Authur C Brooks

My last post reviewed Arthur’s new book. It’s very well written with Arthur’s openness about his personal struggles, solid research, engaging examples, and practical advice. The book aligns very well with my study and writing about positive psychology and personal vision, values, and purpose.


Here are some quotes from the book that strongly resonated with me:


“By the time you are fifty, your brain is as crowded with information as the New York Public Library. Meanwhile, your personal research librarian is creaky, slow, and easily distracted. When you send him to get some information you need — say, someone’s name — he takes a minute to stand up, stops for coffee, talks to an old friend in the periodicals, and then forgets where he was going in the first place. Meanwhile, you are kicking yourself for forgetting something you have known for years. When the librarian finally shows back up and says, ‘That guy’s name is Mike,’ Mike is long gone and you are doing something else.”


“If you attain excellence and are deeply invested in it, you can feel pretty irrelevant when you inevitably fall from those heights. And that is agony.”


“We might call this the ‘principle of psychoprofessional gravitation’: the idea that the agony of decline is directly related to prestige previously achieved, and to one’s emotional attachment to that prestige.”


“Humans simply aren’t wired to enjoy an achievement long past. It is as if we were on a moving treadmill; satisfaction from success lasts but an instant. We can’t stop to enjoy it; if we do, we zip off the back of the treadmill and wipe out. So we run and run, hoping that the next success, greater than the last, will bring the enduring satisfaction we crave.”



“Success addicts frequently have a lot of fear of failure…. according to a 2018 survey, 90 percent of CEOs ‘admit fear of failure keeps them up at night more than any other concern’…it is a sad irony that people who strongly fear failure don’t take much pleasure from their actual accomplishments and have high anxiety about not performing well at a crucial moment.”


“What workaholics truly crave isn’t work per se; it is success. They kill themselves working for money, power, and prestige because these are forms of approval, applause, and compliments — which, like all addictive things, from cocaine to social media, stimulate the neurotransmitter dopamine.”


“Many success addicts confess that they feel like losers when they see someone else who is yet more successful. Success is fundamentally positional, meaning it enhances our position in social hierarchies. Social scientists for decades have shown that positional goods do not bring happiness….no one is ever famous enough, rich enough, or powerful enough.”


“Social comparison, fear of failure, and perfectionism are like Dante’s prideful sea of ice, freezing you in place with thoughts of what others will think of you — or, worse, what you will think of yourself — if you do not succeed at something. These are the fruits of success addiction.”


“Most Eastern philosophy warns that this acquisitiveness leads to materialism and vanity, which derails the search for happiness by obscuring one’s essential nature. We need to chip away the jade boulder of our lives until we find ourselves.”


“As we grow older in the West, we generally think we should have a lot to show for our lives — a lot of trophies. According to more Eastern thinking, this is backward. As we age, we shouldn’t accumulate more to represent ourselves but rather strip things away to find our true selves — and thus, to find our second curve.”


“To get off the first curve and onto the second, instead of adding more and more to our lives, we need to understand why this doesn’t work and then start taking things away.”


“Many people who have gotten rich know how to measure their self-worth only in material terms, so they stay on the hedonic treadmill of earning and acquiring, year after year. They hope that at some point, they will finally feel truly successful, happy, and thus ready to die. But it never works.”


“Devote the back half of your life to serving others with your wisdom. Get old sharing the things you believe are most important. Excellence is always its own reward, and this is how you can be most excellent as you age.”


“Instead of denying change in your abilities, you can make the change itself a source of strength. Instead of trying to avoid decline, you can transcend it by finding a new kind of success, better than what the world promises and not a source of neurosis and addiction; a deeper form of happiness than what you had before; and, in the process, true meaning in life.”


“If you remember only one lesson from this book, it should be that love is at the epicenter of our happiness.”