Bill Gross: Investment Outlook (February 2017)

Bill Gross: Investment Outlook (February 2017)




Happiness Runs

by William H. Gross, Janus Capital Management

Happiness is wanting what you have
And not wanting what you don't have.
— Shakyamuni Buddha, 500 B.C.

The three grand essentials of happiness are: something
To do, someone to love, and something to hope for.
— Alexander Chalmers

Happiness runs in a circular motion...
Happiness runs, happiness runs.
— Donovan, 1968

I think a lot about happiness - what makes a person happy, whether or not happiness should even be a life's priority - things like that. A good high school friend stunned me at the early age of 17 by suggesting we should not necessarily try to be happy. Sacrifice, service, devotion to a cause were higher orders, he felt, although presumably, since those were choices, their pursuit could secondarily lead to happiness.

Through the years I've accumulated a short list of quotes that express a personal view of what makes people happy. You, I'm sure, have your own candidates, but most of them probably resemble some of the ones listed above: Stay busy doing something you enjoy; be mindful of other people and the world in, around, and above you; don't let your reach exceed your grasp; find someone to share your happiness with. My favorite of all of these is the one above by Donovan - that somewhat kooky "love generation" folk singer of the late 1960s. "Happiness runs in a circular motion...happiness runs, happiness runs." There may be more to this refrain, however, than appears at first glance, the entirety of which I've tried to encapsulate artistically in my open-ended smiley face that wasn't ever-popular when Donovan crooned the tune. For years I thought that the gist of Donovan's phrase was the obvious - the "pay it forward" allusion that suggests what goes around, comes around - and it undoubtedly is. But there are hidden nuances, at least to me. The "running in a circular motion" also connotes a self-contained, inward-looking, self-satisfaction that equates happiness to being content with yourself as a person. And the last phrase - "happiness runs, happiness runs" may speak to the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence and the priority of the moment. Donovan might not rank up there with Kant and Spinoza, but his little song packs a powerful message. Rock on, flower child, wherever you are.

For years I thought that the gist of Donovan's phrase was the obvious - the "pay it forward" allusion that suggests what goes around, comes around - and it undoubtedly is. But there are hidden nuances, at least to me.

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