Happiness is……..

Happiness is……..

Photo credit: Bruce V. Boyajian

“Happiness is,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, “a state of well-being and contentment.”  How you obtain happiness is another question. Enter Scott Galloway and a night in his honor at the home of Hilary Rosen, co-hosted by Kara Swisher and Tammy Haddad in Washington, DC for his latest book: “The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning.” But before we get to the happiness thing, Galloway talked about his love/hate relationship with the big four and their effect on our society.  It was his previous book: The Four

Synopsis: “Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet. Just about everyone thinks they know how they got there. Just about everyone is wrong. For all that’s been written about the Four over the last two decades, no one has captured their power and staggering success as insightfully as Scott Galloway. Instead of buying the myths these compa­nies broadcast, Galloway asks fundamental questions. How did the Four infiltrate our lives so completely that they’re almost impossible to avoid (or boycott)? Why does the stock market forgive them for sins that would destroy other firms? And as they race to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company, can anyone chal­lenge them? In the same irreverent style that has made him one of the world’s most celebrated business professors, Galloway deconstructs the strategies of the Four that lurk beneath their shiny veneers. He shows how they manipulate the fundamental emotional needs that have driven us since our ancestors lived in caves, at a speed and scope others can’t match. And he reveals how you can apply the lessons of their ascent to your own business or career. Whether you want to compete with them, do business with them, or simply live in the world they dominate, you need to understand the Four.”

Scott Galloway

“So I’ve been to DC 10 times in my life – five times in the last six months – and my impression so far is it’s a bunch of incredibly nice people who get along really well,” Galloway said at the Q and A moderated by Tammy Haddad.  “That’s funny,” shouted a guest.  “He has a sense of humor!”

“Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – I own their stocks, I love their products. And the book started as a love affair or a love letter to these companies. I think they’re incredible and I think they’re inspiring and I spent the better part of two and a half years researching everything about these companies. By the end of the book it became a cautionary tale. I think that or my viewpoint is that a key step to tyranny is when the government is no longer a countervailing force to private power but becomes a co-conspirator. I think we become overrun because of our gross idolatry of innovators and billionaires and incredible execution in our fascination where we no longer worship at the altar of character and kindness in this country, but of tech billionaires – monopoly power, that’s the bad news.”

“The good news is we face this problem over and over in our society. We faced it with oil companies, we faced it with the aluminum guys, we face it with AT&T. Every time we’ve solved the problem. We have a proud bipartisan history of antitrust in this country. But for some reason this time we seem to have lost the script. But I’m hopeful, based on the reason I’ve been here five times in the last 90 days. I get calls and this is exciting for me ’cause I don’t get these calls very often from Senators who are in Congress and they all seem very genuine about their concern.”

“So this is [more] bad news,” he explained. “Four percent of our elected officials have a background in technology and engineering, and it seems like the other 96% always show up at the hearings, right?  So, that’s absolutely discouraging. This is the same body and the same people and the same system that turned back Hitler, that figured out a cure for polio. The world isn’t what it is. There’s this general resignation that we can’t fix this problem, and it’s too late. But the world isn’t what it is, the world is what we make of it. We can absolutely stare down this problem. If we can’t solve this problem, we don’t have half the mettle and the backbone of our ancestors and our peers. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but oh, 100% we’re going to fix this. And I’m looking forward to us fixing it.”

“Look, power corrupts. And we always talk about the big one in the middle of the 20th century, but we have a tendency to do this about every 15 years around the world. And one of the key steps is a control of the media. And so a diversity of media and a de-consolidation or decentralization of power, of different voices and media is a key vaccination to some terrible things happening. And the first thing that happens typically when these horrible things happen is they get control the media and they get control of money, which leads to control of the military. And when you have one individual who can encrypt the backbone of the communications network and control the algorithms that decide on the content that 2.7 billion people view, regardless of whether he’s a wonderful person or not a wonderful person, you have, in my opinion, something frighteningly dangerous. It has nothing to do with the individual. We just can’t allow that to happen.”

OK, so this is getting into “the weeds” (a media expression, not mine) – the love/hate relationship with tech companies. We just want to know how to be happy. 

Tammy jumped in to ask: “Why don’t you talk about who you consider the most dangerous person in America, in the world?”  “Oh, hands down. Hands down. The people, the two individuals who’ve done more damage to the world while making the most money are Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.” Hmmm, they seem to be happy.  Is that the key to happiness we wondered……..

