.
It makes you more appreciative. It makes you more grateful.
And when things turn bad, I’m like, “Eh, that’s fine.”
Yeah, it’s not that big … at the end of my life it’s probably not going to be something I think a lot …
Not a big deal.
Another thing, you know, life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about the way you react to what happens to you. I think Donald Trump is genuinely probably a pretty happy guy.
And he’s mastered the ability to be a terrible person and have terrible things happen to him and still not let it affect him.
Now that probably means he’s a sociopath.
Yes, I was just going to go there.
But I think a little bit of that …
At least a narcissistic personality, possibly moving over to sociopathy.
Yes. But a little bit of it is recognizing, okay, when bad things happen to you, yeah, this is bad but, most people … if older people … the one piece of advice older people would give to younger people when they survey them is, what do you think it is? What do you think the one piece of advice older people would give to their younger selves?
“You’re going to die.”
That’s actually part of it. It’s … that’s probably the root of it. But it’s, they wish they’d been less hard on themselves. They wish they’d been more forgiving of themselves, they wish they’d been less hard on themselves. And they said, “Yeah, when this happened, when I screwed up, this was bad.”
”But in the big picture, it wasn’t that big a deal and I wish I hadn’t given myself such a hard time.”
Not so much a hard time. When I was … When I’m talking to students or younger people, they’re on such an achievement wheel.
Oh yeah, the hamster wheel.
Get off the achievement wheel. It doesn’t matter.
Yeah, the spinning wheel.
It doesn’t matter. It’s not going to get you any faster and pleasing people really is not going to do it.
Yeah, losing the script.
So, I mean, a bunch of things …
But they’ve been trained that way to get into this high school, get … you know what I mean?
Yeah, and it’s important, and I call this section “losing the script” but, you’re on this wheel. Get to a certain level of economic security and you can always raise your lifestyle to consume all the money you make and you get to a point in your life where you may have some economic security, but you haven’t invested in relationships, you haven’t figured out what really makes you happy. And I know a lot of people in my life who are economically secure but not very happy.
Another ratio in terms of economics: What is rich? Rich is having passive greater income than your burn. My dad makes $48,000 with Social Security and his pension. They spend 40, they’re rich.
I have a lot of friends in New York, I imagine you do too, that make between $1 million and $3 million a year, managing directors at Credit Suisse or managing hedge funds, and they spend all of it. Between their ex-wife, their alimony, their house in the Hamptons, they spend all of it. They’re poor and I think they’re under tremendous stress.
Wondering when the music’s going stop.
Just wrote me that, someone very wealthy and still kind of … just wrote me that he was depressed because he spends too much.
It’s frightening. It’s frightening when you …
Stop buying so much!
Yeah, well, it’s, you know, young people, kids, focus on their income. Adults focus on their burn. So, trying to figure out how you get to a point where you almost have passive income greater than your … that is …
That’s a really good point about your dad. He’s rich if he has extra money left over.
Doesn’t need to work.
Has no stress in his life.
Right? There’s a peace and a dignity in that, right? And then, you know, basics, your perception that people think things will give them is always overrated. The happiness you get from stuff you overestimate, and we underestimate the happiness we’ll get from experiences.
Right. The new condo thing that’s going on …
100 percent. The news there is, drive a Hyundai and take your husband to Africa.
I mean, so there’s just some basics.
What kind of car do you have?
What kind of car do I have? I have ridiculously fat cars. I have a …
See, what are you doing? You’re not taking your own algebraic advice.
Yeah, I’m insecure and I’m in a midlife crisis that I’ll grow out of in about 40 years.
What car do you have? Again, I have a Ford Fiesta.
I know, I love that. It’s a turbo, though, I’ve heard.
It is a turbo. It’s six …
That’s the mojo in you coming out. That’s the mojo.
Well, I’m selling it anyway. I’m giving the money to charity.
I just want to be at the Ford dealership when someone says — the weakest flex in the world. “Put a turbo on that Fiesta.” That’s literally like, that is the weakest flex in the world.
You know, it’s a very fast car.
My God. Oh, my God.
Peter Kafka borrowed it and was making fun of me and then after he drove it, he was like, “Oh, I see. It’s very fast.”
Oh, God, that’s just …
It’s a lovely little car.
I wanted a Mazda 3, but they don’t sell them in this country anymore.
Put extra cheese on that Big Mac. I mean, you’re just like …
I wanted a Mazda because it’s a sporty little car and they didn’t sell it in this country in stick shift.
You say the worst brand in the world.
No, it’s a great car.
Mazda’s literally the worst brand in the world. I have a Tesla. I have a big Mercedes truck for all the kids and dogs, and I’m about to buy …
You have a Mercedes truck?
Yeah, the GL550.
What the hell?
Oh, it’s so gangster.
Oh, no it’s not.
I’m an ambassador with a family. Hello. Danke schön, baby. Bitte. That’s right.
Okay, we’re here with Scott Galloway, his new book is called … he’s also the co-host of my other podcast Pivot, which is rising in the ranks, it’s very popular with the people.
Risen. We’ve risen, Kara.
No, I gotta tell you, people come up to me all the time to talk about you. It’s really wearying.
Its wearing. “What is he like?”
Oh yeah, what a thrill. What a thrill.
