The Book in Three Sentences
In this book summary of Happy Sexy Millionaire, you’ll learn about a path to a fulfilled and happy life. Back when he was eighteen years old, Steven Bartlett wrote in his diary that he wanted to be a “Happy Sexy Millionaire”. By twenty-five, Bartlett was the owner of a business that was worth hundreds of millions, and having achieved everything he set out to get, he learned that he was wrong about happiness, love, and success.
Happy Sexy Millionaire Summary
Back when he was eighteen years old, Steven Bartlett dropped out of university and shoplifted food. Bartlett is now twenty-eight, the social media company he founded is valued at a quarter of a billion pounds, and he travels around the world in first class. How could a black kid from Africa with bad grades and no money manage to achieve this in ten years?
When Steven turned eighteen, he received a diary as a gift. In it, he wrote that he wanted to become a “Happy Sexy Millionaire” by the age of twenty-five. He thought that those things were going to make him happy, but he was wrong. Traditional media, social media, and societal conventions brainwash us into believing that there’s a set path we have to follow in life. Despite having more information than any other generation before us, we’re further from the truth than anyone before.
Chapter One: Don’t Antagonise the Spanker
Steven belonged to a poor family who lived in the south of England. He was one of the few black children in a predominantly white school. His house was falling apart, the inside was full of junk, and his parents didn’t have any money. Steven grew up with the idea of becoming rich. When he turned eighteen, he traveled three thousand miles to become a “happy sexy millionaire”.
In seven years, he was CEO and founder of a company that was worth two hundred million. Also, he had millions of followers on social media, lived in New York, traveled around the world, and had access to the best food and hotels in the world. Despite achieving his goal of becoming a “happy sexy millionaire”, he remained the same inside: he didn’t feel happy. Steven felt cheated and confused, the two feelings that dominated his life when he was poor and hungry. Once he attained his goals, Steven discovered some life-changing revelations. First, happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy regardless of your external achievements or lack thereof. Happiness isn’t something you chase, you can be happy right here and now.
Chapter Two: Happiness Is Now or Never
Life has two games: finite games and infinite games. Finite games are something you play to end the game. Examples include football, poker, and Fortnite. These types of games are relatively short and they have clear winners and losers. Infinite games, on the other hand, were created to provide an ongoing experience and you play them for the sole purpose of continuing the game as long as possible. Infinite games don’t have winners or losers and the best example is our life.
When you play life as a finite game, you do it with goals in mind and once you achieve those goals, you feel nothing. Life isn’t something you “win”, you’re part of the game until the day you die, and regardless of your achievements, you’ll never cross a finish line. All that matters in life is the present moment because if you postpone happiness, that means that, by definition, it’ll never be here. Constantly living in the future or in the past makes us miserable. All the milestones you make up for yourself are preventing you from being fulfilled and happy.
The second revelation Steven had was that we don’t need external rewards. Ultimately, money cars, houses, followers, and recognition are meaningless. The thought that you are enough is liberating. Once you accept you’re already enough, you might even look for greater things. Not because you lack the thing in question (this comes from a sense of insecurity), but because you deserve it (this comes from a sense of confidence). To find what you’re looking for, you have to stop looking for it. In other words, unhappiness stems from the idea you’re missing something in the first place.
Chapter Three: Contrast: Great for Survival, Shit for Happiness
The perceived value of something changes as soon as something better is introduced. We believe we make rational decisions, but our mind behaves irrationally all the time because we let instinct become the CEO of our mind. Instinct is lazy and full of social biases. Our instinct is so lazy, in fact, that when we don’t have enough information about something, we tend to make decisions based on relativity. Or putting it more simply, we tend to make decisions by comparing and contrasting one thing with another one. We determine the value of things by their circumstances rather than in logical terms. For example, we believe that gold is valuable because it’s desirable within society, but we’re the only species on the planet who holds that belief.
Similarly, if you were the only person on the planet, you’d be enough because you’d have no one to compare yourself with. But since you have millions of people to compare yourself with, you can feel unsatisfied and, in some extreme cases, worthless and inferior.
Chapter Four: Stop Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Unfortunately, you can’t beat your lazy CEO. Comparing ourselves to other people is part of what makes us human. Yet we choose to follow people on social media who seem perfect. This is an act of self-harm, but we have a choice on the matter. Everyone is different in their own way, so comparing yourself to others is illogical and unfair. Stop following fake, negative, and uninspiring people on social media and in real life.
