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Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy

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Mo Gawdat is a remarkable thinker and the Chief Business Officer at Google’s [X], an elite team of engineers that comprise Google’s futuristic “dream factory.” Applying his superior skills of logic and problem solving to the issue of happiness, he proposes an algorithm based on an understanding of how the brain takes in and processes joy and sadness. Then he solves for happy.

In 2001 Mo Gawdat realized that despite his incredible success, he was desperately unhappy. A lifelong learner, he attacked the problem as an engineer examining all the provable facts and scrupulously applying logic. Eventually, his countless hours of research and science proved successful, and he discovered the equation for permanent happiness.

Thirteen years later, Mo’s algorithm would be put to the ultimate test. After the sudden death of his son, Ali, Mo and his family turned to his equation—and it saved them from despair. In dealing with the horrible loss, Mo found his he would pull off the type of “moonshot” goal that he and his colleagues were always aiming for—he would share his equation with the world and help as many people as possible become happier.

In Solve for Happy Mo questions some of the most fundamental aspects of our existence, shares the underlying reasons for suffering, and plots out a step-by-step process for achieving lifelong happiness and enduring contentment. He shows us how to view life through a clear lens, teaching us how to dispel the illusions that cloud our thinking; overcome the brain’s blind spots; and embrace five ultimate truths.

No matter what obstacles we face, what burdens we bear, what trials we’ve experienced, we can all be content with our present situation and optimistic about the future.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2017

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About the author

Mo Gawdat

19 books275 followers
Mohammad "Mo" Gawdat (Arabic: محمد جودت) is an Egyptian entrepreneur and writer. He is the former chief business officer for Google X.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 708 reviews
Profile Image for Artas Bartas.
34 reviews22 followers
February 21, 2020
This book was inspired by a personal tragedy. As Mo Gawdat explains in the introduction, he was moved to write "Solve for Happy" as a way to deal with the loss of his teenage son. Losing one's child is a terrible experience, and I have a lot of sympathy with parents who have to live through it. But when it comes to the book itself, it reads more as a corporate deck hastily put together by the HR department than a genuine attempt to explain how to achieve happiness.

At its core, "Solve for Happy" advances a simple thesis: happiness is a thought, and its origins lie in how a person perceives the world around him. If you keep your expectations in check and learn to find a silver lining in every cloud, you will become happy. Obviously, there are a lot of things out there preventing us from practicing this attitude, and Mo Gawdat makes it into a personal challenge to identify, document, and address these obstacles.

Applying his engineering mind to the problem of the human condition, he suggests that our failure to achieve happiness has to do with social illusions, personal biases, and flawed goals we choose to pursue or tolerate in the daily life. The author goes on to supply a long list of thought experiments, pop science tidbits, folksy tales, and comparative matrices to illustrate this point. The unspoken assumption underlying this whole exercise is that once you recognize how your behavior is driven by cognitive biases and social pressures, you will be able to transition into the state of enlightened being. But would you?

The argument that "Solve for Happy" advances is based on a very simplistic view of human nature, the one where concepts like addiction, denial, delusion, pathology, social oppression, conscious sacrifice, interpersonal dynamics do not exist. For Mo Gawdat all social relations and personal experiences consist of two, clearly defined components - external events and internal reactions. Happiness is just a mechanistic exercise in finding the right internal response to an external event.

It's unfortunate that Mo Gawdat decided to treat the topic this way. As a native Egyptian who made a career at Google and later ran business ventures out of Dubai, he is in a position to offer a lot of interesting insights on the topic. He could have chosen to talk about happiness as a Muslim; self-made man; politically progressive Arab; someone who managed to achieve success in two very different societies. Alas, instead of drawing on his unique cultural context, he chose to sanitize the story he tells at every turn. Meaningful personal details are stripped away, controversial opinions are shunned in favor of bland (and politically palatable) truths, and genuine contradictions of human nature are swept under the rug.

All this makes for a very superficial theory and even worse literature. If you really want to learn something new about happiness, there are much more interesting books out there. Irvin D. Yalom's "When Nietzsche Wept" addresses the relationship between suffering and happiness in a much deeper, more poetic, and illuminating way than "Solve for Happy" ever does. Alasdair McIntyre's monumental study "After Virtue" shows how culture and social context shapes our understanding of happiness in a way that will make you question the reductionist approach Mo Gawdat and a lot of other self-help authors take. The only area where "Solve for Happy" excels, unfortunately, is in marketing itself.
Profile Image for Popup-ch.
747 reviews13 followers
August 6, 2017
Pseudo-profound Panglossian platitudes, pitiable piety and piss-poor philosophy.

Mo was a successful modern tech titan - working for Microsoft, and then Google, and currently heads Google-X. He was a self-made millionaire, and once bought two Rolls-Royces on a whim. But he wasn't happy. Then his beloved son died, and he became happy. It sounds like a weird set-up for a self-help book, and it is. The book starts out with some sensible advice about not comparing oneself with an unattainable ideal, based on the observation that 'Happiness = Outcome - Expectations".
He makes some valid remarks about 'happiness' not being the same (or more than tangentially related to) 'having fun', which he likens to a short-term high, rather than long-term bliss.

Towards the end of the book, however, he veers off into metaphysics, and shows that he has not understood relativity theory, quantum mechanics or evolution.