And then I go, “He’s an asshole, that’s what he is.” And they’re like, “Really?” I’m like, “No, he’s fine.”
You know what I say? I come up to people, I point at them, I’d spin and I go, Scott Scorpio. That’s my move.
It’s a real loser move. Anyway.
Hard to believe I was a virgin until I was 19.
One of the things you’ve been talking about on the podcast — and this gets into this book, The Algebra of Happiness, is how unhappy social media makes you and technology. So did you write about that? Talk about that.
Well sure, so we have … It’s pretty basic. We have a fantastic instinct, a competitiveness gene that’s key to evolutionary progress, and that is, we have a tendency to anchor off the most successful person we know. In your instance, it’s you among all your friends, of course.
But the problem is there usually or almost always is someone more successful than you on different dimensions and it bums you out that you aren’t them and that’s important for competitive … for improving the evolutionary cycle, but it also can make you unhappy. And what we have with social media is we have essentially something, especially Instagram, where it’s constantly being rubbed in your face sort of FOMO.
I had it last week to a point, a friend of mine, this woman I know — I use the word friend loosely, I just know her — was literally Instagramming every 30 seconds her tickets and her experience of the Game of Thrones premiere. I would’ve literally killed somebody to go to that. I would have like … Give me someone’s name. Give me someone’s name. And I thought, “Okay, I’m old enough to modulate this. If I was a 17-year-old I’d be self-cutting, in my room, upset.”
See now, I would think the woman who did that’s just a loser. And what is wrong …
Well they are, we’re all… but there’s two-and-a-half-billion losers right now.
I don’t use Instagram.
There’s a billion losers on Instagram all making each other feel like shit.
Well, no, I get it, because it’s performative. It’s performative. I was thinking of doing a whole thing … and I did a little bit on Instagram of ugly things, like really unhappy things, I did a picture of a bag of pee in San Francisco, which you can find a lot of places. I did all kinds of ugly things.
Your cologuard. I always thought you should do an Instagram real life. “This is my real life.” Right? Yeah? I think that’d be good.
Yeah, exactly. So I think it was … and it was people like “Hey, that’s not cool”, I’m like, I was like trying to do it. See, I think I was gonna do a holiday card with my kids where we’re like smoking and littering and shit like that. You know how you get those cards from people …
I did one with my cat as the baby Jesus.
We’re not recycling properly.
Yeah, I did one with my cat as the baby Jesus, I’m not gonna …
Oh, that’s cute. That’s cute. I wanna do something unpleasant. But, so, Instagram, so go ahead, so Instagram.
A fear of missing out, these can be some biomechanically addictive, constant-feedback manner rewards, you’re not … Oh c’mon, Twitter is your Instagram.
Twitter is but it’s not because it’s … I don’t feel bad on it.
Instead of taking a smoking break, you and I check Twitter.
But it’s not performative, I bet. Instagram is very different because it makes you see glimpses of peoples’ lives and that they’re always happy. That kind of thing, and rich, but whatever, and I don’t believe a word of it, essentially. Except for some of the puppy shots are cute. But …
George Conway’s dog, his corgis.
Oh my God, the corgis .
I knew I could take you off track with that.
I love them.
You should have seen Kara Swisher’s shoulders just went down like, “Oh I love them.”
I love … No I don’t love the corgis! I like that George Conway will trash Trump and then show corgis. I like the entire juxtaposition.
Now that’s the chocolate and peanut butter of social media. But I mean, then you have these algorithms that are not, that are not benign, they’re not malicious, they’re just trained to figure out more engagement to create more clicks and more Nissan ads. And they figured out that our species, the key to engagement is the enragement. And so you’re likely to find if you go on and try to have a subset of conversation and you have any political views or views about anything on social media, the algorithms will likely take you to places of rage more often than you would without them.
Watching All in the Family or She’s the Sheriff or even the Kardashians, it may make you feel like you need to shower after watching them but they don’t enrage you, they don’t say, “We’ve purposely figured out a way to biomechanically piss you off.” Being on screens this much time, teenagers … less time with their friends. I mean this stuff’s getting …
I do think there’s an emerging mental health crisis especially among our teens. Emergency room visits up 120 percent, especially among young girls. Because we’re in an era where we don’t like to acknowledge there’s a difference between boys and girls, but there is. Boys bully physically and verbally. Girls bully relationally, and we arm them with nuclear weapons in the form of social media to make other 16-year-old girls feel like real shit. I think we have absolutely no understanding or little understanding of how much damage is being done to our youth with these weapons and I don’t think we have anything resembling gun control.
Right, in that way, we also don’t have gun control.
There we go, likewise.
Interesting, and it doesn’t range. I think even that murderer in New Zealand, that was part of it, is becoming amped up on that and being unhappy and venting, it’s a really interesting thing. And sometimes venting is a good thing, right? Like oh, you mad, you’re gonna play video games, for example. Are they damaging …
There’s no evidence they result in violence.
Right. So it could be venting, it could be … who knows? There’s lots of different feelings on that, obviously, there’s lots of different studies.
All these guys, all these wackos kind of fit the same profile. They’re usually young, disconnected, socially frustrated. Young men who have access to assault weapons, and that’s …
Right. On social media, it’s really interesting that a lot of them do use the internet quite heavily.
And all kinds of signals on social media.
