What is the most important factor in being happy?

being happy

The other day I woke up angry.

I was remembering all of the people who I felt I did many good things for and now they don’t like me.

I started to list all of the reasons they hate me. I started to think about arguments I would tell them to SHOW them how wrong they are.

Sometimes this takes up the first ten minutes of my day until I stop myself and say “this is unhealthy.”

I try to replace these unhealthy thoughts with at least three positive actions I can take that will help others.

Maybe the only thing I know in life: the more I help people, the more I have to give. It’s like a barrel of infinite water.

I wrote to one friend today and told her how something she said to me about how to create a beautiful work of art really inspired me. I thanked her for that. She told me to “deliberately differentiate.”

I wrote to another friend about how his reconnection with me after so many years really touched me. It reminded me of the many thousands of moments we shared together.

And I wrote to another friend how, despite all our troubles, I was looking at a photograph of us together where she just so happy to be happy that it reminded me of all the special times we had together instead of some of the horrible times later.

We’re all just trying to survive. We all have our insecurities. We can sink in them or try very hard to rise above them.

For a brief moment, despite the sea of fire she and I traveled through and ultimately died in, we were together again. And that made me happy.


One time I was having a big problem in my life. A problem so big I thought it would kill me and cause my kids to live in agony for the rest of their lives.

And then I ran into some friends of mine in a restaurant. They were playing chess. They invited me to sit and play with them. It was two in the morning and I had been walking around due to anxious insomnia.

We played for an hour and I was happy. I was laughing. We were joking around. We were playing games.

I forgot completely what I was anxious about.

It was not so much the play or the laughter, but the community.

These were my friends. Friends, on and off, for almost 15 years. And here they were at 2 in the morning, and we were enjoying each other’s company.

There was JP. There was Russian Paul. There was SweetPea. There was Falafel. It was like the Justice League of America. Only they were all homeless chess players.

I can’t remember whether I won or lost. I just remember that I loved them. And I loved that moment. And I love thinking about it now. Fifteen years later.


Sharing and community makes us a tribe. Makes us human. Makes us happy.

When I give a piece of myself to you, I know that the world has changed. That the world has been made better.

Happiness is not about politics. Or about success. Or about improving my life.

Happiness is about you and me and what we will do together.

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  • Maru

    Thanks for all of the knowledge you share freely. Love your books and especially yhe podcasts. Listened to AJ Jacobs on the drive home yesterday. Very hard not to like that crazy bastard.

  • Mark Alden

    Great closing line. Thanks for the many insights you share on here and in your books. I believe happiness is always right there for the taking, if only we can get ourselves past the blocks and b.s. that we all use to make up our story and cloud our perspectives.

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  • Anne Sidebottom

    ‘We’re all just trying to survive. We all have our insecurities. We can sink in them or try very hard to rise above them.’ I love this comment. I read it and re-read it a few times. At first you think, yeah that’s so right. But when you REALLY digest it, you realise how understated this viewpoint is. How it’s so easy to NOT rise above. We get this opportunity many times every day but it’s so easy to succumb to the sarcastic remark, or that momentary feeling of anger, resentment or frustration. Rising above doesn’t mean letting people take advantage of you either. It means choosing to not let them affect you.
    Thanks James, as always, for the thought-provoking read.

  • Sonia Garces

    Yes it’s So True but when you lost these people you felt so Alone that you wanted to kill yourself.A friend betrayed me,lost my job, got sick. in my country Age matters a lot you don’t get a job when you are old

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  • Tricia Mishler

    I had a dream once about heaven and my heaven was living in a luxury condo community with everyone I love & every nite my tribe and I would sit outside and just hang out…no matter what our daily activities were, we would all come together each nite & talk, laugh, drink wine… People who live far awaybut who I love were all there, my family, everyone who energizes me were all there.
    This is my heaven and sounds like you live the life of my dreams James.

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