The One Formula For Happiness Nobody Told me

Kissing tastes really good. The first time I kissed a girl I was 18. Tracey.

Man, what the hell! That was like an electric charge to the core. How come they didn’t teach this in high school?

In high school I learned one thing: that I was ugly as explosive diarrhea. Girls would cover their mouths and whisper to each other while they stared at me.

But at 19, I don’t know what happened. Some girl graced me with her lips.

And, as is typical with me ever since, I fell immediately in love with her, begged her to move in with me, hid that fact from my parents, cried desperately on the floor when I realized it wasn’t working, and finally moved to another city as a clever way to end the relationship.

But still…kissing. I can’t stop it. It’s an addiction. I will die from that addiction. The autopsy will reveal “too much kissing led to cardiac failure — a broken heart.”

Bad Formula #1

I thought that kissing = happiness.

What an easy formula.

And I thought I would get more kissing in various ways. I’m just being blunt. Here are the ways:

If I was handsome, funny, famous, or rich. If I grew up in the Instagram world, I would think Kissing = More Instagram followers.

Instagram is a company that has a billion cat photos uploaded every day. It was bought for $2,000,000,000.00.

Nice is good also. But I didn’t have enough confidence or charisma to make nice work for me.

I wanted to be a psychologist. My dad said, “Don’t be a psychologist. You won’t make any money. Girls won’t like you.”

But I really wanted to be one. To talk to people. To help people.

I said, “But if a girl likes me, how do I know she will like me for me or for the money.”

My dad said, “She’s not going to like you because you have money. She’s going to like you because you are the kind of guy who can make money.”

Maybe so. Maybe so. I don’t know. I got a D- in Psychology 101 anyway and by the time I was 19 years old I was no longer qualified to help people according to the institutions of higher learning. And they were right.


Now I’ve kissed quite a few women. And some women I’ve kissed quite a lot. So, after careful scientific calibration of all the statistics and post-kissing MRI’s and interviews, I have the following result:

Kissing = happiness for 3 seconds. But often the quest for kissing and the aftermath of kissing leads to unhappiness, jealousy, desperation, and a need for more.

In other words, I need therapy.

So I’m going to tell you what I figure out, for at least myself, is better.

What can make kissing better. What makes my work better. What makes my career better. What makes all my relationships better.

What makes me care less about money. What makes me care less about what people think of me. What makes me a better writer.

What…What???

Magic Formula:

The Happiness Ratio.

Happiness = Reality / Positive Expectations.

The higher the reality, the better. The lower the positive expectations, the better. Although they can’t be zero. Then you are homeless.

Reality is your current situation. You might be in a job working for the CIA, in a relationship with a drug user, you might be 6’5″, you might be 500 lbs. Who knows? This is your reality.

You can sometimes change reality. But it’s slow.

Here’s how you change reality, the same way I always recommend, but with one twist:

  • Physical — every day exercise, sleep well, eat well.
  • Emotional — every day improve your relationships. Which means eliminate toxic people and bring on positive people.
  • Mental — which means creative. Write down 10 ideas a day. Or take a photograph every day.
  • Spiritual — Be grateful. Celebrate small successes.

Try to improve in these categories 1% a day.

The one twist: if there is an area where you are unhappy (bad job), try 1% a day to make a move away from where you are unhappy. Make a resume, for instance. But also, doing the above (improving relationships, being creative, etc.) will improve your chances of finding a better job.

Done. That’s how we can up the reality part. It takes time. 1% a day. At best.

The expectations part is different.

If you are in a bad relationship because your spouse is not having sex with you every day, then reduce your expectations on sex. At least until your reality changes (improve your relationships, be creative, be grateful).

If you have cancer and are in pain, reduce your expectations (“when I wake up in the morning, I want to be mobile enough to move around even though I will probably be in pain”).

If you have a bad job, reduce your expectations (“I can’t wait to listen to The James Altucher Show podcast on my way to work and back again”).

By the way, If you haven’t already listened to my latest podcast with Brian Grazer: How a Curious Mind Creates An Original Idea, you can find it here.


You can always reduce your expectations today.

And then what helps even more is to reward yourself. If you wake up mobile even though you are in pain, you can say, “Yes! I met my expectations.”

Lowered positive expectations bridges a bad reality to a better reality. It helps you get from A to B. And it makes you happier every day. Happy enough to celebrate them.

I have low expectations. I don’t want any belongings, for instance. And I rarely care what people think about me. And all I want to do in life is kiss.

My reality changes, but if I do my daily practice, I increase the chances that the positive side of my reality goes up.

Some people have negative expectations (“everything I do turns to garbage!”).

It’s hard to go from negative expectations to positive expectations.

The only thing you can do is recognize that that is a choice and try practicing every day for being grateful for smaller and smaller things in life, until you find something small enough you can start expecting it. And build from there.

I want to be happy. I want to kiss more.

So every day these two steps:

A) Reality: Do whatever I can to increase the positive aspects of my reality using four elements of the day practice described above.

B) Expectations: List the areas I am disappointed. If I’m disappointed, reduce expectations to match reality and find ways to be grateful until you can slowly change the reality.

Simple. It works. I do it. Don’t do it if you don’t want. I do it for me.

15 months ago something bad happened to me in business. 7 months ago something bad happened in my relationships.

Every day there are irritations and hopes and reality and changes that mess with reality. It’s just life.

Every life (I hope. I think) has ups and downs, no matter how good things seem, no matter what BS self-help advice you follow (including this).

So the equation is always changing:

But you can choose how it changes as much as possible.

Happiness = Reality / Expectations.

But more importantly:

If you see me in the street, kiss me.

Related Post: Neil Strauss: The Truth About Relationships

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