Not video games, the internet, it’s a really interesting …
Supposedly there isn’t a link between video games and these mass shootings so far. They haven’t made a connection. In Northern Europe, they over-index on video games and don’t have mass shootings but anyway …
Anyway, so when you have this “algebra of happiness,” what do you prescribe … what is the prescription, then, to do with that? What responsibility does the tech companies have in that? Because it’s addiction for one, but it’s more than that, it’s not just addiction, it’s something else. It’s behavioral modification is what it is, I think that’s what …
I don’t talk a lot about … I took a break from tech with the book. I wanted to talk a lot about … I mean, this is kinda the money shot. This is the net net and every major study shows the following: If there’s one key signal or indicator of happiness, it comes down to a very basic thing, and that is the number and depth of meaningful relationships you have.
Analog, yeah, yep. At work, do you feel respected and admired and most importantly, do you respect and admire other people? Among your friends, do you feel a sense of camaraderie and joy and just as important? And again, do you get that sense that they sense camaraderie and joy from you? And then finally, with your family, do you feel a sense of real meaningful love and support and do they get that from you? And that is, it comes up No. 1 in every study. And it’s not easy, it doesn’t happen naturally. It requires investments. One of my equations is supposedly — “the most powerful force in the universe,” according to Einstein, “is compound interest.”
Explain that, please.
Well, you put a thousand bucks in a bank account when you’re 25. Boom, its 40,000 when you’re 65. If you have this magic box, how much money would you put in it? I think the same holds true with relationships. Those little text messages, those little efforts to go to your high school reunion, those efforts to check in on people, those efforts to congratulate people when something good happens, those efforts to check in and tell them you’re sorry when you hear about something bad happening to them. There are these tiny little investments and then you wake up as someone our age and you have really meaningful relationships.
Does it matter where they come from? Whether it’s texts or in person or …
I’m not an expert on that. I think our digital age does afford us a lot of opportunity to touch people in meaningful ways even if it’s not in person, but yeah, nothing beats in person. There’s definitely a relationship between teens and depression and how much they see their friends.
Anyways, the other interesting finding — and I’ve talked a little bit about this and this is more of a do as I say, not as I do — but you know what the No. 1 signal of unhappiness is, according to the Harvard Grant Study?
No, I do not.
The No. 1 thing that was prevalent in men who had kind of come off the tracks — and of course this study tracked 400 men, which gives you sort of insight into what we were thinking about in 1929, we didn’t give a shit about women’s happiness, we just tracked 400 men.
This comes as a huge surprise to women.
Yeah I know, shocker right? The No. 1 thing that was prevalent in men who were consistently unhappy was alcohol. And I think it’s important that young people take stock of their relationship with substances. When I first moved to New York I worked in Morgan Stanley. And every night, I’d go out and get shitty drunk with what felt like other successful people.
And it made me, I think … not studying at UCLA made me a mediocre banker, but I think drinking and alcohol made me a mediocre person. I lost contact with a lot of people, I wasn’t very productive, I wasn’t very healthy. But I was a highly functioning semi-alcoholic, I still worked for a premiere investment bank, I was making a lot of money. Drinking for me helped me socially, helped me bond with other people. And I took stock of it and said, “Okay I just need to stop drinking.”
A lot of people don’t do that, obviously.
Stop drinking or a lot of people would?
Stop drinking. That’s really interesting. I don’t drink at all, very much.
I think you need to start though.
No, because I like to observe people drinking. It’s really interesting.
Doesn’t that bum you out?
I think I can count on my hands the times that I’ve been drunk.
Spoiler alert. They act like fuckin’ idiots.
No but I watch … It’s very … It’s a great time to observe people, I have to say. How much they drink and stuff like that. And not because, obviously people have deep problems with alcoholism and stuff like that, and this stuff is made to do that. It’s like the same thing with pot or weed or anything else. It’s just an interesting … it’s interesting to watch in terms of people that aren’t alcoholics but use it in other ways, that are damaging in a way that’s …
Well, it lubricates a lot of things, and I actually would argue. I advise my friends when I go on dates to just make sure you have a couple drinks, which is probably the wrong advice, but looking glasses into people’s souls are one, how they behave drunk, because I think you become more like yourself when you’re drunk. And I think that when people become mean, some people become mean drunks, that’s a really negative indicator. And also, how they treat their pets, I think, is a really interesting look into who they really are. But, yeah, absolutely, alcohol is a key test of someone’s character, how they behave when they’re fucked up.
And then now weed obviously and stuff like that, vaping and all these other things that’s going on.
I find marijuana … and again, I find marijuana is a great way to relieve stress in moderation, and I’m a big … I smoked a lot of pot in college, and I gave it up for 30 years, and I’ve found as I get older, and I don’t want to drink as much alcohol because I literally can’t handle alcohol now. I don’t know how we started talking about cannabis, but I find marijuana …
I brought it up.
There ya go. I find it’s actually a great way to relieve stress, in moderation.
That’s interesting. I’ve done some podcasts with Michael Pollan and stuff like that, talking about all those things in terms of making people happier. Like using LSD and stuff like that.
Microdosing and flow and all that.
It’s a big thing in Silicon Valley, but they’re doing it cuz they’re egomaniacs. And they think this is …
Yeah, they want the new thing. And the new thing is ayahuasca, what’s that shit? And they say you throw up …
I’ve been invited to do ayahuasca quite a bit.
