Why We Must Open Source Happiness

If we humans learned from our mistakes, we’d be geniuses by now.

Learning to ride a bike is easy, and your muscles never let you forget it. So why is figuring life out so hard? Jane McGonigal talked about this in a session I saw once about the difference between games and life, and if I remember correctly, it all comes down to feedback.

When we work on a puzzle, we know when we’ve won and when a piece fits. It’s obvious. When we exercise, we know we’re getting stronger because we can lift more weight or go longer without rest. This isn’t as obvious, but you can still tell you’re making progress over time.

Most of us can learn to win at Monopoly but these very same people can’t stop making the same mistakes in life. I can’t help but ask why. It’s crazy. It has to stop.

We have an open-source model for computers (Linux, etc).

We have an open-source model for fitness (Crossfit).

We need an open-source model for happiness. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

The Tetrapharmakos is the closest thing I came up with so far. Epicurus came up with it in the 3rd century BC.


Seems simple, right? Let’s start there.

Can you improve on what’s above? Do you have anything to add or append? You don’t have to do it in an elegant way, you just have to contribute a little, and then someone else will contribute below you. Ok?

I’m trying to think of a real way for something like this to be real. I can’t believe it’s not possible. It doesn’t make sense.

We have access to more information, and better collaboration tools, than we ever have in the entire history of mankind. Let’s use them.






13 responses to “Why We Must Open Source Happiness”

  1. Eric Avatar

    DON’T BE JEALOUS. Jealousy is suffering, jealousy is such a negative feeling. You can envy other people if it helps you go forward but don’t be jealous.

  2. Lisa Yallamas Avatar
    Lisa Yallamas

    Happiness is already open source. That’s the point Epicurus, the Dalai Lama and all “new age” and “digital age” gurus talk about. Stop worrying so much about things that you can’t change and focus on the good things in your life. Why compare yourself to others. Earlier this week I saw a toothless, elderly couple coming out of the doctor’s surgery. They were neatly dressed but a little shabby. They obviously have a tough life but you know it was obvious that they look after each other. Instantly I imagined what life would be like for one if the other was gone. We’re on a precipice all the time.

  3. Susan Murphy Avatar

    I guess another way to say what Epicurus was saying was
    1) don’t sweat the small stuff
    2) it’s all small stuff.

  4. kay Avatar

    we are taught that we are weak.
    we are taught we need help in countless forms.
    we are bombfuckingbarded with messages day in and day out telling us that whatever we are is not enough or perhaps we might be killing ourselves in some way.

    we have been taught to seek, buy, and look for happiness outside of ourselves. but mostly buy.
    imagine we could package that.

    it’s what is already happening.

  5. Becky McCray Avatar

    I would add to have a goal and work towards it. That goes back to what Viktor Frankl figured out: you can live with any circumstance, if you have a compelling enough *why*. You need a purpose, something larger than yourself.

  6. Whitney Avatar

    I would add:

    Your first job is to secure food clothing and shelter. Once that’s secure, you can start working on happiness and self improvement and better things, but as long as food clothing and shelter are insecure, you’re going to be treading water for a long, long time.

    1. Julien Avatar

      I should add: Is Maslow’s pyramid good or bad? Is it enough?

  7. John McLachlan Avatar

    Probably, our evolution hasn’t kept pace with our ingenuity as humans and so we have so much knowledge and wisdom at our disposal, but we are so often ruled by the long, long, long, long history of our early brains.

    In other words, we know what needs to be done but we keep repeating bad things, ways of doing things, or thoughts. Still, it’s so worth trying to be better and “happy.”

  8. Dave Sohnchen Avatar

    I would probably add to embrace and love our humanity.

    If we can learn to look past all the surface stuff and see, embrace and love what is at the core of every human being, namely our humanity, I think that would help in the happiness department. If you didn’t see race, class, religious affiliations etc, and you just saw people as they are at the core, how would that change your reactions and interactions with them? More often than not other people are the cause of our own angst but seeing as we’re going to have to live each other for a while, we may as well start loving each other.

    I read this quote somewhere and it’s stuck with me, “As individuals we are one. Together we are humankind.”

  9. Ben Hanses Avatar
    Ben Hanses

    In echoing Dave’s thoughts on humanity, I would suggest that we learn to find grace for each other. While an over-arching sense of morals is great, realizing that I will not always live up to even my own ideals should help me view others more “forgiveably”.

    “It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”

  10. James D Avatar

    I’m not sure why, in a conversation about happiness, God has to go under the bus. Maybe the biggest target is the one to get shot at first.

    You can’t say anything is your reason to be happy or the reason you aren’t happy. As long as your circumstances determine your happiness then circumstances will also determine your unhappiness. Happiness, like love, is not an existence but a choice. You choose happiness, and love, because you want to, not because of circumstances. That’s why we aren’t always happy and we don’t always love. We don’t always choose well.

  11. Anna Palmer Avatar

    What about…Don;t fear…not just don’t fear god. I feel like fear keeps us down and has emerged as a major motivator for behavior. Making choices based one fear can’t be as good as making choices based on interest.

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