One Billion Happy: Standing Up For Happiness with Mo Gawdat

We are born happy and then things happen to us. The older we become, the more engaged in the modern world we become, the less happy we become. The happiness we feel as a child fades away. That joyful playfulness that make us happy gets dampened and we start to end up accepting unhappiness as the normal life , the tax we have to pay to be successful in the modern world, which unfortunately is the furthest thing from the truth. Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer at Google X and Founder of One Billion Happy, says similar to many of the rich and famous that we see around the world, success didn’t result in his happiness.

Mo’s entire life is dedicated for One Billion Happy and he says it’s all about compassion, being out there trying to help and trying to make a difference. In his book, Solve for Happy, Mo says ultimately, happiness is a choice. Jumpstart your road to happiness as Mo talks about the 675 Model and shares the sixteen steps you have to do to get from unhappy to constantly happy, to be able to bounce back to happiness every time.


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We have Mo Gawdat with us. He is the Founder of One Billion Happy. He’s the former Chief Business Officer at Google X. He’s got a great background. He has done very interesting work to research happiness and how to make the world a happier place. He’s got an inspirational story. He is a fascinating guy.

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One Billion Happy: Standing Up For Happiness with Mo Gawdat

I am here with Mo Gawdat who is the Chief Business Officer at Google X. He leads business strategy sales and business partnerships. After working for IBM and Microsoft, he landed the job at Google and helped start the platform in more than 50 emerging markets across the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. He’s a serial entrepreneur and the author for Solve for Happy. It’s so nice to have you here, Mo.

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Solve for Happy

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

I am very impressed by the work that you do and I don’t even really know where to start. I am interested in your work, your research for happiness, because I’m researching curiosity. I was listening to some of your talks and how you wanted to come up with this algorithm and you wanted to be able to quantify this. It’s really challenging to do that with curiosity. I’m curious how hard is it to do this research on happiness and what led to your interest in that?

It’s actually from the same fabric, curiosity and happiness, intertwined in an interesting way. I wasn’t always happy. I have been extremely fortunate. I was very successful at a very young age. Similar to many of the rich and famous that we see around the world, success didn’t result in my happiness. Wealth didn’t give me happiness. As a matter of fact, I was clinically depressed. I had to research the topic because in an interesting way, I’m dead center between EQ and IQ. The modern world teaches us to prioritize our logic and discipline a lot more than our emotional intelligence. I had to research the topic as an engineer, which I know sounds like an unusual take on a topic like happiness.

If you assume that our physical form is a predictable machine, which it is, we are born happy and then things happen to us. The older we become, the more engaged in the modern world we become, the less happy we become. The happiness we feel as a child fades away. This is why I say curiosity and happiness are intertwined. Two very common features among children is that joyful playfulness make us happy and curiosity. When we dampen both of these, we start to end up accepting unhappiness as the tax we have to pay to be successful in the modern world, which unfortunately is the furthest thing from the truth.

It’s interesting that you mentioned emotional intelligence because that’s what got me interested in this because I wrote my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence. All of these things are so intertwined and it’s very hard to look at. I was looking at what inhibits our curiosity. What do you think takes away or inhibits our happiness?

It’s entirely the way we start to engage with life and the belief, the illusions that we acquire along the way. That happy child that you and I used to be, you send to school at age six they say, “That playful, joyful, fun stuff, we don’t want any of that. We want you to sit eight hours a day, listen to whatever the teacher is saying,” even if it’s wrong, don’t say that it’s wrong. “When you go home there’s a little bit of homework to do because when you’re six, we’re going to have a graduation party for kindergarten.” It’s getting crazy. Some of us are resistant, they call us rebels, but everyone eventually complies. Everyone eventually complies. Who cares about fun? Who cares about curiosity? Who cares about happiness? I have summarized in a simpler model the reasons for that.

My model is called, 675. The six and the seven, the way we blur the truths to allow ourselves to become unhappy. The six are grand illusions. They are concepts that we start to believe as we navigate the modern world and that makes us successful, but it takes away our happiness as a result. Seven, are seven features in our brain, I call them the seven blind spots. They are features in our brain that let us see the truth in a grumpier way than we should. We’re almost constantly looking for what’s wrong and not looking for what’s right and that results in us being unhappy. It’s not what the world gives us that makes us unhappy. It’s the way we process what the world gives us. It’s the way we think about it that makes us unhappy.