He misinterprets relativity theory by turning Einsteins dismissal of simultaneity into a refusal of Time as a real entity. He misinterprets quantum mechanics by insisting that the collapse of wave functions requires the presence of an external observer, thereby 'proving' the existence of a deity. But even worse is his misinterpretation of evolution, when he likens the evolution of complex life with the sudden apparence of an iPhone after a lightning bolt strikes a sandpit.

While the first half of the book contains some sensible advice, the latter part ruins the necessary reader/author relationship of trustworthiness.
Profile Image for Cindy.
7 reviews2 followers
March 16, 2017
I'm fascinated by analytical thinking, problem solving and algorithms AND this book satisfied all of that and more. Mo Gawdat's book is part psychology, part science, part spiritual quest. Mo posits that happiness is a conceptual problem and that the default setting for the human brain is happiness. So when life throws us curve balls, we can reboot, reframe and regain our natural state. Mo Gawdat is the Chief Business Officer at Google [X] and spends his days around people who put all their brain power and reasoning power toward solving big problems. He has decided that helping to make 10 million people happy would change the world. I'm with him. Utterly fascinating and I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Brandon Nankivell.
Author 6 books52 followers
October 28, 2017
The ending drove a stake through the wrong side of my aorta:

"If you come away with nothing else from this book, please understand this: there’s no randomness in life. Our universe is the product of masterful design. The designer doesn’t run the show; the equations he designed do."

Seriously? Then who designed the designer?

There's more fallacies in the idea then I care to regurgitate.

I suppose I can't blame the guy for what he finds solace in, but to hinge the value of the book on whether or not the reader believes in a divine creator - is absurd.


"When you choose between two thoughts and can prove neither with total certainty, choose the one that makes you happy. What could be simpler?"

But what if one thought has more certainty than the other?

Given the evidence we have (or lack thereof) for the existence of God for example, it appears to me there's approximately a 99% chance of God not existing and a 1% chance he does.

Regardless of whether the figures are precise, the point is...

Is it not extremely difficult to the rational man, to believe in the one thought that has much less proof than the other, even if the one with lesser proof has the potential to make one happy?

Choosing the thought that makes you most happy also disregards the effect it has on others.

If I think shooting people makes me happy, then I should have no qualms about holding on to that thought, right?

This guy may have impressive credentials and a warm intention, but he fails to see the most basic flaws of his arguments through rose-tinted glasses.

Maybe I need a pair.
Profile Image for Eike Post Preischaft.
15 reviews5 followers
July 26, 2017
Solve for happiness is a great topic and the promise of hearing on becoming happier from an engineering perspective made me really excited.
So excited that I summarized the whole book here:
However, Mo Gawdat, does not deliver on his promise of a happiness equation, the only thing that he gives us is the following:
Happiness = Perception of reality - Expectation
But then Mo does not even follow up on that equation! Instead he mentions other factors for happiness but some of them are actually contradicting the equation. For example, he asserts that we are by default in a state of happiness and if we stay in the present moment instead of thinking about future and past we will stay happy (independent of the above equation).
Furthermore, Mo fails to explain how the following chapters on illusion, blind spots and truths are related to happiness. For example he talks about the illusion of knowledge and that there is no absolute knowledge, but never explains why this is relevant for happiness.
Moreover, the book is very poorly structured and repeated several topics several times. For example, the concept of the importance of staying in the moment is explained first in the chapter on the illusion of time and then in a very similar way in the chapter on the truth of now.
Furthermore, in several chapters he talks about two or more concepts that have very little relation to each other, like for example in the chapter on the illusion of time he mentions we should not let time master us, iE not stress about time, and the same pages talks about mindfulness and focus on the presence, as if it was the same concept.
Overall, in terms of a Google developer, the book appears like spaghetti code, without any relevant structure.
Also, there are very few new ideas contained in the book; everything is recycled from other books that present the knowledge in a more organized way.
For that reason I have reorganized the content of the book in a much more organized way here:
In my version I tried to arrange all the concepts of the book under the happiness equation, which states that we can be happier by:
1. Staying in the present
2. Making our reality better
3. Improving our perception of reality
4. Reducing our expectations
Profile Image for Shannon Canaday.
437 reviews5 followers
February 15, 2018
I thought I would keep going, but you know what? Life's too short to read crappy recycled information sold as some sort of secret way of finding or creating happiness.

It read like the author read a few self-help books, found something that worked for him and stitched all those bits together in his own book.

I actually really hate self-help books; I've had a personal policy for many years that I don't read them and for some reason I took the chance on this book. Fail. I should have known though because there's no equation that creates happiness and just because the guy is an engineer, doesn't mean that he can engineer happiness in others.

I would not recommend this book to anyone.
238 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2018
A rehash of Buddhism, Islam and every other self-help book ever written with a cliched and intellectually lazy bit of creationism defense at the end.
Profile Image for Elaine.
460 reviews14 followers
July 3, 2018
In general, I try to be somewhat kind in my reviews. I know a few authors, and despite their thick skins, they are still people who (usually) tried to create something of value for others. And yet, there is honestly no way that I can be kind in my review of this book. The problems are pervasive.