Chapter Five: Fire Your Mind
Having more money than you could ever spend feels empty and meaningless. To increase your health and happiness, express gratitude regularly. Otherwise, your mind will still live in a constant state of comparison and it’ll always find someone who has more. As you get more achievements, you’ll move the goalposts which means you never arrive at a destination and you can’t be happy. Don’t go through life thinking that happiness lies in the future because you’re essentially forbidding yourself from being happy right now.
Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs, a framework that’s part of motivational theory in psychology and describes human needs.
What motivates our behavior is our need to survive when you’re able to do that, you get a disproportionate feeling of reward. Once you fulfill a level of the pyramid, the next one will motivate us. But as you keep climbing, the feeling of reward keeps diminishing.
So can money buy happiness? Yes and no. It can as long as it lets you cover the most essential needs. But once you have food, shelter, and some niceties, having more money does nothing for you. Once you have enough, the only path toward fulfillment involves showing gratitude.
Chapter Six: A Happy Juggler
We were told the fairy tale of a complete life. These are all the social beliefs that tell us what we’re supposed to do at some point: getting married, having a mortgage, having kids, and having a traditional job. The result of following this default path is supposed to lead us to happiness, but as we now know, life is a finite game. We believe that we live in a constant state of chaos and dissatisfaction, but that’s not true. Achieving goals is what leads to chaos because once you do, you no longer have a compass guiding your actions. Pursuing them, on the other hand, gives us calmness and stability.
The Stoics, a group of philosophers from ancient Greece were the first to identify a phenomenon we know call the “hedonic treadmill”. This is the idea that whenever we achieve something or get something new, we soon adjust to having it. To overcome the hedonic treadmill, the stoics practiced “negative visualization”, a technique that involves thinking about losing all the things or people you take for granted. By doing so, you suddenly realize how lucky you are. The second technique they used was “voluntary discomfort” which involves abstaining from certain things so that you can truly appreciate the value they give you.
For the stoics, the path to happiness wasn’t to constantly look for more but to cultivate the capacity to enjoy life with less. There’s a limit to how many things you can juggle in life, so determine which balls are worth keeping and which ones you have to let go of.
Chapter Seven: We’re All Being Fucked by Binary Boxes
Most of the questions modern society asks are toxic. What’s your passion? What’s your purpose in life? Have you found your soulmate? The problem with these questions is that they lead to anxiety, stress, and overthinking. While well intended, these questions make us feel lost. Life is chaotic and everyone is different which means that some questions are incredibly hard to answer. Binary questions assume we can answer some of the most complex questions in life with either a yes or a no, but the human experience is too intricate to do that.
Chapter Eight: Mum, Stop Asking Me About Love
Don’t conform to a script just because society tells you to. One of the most complex topics in the modern world is love. Marriage can lead to happiness, but not everyone should get married. Love can’t be defined by legal status. Love is a unique experience that changes from person to person. Reject society’s expectations and create your own rules.
Chapter Nine: Creating Your Passion
Finding your passion or your dream job won’t solve all of your problems. Also, you’re supposed to know what you want to do in life and once you do, everything will align and things will just happen. But life doesn’t work that way. The truth is we’re bad at predicting what will make us happy, so we can’t trust ourselves on the topic.
To achieve most things in life, you need hard work, failure, luck, timing, nature, nurture, and persistence. But this isn’t what most people want to hear. Instead, they want a list of shortcuts or secrets they can easily implement to obtain similar results.
The ingredients of a dream job are the following:
- Engaging work: this is the kind of work that draws you in and delights you. There are four parts to engaging work. First, you decide how to perform. Second, it has clear tasks. Third, there’s a variety of tasks. Four, you get feedback.
- Work that helps others: changing the world seems like a noble goal, but most people who pursue it want admiration. Becoming the same as your idols isn’t the solution either because that means giving up on your identity. To have a meaningful career you should perform acts of kindness and you don’t have to “change the world” to do it. Humans are social animals and we have to help each other out to prosper and survive. Helping each other out is part of our nature.