Well of course you have.
Not ever gonna happen.
Of course, you … I’m gonna do a lot of heroin about the week before I die, supposedly that’s the real gangster drug.
All right, okay. So getting back to what you’re writing about, in this modern age, how is it changed from before? This idea of how you get to happiness? And also, what is happiness?
And I think happiness, again, the title probably shouldn’t have been “calculus” and it probably shouldn’t have been “happiness,” ‘cause technically, happiness is a sensation. And you can get happiness from Chipotle, Cialis, and Netflix. All those things will bring you short-term happiness.
I think when we really talk about meaningful happiness, we talk about investments we make through the course of our lives and decisions in forgiveness we provide ourselves another people, such that at the end of our life, we feel like we built a narrative of satisfaction, where the pendulum will swing up and it will swing down, but it’s on a higher plane because we have established a lot of deep, meaningful relationships, we’ve had a lot of moments that stop us in time.
For me, the moments that stopped me in time and then I try and have more of is moments of real emotion with my kids, or observation about wonderful things that my kids had happened sort of randomly and that makes me eternal. It stops me, I’m in the moment, I’m eternal, I’m here for a reason, and I fast-forward to the last time I looked into my kids eyes knowing our relationship is coming to an end — because I am an atheist — and I’ll think, “Okay, check that box. I was here for a reason, I was just a blink, but the blink matters.”
And so it’s how do you put yourself in a position to have more of those moments when you have really deep, meaningful, emotional moments with people you care about, with people who care about you. I think that’s, at the end of the day, that’s …
Except one of the things that’s a problem is loneliness is on the high … People living alone, people not … It’s really interesting, those statistics and those numbers are really fascinating, and of course there was the no-sex numbers that came out the other day, but I think those are maybe a little hyped.
That shit’s crazy.
Yeah, but the living alone and being lonely, I think, is the No. 1, in this country particularly.
Especially, yeah, it’s really …
Maybe Russia, they’re always miserable.
Yeah, everyone calls everything an epidemic, but the number … We’re more connected but we feel less connection. Right? And when I first moved, when I was living in San Francisco, I was working in e-commerce, I was married, I was working around the clock and I just found … I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like my friends, I hated e-commerce, I hated venture capitalists, I hated feeling like I was on that whole money train.
That’s a lot of hate.
Yeah, a lot of hate, a lot of anger, a lot of self-hate, so I decided to press the reset button, got divorced, moved to New York, quit my job, resigned from the board of all these companies and joined the faculty of NYU, and I literally just went on an island, and I would basically leave my loft just for food, sex, and occasionally I’d go to the Ready Teller, and I did that for like 24 months, and this instinct kicked in that if you don’t start engaging with people again, you’re gonna die.
And I think there’s evidence that if you aren’t engaged with other people, the hormone that goes out to clear out the bad cholesterol stops secreting, and if you want to see a man die fast, just have him live alone. Men don’t survive when they live on their own. Women are better because they maintain social connections better than men. But yeah, happiness is engagement and not only that, longevity, right? The Blue Zones, a fantastic book, basically said that the No. 1 indicator of someone …
Explain what a blue zone is.
A blue zone is, there’s an area in Italy, Osaka, the San Ysidro valley, and somewhere in Greece where people have abnormally high likelihood of becoming centenarians.
They may be miserable centenarians but …
That’s right, they’re … I think a lot of people literally live to 100 because they’re so pissed off. Their anger keeps them going.
I ran into two people the other day, a friend of mine’s parents are 92 and 96. I had a ball with them, they were so happy and literally just …
Having a great time?
And were they spouses? 92 and 96? Aww that’s nice, that’s a nice story.
They’re about 70 years, 75 years married.
Three indicators of your longevity. No. 3 is genetics. Everyone thinks its No. 1, it’s not, it’s less important than you think. All right? Because we all wanna advocate our health, and treat our bodies like shit and not worry about it because Uncle Joe lived to 95, smoking a pack a day. That’s wrong.
No. 2, genetics is less important. No. 2 is lifestyle. And you can summarize it down to like, don’t be obese and don’t smoke. And I’m not trying to fat-shame, but you’re obese, you’re probably gonna get diabetes and die early or die earlier. And smoking is the biggest preventable form of early death. But the No. 1 signal, the No. 1 driver of your likelihood to make it to 100 is how social you are. Or put another way, kind of how many people do you love?
Caregivers live longer, when your parents move in with you, you live another 2-3 years. New mothers do not die, there’s something about the act of caregiving and it makes all the sense in the world. Because all the things that propagate and progress the species were rewarded for … Eating is fun. Right? Having sex feels good. Caregiving, you’re literally rewarded, those are the most important things in the world.
I would agree.
I would agree with that. I think it’s true.
I understand, and people who care for other people and get good at it, the mental and physical nuance and strain of caring for other people is difficult and it sends a signal to the big security camera in your amygdala it says …
What is that?
Well, you do have sort of a security camera in your brain, trying to figure out if you’re adding value. And when you’re at SoulCycle, it thinks you’re hunting prey or building housing and it says, “You know what? Let her stick around a little longer.” When you are doing …
I did SoulCycle last night. Let me just say: Lorenzo…
Sometimes it works.