First, we have a fabulously wealthy individual telling all of the rest of us that money is not really the key to happiness. Well, duh, but please tell that to the people strugging to pay rent this week. Gawdat's stories about how hard it was to live in Dubai becoming easily wealthy by figuring out day trading are less than motivational to most of the world. I'll just log that into my to-do list once I am done cleaning the bathrooms here at home.

Second, the book is full of humble bragging, even about his son's death. Hundreds of people showed up at the funeral Gawdat tells us, which has little meaning to the parents I know who lost children and found that most people stayed away because of the sheer pain of facing such a loss. I am glad that he was able to find a measure of peace, as many of tus touched by the death of a child do not. But, I find it reprehensible that he uses the crowds at his son's funeral to promote himself. Because, happiness does, at least fleetingly, come from humble bragging, but I have never found such people to be worthy of my time.

Third, Gawdat implies that all of life's miseries that seem to have passed him by are really just a state of mind. Any Buddhist or therapist could tell you so, but that does not mean that those living in circumstances other than Gawdat's rarified circles are purposefully and ignoring chosing to wallow in pain, and it is darn hard to maintain a clear state of mind when college tuition rears its head and you have to chose between retirement from a job you hate or paying for your kids over-priced tuition, situations that Gawdat will never face, nor ever understand. Those who are struggling to pay bills and manage life deserve more than Gawdat's self-promoting focus on "creating happiness for all".

Finally, the book attempts to take a complex subject and reduce it to a few simple equations. Work out. Find beauty in the day to day. Don't expect a lot, and don't compare to others. Don't be afraid of death. Live each moment as if it is your last. Love yourself. You get the idea. Most of his concepts appear to be clickbait in book form, with all essential meaning stripped down. It is not that these concepts are not important, because they are, but the book is larded with so very many self-help tropes over and over again, in each section and chapter.

I'm all for finding happiness, which for me, ended up being achieved by skimming the vast majority of this prententious book and ignoring sections such as "debugging your brains code".
45 reviews10 followers
July 21, 2017
I sincerely feel sad for the grieving father who lost his son and I truly wish him the peace of mind. I liked the approach of trying to use logic in order to reach happiness, but there were three major problems for me reading this book:
1. The book didn't make me feel happy, in the matter of fact it made me feel sad for the author and his family. I understand that was the motive behind writing the book in the first place. But, the book has too much emotional pain in it.
2. This is definitely not happiness, the book is about how to take your mind off crappy life events. That's not exactly happiness, not even harmony ... it's been realistic and it's totally okay .. but .. again .. not happiness.
3. The last part was about the author's belief in intelligent design and afterlife and stating why he believes that his son is waiting for him, trying to take a mathematical probabilistic analysis approach. I won't go through the details, they are in the book. but to me ... that's both pseudoscience and illogical conclusions, the author built conclusions that are not really based on the premises !
Profile Image for Wouter Zwemmer.
478 reviews30 followers
January 7, 2018
Gave concepten:
- Geluk is standaardinstelling van mensen. Je moet niet geluk nastreven, maar ongeluk voorkomen of weghalen.
- Geluk = je perceptie van de gebeurtenissen in je leven - je verwachtingen van het leven. Daarbij gaat het niet om de gebeurtenissen zelf, maar om je gedachten erover.
- Pijn is nuttig, lijden nooit. Lijden is zelf gegenereerde en opgelegde pijn door verlening van of anticiperen op (echte) pijn.
- Diep geluk is in harmonie zijn met het leven zoals het echt is.
- Toeschouwer in je bewustzijn: dat ben jij.
- Streven naar waardering is zinloos en kost veel energie. Beter: volledig jezelf zijn en omgaan met mensen zoals jij.
- Niemand is de ster in de film van het leven, we spelen hooguit bijrollen in de levens van anderen.
- Er is geen absoluut goed en slecht; alles is zowel goed als slecht. Slechte gebeurtenissen niet te snel zo labellen, kunnen goede vervolggebeurtenissen uit voortkomen.
- Er bestaat geen absolute kennis; hooguit tijdelijk inzicht totdat er iets beters komt. Dus: check je aannames, zoek je filters en programmering op, neemt niets voor definitief waar aan.
- Niemand wordt ongelukkig van leven in het nu. Ongeluk komt uit terugdenken aan verleden (gemis, vergelijken) of toekomst (angst dat je het minder krijgt, angst voor rampspoed)
- Controle is een illusie. Onverwachte gebeurtenissen (zwarte zwanen) en onvoorspelbare effecten (butterfly-effect) zijn oncontroleerbaar. Je hebt maar twee dingen onder controle: daden en houding.
- Toegewijde acceptatie (committed acceptance): neem volle verantwoordelijkheid voor je daden en laat dan controle los (onthechting).
- Succes komt niet van je verwachtingen maar van je daden.
- Houding ten aanzien van gebeurtenissen is heel bepalend voor je geluksgevoel.
- Angst is beschermingsmechanisme tegen gevaar. Tegenwoordig geen reëel gevaar meer, dus angst vaak puur psychologisch. Door veel bezig te zijn met angst en beschermingen tegen angst, overdrijf je dreiging en komen angsten uit (self fulfilling).
- Filters: meeste mensen zijn negatief, kritisch, oordelen, klagen.
- Voorspellen dat iets gaat gebeuren zorg er vaak voor dat het ook gebeurt.
- Oordelen: door ontbreken van context verhullen oordelen vaak de waarheid (racisme bijv)
- Herinneringen zijn afspiegeling van wat je denkt dat er is gebeurd. Niet per se waar.
- Emoties regeren bewustzijn, niet andersom.
- Meestal is het enige wat mis is aan ons leven de manier waarop we erover denken.
- Waarheid geeft je vrijheid, maar eerst zal ze je boos maken.
- Als niets zeker is, en dat is meestal het geval, kies er dan voor om te geloven in wat je gelukkig maakt.
- Bewustzijn is geen aan/uit-knop maar een schuif: afwijzing/blokkeren van signalen - ontvangst - waarneming - bewustzijn - verbinding
- Staan van doen en staat van zijn. Meeste mensen in staat van doen; niet (volledig) bewuste staat. Doen blokkeert je natuurlijke bewustzijn / staat van zijn. Wu wei: doen door niet te doen (=te zijn).
- Vier gebieden voor meditatie: buitenwereld / zintuigen, lichaam, gedachten en emoties, verbinding met het overige zijn.
- Er is geen inspanning nodig om systemen in evenwicht te houden. Als alles wat je doet moeiteloos gaat, dan heb je je pad gevonden.
- Evenwicht yin - yang. Yin, vrouwelijk, negatief: donker, nat, koud, passief, verwoestend; yang, mannelijk, positief: licht, warm, droog, actief. Leef in het midden, waar yin en yang elkaar ontmoeten. Weg van minste weerstand ipv constant gevecht met het leven.
- Dankbaarheid is pad naar geluk; vergelijken met anderen die meer hebben dan jij, is bron van ongeluk. Kijk niet omhoog maar omlaag, naar mensen die het minder hebben.
- Onvoorwaardelijke liefde enige emotie die niet gepaard gaan met gedachten. Meest echte emotie.
- Hoe meer onvoorwaardelijke liefde je geeft, hoe meer je terugkrijgt.
- Iedereen, hoe groot ego ook, heeft behoefte aan liefde. Kijk door ego heen, geef mensen 3 kansen en als ze dan nog niet reageren op jouw liefde, ga ze uit de weg of vertel dat ze niet bij je passen.
- Wees vriendelijk: geef liefde niet alleen aan dierbaren maar ook aan mensen die je helpen (kassieres, bediening). En aan je spullen: zorg goed voor je spullen. Als je goed zorgt voor de wereld, dan geeft de wereld jou ook terug. Geld maakt alleen gelukkig als je het weggeeft aan anderen.
- Ultieme vorm van weggeven is mensen vergeven waarvan je vindt dat ze het niet hebben verdiend.
- Kies vriendelijkheid boven gelijk krijgen.
- Leef het leven als een spel. Leer en geniet.
- Dat iets niet bestaat valt niet te bewijzen, god bijvoorbeeld. Anderzijds betekent dat je het niet kunt bewijzen nog niet dat het ook niet bestaat. Beter is bestaan van god uit te drukken als een waarschijnlijkheid / kans: ‘er bestaat waarschijnlijk geen god...’
- Entropie = mate van wanorde. Universum neigt naar chaos, alles wordt ongeorganiseerder met verstrijken van tijd.
- The gravity of the battle means nothing to those at peace.