- Don’t just do what you love, do what you’re good at: “career capital” refers to all the things that will positively impact your future career. The things that make the biggest difference and will help you leverage your career capital are knowledge, network, skills, reputation, and resources. Having a mere interest in a topic won’t change a thing, but being remarkably good at it (having skills) can help you pursue the discipline in question so that it becomes your career.
- Don’t work with assholes: ideally, you should surround yourself with people who are supportive
- Work-life harmony: finding harmony between work and life is important. Doing this is about making sure that you pursue your personal ambitions (work) while you fulfill your basic needs, your psychological needs, and your need for love and connection (life).
Chapter Ten: The Journey Back to Human
The kinds of lives we’re living are the antithesis of what we are. We’re surrounded by concrete and chaos, we spend most of our day interacting with handheld devices, we can avoid human interaction entirely if we want to, and we can live without moving at all. Yet humans are supposed to be in contact with nature, we are supposed to be hunting in tribes, and want to be part of a community. We take care of our basic needs (food and water), but not our psychological ones (community, connection, movement, and nature) and we’ve replaced them with technology. This results in loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Ironically, the most “connected” generation in history also happens to be the loneliest.
The “journey back to human”, as the author calls it, involves socializing more, talking openly about our emotions, exercising often, spending time in nature, falling in love, and spending time with the people we care about.
Chapter Eleven: I Just Quit My Job
Bartlett was twenty-seven years old when he quit Social Chain, the company he founded and generated two-hundred million in revenue each year. At the time, everyone told the author he was making a big mistake, but quitting is a courageous and important skill.
When things suck and there’s nothing you can do to change them, that’s a sign you should quit. If things are hard, on the other hand, that’s a challenge that will have its own rewards further down the line and you shouldn’t quit.
Quitting leads to uncertainty and short-term discomfort, but you’ll keep your self-esteem and be happy. Continuing to do something you dislike is choosing long-term misery. In life, you must handle uncertainty before handling growth. To be fulfilled, loved, and successful, you must embrace uncertainty.
To make a hard decision, you should be comfortable with the idea that there’s no perfect option. What you should do instead is make a decision having consumed as much information on the topic as possible. Trying to make perfect decisions often leads to overthinking and procrastination. As the author says: “Perfect decisions only exist in hindsight”.
Chapter Twelve: Keeping Your Plane in the Air
When someone hurts you, there are two trains of thought running through your head: your reason and your ego. While the former looks at facts and wants to learn from an experience, the latter is illogical and often makes up a narrative where you’re always the victim. We often find ourselves in a situation where external events affect us to the point that we lose control and harm others and ourselves in the process. When this happens, we need self-awareness and rationality. Or we might end up doing something we might regret. Don’t let emotions take over or you’ll lose control of the situation.
Chapter Thirteen: Flying Your Plan Through a Tornado
Chaos is inevitable, so you must learn to be calm when a situation demands it. Unexpected problems are likely to happen eventually and when they do, you should rely on logic, reason, and rational thinking to move forward. While you can’t control external events, you can control your emotions and your actions. Be optimistic, be proactive, and, above all, focus. That’s all you need to solve problems. Despair and pessimism will make everything worse. What happens to you doesn’t define you, but how you handle it does.
Chapter Fourteen: The Eighth Wonder of the World
There’s no secret to achieving most things in life. People want easy investments that lead to high returns. The only thing successful people have in common is consistency. The best example of consistency is compound interest, an invisible force that seems inconsequential, but makes a big difference to the point that some people have called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The key factor of compounding is time: the sooner you start doing something, the sooner you’ll get the rewards. Every area of your life is affected by the power of compounding, including finance, health, business, and even your reputation.
Unfortunately, the reason most people don’t take advantage of compounding is that the actions they take don’t immediately result in success. Never underestimate making the right decisions today however small. Consistency working for you will inevitably lead to success over time. Greatness isn’t a singular moment, greatness is the result of numerous small and seemingly inconsequential moments repeated over the course of a long time.
Chapter Fifteen: My Assistant Can’t Talk to Me on Mondays
The easiest things to do in life are also the easiest not to do. Saving a few dollars every week, working out twenty minutes at home, and reading a few pages of a business book every day. The rewards of taking small actions regularly are invisible, so it’s easy to ignore the important stuff even if the steps you need to take to do them are simple.
