After his cancer diagnosis, a big company’s CEO explains how he became a student and teacher of the practical skills of happiness.
Smith describes happy people as being grounded in three things: remembering the past with peace, anticipating the future with confidence and living in the present with joy. He then identifies 13 specific skills, for which anyone can become proficient with practice, to create and support happiness, all of which are underpinned by love. The clarity and thoughtfulness that Smith brings to this book have been distilled through years of teaching a class on happiness at DePauw University, and he offers clear advice with quiet authenticity, grace and none of the distasteful aggressiveness that can be found in the methods of some self-help books. Smith’s tools are simple but not simplified, aiming for, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “simplicity on the other side of complexity.” He neither turns his back on his corporate past nor insists on applying a CEO’s toolset to a more mindful approach to life, making his words more broadly appealing. Smith tells his own life story, sharing the challenges and successes he found in articulating and manifesting the skills of happiness, and how he enriched his life by spending time alone in nature and with his wife and two sons. He shares his journey confronting the realities of his illness—chronic lymphocytic leukemia—while trying to nurture five thing in life: “grace, gratitude, courage, peace, and time,” each with deep sincerity. Yet he doesn’t infuse his own narrative with a much grander meaning, as can be common in books written by those who teach from their own lives. Instead, his well-articulated though not quite groundbreaking story helps by sharing one way to find personal joy by focusing on how we relate to ourselves and others.
A big thinker turns his mind to the essence of his happiness in a memoir that’s easy to read and maybe even follow.