6 illusies:
- Gedachten: je bent niet je gedachten
- Zelf: je bent niet je ego, je bent de observator
- Kennis: er bestaat geen absolute en definitieve kennis
- Tijd: verleden en toekomst bronnen van ongeluk; leef in het nu
- Controle: je hebt geen controle
- Angst: zie onder ogen, pel beschermingsconstructies af tot kernangst, wat is het ergste dat kan gebeuren, hoe erg is dat?, hoe waarschijnlijk is het, wat kun je doen om het te voorkomen?, valt het effect te herstellen?, wat gebeurt als ik niets doe?, wat is het beste dat kan gebeuren?

7 blinde vlekken:
- Filters
- Aannames
- Voorspellingen
- Herinneringen
- Oordelen
- Emoties
- Overdrijving

5 waarheden:
- Nu: leven in het nu maakt niemand ongelukkig
- Verandering: onvermijdelijk
- Liefde: onvoorwaardelijke liefde is enige emotie zonder gedachten
- Dood: iedereen sterft, al bij leven (veroudering)
- Ontwerp: de natuur leeft volgens eigen regels; accepteer die als de waarheid, niet tegen verzetten of wensen dat de natuur anders is. Leef in waarheid
Profile Image for Hana Marsalkova.
1 review19 followers
March 22, 2017
This is such a wonderful book: it offers honest, personal, logical and scientific yet simple and easily digestible story of what life REALLY is. Even if you're not a much of a reader or if you're not into this whole 'self help' topic. I think this book is so inspiring and eye-opening for everyone. Personally for me, I love reading about happiness, psychology, I've read several similar books and loads of articles on similar topics in the past but I still found tons and tons of new inspiring thoughts in this book!
We all live such busy lives and it's easy to rush through life and not notice how wonderful and special it is. Even in the times of change, challenge, when we are out of our comfort zone. And maybe especially then. The most unexpected circumstances often bring beautiful surprises later. And there is always something good that comes out of every situation. If you just choose to see it.
Solve for Happy helps with seeing the good in life and knowing how to grow through any life situation, in fact it kind of helps train your happiness muscle so to say! It left me incredibly inspired. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
December 15, 2017
I liked this one way more than I thought I would like it. It was a nice review of the literature and research on happiness, but so much better than all of that was the personal stories. It was really inspiring to hear about Mo's struggle with his son's death and his development of his theories on happiness. I do believe that it is a choice we make and that with training, we can choose to be happy. This book was a nice guide.
Profile Image for Maha El-sada.
1 review13 followers
March 21, 2017
I usually love to read books based on life experience and I would say that this book is the best book I have ever read. It may change your perspective to yourself and lead you to more self-awareness to more happiness.
October 16, 2017
A few months ago I saw a short clip video of 4-5 minutes of Mo while he was being interviewed. I looked for some other videos of him which were also quite interesting.