“Let’s talk about media companies,” said Tammy. “You were on the board of The New York Times. Do you think there’s a way out for media? I mean, will it take this legislation? People around here believe and are reporting that there will be fines for Facebook next week – Facebook, Google, who knows? So there’s actually going to be action. Do you think that there will be any kind of change? And how do you save newspapers and news organizations?”

Scott Galloway and Tammy Haddad

“Let’s talk just for a moment about fines,” responded Galloway. “This is an example of how we’ve lost the script. We fined Facebook three to five billion dollars for blatantly violating consent decrees, basically blatantly violating the law. And we said, ‘We’re angry. We’re gonna fine you three to five billion dollars which is the equivalent of seven days of top-line income or seven weeks of cash flow.’ If I put a parking meter in front of your house that costs $100 every 15 minutes, but the ticket was 25 cents, you would break the law? And what we have done is we have actively and explicitly encouraged these companies to continue to break the law. And the question is who’s the guilty party here? And the answer is they’re not the guilty party. They’re doing their job. This unbelievable agent of capitalism, the greatest source of good in the history of mankind, democracy on top of capitalism … for-profit entities are a really powerful engine of that and their job is to grow their earnings, and they’re doing their job. You know who’s not doing their job? Us! We’re not electing the officials who put in place the safeguards and the referees like we put in place across every other industry.”

“But for some reason we’ve decided when it’s obvious that these companies are doing the same thing,” emphasized Galloway, “you seem to take a pass because they’re innovators. They’re the Jesus Christ of our era. As our society becomes more educated and wealthier, it’s reliance on religion goes down. But we still have these huge questions, this need for idols. Who’s the Jesus Christ of our information economy? Kara (Swisher) interviewed two decades ago, Steve Jobs. And the individual who denied his own blood under oath, perjured himself to avoid child support payments when he was worth a quarter of a billion dollars. We have decided that these companies are not subject to the same scrutiny.”

“Okay, well let me bring you back,” suggested Haddad, “because we’ve gotten some great entrepreneurs in the room – Steve and Jean Case. Jim Bankoff at Vox. Susan Tynan from Framebridge. I see Jane from Brand Guild, and Danielle’s here from Uber.  So you have some entrepreneurs here. But you’re also talking about the fact that there aren’t that many opportunities now. Could Steve start AOL now?”

Scott Galloway, Steve Case, Jean Case, Tammy Haddad

“Well, yeah. Steve could,” responded Scott.  “So look, here’s the bottom line. Let’s talk about entrepreneurs. Two-thirds of jobs in America are created by small companies. Thirty years ago, 15% of companies out there were less than one year old, now it’s 7%. We talk about this as if it’s an era of innovation? We’re living in an era of non-innovation. There were twice as many companies being formed every day in the Carter administration than are being formed now. Why? Because the  fastest growing parts of our economy – search, social, digital marketing, tech hardware – are controlled by monopolies. Let’s try and start a search engine. There hasn’t been a social media network of any substance founded since 2011 because we have monopolies that suck the oxygen out of the air. They literally have crawlers, as Facebook does, that goes out there to look at the engagement of every app. And the moment an app gets engagement, they rip off the features, and if that doesn’t stop it, they go and acquire it. One of the greatest legislative failures of FTC or DOJ finally have woken from their slumber ( welcome back, guys) was letting Instagram go through. How on earth did they let that happen? But yet we wring our hands over AT&T buying Time Warner? The FTC and the DOJ and all these attorney generals get upset about Sprint and T-Mobile bringing together 130 million people? But we’re encrypting the backbone of 2.7 billion? Oh, but don’t let T-Mobile and Sprint merge.”

Tammy Haddad, Scott Galloway, Hilary Rosen, Kara Swisher

“It’s literally as if there’s one set of standards for everybody else and one set of standards for these guys,” continued Galloway. “So what do we have here? The fastest growing parts of our economy are basically impossible to start a business in. These companies perform infanticide on small promising companies and prematurely euthanize big companies, which tend to be better taxpayers and better employers.Walmart has paid $68 billion in federal income tax in the last 10 years. Amazon has paid 1.4 billion, despite the fact that Amazon added the value of Walmart in three months to its market cap in 2018. A society can’t function, we can’t pay for this young man to stand watch for us, if our most successful companies don’t pay taxes. And they’re doing their job. Their job is to avoid taxes. But what does it mean when the most valuable company in the world, which it will be the next 48 hours, doesn’t pay any taxes? How do we function? What it means is … taxes are a zero-sum game. It means the rest of us pay more. Alexa, is this a good thing?”

