LearnThe Secret to Happiness


Josh Long
writes on April 24, 2013

I’ve been reading and studying an amazing book called Flow and it’s been re-affirming something I’ve been very passionate about lately. Through my book Execute, and the great mission we have at Treehouse, I’ve been driven and convicted about bringing to light the importance of becoming a “builder” of digital products in order to find true happiness.

After reading this great book, I feel supported and verified in this mission.

Why it is Important to Build Things

It’s no secret that the Industrial Age, and all of our systems that were put into place to support it, are crumbling. School systems on all levels are coming under fire because they are no longer effective or even relevant. The internet has heightened the fact that there are many more forms of intelligence and learning in addition to the ones that are currently being taught.

We all learn differently yet we’re confined to a static form of classroom learning that’s leaving us unfulfilled and unprepared for the changing times. These systems taught us to follow the rules and to learn a single set of skills that could help fill a spot in a factory line or corporate office.

If we don’t learn the tools to build our own products, both digital and physical, we will all be fighting for the dwindling jobs left over from the industrial mindset. Those that aren’t prepared could find themselves fighting for less and less wages, with more and more heartache. The future is here and it doesn’t need people that just simply follow the rules. It needs people that can not only think of new ideas and ways to create value, but it needs the people that have the skills to see them through.

The Future is Bright for the Skilled

I have known multiple people in the last few months, that decided to design or build a single product and now they’re getting offers daily from companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. There’s something very interesting about the difference of looking for a job before you build something and after. The individuals with the discipline to learn and see a digital application through are so few and far between, that companies are actively seeking them out. You can make a resume and beg for a job, or you can create something of value and have them knock on your door.

The funny thing is, that when you decide to build something, you’ll most likely have so much fun and solve such an interesting problem, that you won’t even need a job anymore. You’d now have the skills, small group of supporters and drive you need to “write your own book”.

How to Make Happiness Sauce

According to author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a person feels happiest when they’re in a state of “flow”. Flow can be obtained by working at the height of the intersection between where one’s skill meets a great challenge. In other words people are happiest when they’re using the skills they’ve worked to refine to solve problems that challenge their abilities. So here’s a quick recipe for making happiness sauce:

  • Learn the language of the web.
  • Get basic understanding of style and programming.
  • Find an unsolved challenge.
  • Apply your new skill set.
  • Learn the rest because you have to.
  • Get a small group of people that share the same problems.
  • Build on that group’s passion and feedback.
  • Work your ass off.
  • Let simmer and improve.

Create Your Own Happiness

To me it seems that the center of being as happy as we can be is honing our skill set in order to create solutions to the challenges we face in our everyday lives. In other words, happiness is making what you wish existed.

“Happiness is making what you wish existed!” – Execute Book

The secret to happiness is learning and mastering the skills you need to build things you wish you had. Be open to identifying new challenges and be ready to match them with your skills. Only then will you have flow, and only then will you find the fulfillment and happiness you seek.

Create your own happiness.

Happy building.


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30 Responses to “The Secret to Happiness”

  1. James Jelinek on May 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm said:

    Awesome post, definitely got me motivated.

  2. barneywimbush on May 14, 2013 at 7:23 am said:

    Nice article dude. Your recipe list for “Happiness Sauce” is something I’ve only realised in the past two years of my life, I’m so much happier for it.

    FYI, there’s a post that talks about the career value in this! http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57414105-71/and-the-best-job-in-america-is-software-engineer/

  3. orange county web designer on April 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm said:

    Inspiring post. Reading this article is happiness. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Omar Zeidan on April 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm said:

    @Josh, Thank you so much, it’s a very nice article, I’m always trying to do that.

  5. Hey Josh – thanks so much for writing. I’ve actually been struggling with this very concept for a while now. I have a few ideas for products/apps that I’ve wanted to build, but I didn’t have the skillset to do it. Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on learning Ruby on Rails. I’m excited about using Ruby to help me finally realize these products!

    • That’s amazing Caleb! Get it done and be sure to let me know when it’s ready:)

      • Thanks for your encouragement Josh!

        Right now I’m working through the book “Learn Web Development with Rails by Michael Hartl” – so far it’s been really good. Once I finish it, I’m going to tackle creating my app.

        The first app I create will be a personal project that I have wanted to create for a long time – a workout app that will track my monthly progress and help pick my weight/rep sets for my workout. Should be challenging, but a ton of fun!

  6. Julian Saunders on April 29, 2013 at 4:09 am said:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the inspirational post. It made my Monday morning!

  7. Thank you for the wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more about the dramatic shift in the way we drink, digest, and spit out our creative juices. The idea of flow reminds me of a meditative state. Love working that way!

  8. Brain90 on April 25, 2013 at 10:56 pm said:

    Very inspiring josh. So, should we disband the traditional school methodology

    and convert them to such “Khan Academy” or “TreeHouse” like ? 😀

    • I don’t think we should disband it. I think the humanities and social aspects of school are still relevant. I believe it is in serious need of reinvention, but people still need English, History, Music, Art, Philosophy, etc. That being said, everyone needs to know the language of the web. Everyone needs to learn basic coding skills. Education will change drastically over the next 5-10 years. Hold on:)

  9. Matt Fanning on April 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm said:

    Interesting post as the sole reason for getting myself into learning code was because I have an idea for the educational system. I’m a business graduate and I understand the educational system needs a serious shift. Due to living in Halifax, NS, Canada there are few web-developers that can spare the time to help me, so I’m teaching myself. Anybody reading this, is there a website other than craiglists or kijiji where I can find an experienced programmer to help me with my project? I have capital to invest. Again, great post, re-confirms that I’m on the right track with my idea.

    – Matt

  10. Yet again, another great article from our one and only Josh Long. I would like to make a few points, if I may. As great as the internet is to learn something, hence the resources, people still learn better when under the pressure of a learning system. For example, more people would be more prone to make sure they get an A in a class, because that grade follows them. In my opinion, the problem with learning on the internet is that there are no repercussions… Therefore most material won’t stick. We can always go back and read an article or watch a video, but if we don’t go back and make sure we processed that article or video, then the chance of the material sticking is low.

    One thing I would love to see Treehouse start doing is administering test at the end of each stage. The quizzes are good, but I would really enjoy some extremely difficult tests to make sure that I KNOW the material I have spent time watching, which would help it stick more.

    I must stop now before I create a more massive comment, but thank you Josh for this article, amongst many more awesome articles. Learning isn’t all about the material, but how you approach it. Thanks man.

  11. Great post. I am a classic product of our outdated education system: I earned an advanced degree from an Ivy League school only to find that I had no skills that anyone in the real world cared about. Realizing that a life inside academia would eat my soul, and that the longer I stayed the worse the “no skills” problem would get, I decided I had to do something no one had taught me: chart my own path. I wish I could have discovered it five or even ten years earlier, but who doesn’t?

  12. so If I quit my job now, get to creating something, trying to gain followers and people to go with me in my idea then I should be happier? Sounds all too much like beginning a start-up, and the headaches with it. And it won’t me any happier 🙂

    • His article is more about the principle of breaking free and letting your creativity run a muck.

    • barneywimbush on May 14, 2013 at 7:20 am said:

      That’s not what I took from it. He’s saying; if you’re interested in the Web, these are some ways to gain fulfilling satisfaction from it.

      Whether you use that to create a start up is entirely down to you. At least you now have that potential!

  13. Great post. As a designer I can relate exactly to the state of ‘flow’ being described when I am creating something new. Also very relatable for things like body-building, sports, and being truly present with others.

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