As expected, this book contains a more detailed explanation of what he shared in his talks, all the background. The book provides a considerable amount of interesting points of view, all of them related to find happiness, as a sequence of logical questions, as an analysis, and at moments, as simple common sense. Several examples are very suitable for our days. Mo writes as a loving father, as a kind teacher trying to share as much as he can in the simplest way possible, not only as an Engineer, but as a human too.

Many parts of the book deserve a quite environment to be read and assimilated, although clear, the inner reflection is an almost immediate effect.

I consider this book full of ideas to find not only happiness, but calm, peace, consciousness and wisdom.

Personally, I consider this a great book, at the same level of The Last Lecture from R. Pausch.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,822 reviews284 followers
July 19, 2017
You'd think it couldn't be done: Can you engineer your way to happy? Mo Gawdat, a chief business officer at Google, decided to do so.

Gawdat uses research and philosophy to come up with a way everyone can be happy. He did so while facing one of the worst possible events in a life, the loss of his beloved son.

He confronts all the happiness crushers in life and wrestles them to the ground. He takes on the six grand illusions of life, our seven blind spots, and five ultimate truths. He examines them carefully, precisely, scientifically, and in the end creates a beautiful case for a path to be happy.

How can you argue against science?
Profile Image for Lourens.
75 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2019
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I'm afraid I did. After reading Kahneman's experiments on well being and happiness in the latter half of Thinking, Fast and Slow, I was on the lookout for an analytical view on happiness. The combination of the title, equation on the cover art, connection with Google and the appealing 'engineer your path to joy' lead me believe this was what I was looking for. Sadly this book is not that. It's a highly subjective, very non-nuanced self-help book. And although I'm not the biggest fan of self help books, I can appreciate them from time to time. This book however, did not live up to these second expectations.

The opening sets the tone for the book, informal instructions for happiness, intertwining the touching personal story. It sets up this very simple "Happiness Equation". The equation itself is backed up minimally, but is used and referenced to constantly throughout the book, often as an argument for other advice.

The first part considers "6 Grand Illusions". I enjoyed this part, the text was not exactly profound, and I was annoyed by the tone and illustrations, but I felt it told a consistent story with a core of truth to it. Take for example the "Illusion of Knowledge", in which Gawdat explains how limited our understanding of the world really is. Humbling for sure. It piqued my interest for the last part, called "5 Ultimate Truths". (The second part, "7 Blind Spots", I am fairly neutral about.)

If Knowledge is an illusion, I was hoping for some distilled, minimalist truths that would leave me with a bare, but sure view of life. The opposite was true. The last part, "5 Ultimate Truths" ultimately spoiled this book for me. First of all, the "Truths" here are everything except "Ultimate", and the lack of acknowledgement is in stark contrast with the illusion of Knowledge.
Gawdat starts with 2 neutral chapters about the "Now" and "Change", uninspired but okay. He then delivers a mess of chapter about "Love" filled with empty, sometimes confusing paragraphs. A special mention to this awful metaphor:

"In physics, the law of conservation of energy never goes away. It never even diminishes. It changes form, but in any closed system the amount of energy you start with will be the amount you end with. Love follows the same law [...] Actually it does one better than energy: it attracts the love of all beings in you. Like a savings account, the more love you deposit, the more it grows and multiplies so that when it's time for you to withdraw, even more will be there for you. Call that the law of conservation-or multiplication-of love." (formatting mine)

Considering Gawdat is quick to mention he is an engineer, I wonder if he was even trying with this book. Or maybe he never understood the concept of conservation of energy.

The last two chapters, both under the umbrella of "Ultimate Truths", try to convince the reader of both the existence of an afterlife and the existence of a designer, a godlike figure. Both are crucial for Gawdat's guide to happiness, so you would expect the "Ultimate" case to defend them. To put it bluntly, there is not. In the latter, the existence of the designer, is defended in what Gawdat calls a mathematical proof, slandering the entire field in one sweeping misunderstanding of a proof. Arguing that the absence of a designer implies that everything that happens is completely random, and since the chances of that happening are so small, it is more likely that there is a designer. Quite an embarrassing chapter. Examples showing a convenient misunderstanding of evolution theory. Generally this chapter was so messy I do not know where to begin tackling it without going on a tangent.

