This Post Will Make You Happy

Panelists at PSFK's Good Ideas on Happiness Salon (L to R: Hill, Forbes, Dean and Rubin). Image via PSFK.

Growing up, no one sat me down and said, “David, this is what I’ve learned about living a happy life.”  The closest thing I got was a warning from my father:  “If it looks too good to be true, sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true”—a sage tactic for avoiding unhappy situations, but not necessarily a strategy to get into good ones.

Without clear guidance, I tried to figure it out myself.  I looked around the house, but like I said they weren’t saying much.  Mom was boozing.  Dad was an every-other-week presence who dealt with depression much of his life.  Grandparents were pretty checked out.

I looked around the neighborhood, but the whole suburban, early-eighties, broken-home, lives of quiet desperation thing was all the rage, so that didn’t help much either.

That just left TV.  People on TV had problems like me, but they were, unlike my problems, settled in twenty-two minutes (unless it was one of those annoying “to be continued” episodes).  Happiness was the default setting for TV characters.  They started the show happy, faced conflict, overcame conflict, returned to a happy state of being.  The sitcom happiness arc was punctuated with commercials that brimmed with things to buy that assured happiness.

Out of this alloy of environmental inferences and TV-based philosophy, I had no clue how to live a happy life.  I spent my first eighteen years in near continuous depression.

I attended an event the other day by the organization PSFK.  The topic was happiness.   It was like an overdue version of the talk I never received as a child. Continue reading “This Post Will Make You Happy”

Advanced Fonzametrics

Standard English Fonzometer. How cool are you?

Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli, was the coolest person to never live.  Nothing affected him.  He was handy.  He knew how to fight.  He rode a motorcycle.  Men wanted to be him.  Women wanted to be with him.
Most of my life, on the other hand, has been decidedly un-Fonzie-like.  I have historically been hypersensitive, copping quick resentments and easily falling into depressive states.  I have been pretty inept with tools for most of my life.  I didn’t (and don’t) know how to fight.  I owned a motorcycle, but it was crashed in a very un-Fonziesque manner.  I have had trouble earning the admiration of men. I have had greater difficulty getting the attention of women.
This lack of inherent Fonzieness didn’t extinguish my ambition to be like the Fonz.  To be cool has been a principle aim for much of my life, often at the extreme detriment to my happiness.
The trouble with being cool is it has made me inflexible.  Cool is an ideology—i.e. a way of behaving driven by an idea.  In my case, the idea that Fonzie knew the answer.  And when you’re an ideologue, you have trouble stepping out of that idea.  Acting within the ideology of cool, I couldn’t be a dork or a whiner or whatever a situation might dictate, even when to do so would save my life. Continue reading “Advanced Fonzametrics”