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A Brief But Spectacular take on the algebra of happiness

Digital communication and social media have revolutionized our culture, but for some people, they worsen feelings of isolation and depression. Scott Galloway, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, specializes in human wellbeing and has learned how to keep perspective amid his own emotional battles. Galloway shares his Brief But Spectacular take on the algebra of happiness.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The holidays are a time to come together for many, but, for many, also, the season can also heighten a sense of isolation and depression.

    In tonight's Brief But Spectacular, New York University Business School Professor Scott Galloway, focuses on our state of well-being.

  • Scott Galloway:

    So, there's an art to happiness.

    Basically, from kind of zero to 25 it's the stuff of "Star Wars," discovery, spilling into adulthood, football games, magic.

    Then (EXPLETIVE DELETED) gets real from kind of 25 to 45. Work is hard, economic stress. You realize you're not going to be senator or have a fragrance named after you. And most devastating, someone you love gets sick and dies.

    However, a wonderful thing happens in your 40s and 50s. You begin to take stock of your blessings, you realize that life is finite, and start finding appreciation in relationships, in nature, in your achievements, and you get happier.

    The lesson here is keep on keeping on, happiness waits for you.

    So, we have two types of speakers at NYU, either people who are incredibly interesting and inspiring or billionaires. We have decided at business school that, if you're a billionaire, that means you know a lot about life.

    And they typically end their talks with one statement. And that is, follow your passion.

    And I have found that the majority of people who tell you to follow your passion are already rich. The problem with thinking you're supposed to pursue your passion is that, when work gets hard — and it always does — you might fall into the trap of thinking, well, this is hard, which means it must not be my passion and I should find something else.

    Work is hard. Being great at anything is very difficult. If we were going to be honest about trying to increase our currency in the marketplace, we would focus the entire second year of graduate school on four companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

    Google knows more about you than any priest, rabbi, scholar, mentor, or boss, your sexual fetishes, whether you're looking for a job, whether you're about to get engaged, whether you're about to get married.

    Facebook initially held out the promise of catalyzing and strengthening relationships. Unfortunately, it's gone beyond that and tapped into our tribal instinct, because enragement is engagement. And engagement leads to more Nissan ads and more shareholder value.

    So, unfortunately, the largest platforms in the world with the greatest reach are basically fueled on rage.

    When we see, if you will, the Instagram version of people's lives, it makes us feel worse about ourselves. It's especially dangerous among teens, who oftentimes, if they're not invited to a party, not only have the shame of not being invited, but have to see the party play out in real time.

    So there's a correlation between social media use in teens and things like self-harm and even teen suicide.

    I can modulate my lack of affirmation or criticism on social media. I'm not sure my 12-year-old son can do that as well.

    I wish I'd invested more in relationships when I was a younger person. Put 10 dollars away now, if you're 20. By the time you're 50, it's $1,000. The same is true of relationships. Phone calls, text messages, notes, reaching out to people when they're struggling, these small investments when you're young add up, and you wake up and you have a wonderful relationship.

    I was selfish, and I think I paid a big price for it when I woke up at the age of 42 and, quite frankly, was an island and didn't have a lot of meaningful relationships in my life.

    One of the things that's helped me in my struggles with anger and depression is to have some perspective and to take stock of your blessings on a regular basis. You have to express your love. People are not telepathic. The happiest people are not only the ones who feel most loved, but know there are other people in their lives that know that they are loved by you.

    The one best practice across happiness is the depth and meaning of your relationships. At work, do you feel respected and admired, and do you admire and respect other people? And, most importantly, at home, do you feel an intense level of love and support?

    And, again, just as importantly, do you know they know that they are loved intensely and supported by you?

    My name is Scott Galloway, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on the algebra of happiness.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we thank you, Scott Galloway.

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