Have you ever wondered what will happen if we change dramatically the way in which we communicate our ideas? If policy analysts stop writing long, boring reports full of numbers and start making movies starring George Clooney? If researchers stop writing incomprehensible articles and put their ideas in novels? If your friend stops talking for a day and lets you know what they think using simple sketches?
I suspect that creativity will flow and the world will become a much more interesting place. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord, the book I decided to tell you about today, is an example of this. Francois Lelord had a successful career as a psychiatrist both in France and the US; now he writes self-help books and novels.
Hector, the main character in Hector and the Search for Happiness, is a successful psychiatrist who is good at what he does. He spends his time listening to peoples’ problems and helping them solve them. Gradually, Hector realises that most people go to him because they are deeply dissatisfied with their lives; they are profoundly unhappy and there is little that he, or for that matter any psychiatrist, can do about that.
Hector, as a result of this realisation, starts enjoying his job less and less; the feeling of impotence makes him depressed. When the tables turn and his patients start telling him that he needs a holiday, he decides to go around the world and find out what makes people happy; or even whether there is such thing as the secret of happiness at all.
Hector’s search for happiness and the lessons he learns from his experiences on his journey is what the book is about. But even before Hector has started his journey he makes a very important discovery. After asking his girlfriend whether she is happy he realises that:
“…you must be careful when you ask people whether they’re happy; it’s a question that can upset them a great deal.”
By the time he has completed his journey Hector has come up with a manual for happiness consisting of 23 lessons. Do you want to know what these lessons are? I would really recommend reading the book – it will not only make you reflect about happiness and our many diversions on the pursuit of it but will also make you laugh, and share the journey.
This blog is about money after all, so I’ll tell you what Hector discovered about money and happiness. His first stop on his journey is China where Hector has a friend: Edouard is a banker and has ‘loads of silk ties with pictures of little animals on them’, plays golf every day and reads newspapers full of numbers. They meet for dinner in a very expensive restaurant and drink some very expensive wine – they are French after all.
Because they had been to secondary school together, Hector feels that he can safely ask Edouard whether he is happy. Edouard replies that when you work so hard as he does you don’t even have time to think about whether you are happy; this is why he is going to resign. Not immediately but when he has six million – because this is what his colleagues do; once they have six million they either stop doing anything or they do something completely different.
‘Are they happy then?’ – asks Hector.
Edouard explained that having worked so hard for so long many people are not in a very good shape – they have health issues, they are divorced, some have got into the habit of taking pills to help them work so hard and find it hard to get off these. They also worry all the time – they worry about their money. Some people cope very well – the people who keep going. From this, Hector learns two lessons:
“Many people see happiness only in their future.” and
“Many people think that happiness comes from having more power or more money.”
What lessons did I learn? Well I remembered two sayings:
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift: this is why we called it the present.” and
“If you are not enough without a gold medal you won’t be enough with it.”
Getting back to Hector, I think that the main lesson he learned about happiness is that
“Happiness means making sure that those around you are happy.”
I try to remember this always! How about you?