What I’ve been finding for curiosity is people have either fear or they have certain beliefs like assumptions of the way things should be, how they should feel, what they should be interested in. Technology and environment, our families or what we’re supposed to do with our lives. How much of an impact do our families, our peers or our teachers, the environment, have on our happiness?

Everything. There are lots of talks that unhappiness is genetic. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s the way we’re brought up that makes us think in certain ways that lead us to more unhappiness. You can see that at a scale, you can see nations as a whole that are unhappier than other nations, regardless of the quality of their life. You go to the Eastern European Bloc, the older generation of which is trained to look for what’s wrong. It is motivated by criticizing the one thing that is missing in a perfect picture. You find that in Germany, France and the bigger cities in the United States. The work culture gets us to be a lot more critical because somehow, we appear smarter as we find out what’s wrong rather than look for what’s going right and maximize that.

Is that genetic? I don’t think so. There could be chemical changes in our bodies when we start to find that unhappiness constantly. It prevents us from going back to happiness. It all starts in our thought. When you talk about fear or wanting things to be specifically in a specific way, I call those the illusion of fear and the illusion of control. They are then trained. There are certain families or certain areas of the world where we are a lot more controlling. We believe that we can actually control life. That is absolutely stupid. If you look at the very basics of physics, entropy and chaos theory and the basics of mathematics in terms of black swans and butterfly effects, life is not planning to be controlled. It’s constantly changing. Whatever it is that you don’t exert a lot of effort to control, is going to get out of control.

What is the result of that? Part of my happiness equation is a comparison between events and expectations all the time. When you’re constantly expecting life to fall within your area of control, you’re constantly upset. It’s because almost every event misses your expectations. You add the tremendous stress and effort that we put into control, a million and a half things on a monthly basis. You end up with stress and depression all the time because you’re working so hard to control things. They seem to constantly get out of control. If we start to realize the truth, then happiness becomes a lot easier. You tell yourself that control is an illusion. It takes a lot of effort. There are a few things in my life, maybe two or three I need to control for, but the rest I can flow with. I can accept the slight marginal error that happens when things go slightly out of control. Most of the things, I spend so much time trying to control.

Control is an interesting topic. If you had complete control, life would be pretty boring. How can we get over our fear of that perception? It’s something that’s very challenging. I identified these problems, but giving solutions is the harder part, I think. Don’t you think that in identifying the problem?

That’s actually not the approach I took in writing Solve for Happy. In Solve for Happy, I assume that my reader is a very capable human being. Most of us are, believe it or not, even though we deny that it. I try to take my readers through logic of physics and mathematics mostly to a point where they understand the nature of the topic. Rather than tell them, “Repeat those mantras four times a day when you don’t know really why you’re doing that,” once you understand what the problem is, I ask them to find their own solution to the problem.

Besides that, the illusion of control is to be handled by controlling less things, others may decide that the way to do it is to take some of the things that we are struggling with and just give them to someone. Someone who’s better at controlling them and delegating and trusting that they’ll do a good job or whatever that is. There is never a one-size-fits-all. I think that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes that we get from the modern world is that we tell everyone there are five ways to have longer hair.

Let’s go back to fear because fear is a massive one. Fear is not real at all. Fear is a conditioned response. We remember the experiments of Little Albert in the early days of the behaviorism. When we expose the child to a rat, snake and teddy bear, the child’s reaction is exactly the same because they’ve not been pre-conditioned to fear one or the other. When the white rat was shown to Albert, they made a loud noise behind Albert and so he panicked. While it’s not really the rat, every time he saw a rat afterwards, he would become very afraid. It’s pre-conditioned, it’s not the rat. It’s the environment in which a trauma happened.

We tend to exaggerate our fears. In my research, I call that the safe model. If you’re afraid of rejection, you would say to yourself, “In order to avoid rejection, I might as well avoid relationships.” You’re building a bigger parameter, a bigger fence around your core fear to protect yourself from even getting close to that fear. If we realize that, then we realize that there is so much more to be paid to stay stuck in fear than to actually completely go down the path and say, “It’s not as bad as I thought it was.”

If our biggest fears have ever been as bad as we thought they were, we wouldn’t be here right now. The method I’ve asked people to do is a method I call The Interrogation. It’s a series of questions that aim to criticize your fear, understand the worst-case scenario. You understand that if you can survive that worst-case scenario, is it really that bad? What are you missing out on if you don’t go there and explore that scenario?