Although I am very tempted to give you some of the countless ridiculous examples in the latter chapter, I will resist that temptation. Overall, I felt like this book did not attain what it set out to do. The structure was fine, but the last part did not effectively close out the book. Highlights were the convincing Illusions in the first part and the personal story. Low points were the claims with lack of or laughable reasoning. There was a lack of defense to serious objections. It is good practice to address serious objections, it is bad practice to find the weakest objection to counter, as done in the last chapter of the book. To conclude, this book does not claim bizarre things. I can find myself in a belief of an afterlife or a designer for example. It is the way they are framed and defended which bothers me. This book could cut a lot of fat, rethink some of its analysis, address more objections and become a 4 star book.
Profile Image for Max Nova.
419 reviews167 followers
June 6, 2017
A condescending and lazy self-help book. While the premature death of his son is undeniably tragic, Gawdat loses my sympathy with his faux insights and patronizing tone. "Going back to one of my childhood interests, the theory of relativity..." *gag* It might have been bearable if he actually delivered the goods, but this book is a haphazard mashup of rudimentary Stoic / Buddhist philosophy and an unhealthy dose of post-traumatic rationalization by a grieving parent. Gawdat narrates the audiobook himself and there are some truly touching emotional moments, but he throws away any rapport he has with the listener by tacking on a psuedo-scientific defense of creationism at the end. Gawdat would have been better off keeping his sorrow to himself than spewing out this sloppy bit of public grieving and rationalization - but apparently none of his friends, editors, or publishers had the courage to tell him that.

Cross-posted at http://books.max-nova.com/solve-for-happy/
Profile Image for Dr. Tobias Christian Fischer.
648 reviews33 followers
October 8, 2020
Alles erreicht und doch nicht glücklich. So startete der Autor und verlor dann noch seinen Sohn. Er machte sich darauf auf die Suche nach dem was für uns allgemein als Glück zählt. Lesenswert!
Profile Image for Malek Dabbous.
47 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2022
Top notch book! Mo Gawdat approaches the topic of happiness from an engineering view point. All the concepts are explained very well and are easy to grasp. He writes this book after 10 yrs of obsessing on the topic and getting his hands on all books related to this topics. You’ll noticed references to The Untethered Soul and The Power of Now. Absolutely loved it
Profile Image for Wyatt.
46 reviews
February 12, 2020
First and foremost, thank you Mo for sharing your story and perspective of the world. It takes a lot to overcome such a tragic event and you’re very strong for being able to get through it and very kind for trying to help other people do the same. I have much respect for you and liked many aspects of your book and after 331 pages, you feel less like an author and more like a friend which is why I direct this review directly to you.

I understand and respect your perspectives on God and the soul but have to strongly disagree with your stances on both subjects. All of the advice you’ve given on overcoming sadness and creating joy was helpful and well formulated but each time you tried to bring divine intervention or spirituality into the mix things went sour. I wish you would have ended the book at chapter 13 because chapter 14 is where I started really disliking the book. If I could rate chapter 14 separately I’d give it a 1/5 stars and the rest of the book 5/5 stars. You said it yourself “ reject every illusion and always seek what is real”. I think the loss of your son caused you to chase the illusion of a Creator. You were an atheist and then turned to God once your son passed away. This is because Ali’s dying wish was to meet the Creator and thus you had an obligation to find truth in there being one so your son could be fulfilled in the afterlife. The problem is that you are a mathematician and not an evolutionary scientist or astrophysicist. It’s good that you can calculate how improbable our existence is but just by doing so it doesn’t entail that it is impossible.

In chapter 14 you make the fine-tuning argument which emphasizes on how “perfect” the world is for us but ignore all of our imperfections along with the evolutionary evidence for why the world is “perfect” not because we were placed here but rather adapted to here. You’ve also assumed that because an iPhone was created, we’ve also been. This is the watchmaker argument which argues that in order for a design to exist there must be a designer. This is true for tools created by humans but doesn’t have to be true for the creation of the universe nor the organisms that evolved in it. A thunderstorm isn’t designed by the clouds, nor an earthquake by the Earth or a planet by a star.

I will still recommend your book and will maybe read it again one day because it is rich in value for its tips and stories but I will caution each reader to be informed enough in the sciences to know what to take from your book and what to leave behind.
Profile Image for Andrey Kurenkov.
90 reviews20 followers
February 27, 2018
Though I have learned to loathe the self-help genre for the useless verbose shallow snake oil that it is, I nevertheless was compelled to explore more analytical-sounding fare in it. Who knows, maybe my distaste for it kept me from finding valuable advice; after all we are all human, and surely one of these books just summarizes widely accepted objective findings related to being happy and healthy.

At first this book got my hopes up - the writer seemed like an analytical sort, his narration of the audio book was compelling and really sounded genuine, and the motivation behind it seemed believable. The first few chapters even seemed to justify those high hopes; framing the whole exercise around the well known if unoriginal "reality - expectations" concept made sense, and the chapter summarizing how to deal with one's unproductive thoughts explained concepts routinely cited in support of the effectiveness of meditation. But... I should have known better than to get my hopes up. The book quick nosedived after that with 3 chapters so abysmal I had to stop after the third one despite there being many hours left in the audio book.

