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  • Writer's pictureSteve Wu

Why Happiness Is Overrated

I was lucky  —  I graduated from UCLA and landed my dream job at Moelis, one of the top investment banks in the country. I stayed for exactly 10 months before quitting. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience was:

Don’t settle until you find something that makes you happy. In the end, that’s all that really matters

Despite my brief tenure, I left Moelis with a much better understanding of my core values. I learned to value happiness over money. I learned to value passion over prestige. I learned to value my time and how I spent it, both personally and professionally. And most importantly, I learned how to make decisions based upon these values. It took me 10 months in the real word but I finally figured it out. Simply put, I wanted my next job to be something that made me happy.

Fortunately, I was able to land a Product Manager role at Scopely, a venture backed mobile gaming startup. I was passionate about the product and the company was experiencing rocketship growth. It had everything I wanted and I spent my time in a role that challenged me, allowed me to grow and truly made me happy. 

I worked at Scopely for the next two and a half years before finally making the decision to leave. It was a strange, unexpected feeling. I never really planned to quit because, unlike my first job, I was actually still happy. The work was interesting, my team was amazing, Scopely was exploding with growth and I was even up for promotion. Wasn’t this what I always wanted? Isn’t happiness all that matters? So why did I leave a job that finally made me happy?

Looking back, I left Scopely because I realized there’s more to life than just being happy. It’s not that happiness isn’t important. It’s just not the only thing, or even the most important thing. I started thinking about what I really wanted out of life and oddly enough, being happy every day just wasn’t cutting it. I was planning my career with a short-term focus on what made me happy, and in doing so, I completely overlooked the long-term importance of living a rich and fulfilling life. 

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, describes a fulfilling life as:

The process of finding your loves and testing your loves. All of us love certain things: certain friends, certain dreams, certain professional goals. But you really don’t know the nature of your love until you’ve tested it with reality.

He also shares his own life experience, saying:

After ten years, I could write out a priority list on a piece of paper of the things I loved, and I could rank them and I could devote my best energies to my highest loves…When you have the ability to write that list in order, you’ve achieved your agency moment. You have your own criteria. You’re not relying on the opinions of others. Your own standard and your own ability to judge your own life.

I didn’t want to just be happy. I had confused happiness with long-term fulfillment, contentment, satisfaction and achievement. I wanted to reach my agency moment and I knew I would never get there if I made every decision using happiness as a barometer for success. There are a ton of things I could do, both personally and professionally, that made me happy, but relatively few would meaningfully contribute to a more rich and fulfilling life. I knew what my next 12+ months at Scopely were going to look like and I simply wanted a change, something that would test my loves and take me on a completely different life adventure.

After leaving Scopely, I decided to move to SF and join the product team at Ever, an early-stage productivity startup. I’m not sure where this will lead and I certainly don’t expect to be happy 100% of the time, but that’s okay. I’m embracing a new city, new job, new industry and new challenges. I’m embracing being uncomfortable. I’m embracing the belief that, regardless of what happens, this will be a brand new adventure and that’s all that truly matters.

I challenge you to focus less on what makes you happy or comfortable and more on what actions you can take to live a more rich and fulfilling life. I’m not saying everything in life has to be deeply thought out, but for the important things – like career goals, relationships, aspirations and fears – it helps to put things in context of what truly matters. Nothing in life will make you happy 100% of the time, and it shouldn’t have to. More often than not, happiness will be a natural side effect of living a rich and fulfilling life because it will give you the satisfaction of knowing you made the most of your limited time here. Happiness is overrated...At the end of the day, you'll look back on life and appreciate the entire journey, the ups and the downs that shape who you are and the commitments you're willing to make.

As Mark Twain says:

Life is short...Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover


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