From time to time, I post short interviews with interesting people about their insights on happiness. During my research, I’ve noticed that I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies.
Today’s interview is with Daniel Pink. He’s written three provocative, fascinating books on the changing nature of work: Free Agent Nation, A Whole New Mind, and most recently, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. I was particularly interested in The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, because it was written in the form of a comic, and I’ve become intrigued with the possibilities of comics for non-fiction.
In fact, after I read The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, I was so enthralled that I got in touch with Dan Pink, and we had a conversation that inspired me to experiment with comics myself – I’m actually working with a comics artist to write my own very short comic about happiness.
I’m such a fan that I can’t wait to see what Dan Pink will come out next – he’s working on a book about the science and economics of human motivation. Just my kind of thing. You can read more on his blog, Daniel Pink.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Dan: Running. It always elevates my mood. Also, nothing is more satisfying than writing 500 words that don’t stink. Alas, *that* activity is never simple for me.
Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Dan: That ceasing to care what other people think is one of the most liberating acts in life.
Gretchen: Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Dan: Not working. By that I don’t mean taking vacations or indulging in leisure. I mean doing things that are tension-relieving rather than goal-achieving and that cause me to reach the end of the day having accomplished nothing. Like now.
Gretchen: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve find very helpful?
Dan: The tortoise won.
Gretchen: Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
Dan: On the positive side, I find that people who do a lot of socializing tend to be pretty happy. That surprises me a bit, since I’m not a big glad-hander or party-goer. But the evidence seems clear. On the negative side, I see lots of people who are essentially sleepwalking — do the same things, in the same ways, over and over again. I don’t think they’re necessarily unhappy. But I don’t think they’re truly awake. And wakefulness seems to be a prerequisite for happiness.
Gretchen: Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
Dan: Not exactly. But the more I think about these things, the more I realize that being married — or, more accurately, being married to the person to whom I’m married — has produced happiness well in excess of any reasonable expectation.
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