Monthly Archives: July 2011

Happiness, what is it good for?

In one of the NPR podcasts, I heard an African musician Seun Kuti (son of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti) saying that happiness is a western concept and rejects it. It really gets you wondering.

To an extent I agree with him, at least as far as your professional life is concerned. The previous generations did not know anything about  do what you love. Farmers just farmed, cooks just cooked, etc. Hell, we had an entire complex society based on your profession and to a certain point of time it was considered a rather forward and evolved practice.

So, why do we need to love what we do? My feeling is it has to do with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and secondly, I think we have a lot more time that our predecessors to think of happiness and suchlike.

I explored a lot of this when I was in between jobs. When I quit I was told that this is was the best time to start something in the area that would make me happy/ that I loved. The problem was a) I loved a lot of things b) I was not necessarily good at these things c) I don’t want to work in those fields for various reasons (e.g., music, cricket). A lot of introspection and googling (a solution to most problems nowadays) led me to this very good article by Penolope Trunk.

One of the worst pieces of career advice that I bet each of you has not only gotten but given is to “do what you love…

We are each multifaceted, multilayered, complicated people, and if you are reading this blog, you probably devote a large part of your life to learning about yourself and you know it’s a process. None us loves just one thing.


So is “happiness” a western concept? I don’t think so. The Gita talks about happiness through Bhakti, which I completely agree with, just that the Gita and me differ on our views about god.

All this trashing happiness is lovely in hindsight. I remember struggling with these questions when I was going through tougher times? What should I do? What would make me happy?

Did I answer these questions? No.

I have just come to realise that the statement “doing what you love” makes me look very one dimensional and that only what I do as a profession and “career” will bring me happiness. At the same time, I also realise that happiness, like love, success, etc are never ending quests. I think you need true bhakti – dedication and devotion over a long period of time to really understand and love what you do (a 10,000 hours kind of scenario).



Filed under self