Lemme shout-out to Lorenzo. Sometimes the SoulCycle people, let me just say, some of the SoulCycle people, these millennials that are giving me life advice, there was one the other day, I’m not gonna say the name of this SoulCycle … but awful. Lorenzo was great and he was really funny and great and super fun. Just funny. The other one was talking about their own problems and kept going, it was like a 25-year-old was like, “You can change.” I was like, “No you can’t.”
Like, I literally I told you my dream where I’m in a SoulCycle class for reality, SoulCrushingCycle. Which is like, I’m gonna play Madonna, Adele, maybe some Dan Fogelberg, something like that, something real weepy. James Taylor, Michael Bublé. I’m gonna play all those. George Michael, probably. And play them and then I’m gonna go, “Hey, you know that boyfriend? He’s probably cheating on you.”
He really isn’t into you!
And by the way, your job? Probably sexism will hold you back by at least $20,000.
You’re gonna make 78 cents on the dollar!
And just like all these things and like, you know what? You really are average. There’s not that many special people.
Him managing a club really was a red flag. Yeah, so, okay back to … You fool the brain, you fool the security camera. When you’re engaged at work or doing a crossword puzzle, you fool the camera into believing you are actually making decisions for the clan. And the most important thing in the world and most important thing that’s …
A clan, really? Like we haven’t been doing the clan thing for a long time but okay, whatever.
A tribe? Your people?
Okay, okay. There’s no more clans anymore.
And then finally caregiving. So, you wanna live longer? Start caring for other people.
All right, okay, going way back in a second with Scott Galloway, who’s had a lot of feels today, I like this feels thing, I like this Scott.
We’re gonna tape a Pivot next and you’re gonna, like, go after Mark Zuckerberg. Like a howitzer.
Let the real me shine through.
Yeah I know, let the real you shine through.
We’re gonna get drunk and see what happens.
So I wanna talk about, what are the formulas? You talked about the little things that matter and stuff like that, what’s the algebra of unhappiness? Is it just the opposite then? Loneliness, that’s what it is.
Well I think disconnection and not having meaningful relationships, quite frankly, not sweating enough. But probably, I think … I go through a series of what I’ll call exogenous shocks, or risks to our happiness. And we all have those risks and we want to kind of, if we can …
I like “exogenous.”
There we go, I use that a lot, it’s like my new favorite word. Although someone on Twitter reminded me that I used to use the word “gestalt” every 45 seconds, I got to stop using that.
Anyways, most of the people in our kind of weight class economically, in our age group, I think the biggest risk to our happiness is something negative happening to our kids. I think if you talk to most people our age who are in good health, the thing that has really taken them off track and literally sent them into a very serious point of stress and unhappiness for months has been when something comes off the rails with one of their kids.
And I think the biggest, and this goes back to big tech, I think some of the biggest risks to people like us who are blessed with a certain level of economic security, professional happiness, hopefully a good relationship, is that one of our kids enters into this downward cycle of you know, depression and a lack of self worth and it’s for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to blame it all on social media. A lot of it is our fault as concierge, bulldozer parenting, where we clear out all the obstacles such that we use so many sanitary wipes on our kids’ lives they no longer develop immunities.
Sanitary wipes. Really.
Oh my God, I used to feed kitties off the floor, but go ahead.
There you go. Well, that’s the problem. That’s actually a pretty good thing, right? Yeah. Babies are supposed to be a little bit dirty.
Cats eating off the floor.
So, but the problem is, I think the biggest risk, I would say, to our cohort is that their teenage kids run into trouble because they’re not adequately prepared. They’re physically safer than they’ve ever been, but they’re more emotionally fragile. And I think that the other chaser cocktail in that that’s really unhealthy is all the social media that they’re engaging in. So I think the biggest risk to us, quite frankly, is one, something happens to our kids. I think it’s losing the script and realizing that money and success and ambition are the means not the ends and we never get to the ends.
This recent thing around the college things, everything else. It makes me think a lot because I tend not to help my kids that much. I help them a little bit, and I like to do motherly things and stuff like that, which I think is nice. I think it’s actually, they like, and I don’t think it babies them in a way that’s negative, but it really is interesting because I struggle with the idea of doing too much for them, like going to things.
Today my son just called me. He’s like, “I don’t want to go to this thing,” it’s for college and stuff like that. And I’m like, “Well, whatever.” I said, “It’s your trip around the globe. I don’t care.” He says, “What should I do?” I go, “I don’t know. You should figure it out.” And I hung up. And I thought about that. I thought about it because I thought I’ll let him … If he fails, he fails. That’s the way it goes.
Yeah, it’s hard to do. We’re about to put Aunt Becky in prison and I kind of …
Becky’s holding out, it looks like.
Yeah, but that’s a bad move.
I know it is.
Everyone else copped a plea.
That’s what I was thinking. I know that. Felicity went …
Felicity’s gonna get six months probation.
And it’s gonna be like zero. She’s gonna be like helping some people in an old folks home.
Lori’s gonna find out orange is the new black. She’s going to prison. Aunt Becky, a shower’s going to mean an entirely new thing for Aunt Becky.
That doesn’t happen for girls. Just so you know, just giving you some information there.
Is that right?
Yes. It doesn’t.