OK, so when are we going to find how about happiness?  Hang on, we’re getting there.  These guests look happy….maybe they read the book already.

Scott Galloway, Carol Melton, Steve Clemons

“My process of writing books is very simple: I take my most popular class and then I turn that one session into a video, and if the video gets a lot of views, I turn it into a book,” continued Scott. “I feel the second year of business school is largely a waste. That’s it. What we really should teach is just Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. I have a class that’s focused on those platforms. If popular, do a video. A million views, boom, book. My most popular session is the last session, and it’s called The Algebra of Happiness. But it’s a bit of a misnomer, the term happiness. Happiness is a sensation. It’s short term. You get happiness from Chipotle, Netflix, and Cialis. That’ll get you happy in terms of a short term bump, if you will. But this is really about trying to understand the best and worst practices around the little investments we make every day, mostly in relationships and the decisions we make, such that as we get older, we can feel like if and when we see the end, we can drop the mic, if you will. So it’s really more about trying to create a narrative of satisfaction. It’s a long answer. Sorry about that.”

Book synopsis:  “An unconventional book of wisdom and life advice from renowned business school professor and New York Times bestselling author of The Four Scott Galloway. Galloway teaches brand strategy at NYU’s Stern School of Business, but his most popular lectures deal with life strategy, not business. In the classroom, on his blog, and in YouTube videos garnering millions of views, he regularly offers hard-hitting answers to the big questions: What’s the formula for a life well lived? How can you have a meaningful career, not just a lucrative one? Is work/life balance possible? What are the elements of a successful relationship? The book draws on Professor Galloway’s mix of anecdotes and no-BS insight to share hard-won wisdom about life’s challenges, along with poignant personal stories. Whether it’s 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), or arguing that our relationships to others are ultimately all that matter, Galloway entertains, inspires, and provokes. Brash, funny, and surprisingly moving, The Algebra of Happiness represents a refreshing perspective on our need for both professional success and personal fulfillment, and makes the perfect gift for any new graduate, or for anyone who feels adrift.”  Penguin Random House 

“So this is a personal journey, and this may come as a shock, but I struggle with mild depression and anger. And the motivation for the book was about three years ago. My sister, who I speak with every Sunday night, said, ‘Why are you so angry all the time? You have less justification being angry.’ So this has been a personal journey to try and get to my blessings. So this has been an exploration of other people’s research. I don’t say ‘Professor on the title ’cause I’m not. I have no academic credibility in the field. I did a lot of research, though, of other great clinical and social psychologists. So I do think you can distill it down to some best practices. I don’t think there’s any silver bullet. I don’t think anyone who tells you this is how you’re happy in less than a few minutes should be trusted. But there are some best practices. The ratio of time you spend sweating to watching other people’s sweat is a fore-looking indicator of your happiness and your success. Show me someone who watches ESPN two hours a night and then watches football all day on Sunday, and I’ll show you a future of failed relationships and anger. Show me someone who figures out a way to do SoulCycle, Swag, CrossFit, play sports with other people, and use the spectator sports as a means of entrenching or reinforcing relationships with their loved ones, and I’ll show you someone who’s successful in life.”

Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems,” Scott emphasized, “and this has been a huge source of relief of anxiety for me. The one piece of advice that seniors would give to their younger selves is they wish they’d been less hard on themselves. Not that they’ve changed their career, not that they’d been more successful, but in the moment the perception of everything is dramatically greater to the upside and the downside. When you kill it, and you start thinking you’re the bomb, realize a lot of that isn’t your fault. And at the same time if you screw up and things aren’t going well or you really messed up, also realize it’s not entirely your fault, and this too shall pass. A young person … I can predict your income based on two things: Your pedigree. We have a caste system in the United States. It’s called college, and unfortunately it’s directly correlated to your parents’ income. Show me a woman coming out of Dartmouth, living in New York and I’ll show you someone who’s making 150K a year by the time their thirties. Show me somebody who’s dropped out of junior college in Little Rock, you’re lucky if they make 50K.”