If you take that topic of curiosity, for example. Just imagine how many amazing, great ideas, great new learnings we could have if we just prevented ourselves from feeling the fear. They’re going to think you’re silly three times, then they’re going to think you’re an absolute genius the fourth time. You allowed yourself to go out there and not be afraid to say something stupid. That impacts massively on happiness. Everyone is afraid and we don’t call it fear. We disguise it in many ways, but at the end of the day, if we manage to tackle those fears, the freedom that comes from that is pure happiness.

It ties into what I’ve been finding if you can overcome the problems with fear and with curiosity. It also not only leads to happiness, but it leads to innovation, you’ve got engagement and you’ve got productivity. All the things that we’re trying to fix, I think they need to go all the way back to these things like fear. Don’t you think that they’re not going far enough back?

Our default setting as children is happy. When we’re born, we’re born happy. It’s the optimum mode of our operation. Look at any child, if they’re given their basic needs for survival, they’re happy. We fall out of that happiness. Unlike health or fitness, we’re okay with it. If you start to catch the flu, you feel the symptoms, you acknowledge the symptoms and then you start to do something about it. When happiness is at stake, you feel the symptoms and then you deny them a little bit. You just go on with your life sick.

That’s the wrong response because in reality, happy people are 12% more productive. They’re more loved by their peers and colleagues. They produce more, they are more creative and they’re going through life at their optimum performance. They’re producing at their highest capacity. We need to make it a priority. The challenge is as we fall out of it, we fall out of everything. We fall out of creativity, we fall out of productivity, we fall out of the pleasure and joy of going through life, feeling the challenges, tackling them and enjoying solving problems like successful people do.

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One Billion Happy: The attitude of successful people and happy people is tackling the harshness and changing it instead of sitting down and crying.

Successful people go through the toughest of the challenges that life throws at them. If life was a boring game where I have to push the joystick forward and wait for 70 years until it’s done, how boring is that? You want the interesting parts of the game. That attitude is the attitude of healthy people saying, “I’m going to tackle life with joy and fun and resilience. At the same time, if I feel that something’s making me off balance, whether that’s unhappiness, fear, or stress, I’m going to pause and I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to be in charge.” The One Billion Happy mission that I’m trying to champion is entirely about that, “Can you please take charge? Can you please take the right actions?”

I’m so behind what you do because it aligns exactly with what I see. There’s a problem out there with so many people who just exist, they don’t really live and they don’t look for the happy things. They don’t look for the curious endeavors. They go on and about their thing. I saw that you spent ten years with your research and maybe more. You had some negative, horrible things that have happened to you and you’ve remained happy throughout that. I know you’ve told this story before and it’s a hard story to tell, but I think a lot of people might be sitting there going, “If you had this happen to you, maybe you wouldn’t be so happy.” Do you want to tell the story about your son?

I recently bought a T-shirt, it’s one of my favorites. It says, “Everything happens to everyone.” Somehow, when you’re going through the tough part of your life, you think, “Life is so unfair to me. I’m the only one that gets this bad luck. Life is horrible.” Truth is we all go through it. The richest people in the world might have wealth but not health, some will have a career and not peace. Every one of us gets tested. I’ve been tested in every way you can think. I’ve been tested on health and on wealth.

The biggest test I’ve had to go through was when I lost my wonderful son, Ali. I would always say Ali was not my son, I had him at a very young age. He was my coach. He was my best friend and he was so wise. At age sixteen I started to tell the whole world that when I grow old, I want to become like Ali. He was truly everything in my life. I am telling myself as I continue to get older, I’m becoming more and more like Ali. I’m really proud that I am. I lost him due to use to medical malpractice in four hours in the simplest of surgical operations known to humankind. You go through this and you tell yourself, maybe now is the time for me to close my door and cry for the next 27 years.

The question is, what good would that do? If you have hugged Ali once in your life, you would not blame me if I spend the rest of my life with crying. Would that make him come back? Would that change anything? Can we think about this and tell ourselves that reality is that unhappiness is probably the most stupid engineering process we’ve ever invented? Think about it, it’s triggered mostly by nothing. You’re not unhappy about something that’s happening right now. Most of the time you’re unhappy about something that happened a week ago, or something that might happen tomorrow. You can stay unhappy for the rest of your life. It’s not going to change anything. If your boyfriend or girlfriend says something harsh and you cry about it for a week, he or she is not going to change and apologize.

