This month we lost, arguably, the best DJ of our time. His music was both uplifting and inspiring. Over the last few years I have many memories of both listening and talking to others about his music. I remember showing a friend The Days / Nights EP (below), it was a moment I’ll remember forever because it was a crystallizing moment for our friendship. When you have the same taste in music (or anything, really) with someone all you want to do is share the good stuff with them and it was one of those moments.  And it was made possible by the music that Avicii brought to us. Rest in peace brother, you’re gone but not forgotten.

Life doesn’t get better, you do.

The key idea behind the above quote can be summed up in one word, perception. We can  be philosophical here because there is a discipline dedicated to this subject called stoicism but we won’t go there today. Instead lets take a look a Pixar movie because they somehow, time after time, manage to convey visceral ideas beautifully in their movies. In Inside out for example, the main character is a young girl (Riley) that is in turmoil because she is forced to start over in a new city, at new school, with new friends because her dad gets a new job. As she slowly comes to terms with her situation she goes through some real hard changes. It’s painful to watch our character suffer. But the transformation that was so painful is what also makes the ending doubly beautiful. We can identify with Riley about the good and bad changes in our own lives. The difference for adults is that we get to choose. We get to choose whether we’re happy or unhappy. However, this is not to say that everything is happy all the time and that sadness has no place in our lives. It’s the understanding that all feelings have their place and we have a certain amount of control over how we respond to life as it unfolds outside our control. Emotional intelligence is something we can develop, slowly, one day at a time. This one of the many lessons one take away from the movie, it’s A+ and we highly recommend it. Tears not included.

When I let go of what I’m, I become what I might be ~ Lao Tsu

The problem with getting really good at something, for example poker, is that eventually you fall in to certain patterns of thinking. This is good because you’re adhering to the best practices which will help you get better at poker. You’ll make incremental skill gains and end up in the 95th percentile or above with enough practice. However, you’re probably not going to change the sport, which may not be what you want at the beggining. But what happens when you’re bored at the top? Maybe you’ll master another subject, or maybe you start experimenting with poker. This is one interpretation of the above quote. What does it mean to you?

Artwork by Dominik Mayer


I read a great article sometime toward the end of last year that regards advice that Naval has given in the past. Here are some of the points that stood out to me. I recommend reading the whole article if you have the time.

1. If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people that are more successful than you are. If you want to be happy, surround yourself with people that are less successful than you are.

2. To add behaviours/habits, do it one at a time.
To subtract, easier to do a lot at once. Most of them are interwoven anyways.

3. Pick one behaviour to change and give it 3 – 6 months to carry out.

4. Knowing how little you matter – very important for your own mental health and happiness

5. Set super low expectations and you won’t be disappointed. Seneca’s practice.

6. Confucius says you have two lives and the second one begins when you realize you only have one.

7. Advice to 20-year-old self:

  • chill out, don’t stress so much, everything will be fine
  • be more yourself, don’t try to live up to other people’s expectations
  • self-actualize
  • say no to more things
  • your time is very precious – on your dying days, you will trade EVERYTHING for another day
  • live in the moment

8. If I had always done what I was qualified to do, I would be pushing a broom somewhere***.


One Method That May Point You in the Right Direction

I’m fortunate enough to live in a country that consistently achieves a top 10 rank on the world’s happiest nations list (Canada). It’s an amazing place with a lot to see. So it got me thinking and eventually I came to ask questions like; why are people in these (top 10) countries so happy? And what does happiness look like at an individual level? And is happiness really achievable? The research says yes, so lets take a look at the some of its determinants.

One of my professors gave me some advice “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I think he’s right. There is a lot of cross over between life and work, and your happiness from one area will, inevitably, spill over into the other so this post will revolve around our jobs and how that affects happiness.

Now, there are five main factors that determine your satisfaction at work.

Enter The Five Factor Model

• Extraversion – The degree to which a person is outgoing vs. shy

• Emotional Stability/Neuroticism – The degree to which a person has appropriate emotional control

• Agreeableness  – The degree to which a person is friendly and approachable

• Conscientiousness – The degree to which a person is responsible and achievement oriented

• Openness to Experience – The degree to which a person thinks flexibly and is receptive to ideas

These are all personality traits that every one exhibits. However, the really happy people have a tendency to favour certain ones. Researchers have found that its possible to gauge a person’s likelihood of being satisfied with work and life.

The strongest predictor of happiness here is conscientiousness. Extraversion and agreeableness are highly correlated with happiness as well. The strongest predictor of anti-happiness is neuroticism. What does that mean? Don’t over think the small stuff, go for emotional stability. (That person may have been rushing to the hospital and completely forgot to say thank you.) Go for a run (endorphins), watch a comedy, or just choose a different thought (this takes a lot of practice).

The Take Away

People who are more happy have a tendency to exhibit certain traits. These are Conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness. This is good news for people that were born with these attributes. However, if these traits don’t come naturally to you and you want to see if this stuff really isn’t just a bunch of nonsense, you can try it out. It’s possible to learn this stuff with a reasonable amount of effort. Check out Amy Cuddy’s work in this area for a better understanding. Even if you don’t live in a “happy” country, you can make a change for yourself.