Albert Einstein’s theory of happiness

Among all the text that appears on my phone or computer screens each day, occasionally there’s a story that lingers in my mind hours later. Today it was the announcement that two short notes written by Albert Einstein written in November 1922 sold this week for $1.8 million.

According to the story, Einstein was in Tokyo right after learning that he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. While at a hotel, a messenger arrived with a delivery and either the messenger refused to accept a tip or Einstein had no small change so Einstein wrote him two short notes and told him that someday the notes might be worth more than some small change.

The messages, written in German on the hotel’s stationery, say “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness” and “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

A few things struck me as remarkable about this story.

  • Two casual quickly written notes on hotel stationery nearly 95 years ago by an incredible historical figure who died 62 years ago just sold for $1.8 million. Just one casual encounter that Einstein probably never thought about again just made somebody in 2017 a great deal of money (the identity of the buyer and seller wasn’t disclosed).
  • Both of the messages are so insightful and so true, even 95 years later.
  • With so much being digital these days, will there be written content that sells for that much money 95 years from now?  Will it be correspondence discovered somewhere in the cloud that makes headlines in the year 2112?

But it was Einstein’s theory of happiness that struck me the most.

It feels like I am constantly being bombarded online – emails, Facebook sponsored posts, tweets, etc. – by people willing to share their secrets of their freelancing financial success. Email lists, affiliate marketing, query letters, webinars, blogging, vlogging, etc. Some are really helpful and I’ve learned so much in the past few months. There are so many platforms out there and so much content that it’s also a bit overwhelming. How do all these people have so much to say?!

If everyone spends so much energy and time on pursuing success, when is there time to enjoy that success? Would I like to make more money from my writing? Of course! But I also want to have the time to enjoy my new schedule  – to read an extra chapter to my son rather than wishing he would fall asleep already so I could go get some work done. And always feeling like there’s something else I should be doing – that constant restlessness.

Every generation has its own unique experiences – my generation remembers life without computers, cell phones, tablets, spell-check, GPS – even answering machines or television recording devices – yet have become so accustomed to today’s technology that it’s difficult to remember how people ever learned anything without Google (newspapers, encyclopedias, the library – remember using the Dewey Decimal system to find a book?) or how they ever got anywhere without GPS (maps, Thomas Guides).

Motherhood involves as much work as it did in previous generations (although a different kind of work – hooray for refrigerators and electric dishwashers and washing machines). It’s already a full-time job to raise children but then you add the pursuit of success – the blog posts and emails about how to pursue that success and the articles about those who achieve success – and it can be a little overwhelming.

So I embrace Einstein’s theory of happiness – a calm and modest life.

I’m not saying that I’ll successfully accomplish that, but in theory, I really like the idea of it.