We constantly tell ourselves stories that become part of our mental script. If you believe your willpower is endless, you’ll show self-control. The labels we give ourselves make a big difference because they describe who we are and how we behave. Labels limit you. Despite what you tell yourself, you’re not your job, you’re not your accomplishments, you’re not your marital status, and you’re not your ambitions. Not only do we embody the labels we give ourselves, but also the labels we’re given by others. Luckily, it’s possible to get rid of labels and replace them with better ones. The ideas you have about yourself are the result of years of conditioning, past experiences, stereotypes, and feedback from others, so uprooting them takes a lot of time and effort.
The force that holds you back is often yourself, as well as the stories you tell about yourself. Read books to learn, but read yourself to unlearn. Identify all the false beliefs you have due to past experiences or stereotypes and figure out a way to get rid of them so that they no longer hold you back. Don’t seek validation from other people because validation can only come from yourself.
Chapter Sixteen: How to Take Responsibility Like a Happy Sexy Millionaire if You’re Unhappy, Ugly, and Broke
While you can’t control other people’s actions, you can control how you react. Your emotions shouldn’t rely on external forces but on yourself. It may be easy to take responsibility when great things happen, but you should do the same in moments of hardship. Having control over your emotion gives you clarity. Accepting our flaws, weaknesses, or inexperience crushes our ego, but it lets us learn from bad experiences and change positively.
Chapter Seventeen: I Am Just as Unmotivated as You Are, Here’s the Difference
There are two types of motivations: intrinsic motivation comes from yourself and extrinsic motivation comes from external factors. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you want to do something for the sheer pleasure of doing it. When you’re extrinsically motivated, you do something to obtain a reward, such as money or recognition. Social media, our parents, ads, and pop culture have conditioned us to believe that there’s a “right” way of living life. Deep within yourself though, you also have things you want to do. This disparity between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations creates a constant battle and we have problems identifying the “correct” answers. While you might convince yourself you want extrinsic desires, it isn’t until you actually achieve them that you realize they’re unfulfilling and empty.
Chasing external goals often leads to burnout. Pursuing things you actually enjoy seldom leads to a sense of fatigue. While we say we want rewards (such as money or external possessions), what we actually want is to be happy, and to get there, we need intrinsic things, connecting with others, and internal fulfillment. In fact, by getting paid to do something you love, you might lose the motivation to do it in the first place. To maintain a high level of motivation, you need two things: one, competence, and two, autonomy and freedom.
Chapter Eighteen: How to Become the Best in the World at Something While Being the Best in the World at… Nothing
Having access to information is one of the greatest assets of our time because you can use it to develop skills. Having an individual skill even if you’re the best in the world at it, is less valuable than having two or more skills you’re moderately good at.
This is what Scott Adams calls “skill stacking” in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. The more unique skills you learn, the more chances of succeeding you have, and the more valuable you’ll be. Additionally, if you acquire skills that are transferable to other industries, you’ll have an advantage in them too. Finally, consider learning unique skills that complaint each other well and that are hard to find in the same person. For example, Steve Jobs knew a lot about technology, but he had a background in calligraphy, knew how to sell, and he also thought strategically. This made him an unstoppable force in his field.
Chapter Nineteen: Gambling Like a Happy Sexy Millionaire
Our time on this planet is running out and we’re all going to die eventually. When it comes to life, we’re all gamblers and the only rule is that every hour we place a chip and we never get it back. If we live to be eighty years old, we get 500,000 hours to spend. Depending on how we spend our 500,000 chips, we’ll get different outcomes on success, happiness, intellectual development, and so on. When the game’s over, we don’t get to keep what we’ve won.
Time’s the only thing we have and is running out. Be clear on the things that matter to you because you’re sacrificing your life for them. Also, learn to say “no”. We’re always surrounded by paths that we can take but try to favor the ones that provide long-term intrinsic value and ignore short-term distractions. In other words, try to be more intentional with your time.
Chapter Twenty: Making Peace with My Diary
To conclude this summary, being a happy sexy millionaire isn’t the path to happiness. Extrinsic goals won’t give you the intrinsic rewards you need. Happiness is a choice and one you can make right now. Show gratitude for what you have, and realize you are enough.
Regardless of the achievements you get in life, they don’t turn you into a “superior” or a “better person. The car you drive, the clothes you wear, the job you have, the money in your bank account, or the number of followers on social media don’t define you. Those who think it does have been lied to. True happiness comes from pursuing things, not finding them.
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