Notes From: “The Happiness Advantage”

Positive psychology is a relatively new addition to the mind-sciences. It’s really only been since the late 90’s with Martin Seligman that the field has been launched into public view. Today however, it’s a burgeoning field with a multiplicity of practitioners and many, many new insights coming to light.

The field needs popularizers, for obvious reasons. If charismatic people like Shawn Achor do for positive psychology what Carl Sagan did for space, we’re all going to become a lot happier. This “happiness psychology” stuff is the real deal, and we’re finally finding out more about what Aristotle called “Eudaimonia”, or “human flourishing”.

For every single book that I read, I take notes on everything that I want to remember. One year, I read 170 books, and another year ‘only’ 39.

I absolutely have to take notes because I will never, ever trust my memory. I just read too much. If you take a look at my reading list, you’ll see that there’s just no way that I would be able to remember even 10 notes from each book. My advice: “Write it down.”

I never intended to sell these notes or to package them in a totally comprehensive way like SparkNotes, so some of my notes may go further in depth than some professional book summaries, and some not so deep at all. These aren’t something you might find from Blinkist, or even from James Clear, or Derek Sivers. They were never meant to be.

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They are simply what I have personally taken from each book, and I hope that they have some value for you.

Self-deprecation aside, many of these notes are from some of the most important books ever written. I’m interested in the human condition, the biggest questions ever asked, and the giant mystery that we’re all a part of. I’m interested in nothing less than what constitutes a meaningful life. That’s what you’ll find within my multiplicity of notes and sources.

Remember to think critically! Some notes are just interesting ideas taken from the text that I may or may not agree with.

Regardless, I wanted to remember them so as to stimulate my thinking at a later date. So don’t confuse my notes here with something that I staunchly believe. Sometimes you’ll be right, and other times you’ll be wrong.

I have turned them into a product which I sell in return for donations to Doctors Without Borders.

But I’ve decided to release some of my notes periodically on my site, for free.

So let’s get to it…

From Amazon: Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe.

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research — including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG — to fix this broken formula. Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.

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Isolating seven practical, actionable principles that have been tried and tested everywhere from classrooms to boardrooms, stretching from Argentina to Zimbabwe, he shows us how we can capitalize on the Happiness Advantage to improve our performance and maximize our potential. Among the principles he outlines:

• The Tetris Effect: how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see — and seize — opportunities wherever we look.
• The Zorro Circle: how to channel our efforts on small, manageable goals, to gain the leverage to gradually conquer bigger and bigger ones.
• Social Investment: how to reap the dividends of investing in one of the greatest predictors of success and happiness — our social support network

A must-read for everyone trying to excel in a world of increasing workloads, stress, and negativity, The Happiness Advantage isn’t only about how to become happier at work. It’s about how to reap the benefits of a happier and more positive mind-set to achieve the extraordinary in our work and in our lives.

My Personal Notes From “The Happiness Advantage”:

Doing what you do and working with what you have is actually a privilege that most people don’t have

The fact that brains can change brings forth the question of how much they can change

We don’t know the limit of human potential

Positive thinking and a positive environment enhances learning and can speed up the process

The ‘Losada Line’ is the observation that it takes 3 positive experiences to wipe out every 1 negative one

Our external reality is more malleable than previously imagined

Mental experience is as powerful as actual reality

Leverage the power of rest time and time spent not working in order to recharge and come back stronger than ever

Think about past successful experiences and relevant skills before undertaking certain tasks

The expectations we have about our colleagues can help bring those expectations into reality

People act how we expect them to act

Constantly scan the world for the positives

We see what we focus on

Expecting positive outcomes will ensure that they are more likely to occur

Choose empowering counter-facts to tough events and situations

Put problems and tasks into words so as to get a better handle on them

Inactivity is the easiest option for our time off, but we don’t enjoy it as much as we think we will

Eliminate the amount of activation energy it takes to get started on important tasks

Put the desired behavior on the path of least resistance

Raise the amount of activation energy required for things you don’t want to do

Limit the number of choices that you are forced to make

Make as many things automatic as possible

Your social network is the most important part of the happiness advantage

Happiness has a massive ripple effect

Real, authentic happiness is available to us all. It is WELL within reach of even the most hopeless, and we’re finally getting a handle on how exactly to bring these happiness effects to bear in our personal lives. There are smart, driven, accomplished scientists who study this for a living, and they are finding answers to what makes the aforementioned happiness possible, more likely, and worthwhile.

I hope these notes sparked your interest, or led to some new questions, or just made your life better in some way.

If they did, I’d love for you to consider donating to the phenomenal international non-profit, Doctors Without Borders. We operate all over the world, proving free medical services to those hardest hit by war, famine, and other disasters and atrocities. We never discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity, etc. And we would be honored to receive your support.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov


The Happiness Advantage — Goodreads

Goodthink — Shawn Achor

Join the Godlike Discipline Mailing List

Meditations — Marcus Aurelius


Matt Karamazov is a human rights activist, boxer, and writer who reads 200 books per year and throws 300 punches per minute. His website, Godlike Discipline, is dedicated to raising money for causes like Doctors Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch, among others. It’s also dedicated to helping people tackle their biggest willpower challenges. He also like death metal, and so, consequently doesn’t get many second dates.

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