The first the three that was a full hour went on and on about how the supposedly common perception of the self (from the outset a straw man) was an illusion, and arrived at a simplistic definition that was incredibly easy to refute. The second claimed to knowledge itself was an illusion, because get this, we don't know anything absolutely for sure! This one also weirdly went into the story of JK Rowling to showcase how negative events are really good events in disguise because they are necessary for our future success - because that always happens, you see. The third leaned on nearly the same stupid trick of claiming time was an illusion merely because we can perceive it differently and oh man... it is so tiresome and lame and disappointing at that point, and i've read in other reviews he goes on to mangle the meaning of quantum physics just make it stop.

So. Don't read this. Unless you into this sort of thing. I am not. This one's on me for buying a book called "Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy"...
Profile Image for Phuong Anh Ha.
16 reviews7 followers
January 17, 2019
Hạnh phúc mà cũng có công thức để giải sao? Đấy là thứ khiến mình tò mò nhất và quyết định đọc cuốn sách này.

“Hạnh phúc” là một thứ rất mơ hồ mà tất cả mọi người luôn tìm kiếm nhưng ko ai biết chắc chắn làm thế nào để hạnh phúc. Theo tác giả, hạnh phúc cũng giống như toán học, đều có lời giải, chỉ cần chúng ta tìm ra cách. Mọi thứ được ông diễn giải (theo mình là) dựa trên ý kiến cá nhân nhưng rất khoa học. Lần lượt, tác giả giải thích nguồn gốc của việc chúng ta không hạnh phúc và cách để chúng ta cân bằng cán cân hạnh phúc của bản thân.

Thật ra chúng ta có hạnh phúc hay ko phụ thuộc rất nhiều vào suy nghĩ của chính mình, chứ ko hề phụ thuộc vào những sự việc xảy ra hàng ngày. Thông thường khi gặp những chuyện ko may, hay thậm chí là những khó chịu hàng ngày như kẹt xe, va quyệt vào người khác,… chúng ta sẽ có tâm lí “ôi sao tôi đen đủi thế”, dẫn đến việc ko cảm thấy hạnh phúc. Nhưng thử chậm lại một chút thôi và nhìn sự việc từ một góc khác, bạn sẽ thấy cách nhìn nhận vấn đề của mình quan trọng đến thế nào.

Tác giả có nêu ra 1 ví dụ là có một hôm vợ ông lái chiếc xe yêu thích của ông và bị đụng xe, rất may mắn là mọi thiết bị an toàn trên chiếc xe đều hoạt động tốt, dù xe bị hư hỏng nặng nhưng vợ ông ko sao cả. Tuy nhiên, nếu như vợ ông đang đỗ chiếc xe này ở đâu đó mà có 1 chiếc xe khác tông vào thì chắc hẳn là ông sẽ rất tức giận. Dù kết quả là như nhau - vợ ông an toàn còn chiếc xe thì hỏng.

Từ đó, ông hướng dẫn cách để chúng ta chỉ đạo bộ não của mình, cách suy nghĩ khiến chúng ta hạnh phúc hơn, thay vì để suy nghĩ quyết định hành động và cảm xúc của bản thân.

Đây là phần mình thấy hay nhất của quyển sách, đọc xong cảm thấy mình có cách tiếp cận mới với rất nhiều vấn đề và mọi thứ xảy ra mình cũng thấy nhẹ nhàng hơn rất nhiều.

Tuy nhiên, những phần sau của quyển sách thì mình đọc không vào lắm, maybe do chưa relate được bản thân đến những phần phía sau.

Recommend or not: recommend 30% đầu của quyển sách

October 27, 2022
This is perhaps my personal #1 choice of all the books I’ve got acquainted with and that I’m definitely going to re-read at least once again. The tragical life story behind touched the deepest parts of my soul.

Of all the words that I know, even in my native tongue, I cannot describe how it has influenced me, how thoroughly it gives answers to the most important questions life poses to us. It simply touches, motivates, heals...

I encourage you to give it a try - it’s a must read if you ever have thought about ...: (below, quotes from the book)
“The egoless child is still calmly sitting inside each of us. Buried in layers over layers of lies, egos, and personas. Happy nonetheless. Waiting to be found.”
“What keeps us alive and propels us forward are our actions, not our fears. Fear, if anything, paralyzes us. It blurs our judgment and blocks us from making the best possible decisions. Fear of failure doesn’t drive our best performance. All it does is add anxiety. What truly drives us to success is our hard work. And you don’t need to be afraid to work hard.”
“There is nothing more to lose; there is nothing more to fear. Eckhart Tolle says this is “to die before you die,” to live life knowing that because one day it’ll all be gone, there’s really nothing that you have, and so nothing you have to lose.”
“Life is bound to deal you a few bad hands now and then. You don’t need to make a big deal out of every unexpected turn of events. Your path may be rerouted, but nothing is lost unless you decide to quit. Through it all, arm yourself with the right attitude.”
“When you see the truth of your unfolding life and compare it to realistic expectations of how life actually unfolds, you will remove the reasons to be unhappy and realize, more often than not, that everything’s fine, and so you will feel happy.”
And much more. Ready to solve for your happiness?
Profile Image for Summer.
733 reviews10 followers
May 5, 2017
This is exactly the kind of stuff I love. Gawdat simply and systematically describes some things that make us happy, some things that make us unhappy and how to tip the needle in the direction of happiness.

