Monthly Archives: April 2005

On Happiness

You ever think about happiness? I guess this is a subject that dominates many people’s thinking but it generally did not enter my mind much in the past. But I started thinking about happiness more because of an extraordinary woman I met in South Africa a few months ago.

I was walking through the outskirts of Soweto … through a shanty-town … when I met a nice woman. Even though she had a few teeth missing, she had a big smile and was very welcoming. She invited us into her home … this was a tiny one-room 100 sq foot tin home with a tin roof … and the first thing I noticed was that it was … immaculate. Absolutely immaculate …

And she was proud of her home.

And she showed me the two beds in her home. Beds were small … tiny … she shared one bed with her daughter and her two sons (both teenagers) shared the other. But she was bragging to me about her home.

Her block (with about 45 other tin homes) just went from just one porta potty to three porta potties. And their block just got a tap for water (they used to have to walk three blocks for water but now their entire block can share one tap). Progress … and she was happy.

And she was happy with what she had … it was not that she was living in ignorance. From her home you could see the highway where all these Mercedes Benzes were cruising … and just 10 miles away in Johannesburg are some of the richest homes in world … and just 2 miles away (a nice walk) are the really nice areas of Soweto with Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu have homes …

But she was still very happy.

So … I thought to myself … I can never complain. We are the Blessed Class.

But more than that … I decided right there and then that I would only associate with other people that are happy. So I have a new rule:

If you are unhappy you better have a good excuse for being unhappy.

That’s right. If your mom dies … you should be unhappy for a time. If you got dumped from a long relationship … shed some tears. You got fired from your dream job? Yes, you too can be unhappy for a limited time.

But …

But … if the waiter serves you a side of French fries instead of the mashed potatoes you ordered … you can’t get unhappy. If a friend shows up late to dinner … you’re still happy. The cable company double-bills you for your pay-per-view movie … yup, still happy. If you’re a little hungry, a little cold, your shoes gave you a blister, your favorite TV show got cancelled, the Yankees lose a game, someone spills red wine on your new shirt … you’re happy …

As I wrote last year, for us, the blessed class, it is essentially immoral for us to be unhappy

Book: A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a book that’s talked about a lot. i liked it, but not to the same degree that others did.

the book is filled with great stories and anecdotes of cantankerous scientists and brilliant amateurs. it goes through the history of debates about how old the earth is and the formation of DNA. and i learned some really interesting tidbits (like that the Nobel Prize can only be awarded to someone that is currently living — just another incentive to lead a healthy life since many Nobels are awards 20 years after a discovery).

but overall, it was a good listen (downloaded it from Audible) but not worth a read.

Book: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink_lgso … i finally read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.

This book got panned in the press … but i loved it. Was it as good as The Tipping Point (Gladwell’s first book)? No. Of course not. But given that few books in history were as interesting as Tipping Point, the comparison is not very fair.

Gladwell continues to be one of the best story tellers. If you haven’t done so already, please check out http://www.gladwell.com/ and read some of his archived New Yorker articles. Gladwell’s stories and observations weave bits of wisdom with wonderful prose.

Dsc_0523_1The book was sent to me by Gwen Campbell at UBS. She’s Gladwell’s banker and sent the book as a “thank you” after I hosted Malcolm at the Stonebrick Silicon Forum in November.

Gladwell is not only a wonderful writer, he’s also a terrific speaker.

Overall Summation: read this book.

Evite people and evite etiquette

There are two types of people in this world:

1. People who respond quickly to evites — replying with a “yes/no/maybe” immediately
2. People who keep checking the evite daily … weighing their options … mulling it over … and finally deciding to never respond

Ever send out an evite? As the sender, you can see when someone looks at the evite. Sometimes I’ll see that someone looked at an evite multiple times but still not respond. What gives?

There is such a thing as evite etiquette. If someone is kind enough to send you an invite to their birthday party, a gallery opening they are having, etc. you should be kind enough to respond right away with a “yes”, a “no”, or at least a “maybe”. If you are truly not sure or have trouble making decisions then reply with a “maybe”. That’s much better than the I-looked-at-the-evite-but-will-pretend-that-i-never-saw-it routine ….

Brondell in the SJ MErcury News

Brondell — the bidet toilet seat that is taking America by storm, got a great write-up in the Mercury News this week:

“We want to be No. 1 in the No. 2 business.”

There is a rumor that the Brondell Swash recently got picked up by Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond. This is an extraordinary amount of success for a company that just started selling units a few months ago.

i have a particular interest in Brondell as they were the first Silicon Valley 100 product we sent out. Their incredible recent success has really helped the influence marketing industry.