There is limited time to do all the activities that you want to do. You get more happiness from dabbling in a lot of things rather than spending more time trying to become great at just one thing. What else could you take up, and dabble in? For example, the famous sax player Eddie Lockjaw Davis played pool.
- I once met Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, one of the greatest tenor sax players ever and one of my idols, famous for his rasping tone, and the fact that he plays all his solos with his eyes open, and he told me that he prefers playing pool to playing the sax. He said he was bored with the sax. He just plays it because people want him to. I thought that was really sad but he's getting lots of enjoyment, happiness really, from playing pool.
Why would this be? Could it be that he's not learning anything new on the sax now. He's pretty much mastered it or at least the improvements are getting smaller and smaller now. Whereas his improvements at pool are moving on really fast. An hour on the sax or an hour on the pool table, if learning is what drives you then the pool playing will give you more happiness if you're ready. As I mentioned in another video don't learn pool in order to beat other people or to master it 100% but enjoy the process of learning about it and being able to make enjoyable shots.
Leaving aside the fact that Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis brings much more happiness to me by playing the sax than he does playing pool if he wants to maximize his happiness he should dabble in pool as well as playing the sax. Play the saxophone occasionally, sure, and enjoy making the crowd happy. But also dabble in lots of things that you're not very good at. Even if you get more happiness from being good at something, and I'm not entirely sure if that's true, there are diminishing returns.
Getting up from 80% to 90% takes a lot of effort during which you could be messing around at 30% on something else and pulling in a whole lot more happiness. You might improve from 30% to 50% or you might just stay at 30% but enjoy it. Either way it's better than trying to get to that elusive 100% on the thing that you're best at. My son was saying to me the other day that he regrets not playing tennis more seriously at school.
He's 25 now and looking back and thinking that he could have been really pretty good if he'd applied himself. But I'm thinking he wouldn't have been world champion, yes, he might have been the best player in the club maybe, or certainly a player who could be proud of how good he was but at what cost. The opportunity cost of all that time that he spent on the beach with his friends, and chatting up girls in bars, and going mountain biking with me, in that alternative universe where he focused on tennis, would he have been happier? We'll never know but I certainly don't think he should regret a thing.
The perhaps surprising conclusion of this video is that you'll get more happiness by dabbling in lots of things rather than spending all your time getting really good at one thing. Whack a tennis ball around and then go and blow a sax and then paint a painting. That's much better than having loads of tennis lessons to the exclusion of everything else and still not being able to beat everyone. Take some courses on photography or recording your own music or learn about art or meditation or futures dealing or maybe painting, dancing, badminton, pottery, poetry writing, whatever you fancy and enjoy the feeling of learning about lots of things.
The only question is what am I already good enough at? And then what else could I take up and dabble in?
- Misbeliefs about happiness
- Focusing on good
- Building gratitude
- Eliminating sources of unhappiness
- Reducing stress