Did you learn that from your prison consultants?
Oh, let me have my fantasies, for God’s sakes.
No, there’s nothing like that.
Oh, come on. By the way, that’s my favorite genre of film, women’s prison films. That’s my favorite art form.
There’s always a young — Candy. There’s always a woman smoking, like the tough one. And then she gets like electrified at the end.
She owns the yard. She owns the yard.
And at the end …
Andy Sidaris, great filmmaker. Okay. So something happened to our kids, losing the script. And I think, and then a sense of loneliness or disconnection.
So who do you think is going to read this book? Who needs it? Are you giving it to employees? Because this seems like something that they’ll hand out at Google like cotton candy or something.
So the audience, the audience for me is …
Those people are robots.
… is 27-year-olds starting their career. I want them to do what I didn’t have a sense of, and that was not … I generally care. When I was 27, I just wanted to make a shit ton of money and have sex with as many women as possible and generally be fucking awesome. Those were my entire goals. And what I realized as I got older, is even though I didn’t get all of those things, if I could get most of them, it wasn’t making me happy. So what is, if I think of early on you can define, okay, so another … I think the most important decision in your life. What do you think the most important decision in your life is?
Oh, okay, well done. You don’t want to guess? Most important decision in your life. The one thing you need to nail to be happy.
“Should I taste this?”
Should I taste this? Wow. Okay.
It was on the floor.
There we go. All right. We could have gone a lot of ways with that. So anyways, I think the most important …
I don’t think as much as you do about …
The majority of kids in my class, they think the most important decision they’re going to make is the career they choose.
And it’s not. I think the most important decision you’re gonna make in your life, full stop, is who you decide to partner with the rest of your life, or specifically who you decide to be your mate. I think the people I know, I know people who are not that successful professionally, but they have a great partnership and the disappointments and the successes are just less harsh and burn brighter respectively. And then I have friends who are hugely successful, blessed on every exterior metric whatsoever, that live amazing lives, but they’re not … They don’t have a partnership. They love their husband, they love their wife, but they don’t have a real sense of partnership with them. They’re on … It’s like they just have different priorities. It’s like their marriage is a transaction.
Yes. It becomes a logistical, that’s why I got divorced.
It’s an agreement. It’s a transaction.
It was a logistical company.
Yeah. It’s a sort of a corporation. You manage this division, I manage this division. So I think being really thoughtful early on, putting yourself in a ton of social situations, go out, meet people. and in this confusing era around a lot of important conversations, I encourage men, I have this cottage industry of counseling my friends, young boys, because I think a lot of young men are failing, to say I think you need to be aggressive with women. And what I mean by aggressive is go up to strange women and initiate conversation, and when you go on a date, grab her hand. I don’t think that’s inappropriate. She will let you know if it’s inappropriate, but I think it’s important that young people put themselves out there and try and find mates.
Nothing wonderful — and this is another equation, if you want outsize returns in the hedge fund industry, you have to take outsize risks. Nothing wonderful will happen to you professionally, personally in terms of relationships unless you take an outsize risk. I tell the story of how I met my wife. It was the middle of the day at a hotel pool. She was sitting with another guy and I went over and I went up and …
What made you do that?
I looked at her and I committed to talking to her before I left, and it was uncomfortable. I was sober, which made it just terrifying.
What was your line?
“Where are you guys from? Where are you guys from?” And it was at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami. And I cut to the end of the story — and I have a series of these stories in the book — my older son’s middle name is Raleigh. We were married, we had kids three and five years later and we were married eight years later. And it’s been, she’s been the epicenter of the most wonderful things in my life.
And I tell these kids that if you want something wonderful to happen to you, you are going to have to take an uncomfortable risk in every dimension you’re alive, and the majority of people aren’t willing to take those risks. And so they punch in their weight class. And the key to punching out of your weight class professionally, economically, and from a relationship standpoint is taking uncomfortable risks.
That is true. That is true. That is true. Some people do it intuitively. And some people do not. It’s hard.
Some people are just risk takers.
Yeah. I think so, don’t you think?
Yeah. Some people are more comfortable with it. In America we actually have a gene for risk taking because the majority of people who got here took a risk to get here.
That’s right. I agree. And the people that kept going …
Kept going west. 100 percent.
And the people that stopped in Penn … The Pennsylvania people, eh.
People in Maine, not so much. People in Hawaii …
Interesting. Whoa, they’re crazy.
Put it all on black!
Yeah. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That kind of thing. All right, so I want to finish up talking just a little bit about what about unhappiness? Why isn’t unhappiness okay? Because I think that being unhappy is all right and I think in this society …
Moments of introspection, moments of sadness.
Yes. Yeah. I’m going to use a broad term of unhappiness, sadness. I guess it’s true, because I think one of the things that our society does is saying to you … And it’s a really interesting thing. I think about being gay and stuff like that, and there’s all these images of straight people in movies, happy, happy, and they’ll end up, you know what I mean?
Like now there’s like negative movies, but a lot of them are about you finally, in a rom-com, get there. And so you feel like you didn’t have that, and therefore your life isn’t like that. Gay people never got any of that. We always got, we always ended up committing suicide or having a tree fall on us.
Like that’s so not true anymore.
No, it’s not anymore.
Will and Grace, everybody’s so happy now.
