Google X CBO discusses happiness with Area II KATUSAs
USAG YONGSAN -- A group of 25 Korea Augmentees to the U.S. Army participated in a special morale training opportunity off post July 6, with Google X Chief Business Officer Mo Gawdat.
Every KATUSA and Soldier in the Republic of Korea Army is required to undergo morale training. The seminar was recorded and will be viewed by all ROKA Soldiers. The KATUSAs were invited as ROKA representatives based on their stronger English skills.
Google X is Google's research and development facility. Mo Gawdat, 50, was born in Egypt and joined Google in 2007. He moved to Google X in 2013 to lead some of the innovative business initiatives that drives the company's success.
Upon starting his lecture, he stated his goal, "#10millionhappy," or making ten million people all around the world happy. He has explored where unhappiness stems from for many years.
"I was happy until I became 23 years old. As I grew older and engaged with society, I became unhappier," said Gawdat. "I was a successful engineer and made a lot of money. I bought everything material like cars to fill my mind with happiness."
However, being rich did not help him at all. He felt more miserable because nothing could fulfill his personal needs, and he found himself becoming greedier and more obsessed with his situation. He decided to start finding ways to solve his problems.
Gawdat suggested the mind was like a cell phone. When one gets a cell phone, there are no apps installed on the phone. The phone is unconstrained. But people install apps to fulfill specific needs. Before you know it, the phone is slow and inefficient because of the memory all of the apps require, and the battery life is greatly diminished. The only way to resolve the problem is to "reset" the phone, in turn resulting in the phone's original state.
Likewise, we cannot hope to be happy by adding "things" to our lives, Gawdat said.
"Every single child was born happy. Happiness is our default state," he said. "But we become unhappy as we grow up because we are looking for happiness from outside of us." This made him realize that it was critical to find happiness from inside of oneself.
He eventually came across a happiness equation: Happiness is equal to or greater than the events of your life minus your expectation of how life should be. The more satisfied you are with your life, the happier you will be.
Years later in 2014, tragedy struck when his son Ali Gawdat died during a routine operation. He was 21-years-old. Even in his enlightened state, he doubted if he would ever overcome the shock to his family. Eventually he was able to rationalize that by accepting the situation, his family would be able to come to terms with their grief. Since he could do nothing about his son's death, it was best for him to look at the situation as it were.
According to him, there are two kinds of pain: One is physical, and the other is emotional. The former eventually stops at some point, but the latter is incessant because we relive the pain in our minds every time we think about the traumatic event. This vicious cycle lengthens the time we feel emotional pain. The only way to stop the cycle is to stop thinking about it and accept the "true" reality.
He recently published the book, "Solve for Happy," in which he shows how he manages his emotional behavior while paying tribute to his son's death. Today, Gawdat works as a "happiness mentor," sharing his ideas on happiness with anyone willing to listen, including the KATUSAs in Area II.
"I always held onto the idea that happiness was relative. Thus, I thought I could seek happiness by imagining people who were worse off than I was. As a KATUSA, I have been able to serve my country in a significantly better environment than those in the regular Republic of Korea Army units. I reminded myself whenever I was unhappy and felt the urge to give up: 'Others would kill to be in my place. You should be happy,'" said senior KATUSA Sgt. Chang, Jun-hyung, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
After the lecture, Chang realized happiness was internal, inspiring him to think about the things that made him truly happy. Happiness was not simply relative. There are as many people worse off as there are better off than him, he said. Things like enjoying a good meal with family made Chang happy. This was a tangible, lasting source of happiness that he could generate internally.
And what about expectations? Chang asked if disappointment led to unhappiness. Is being happy rooted in having reasonable or lower expectations of our lives?
Gawdat said ambition or expectations oriented toward personal well-being or interest were in vain. Being ambitious about making the world a better place, however, was fruitful and rewarding.
"If you wish for the world to serve you, it will betray you. However, if you serve the world, it will serve you back," he said.