“I’ll skip forward to the one big hack,” he said. “the only award I ever won in my whole life. In high school I won Most Comical. I’ve successfully navigated every accolade or award since then. I really want to be Best Teacher at Stern’s. I’m so nakedly in pursuit of this work, I’m very good at what I do, I deserve the damn award. There’s 200 faculty and every year they nominate five professors for this thing. I’ve been nominated like nine times, but unfortunately there’s this Jesus Christ of teaching, He’s a genius, and every year he wins it. But biology isn’t my friend, and he’s getting really old, and he’s retiring. So last year they called me in and said … the Dean called me and said: ‘I know this is really important you, so I want to be the first one to let you know that this year’s teacher award is Glen Okun, however, the kids have asked you to do the last class and they want you on The Algebra of Happiness.’  This is where all the graduates get together and say, ‘We want to have one professor do the last class.’ And they’re MBAs. They want a hack. They’re like, ‘We know you’ve written a book on us, we’re busy. What is the secret?’ I’m like, ‘Well, there’s no one secret.’ They’re like, ‘Okay, well, what is it if you had to distill it down to one thing?’ And my best attempt to distill all of this research down … I knew two things: The largest study of its kind on happiness is the Harvard Grant study and they tracked 400 males from 1929 to 10 years ago, from the age of 19 to … They all died, last one died when he was 99 … which says a lot about the way we were thinking eighty years ago. We decided to track the happiness of just 400 men. Let’s not worry about women’s happiness, that’s another talk show. And they measured everything from their diet, their job, their activities, their relationships, and then queried them every week on how satisfied they were. And then they try to look at all this data and suss out what were the drivers of the people in the happiest decile and the least happy. Now worst practice, the thing that was most common in the lowest decile of happiness, anyone want to guess what is the worst practice in happiness? This one factor was more prevalent in people who were least happy through the course of their life.”

Betsy Fischer Martin with Scott Galloway

The guests took the challenge.  Audience: ‘Ambition.’ Galloway: ‘Not ambition.’ Audience: ‘Lack of sleep.’ Galloway: ‘Not lack of sleep.’ Audience: ‘No family relationships.’ Audience: ‘Drinking.’ Galloway: ‘All the latest research says connection and loneliness is the new cancer, but that’s not what the Harvard Grant study found.’ Kara Swisher: ‘The answer to happiness is love. Full stop.’ Galloway:  ‘You’re stealing my thunder. Thank you.’

“The worst practice is alcohol,” Galloway explained. “It is more prevalent in relationships coming off the track, poor health, careers coming undone. The best practice is simple. The people who are happiest had the broadest set of deep and meaningful relationships. At work do you feel respected, admired, and do you respect and admire other people? Among your friends do you get a sense of joy and camaraderie? And just as importantly, do you know they feel a sense of joy and camaraderie from you? At home among your family do you feel intense levels of love and support? And again, just as importantly, do you know they know that they are intensely loved and supported?”

Lynda Carter

“Academic studies aren’t a lot of fun to read,” Scott emphasized. “It’s a 400-page report and the opening sentence on the line that their principal scientist in charge of the study said is ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ And so the hack is the following. All business is based on biology. All biology, all happiness on happiness, I think it’s based on astrophysics. That’s kind of where all the answers are.  And the universe – if you were to look at all that astrophysics the universe wants to prosper. When a sun dies, it catalyzes a set of chemical reactions such that in a few hundred million years, a new sun emerges that’s stronger, brighter, hotter. The universe wants to prosper. So it puts in place a series of incentives to make sure that the next generation is smarter, faster, stronger, and survives.”

“So food is wonderful. We have incentives to eat. Sex and affection are joyous. We have incentives to propagate. But the number one source of prosperity is, quite frankly, is caregiver. And that is going all in on someone else’s well being or what you refer to as complete love. And as a result, the incentives are there. And there’s three types of love. There’s the love you get as a child, the unrequited love you get from other people. There’s transactional love, which quite frankly is the majority of love in this room – and that is we enter into partnerships with people to try and get intimacy or support in exchange for our love. But the people who tend to be the happiest, because the universe sees them as the most important people in the world, are the people that manage to put themselves in a place spiritually, psychologically, and economically such that you can find one or more other people to love completely. It’s the caregivers that’ll win. I like that!”

Four hundred page studies to settle on one word: Wow. As the saying goes: “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary.” Look it up!