Steve Wozniak / happiness “formula”


Earlier this month, Steve Wozniak held a weeklong online birthday celebration. There were a bunch of challenges for people to complete and share what they did, which mostly centered around spreading positivity/engineering/sharing ideas.

I feel a younger me would have thought that participating would be cringey, but then I realized that that was a ridiculous thought for a multitude of reasons. Among them being the fact that positivity is something the Internet could use more of, I’m silly for trying to avoid being silly, and it’s freaking Steve Wozniak suggesting we do this. So,

(Also, Steve Wozniak sent a reply!)

Day 2: The Happiness Formula

Day 2 was creating and sharing a “formula for happiness,” and this is what I came up with below.

Obviously there’s no such thing as an objective formula. It was more of an exercise that revealed what was top-of-mind for me when considering what makes a person enjoy their lived experience. So this is what I came up with:

The equation

“Happiness” is more something like a true/false value that means nothing by itself, and needs other adjectives:

(A - B/(B+1)) * (1 + ε)^L > 0


A = # of things that give you a true sense of agency and responsibility

B = # of unpleasant, "bad" experiences

ε (epsilon): a small number. So (1 + ε) means "the smallest number greater than 1"

L = # of limit experiences that cause true growth and mental expansion

“Know the “why” for your existence, and you will be able to bear almost any “how” (Frankl)

I believe happiness comes from a sense of unique agency and responsibility (A) over something. Life is all about the feeling of agency, and that the individual’s actions overcome the odds, and our existence making a difference in reality.

This is also why I don’t understand, nor want to understand, anyone who thinks free will doesn’t exist

As said by Frankl/Nieztsche, A only needs to be 1 to be enough to give meaning to life. A=1 can sustain a human through any B.

This is provided in the expression, where A being 1 results in the overall expression always evaluating to true. Of course, what qualifies as adding to A is unique and subjective

My personal experiences with tragedies have also followed this line of thinking, where I’ve always experienced a single A that would give me a reason to sustain all my bad experiences (B)

Also note that B/(B+1) is always less than 1, though it does get closer as B increases. That relative scale of difference is the pressure we feel

A symptom of living properly is in fact experiencing failure and grief, because they are inevitable and at least signifies something is happening. It signals that you are being busy living instead of dying/doing nothing.

(plus we can joke that B became a positive number the moment we were born)

Growth and a feeling of progress

(1+ε)^L represents the compounding growth from living a variety of experiences, including traditionally “bad” ones! The base (1+ ε) is the smallest number possible to make positive growth possible, but it becomes huge over time

Feeling that we are making progress on something in life give us an interesting reason to get out of bed every morning.


A sure sign of a shitty insight is if it doesn’t show the tradeoffs or downsides. This is the same with when a company / person tells you their principles without also mentioning what tradeoffs exist.

So, one danger of this equation is that A truly being 0 means the overall expression always evaluates as false. Spending an extended period of time like this, which is rare but possible, is a great danger

Compulsory cynical cricitism about modern society

Modern difficulties come from A being perceived as 0 or repeatedly unmasked as supposedly 0

B is the same amount as it has always been for humans, but now L is often very low because we are stuck in routines


Thanks for reading!