The question then becomes, what do you do about it? Instead of me closing my door and crying, I told myself maybe I can do something. Maybe I can write the model I’ve developed for happiness along Ali, who has been my coach and my teacher. Share that with the world. What they say, a life for a life. I just didn’t think that Ali’s life was worth one life. I told myself Ali’s life is worth millions of lives. Instead of taking a life, maybe I should give a life. If I can make ten million people happy, then I’ve honored him. It still doesn’t bring him back, I understand that, but it definitely makes the world a little better than it was the day he left. I think that’s the kind of taking charge that I’m asking people to do. The mission now has grown to be a billion happy. We’re in the tens of millions. We estimate that the message has reached more than 57 million people so far.

The idea is can you take charge? Can you tell yourself that happiness is your priority? Can you invest in your happiness like you invest in your sickness or you invest in a sitcom on Netflix, an hour a day, at least four times a week? Can you have the compassion in your heart to make others happy? Can you actually take charge not only of your own happiness, but of happiness of the people around you? Can you wake them up to the fact that living a life that is not happy, even if it’s successful, is not what it’s all about? Maybe I’ve been tested just to tell the world that it’s possible to be happy peacefully, okay with life as it is, regardless of what life gives you. You can actually make that choice. I don’t wake up every morning and say, “I’m so happy Ali left.” At least I’m okay with it. I’m able to function in life and able to make a difference to our world.

I could relate, my daughter and I both had our appendix out. I know that’s what had happened with Ali. There are a lot of people who will just sit there and focus on, “Why me?” They get stuck in this path in their brain and it’s hard to break that pattern. Some of the people who really need the help that we’re talking about with happiness, with curiosity, with any of these types of situations are the ones that won’t actively look for help with those things.

They think they deserve to focus on all these things and worry about these things and not have to get better because that’s what happened to them. They’re not curious enough to look at a book about curiosity. Some like trouble or unhappiness in some ways, it fuels them. How do you get to those kinds of people?

The biggest challenge I have had with anyone on the topic of happiness was that they actually wanted to stay unhappy. When I wrote, Solve for Happy, I wrote it in a crazy way like we write software. I wrote a version one and then put it online and allowed hundreds of people to read it and it changed online. We had and conversations and discussions about it. That was a very enriching experience because version four was written by the readers. The first 120 readers, which were profiled accurately, 8% of them dropped out on page eleven. Why that early in the book? On page eleven, there was an important statement that said, “Happiness is a choice, or suffering is a choice.”

For those people that dropped out, I realized that these were people that in their original profile said that, “We’re so unhappy we could be considered depressed.” When I spoke to many of them afterwards, they were offended. They went, “Are you saying I’m unhappy because of me? I’m unhappy because of what life gives me. I’m so unfortunate. I’m so unlucky. My life is hard.” When you really think about it, the role of an unhappy person or the role of a victim is one form of ego. Just like the role of a rich, successful person or the role of a seductive woman. Whatever role we assume in life, there is a utility of ego. The utility of being the victim, being the unlucky, unhappy person is that we pat them on the back and we say, “We’re so sorry, we love you.”

What they really want is, “I’m so heroic to survive all of that massive unfairness that came to me from life.” I have to say this again. Everything happens to everyone. Each of us get tested. When we get tested, we unfortunately get tested on the one thing that seems to be hardest for us. If life had taken all my money, if life had crippled me, it wouldn’t have been a more difficult test for me, than losing Ali. The biggest test that I needed in life was to lose my son. He was the one thing that was the pillar of my life. We get those tests because life either wants you have to change direction or wants you to learn something new.

I go back to the video games. How can you become a gamer unless you actually go through the challenging parts of the game? As a victim, there’s a tendency for people to come and tap you on the back and say, “We’re sorry that you’re going through a tough time.” There are so much more benefits to you to get up and say, “I’m not going to get left life affect the way I am.” That doesn’t mean that the harshness will go away. It just means that you start tackling it and changing it instead of sitting down and crying. It truly is the attitude of successful people as much as it is the attitude of happy people.

How do your account for that? There are the Stephen Hawking’s and people that have just horrible physical things that happen to them, health reasons and that type of thing. He always impressed me that he was able to keep his sense of humor. When you read his books, he talked in such a positive way. He didn’t even act like he freaked out when he got this horrible disease. How do you keep that mindset when you’re in pain?