Gawdat brings a personal story to the story that puts things in stark relief - he lost his adult son to a random medical mistake. His description of his son's life and his struggle with the tragedy of his loss leads immediacy to these lessons.

I really liked his use of videogames as metaphor. I don't think I've heard this used as extensively in other spiritual guidance books. It was masterfully done.

I also really loved his almost innocent use of words. He says things like "naughty" instead of bad. He adorably states that if he has to die he wishes it would be death by candy. I loved the way he admits how mind-boggling quantum theory is, how it will make your head hurt if you try to think about it too much. He just overall gives the impression of a truly open-hearted and intellectually curious person.

His penultimate chapter annoyed me as he tried to argue that God exists because the universe shows "order". He also insists on conflating evolution with "randomness" which is tiresome. And then he says there is no evidence of "macro evolution". Damn, boy, come on. If you want to believe in God because life is complicated and amazing, that's fine, you don't have to lie to support that.

You can easily just skip that chapter and enjoy the book just fine if that sort of thing annoys you the way it annoys me, because overall the book was WELL WORTH the read. It's the kind of thing I can see myself picking up again in the future if I find myself needing guidance.
Profile Image for Diane  Holcomb.
129 reviews28 followers
March 25, 2017
Be happy. Have you heard that before? Good advice, but...how? Is there some secret formula for happiness? Mo Gawdat, the Chief Business Officer at Google X, put his engineer-mind to work on that question when he found himself chronically unhappy, despite having wealth, health, a loving family and fulfilling career—all the things we equate with the state of being joyful. After much research and mathematical analysis, he concluded that yes, there is a formula, which he tried on himself and hundreds of his friends to great success. Even after his beloved son died tragically, Mo was able to experience moments of happiness throughout the intense grieving process by applying this equation. His goal now? To help ten million people achieve a happy state.

In Solve for Happy, you'll learn the author's formula for rising above the chatter of your distorted thinking, fixing the blind spots that filter your judgment of reality, and hanging onto the ultimate truths that lead to joy. You'll see how, by changing your relationship to time, self, knowledge, control, and fear, you find peace. You'll see how, by challenging your assumptions, predictions, memories, and emotions, you find joy. And you'll learn how accepting what is: the present moment, change, love, death, and the grand design of life, makes happiness last. In writing this life-changing and accessible book, Mo Gawdat invites us all to jump on the happiness train. This is one of the best books on the subject I've read. And I dare any reader to finish it with a dry eye.
Profile Image for Jesus Garlea.
2 reviews
March 21, 2019
If you have a feeling of longing in your life, just read this book.


I bought this book a week after my dear friend committed suicide:

I always have felt that something was missing in my life, always longing for something that I didn't knew what it was, thinking that the future will be always brighter than today.

This feeling of longing got me married, got me graduate as a software engineer, got a really good job in the valley, funded my company along the way with my dad, but still after all this "achievements" I was still longing for something that I still can't put in words.

I noticed my friend had similar thoughts and even tho I tried to cheer him up I didn't knew how, after he committed suicide I realized that if I didn't actively search for happiness it will never happen for me.

After reading the book slowly and actively thinking about it felt something in my life just clicked, I'm even starting to live frugally because of the realization that material stuff will never buy my way into happiness. I'm finally starting to find myself enjoying simple things again, getting caught in the moment and stopping to smell the flowers along the way.
Profile Image for Bella.
136 reviews10 followers
June 4, 2017
No doubt, much of the information presented in Gawdat's book has been said before and is common sense. With that said, "common sense" is easier said than done. I needed to hear (read) sound advice again, and he presents it in such a way that isn't didactic. I didn't feel lectured or like someone talking to me who mysteriously transcended all of life's pains. (Sorry, Tolle fans. His intentions seem good hearted but his approach was painful and complicated for me to chew.) Gawdat keeps it real and he couches reality with science, and more importantly, with his experience via the passing of his son. Indeed, Solve for Happy is a love story underneath it all. Here's a man who loves his son so much and honors his son by growing his son's legacy of authenticity, love, and life. The last third of the book is where the treasure lies, for me, and at the end of it all, I found myself heartened and sturdy. I felt (feel) grounded. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Ray Edwards.
39 reviews6 followers
May 2, 2022
Complex Ideas Presented In Easy-To-Undertand Words

Mo is an uncommonly good writer. He’s a craftsman, and I meand this as the highest form of compliment.

He tells a story of the heartbreak of a father who stands by helpless as his son dies. A story of the hopelessness and depression that comes from such a tragedy.

And then, astonishingly, he tells the story of finidng his way abck to happiness. Not DESPITE his son’s death, but THROUGH that unimaginably painful experience.

Then, generously, he shares a method whereby we can ALL become happier. And a modest propoisal to raise the happiness quotient of the world.
56 reviews15 followers
November 6, 2021
Well-structured and contains practical advice about overcoming biases, shattering illusions, and living a happier life. Also, it's a touching personal story. I recommend it.

I bought it at the bookstall at the tech conference where the author was presenting (about his new book on AI) and was pleasantly surprised to see his "Be Happy! Mo :)" autograph inside!

Thanks, Mo.
May 29, 2021
Oppervlakkig, herkauwd en willekeurige samenstelling van verschillende grote wereldreligies en filosofieën. Niet praktisch, belerend en vol Amerikaans optimisme-denken.
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