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89db8a0d — Derek Sivers formatting 4 months ago
                                                                                
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<header>
<div class="blogparent">from the book “<a href="/n">Hell Yeah or No</a>”:</div>
<h1>Happy, Smart, and Useful</h1>
<small>2016-03-03</small>
  <audio src="https://m.sive.rs/sive.rs.hsu.mp3" preload="none" controls="controls"></audio>
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<p>
	There are three things to consider when making life-size decisions:
</p><ul><li>
	What makes you happy
</li><li>
	What’s smart — meaning long-term good for you
</li><li>
	What’s useful to others
</li></ul><p>
	We have a tendency to forget one of these.
	For example:
</p><h3>
	Smart and useful (but not happy)
</h3><p>
	This is the stereotype of the strict parent who says, “You will go to the best school, get perfect grades, get a degree in law or medicine, and make lots of money. What you want does not matter. This is what’s best for you and your family.”
</p><p>
	Smart and useful isn’t bad.
	It’s rational, like a machine.
<strong>
	But happiness is the oil.
</strong>
	Without it, the friction kills the engine.
</p><h3>
	Happy and smart (but not useful)
</h3><p>
	This is the stereotype of the “lifestyle design” or self-help addict: always learning, always improving, and obsessively focused on how to be happy and create the perfect life.
</p><p>
	They look for “passive income” instead of focusing on doing something that’s <a href="/starv">really valuable to others</a>.
</p><p>
	Happy and smart isn’t bad.
	The self-focus feels great at first.
	But you can’t actually <a href="https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pull_oneself_up_by_one%27s_bootstraps">pull yourself up by your bootstraps</a>.
<strong>
	Ultimately you must be lifted by those around you.
</strong>
</p><h3>
	Happy and useful (but not smart)
</h3><p>
	This is the stereotype of charity volunteers.
	After getting expensive university degrees, they spend years flying to exotic impoverished places to dig wells and thatch roofs.
</p><p>
	But if a graduate’s time could be worth $200 per hour, yet they’re doing work that locals could do better for $10 per hour (and without airfare and hotels), then they’re actually doing a disservice to others.
	(For more thoughts on this, find two articles online: “<a href="https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/pC47ZTsPNAkjavkXs">Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others</a>” and “<a href="https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-reductive-seduction-of-other-people-s-problems-3c07b307732d">The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems</a>.”)
</p><p>
	In this same category are people who stay at the same jobs for life without improvement, and the musicians who always perform at the local venues but never make good recordings.
</p><p>
	Happy and useful isn’t bad.
	These people are doing good for the world, so it’s hard to find fault.
<strong>
	They have great intentions but lame strategies — wasted effort and unused potential.
</strong>
</p><h3>
	Just happy (not smart or useful)
</h3><p>
	This is the <a href="https://duckduckgo.com/?q=mexican+fisherman+american+business">parable of the Mexican fisherman</a>.
</p><p>
	Some say, “Just be happy. That’s all that matters.”
	It sounds so simple, it must be profoundly true, right?
</p><p>
	But, as in Aesop’s fable of “<a href="https://duckduckgo.com/?q=ant+grasshopper+fable">The Ant and the Grasshopper</a>,” you’ll be full of regret if you think of nothing but today and don’t prepare for tough times.
</p><p>
	And you’ll be very unrewarded if you serve only yourself, not others.
</p><h3>
	So…?
</h3><p>
	When life or a plan feels ultimately unsatisfying, I find it’s because I’ve forgotten to find the intersection of all three:
</p><ul><li>
	What makes me happy
</li><li>
	What’s smart
</li><li>
	What’s useful to others
</li></ul>
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