I truly feel for all of them, again, for some of us are tested harder than others. You picked an interesting example. Stephen Hawking in many statements said, “What else could one wish for?” Stephen Hawking’s disease might be to him as challenging of a test as my loss for Ali. It’s difficult for everyone. Assuming that Stephen Hawking had turned grumpy since the day he got the disease until the end of his life, would that have taken the disease away? He would still have to live with it and the trashing that comes as a result of it. I’m saying it’s a choice.

How often would you cry on your way to work because your boyfriend or girlfriend said something harsh? When you showed up at work, your boss said, “Where is the report I asked for last week?” You just told your brain, “Brain, we’re going to talk about my boyfriend later. For now, I want you to focus on getting the report right.” Would your brain ever say, “No, I’m not going to do it?” Every single time you requested from your brain to focus on something, it did. There is a half full side of every glass. We can make a choice on focusing on the half empty side or we can make a choice to focus on the half full side. If you focus on the half empty side, you’re going to be unhappy and it won’t make you more productive. It’s not going to solve anything. It’s not going to make the problem any better.

If you assume that your baseline of life is going to always have a little bit of harshness in it, surprisingly, the only fast forward when you make the decision to take it on and try to improve it is that it will be a little less harsh. Does that mean we don’t feel for those who are in Syria with bombs landing on their head or those with disabilities or those who go through a difficult patch in their lives? Of course, we do.

One of the things I ask when I talk about One Billion Happy, I tell people it’s all about compassion. It’s all about being out there, trying to help, trying to make a difference. The way to help might not include the ability to change the challenge that someone is going through. It would however, include the ability to make them think about it differently, to make them champion their own life and hopefully make it a little easier by at least avoiding the suffering.

What I found interesting about your research, is that you started your research prior to losing your son. You had a great job, you were a director and a day trader making a lot of money, but you were still unhappy. It’s almost like this idea came to you to come up with this happiness research to prepare you for what came later. How has that impacted you and your job now, working at Google X? Do you share all this at the work that you do or is this something outside of that?

You’ll be amazed. I totally believe that my entire life was actually leading to this point. I wish I had started on the mission before Ali left, maybe he wouldn’t have left if that was the case. I don’t know the answer to that. I realized that I was being trained for a very difficult test. By the way, I already left Google X completely. My entire life is dedicated for One Billion Happy. It’s a very important mission in our world. You’ve heard of the recent events of people, we love and adore who are wonderful and living a good life but still commit suicide. Suicide rates are at an all-time high.

One of every four people you meet in America is clinically depressed. I’m not saying depressed. I’m saying clinically depressed based on to the point of being diagnosed and actually chosen to be diagnosed clinically depressed. Even more than one in every four is very unhappy and would just accept it. The current value system that we have developed since World War II during the Great Depression, that’s all about progress, material possessions and success. It helped us invent iPhones, incredible health care advancements and so on, but it’s not going to last us going forward.

There is a massive problem that we’re choosing to ignore. It’s about time that we all stand up and say, “The promise that the world has given me doesn’t seem to be working. It doesn’t seem to be fulfilling what it said it would fulfill.” Maybe it’s about time that I just get up and say, “That’s it. I deserve to be happy. I was born happy. I deserve to make happiness my number one priority in life.” If you’re unhappy with your job, why are you there? Why don’t you just start interviewing? It may take you a month, it may take you a year, it may take you a year and a half, but at least you’re moving in the right direction.

When you’re interviewing for the next job, why are you interviewing for a job that’s going to be you $100 more? Why don’t you just interview for a job that’s going to make you happier? If you interview for a job that’s going to make you $100 more, you’re likely to find the job that’s going to make you $100 more. What about your happiness? If you’re not including happiness as your priority, you’re not going to make the right choices. That’s why I always go back and say, “We’re in charge.” All of us, 10% of our lives, we will go through very harsh tests. The rest of the mess, is all choices. We choose to do things that make us unhappy.

We’ve talked about alignment. Maybe you’re not aligned in the right job. I think I saw you say something about the machine is not suited for the environment. Maybe a sports car is going to get stuck in the middle of the desert. Sometimes we’re in jobs that aren’t really great for us and we don’t realize it. That’s one of the things I was looking at with my curiosity research too.