It’s the worst now. Well no, they’re kind of, they’re …
All gay people are quirky and fun and successful and …
That’s all right. Exactly. I know we want to go back to our miserable … No, we do not want to go back to us. We’d like a little bit of happiness. But what’s interesting is the inability to deal with sadness or unhappiness.
A hundred percent.
So that I think is also because there’s an algebra of sadness is actually good for you.
Yeah. And I think that … a couple of things. One being in the moment and really absorbing sadness. So I talk about, I lost the … From the age of 25 to 40, for 15 years, I didn’t cry once. I lost the capacity to cry. I remember even thinking, when my mom passed away, it would help to cry and I didn’t know how. You can forget how to cry.
And now I cry all the time. I cry in movies, I cry on planes, I cry talking about my mom. I well up talking about my kids and I find it …
Are you gonna cry right now?
I could, I literally have … I have behavior modification so I don’t, I start thinking about other things, mostly the medals you got for journalism.
I should send you a picture. A fun award.
But crying is really … Absorbing sadness and crying is really wonderful. Crying feels really, really good.
I haven’t cried in awhile.
Oh God, it feels great. And then another algorithm or another equation, if you will, is that the key, one of the keys to happiness is the ability to mourn and then to move on. When bad things happen to you, you deserve to be sad. It’s a normal healthy reaction to be sad. What you have to be careful of is that you don’t get stuck and you need to go algebraically or mathematically, “This bad thing happened to me. It would make sense that I would be sad for two, three or six months.”
When my mom died, I woke up two years later and realized I still hadn’t gotten on with my life. And so I decided to ask other people for help because I’m like, I’m stuck and I didn’t like to admit what I saw as an alpha-male master of the universe dude, that I should be taken off course by the death of my mother. And it just, it didn’t like, it didn’t incapacitate me, but I found I just wasn’t moving on.
There’s a line in Moonstruck, “Snap out of it!”
“Snap out of it!” I once told that to my girlfriend who was bipolar and boy, you should have seen the reaction I got from her. “Well, wouldn’t it be that fucking easy that you idiots snap out of it.” So yeah, I remember saying, like you were saying, snap out of it. But anyways, the ability to mourn and move on and also recognizing …
Oh Cher. Cher’s given me a lot of happiness. Cher has given me a lot of happiness.
I saw her in San Tropez, it was 90 degrees out.
I have a list of people who give me happiness, like Dolly Parton.
Oh come on. Dolly. Dolly gives everyone happiness; that doesn’t make you unique.
Kitchen door last night.
Have you met the Dolly World?
Of course I have. Dollywood. It’s in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in case you are interested. I’d be happy to go with you.
Anyway, Cher was at San Tropez.
Oh, I love that. I know that. Of course I’ve been there. What are you talking about?
That strikes me as a place that you would mock.
I did and I enjoyed it completely.
It’s kind of fun. Are you going to Cannes this year?
No, I’m refusing.
I saw Cher there and it was 90 degrees out and she was wearing a leather jacket, a leather jacket and aviators and like a giant wig. I respect anyone who has the balls to go on infomercials talking about shampoo in a wig. I mean, she has sold billions of dollars of shampoo, wearing wigs.
Let me get to my last part. Do you imagine there’ll be a, we’ll be able to just be happy with like drugs? You know, there’ll be like adjustments either chemically or like genetic.
They will get to a point where we can calibrate up or down.
They’ll put a chip in us. Yeah, calibrate.
Shit. I don’t know. I don’t, and if they do, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing. I’m not exaggerating. I think a lot about end of life, I take a lot, I do this great thing called one second every day with things, meaningful things in my life, and I’m going to relive my life over and over. I’m going to do heroin and I’m going to have my … I’m going to die at home and I’m going to have my kids around me. Boom. As Freida said, well, isn’t that great artists? I want my exit to be fucking glorious and I don’t want to come back, Kara.
Okay. All right. That’s fine. Do you know what I’m having? A Viking funeral.
Viking funeral? Viking quest, are you going to have …
I am having a Viking funeral. Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m gonna die. There’s going to be a boat. And then archers are going to …
You gotta have that guy …
All my stuff’s going to be on it because I don’t want people to touch my stuff.
What’s his name, the Damon brother, the less famous Damon brother?
I want my kids to learn archery so they could do it. They’re not very, I’ve already explained it to them and they don’t like the idea. My one son is like …
Come over here ye while I debrain you.
No, no, no, we’re going to do the archery. All my things will be on …
Like the Barcelona Olympics where they shot the bow?
A Viking boat with me on it on a funeral pyre. Do you understand?
You wanna be burned?
A Viking … I’ll be dead. What’s the difference? Everything I own will be on the Viking boat. And you’ve never seen a Viking funeral.
Speaking of happiness, Game of Thrones. Coming this Sunday.
I’ll be wearing an outfit like that. That gives you happiness.
I can see it.
I think it’s brilliant.
I’m in. I’m there.
You’re going to be dead before that.
Yeah. I think you’re right. I get the sense you’re gonna live a very long time.
I do too. I already know it.
Yeah. Good stuff. Yeah. Well here’s to your long and happy life, Kara.
No, you’re not gonna have a short life. But it is interesting to know which one of us is going to go first. Right?
