The Tim Ferriss Show – A.J. Jacobs on 10 Strategies to Be Happier Through Gratitude


Strategy 1 – Declare War on the Negative Bias

  • Thinking on an evolutionary scale – the negative bias had value

    • We needed to extra aware of dangers (lions, poisonous mushrooms etc.)

    • But now, that’s not so important

  • Focus on the things that go right every day, instead of the things that go wrong

    • One good way – write them down 

    • Get specific – Did the checkout line at the grocery store go quick? Write that down. Did you avoid red lights on your way to work? Write it down.

Strategy 2 – The Art of Savoring

  • Savor your experiences 

  • Be present, get off your phone, and absorb your surroundings 

  • Instead of watching TV or browsing your phone while drinking coffee, take a moment to pause, and savor the coffee’s acidity and taste

  • A.J. has a cool practice:

    • He has a file on his computer called “The One Thing”

    • Every night, he adds to it, based on what he did that day – the one thing he wants to remember from every conversation, podcast, TV show, or book

Strategy 3 – Practice 6 Degrees of Thankfulness

  • Everything is connected

    • “It takes thousands of people to make any object. It doesn’t take a village to make a cup of coffee, it takes the world.”

    • Remind yourself continuously that you’re part of something bigger

  • A.J.’s previous book, It’s All Relative, was about a group of scientists building a family tree of the entire world (all 7 billion people)

    • They have over 100,000,000 connected – they’re not finished

  • Realizing we’re all connected, makes it easier to ask for help

Strategy 4 – Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die

  • Be grateful you exist at all

  • More likely than not, you won’t exist forever

    • “We have a brief flash here on earth, make the most of it”

  • Remember you are going to die, is known as “Momento Mori

  • A.J. has a skull as his laptop screensaver to help him remember this

Strategy 5 – Use Gratitude to Fall Asleep

  • Instead of counting sheep, count the things you’re grateful for

Strategy 6 – Though Shall Not Have Nostalgia

  • Glorifying the past is a thief of joy

  • A.J. has a 3 word mantra he finds very helpful – “Surgery without anesthesia”

    • Up until a few decades ago, that’s the way all surgeries were

  • Just think about how good we have it now, all things considered

    • There is much less suffering in the world than there used to be

  • “Don’t wallow in the past”

Strategy 7 – Try To Discover The Hidden Masterpieces All Around You

  • Think about how much engineering, passion, and thought goes into creating a coffee cup lid

  • “There are so many masterpieces all around me, that I take for granted”

  • Pay attention – if you notice the “masterpieces”, they’ll awe you with wonder

Strategy 8 – Go Analog

  • Write hand written thank you notes more often

  • “We overestimate the level of awkwardness when we thank people, and underestimate how much impact it will have”

  • Side notes

    • A.J. recalls one study that found using the phrase “thank you”, isn’t as effective as saying “I am grateful for..” – “thank you” is too robotic

    • A.J. recalls another study which found that people who hand write thank you notes after job interviews, are more likely to get called back

Strategy 9 – Fake Gratitude Until You Feel It

  • When you act in a certain way, it affects your mind

    • The outer, effects the inner

  • “It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting”

  • Act as if you’re grateful and eventually your mind will catch up

Strategy 10 – Use Gratitude as a Spark to Action

  • The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to help others (also the more pro social you are)

  • Gratitude makes you want to pay it forward

Wrapping Up

  • It’s not the glass half full vs. the glass half empty

    • It’s the fact that we have any water in the glass at all…

    • How fucking crazy is it, that we can walk to our kitchen, turn the faucet, and have clean water come out

  • “Paradoxically but wonderfully, focusing on someone else’s happiness will actually make you happier”


  • If everyone involved in the supply chain of your coffee, were paid the minimum wage in the United States, your cup of coffee would cost $25 – and you thought $3 was ridiculous



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