If you’re not asking questions and pursuing things to find out what interests, you find yourself in jobs that other people maybe find good. I remember when I was a pharmaceutical rep, everybody goes, “I’ve heard that’s the greatest job ever.” I didn’t really like it. You get herself in these golden handcuffs. You’re talking about money and you think where else could I have this job where I could be around my kids? Where else can I have this job where I can make this much money?

Especially with my older age group, we were taught you don’t job hop and you don’t do certain things. We have that thought process. You also now have social media and other factors where people are trying to look like they have something that they maybe don’t have. Just to make everybody think that everything is so wonderful. Do you think that that’s what’s leading to all this suicide? We’ve got Me Too people coming out because they want to be the one that’s in focus. What do you think the impact of all that has?

Suicide is a result of not only unhappiness but also as a result of feeling unhappy about stuck. There is no way up. That I’m going to be here for the rest of my life. What’s the point in living? It’s our responsibility, all of us, to really be there for people who we feel are in that place. Even if we don’t acknowledge it, even if they don’t admit it, you may save a life. That’s a big thing.

We live in a world of abundance where we are completely taught to believe in scarcity. I can give you one guarantee. If you don’t look for that job, that actually is a better job than the one you have. The one that is going to make you happier and at the same time going to be close to where your children are. Unless you look for it, you’re not going to find it. I can guarantee you that. You may look for it and not find it by the way that’s possible. It’s a matter of trial and error in a massive world of abundance.

I sometimes joke about this and I say it with love and respect. If you’re stuck in a relationship and you’re not happy about the relationship. You’re like, “I hate dating. This is horrible. I’m just going to stick with this for the rest of my life. You’re going to end up stuck there for the rest of your life. When actually the statistics would say that it must be somewhere around a billion other people in your age group that could be fit as a suitable candidate to make you happier.

When you choose to get stuck in that one single relationship, you’re preventing the possibility of looking at a billion others. Does that mean that if you look for a billion others, you’re going to end up finding an amazing human being to be your partner tomorrow? No. It’s a question of do you want to be stuck in a place where it’s making you unhappy or do you want to be stuck in a place where there is an opportunity for abundance to bless you with what you deserve in life? We prevent ourselves.

I’ve recently read, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It’s incredible how his mindset is so different than most of us who get stuck in 9-5 jobs for 35 to 45 years hoping for retirement, shutting out all of the abundance that the world offers us. Maybe my view is I don’t want the 4-hour workweek. I want a 40-hour work week that is more enjoyable and more productive. Whichever lays between them, the possibilities are out there and we just shut it out. It’s really incredible how much we deny ourselves the right to live a happy and prosperous life.

You’re trying to get this message out to #OneBillionHappy people. How is it leaving the Googles, IBMs and the Microsofts and all the places you’ve worked? You’ve worked for other companies and now you’re on your own situation here. Was that scary at all? How do you feel about that transition? Do you miss having that corporation behind you?

Of course, and Google is an incredible place. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I started early at Google, I align with the value set of trying to solve big problems that affect the lives of billions of people. I had the best job in the whole company. I was running the business side of the most innovative side of Google. You’re taking concepts like self-driving cars or providing the internet to everyone with high altitude balloons, building the policy framework, the business framework, the engagement framework that makes those dreams a reality.

One of the things we learn as we get into the modern world is that stability is more important than experiment and that security is more important than purpose. Even though I tend to believe that I’ve done really well for the world in my years at Google, I’ve launched more than half of Google’s businesses worldwide. You can imagine what it’s like to launch Google in Arabic or Swahili and how billions of lives are changed. There are so many people in America that can run the chief business officer of Google X.

Perhaps with my training in happiness and the tests I’ve had in life and an international bestseller that is working. Perhaps I am one of the few that should take on the task of One Billion Happy people. If I end my life with zero money, having spent everything I’ve ever earned and I managed to achieve that and honor Ali in the process, that’s so much more rewarding. More than 100 corporate jobs where even if my income is in the millions, who cares?

We understand life differently. I’ve gone through the years where I had so much money and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was trying to bombard myself with the experiences just to avoid my unhappiness. How much do we need? Think back to that little child. That little child had nothing to feel happy. They didn’t need an Xbox to feel happy. They didn’t need anyone to tell them, “Your hair is amazing today.” Nothing, they just lay there on their back, just flew with life and felt happiness. Where does the fear come from and why do we resist that wonderful joy?

Do you speak only to organizations or do you go to schools? How young are the people to whom you’re speaking?