If you could know what you want to know? Supposedly there’s a DNA test that can tell you within like 95 percent confidence like two to three years plus or minus.
Oh, I would do that. Wouldn’t you like to … I think about that all the time. I used to read comics like that all the time.
The only reason I’d want to know is I would like to literally leave my kids like each 100 bucks exactly.
“Here’s 100 bucks.”
I don’t know. It helped me.
What are you talking about?
I don’t know. I think grit. I think grit and a sense of “I’ve got to make it on my own.”
I was left a lot of money and I’m thrilled with it and I work really hard.
That’s a brave thing to say. Most people would be embarrassed to say that.
Not me, no. My grandfather worked hard … my brothers and I grew up very wealthy and we actually work really hard to really, my mother’s …
Let me ask you this, kind of back to you because I think about this a lot. I would not, if I had been you, I would be fucking fabulous. I’d have a cocaine habit, drive a Range Rover and be dead at 50 and I wouldn’t have worked at all and I would have loved it.
It skipped a generation. My mom is on perpetual vacation and she wanders around my house and turns all the channels to Fox News. That’s what she’s doing right now in my house in San Francisco.
But there’s science there. It usually does skip a generation and then they say, okay, dad lost grandpa’s money, now I’m going to make it back. But my question to you is how, what did your mom, what happened to instill a sense of grit in you with money? I wouldn’t have had it.
My Dad died and my mom left us to our devices, on work, on school stuff, she didn’t like press us.
Yeah, but not being an involved parent gave you grit? Your mom …
I was just thinking … I was thinking of the college tour recently. My mom’s like, “Oh, I took you on them.” I’m like, “No you didn’t actually, you didn’t. We went on our own.” My mom’s interesting. She took us to Broadway shows, so that was always a great thing.
Okay, so I’m going to flip it back to you because people are more interested in you.
Then we must go and tape Pivot.
Okay. What are the things, the signals or the biggest things in your life that have taken you … that have made you happiest and what are, and what are the things that have taken you off track?
I don’t think they’ve taken me off track. I don’t think I’m taking … I don’t think anything’s …
You don’t think anything has taken you off track?
No. It’s like, you know that Indian story where the boy that finds that horse, do you know that story?
I don’t know it and I’m scared to comment on it.
It’s a story of a boy that finds a horse and he brings in back and they say, “Oh, you’re so lucky you have the horse.” And then he falls off the horse and breaks his leg. “Oh, you’re so unlucky. You have the horse and then the broken leg.” He can’t go to war and then they’re like, “Oh, you’re so lucky.”
And every time they say that about something that follows, “maybe” is the answer. “Maybe.” You don’t know what anything leads to. So my dad dying was negative, but also it’s made some good things. So that’s how I look at it. The things that are happening is my kids. I love my job. I’ve had a bunch of really interesting relationships and great, good ones and bad ones and stuff like that. Yeah. I’m not a fundamentally unhappy person. I don’t … I get sad. And I also get sad when I’m sad. And I’m not sorry about it. You know what I mean? I think that’s, I’m not, I don’t hide sadness.
Do you get sad when you’re sad? Meaning you get upset at how sad you are?
No, no, no. I think people hide unhappiness. Sadness and I don’t, I’m like, I’m sad. And they’re like “don’t be sad.” I’m like, “I think I’m going to be.”
They see it as a sign of weakness.
Yeah. I don’t.
When I was growing up, our best friend, my mom’s best friend, a guy who was kind of like a father figure to me, killed himself. He lost his business, he killed himself, and everyone called … It was so weird. They called it a “nervous breakdown.” We didn’t call it depression then. They called it a nervous breakdown. And as men, you weren’t allowed to have them. It was just a sign of weakness
Yeah. That’s true, men, that’s a whole nother show of how men aren’t allowed to … I’ll tell you what the theory I have that makes me happy. I think the sun is going to explode some day and the entire planet’s going to be melted. And I feel great about that because then you realize everything is ephemeral, and then you’re happy.
Let’s enjoy it. You know the one word.
I’m gonna start a religion. Exploding sun cult.
There’s a Latin word for seizing the moment and enjoying happiness and joy. You know that word?
No, it’s Chipotle! Chipotle. All good things in life.
Now you have gone rubber band back right to superficiality.
And Vitamin Water and marijuana.
I like Deep Scott. But we’re going to do superficial Scott next in our Pivot. Scott, this is a great talk. I like all the feels. I like all the big emotion you’re having here.
Thanks for the promotion.
Not promotion. It’s a great book.
Are you kidding? This will sell a dozen extra books at least.
You know what? Your shows are super popular for reasons that are unknown to me. Anyway. Thank you so much. It’s The Algebra of Happiness, what’s the second part? Observations.
Notes on the pursuit of love, meaning and happiness.
Meaning, oh, I didn’t get to …
I’m sorry. Notes on the pursuit of health …
I thought it was observations.
God, I’m sorry. You’re fucking with me. Stop this. Notes on the pursuit of success, health and meaning.
No, fuck. I got that wrong.
That’s okay. It’s called The Algebra of Happiness.
Just buy the damn thing. Just buy the damn thing.
It’s called The Algebra of Happiness. Apparently there’s a formula. I, of course, failed algebra. Anyway, Scott, it was great talking to you as always. Thanks for coming on this show.
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