How to Be Happy Without Denying Reality: The Key To Our Survival is Within Reach


Part 3 – The Happy Truth Tellers

            In Part 1, I shared my joy and the birth of my first child in 1969 and the fears that I faced when I read the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler the following year and later had my own vision where I saw the Ship of Civilization sinking and Lifeboats for a better future being launched. In Part 2, I shared my own healing journey. Here I will share my encounters with some of the pioneers who are leading the way to a more joyful and sustainable future that we can all embrace and create together.

            Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 when one alcoholic, Bill Wilson, felt he needed a drink in the worst way and the only way to keep from drinking was to tell his story to another alcoholic and was introduced to Dr. Bob Smith. Since then A.A. has spread throughout the world, with a membership today of over two million.

            Prior to 1935 it was believed that there was nothing anyone could do to help an alcoholic and the only relief from the ravages of alcoholism was death. In his book, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ernest Kurtz quoted A.A. founders basic insight:

“First of all we had to quit playing God.”

The first of the 12 steps says,

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

            Perhaps each of us humans alive today needs to take a first step that says, “We admitted we were powerless over our inability to accept reality—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Until we address the truth of our situation, our lives will continue to get worse.

            Given the realities, is it really possible to be happy in today’s world? Is there really hope for humanity or should we just “eat, drink, and be merry” until inevitably, we bring about our own demise?

            I’ll be honest, I’m a pretty optimistic guy. In my 1995 vision I foresaw both the sinking of the Ship of Civilization, but also the creation of a more sustainable way of life beyond civilization. However, it is one thing to have a vision. It is quite another to actually find ways to make the vision into a reality.

            One man that gave me hope was Daniel Quinn who I met after reading his monumental book, Ishmael, which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award. The award was created by entrepreneur and television producer Ted Turner for a work of fiction that offer a positive solution to global problems. Quinn’s book was selected by a celebrity panel from over 2500 other entries. One of Quinn’s books, Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure, offered guidance for the kind of partnership society that could be created as the old dominator society continues to collapse. I described the transition to a partnership future in an article, “Living in the Liminal World of 2020: How to Navigate the Transition Between Domination and Partnership.”

            The other man who gives me hope is Mo Gawdat. Mohammad “Mo” Gawdat offers a unique perspective on how we can maintain our joy and optimism in a world that is in danger of collapse. Mo is a serial entrepreneur, the former chief business officer of Google X, and has had a long and successful career in the tech world.

            In 2014, following the tragic death of his son, Ali, caused by a medical error, Mo made an unlikely decision.

“Seventeen days after his death,” Mo says, “I began to write. I decided to follow Ali’s advice and do something positive, to try to share our model of happiness with all those who are needlessly suffering around the world.” Four and a half months later, Mo raised his head. “I had a first draft of the book Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy.”

            As a father I was moved and inspired by his love for his son and his promise to share their model of happiness with the world. After reading the book and getting help myself, I was inspired to write a number of articles which Mo posted on his website, One-Billion Happy. One was titled, The Secret of Happiness: A Loving Father & Son Share It With the World. The other, How to Cure Depression in Half-A-Billion Men.

            So, what is the secret of happiness that Mo discovered? Well, you’ll learn more when you read the book and watch his videos, but here’s the simple beginning of how Mo found the secret of happiness. He began by writing a Happy List (you can do it yourself. It’s fun). Jot down some of the things that make you happy. “The list,” says Mo, “can be nothing more than a string of short, declarative sentences that get right to the point and complete the phrase:

I feel happy when _______________.”

                  My own list includes: I feel happy when……My son calls just to say hello, I watch a good basketball game, I hear birds singing, I admire the trees in my back yard, my wife smiles, my grandson does his happy dance.

            Mo then wanted to see what all the things he listed had in common and came up with this simple happiness equation (Remember Mo is an engineer by training):

The formula tells us that if we perceive the events of our lives as equal to or greater than our expectations, we will be happy—or at least not unhappy. Like many things in life, the formula is simple, but not easy to accept, practice, and live by. Mo reminds us that

“It’s not the event that make us unhappy; it’s the way we think about it.”

            Mo describes how he developed his happiness equation. Take a look here.

                  If I expect my wife to always agree with my great ideas, I will be unhappy when she has a different view of things. If I expect weather to always be mild and comfortable, I will be unhappy when there are record heat waves. If I expect the Corona virus to go away because I am tired of being afraid and deserve to “get back to normal,” I will be unhappy.

            I work a lot with people who are angry and depressed. Without exception the underlying issue comes down to the unhappiness that occurs when the events of their lives don’t meet their expectations. In other words, they can’t face the reality of things as they are and they are not able to feel happiness and joy despite things happening that don’t meet their expectations.

            Certainly, the death of Mo’s son, or any significant loss, can be devastating and painful, but we don’t have to be trapped in perpetual unhappiness.

“The day my wonderful son left, everything went dark,” says Mo. “I felt I had earned the right to suffer for the rest of my life, that I was given no choice but to close my door and decay. I was, in reality, given two choices: (a) I could choose to suffer for the rest of my life and it would not bring Ali back, or (b) I could choose to feel the pain but stop the miserable thoughts, do all I could to honor his memory—and it would still not bring Ali back—though it would make the world just a little bit easier to endure. Two choices. Which would you choose? I chose (b).”

            Whether we are happy or unhappy often boils down to the story we tell ourselves. In one story we demand that reality conforms to our expectations. When it doesn’t we are unhappy. In the other story, we accept the reality of what is and can find happiness even while we may also be experiencing the pain of loss.

            In Mo’s most recent book, Scary Smart: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How Humans Can Save Our World, Mo builds on what he offers us in Solve for Happy and shows that technology, specifically, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can lead to the destruction of humanity or to our salvation.

“By 2049 AI will be a billion times more intelligent than humans,” says Gawdat, “and technology is putting our humanity at risk to an unprecedented degree.”

            When he began writing the book, Mo felt that AI was dangerous and programmers who developed AI would lose control of their creation. By the end of the book, he realized that all humans have the power to influence the future of AI and like good parents can teach it how to help us save humanity and create a better world for all living things.

            Scary Smart is a book you will want to read. It will be available worldwide on September 30, 2021. But you can order yours now:

            In the U.S. you can order your book here.

           If you are in the U.K. or Europe, you can order here.

            For those who order and send a screen shot of your purchase to, you will have a chance to have dinner with Mo (in London, Amsterdam, or Dubai only) and a limited, signed copy of the book, along with access to an exclusive online talk with Mo.

            As we face the future we can either choose to deny reality and suffer or we can learn to face reality head on. We can withdraw into our own private worlds and give up on humanity or remain joyful and engaged to do our part to improve the future for our children, grandchildren, and future generations. The choice is ours. I’m choosing to “go with Mo.” As always your comments are welcome. If you’d like to read more articles, please visit me here.

I’ll close with these four “Diamond Points.”

  1. Be open to the best in life.
  2. Accept the reality of what life brings us.
  3. Choose to be happy.
  4. Bring more love and joy to the world.

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