I started from an equation and I even used solid logic, almost like a workshop manual to help people. These are the sixteen steps you have to do to get from unhappy to constantly happy, to be able to bounce back to happiness every time. 93% of all readers say the book changed their life and 96% of people who attend my lectures would say that the lecture has changed their life. I reluctantly refused to work on anything younger than teens. I think it’s just way too much responsibility. I’m not trained as a child psychologist. Even though it’s probably the most important segment, of our target, because these are the future. They’re going to grow in a life that is much more difficult than yours and much more difficult than millennials and so on.

I’m waiting for the collaboration with a child psychologist who would help me produce the material in a way that is child appropriate. I think the responsibility lies firmly with the parents. Parents, at the end of the day, we all know you can tell your children everything. Whatever you tell them they’re not going to do. They’re just going to be who you are. If you lie and tell you your children not to lie, they’re going to end up growing up with lying. If you’re a control freak, they’re going to grow up to be control freaks. If you want your children to be happy, then learn to be happy yourself.

Part of the One Billion Happy mission is prioritize happiness because it’s important for your children. Invest in happiness and spend an hour a day, four times a week, watching the video, or reading a book or spending time with people that are happy. When you learn that your children by definition are going to learn those skills from you. If you have the compassion, of course we all have the compassion for our children, you’re going to discuss those things. When we work on parents, I believe that we can reach children in a better way. The one thing I always ask parents to do is to say that the modern world has taught you that a successful parent raises successful children.

A success in parenting is that your children are safe, successful and well-educated. I’m sorry to say this is considered failure in my view. If you raise children that are successful in the model world but unhappy, you have failed as a parent. If you raise children that are happy by surfing all day but are not successful and they don’t have an impact on the world, you have failed as a parent. Successful parents in my view, raise children that are as successful as happy. Our children should achieve both. They’ll find their purpose in life, they’ll make a difference. They’ll have enough to live and to survive. At the same time, they’ll be doing something that they absolutely admire and they’d be happy doing it. If we raise generations that do that, I think our worlds would be a much better place.

TTL 220 | One Billion Happy
One Billion Happy: If you want your children to be happy, then learn to be happy yourself.

All these things that we talk about, whether people refer to them as personality, or soft skills. I think if we can teach people to pass that down to the children as well. What’s happening in the workplace are people are getting fired because of their lack of these important skills, emotional intelligence and some of these things are so critical. I’m really happy to hear all the work you’re doing in this area because I think that it’s very important for the next generations.

I just meet so many people who aren’t very happy and I think that the social media is making it very clear with all these suicides and everything that we’re seeing. I’m very interested to see where you’ll go with your moonshot and your work in this area. If people are interested in maybe seeing you speak or buying your book or getting involved in some way, how would they find out more about this?

Every concept I discussed is available on I have tons of videos and snippets of the book. If you are interested to find your own happiness, please do that. If you’re interested to join the mission and just follow how One Billion Happy is going, please go to It will give you some of the ideas where you can actually help and expand that compassionate in making others happy.

Hopefully, there will be more and more ideas. We have organized programs to spread that. Follow anything that makes you happy. There are so many amazing teachers out there. What I asked you to do is please, go to YouTube and search for the word happy and just watch. Learn and find your way of finding happiness. This is what it’s all about whether it’s my style, my technique, my method or any other method, as long as you get there.

Thank you so much, Mo. I’m so glad you were able to join me on the show.

It’s been a pleasure, Diane. Thank you so much.

You are welcome. It was really interesting. I think everything that was tying into happiness ties into curiosity as well. There’s so much that we need to learn to help people with so many of these soft skills, emotional intelligence and personality areas that fascinates me. I’ve had a real challenge in my career with measuring the different factors associated with personality.

A lot of it’s very difficult because it requires self-assessment. I really think that there’s so much we can learn to help people be just more creative, successful, happy, all the things that Mo and I talked about. I thought what he had to do to research it was very challenging and I’m really happy that he’s found great success with that.

If you’ve missed any of our past episodes, we get so many great guests like Mo here. You can also sign up to receive notifications of our shows on I would love to have you sign up and to keep active as far as responding to the blogs. Feel free to make comments. I’d love to have you come back for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.

About Mo Gawdat

Mo Gawdat is the former Chief Business Officer at Google X. After working for IBM and Microsoft, Mo landed a job at Google and helped start the platform in more than 50 emerging markets across the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. Currently, Mo is a serial entrepreneur and the author for Solve for Happy.


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