Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 57s.
I discovered these books separately. A friend recommended Elephants to me, and I came across Happiness while diving into Neil’s previous work.
Let the Elephants Run is a physically stunning book—by far the prettiest book I own. But the book is a paradox: despite its looks, from the beginning it invites you to pull it apart, and write all over it. To quote page 13 (an otherwise blank page, apart from this text): “Throughout our lives most of us have been taught not to write in books and mess up the pages. I want you to do the opposite. Break the seal. Write, draw, scribble on the page below…” At first, I questioned the book. But once I overcame that resistance, I dove in deep and began to write all over the pages. Part of the reason I love this book is because it’s unlike any other book I’ve read. Every page is surprising. But what I like above all else is how David doesn’t have any illusions about how hard it can be to cultivate creativity. As he puts it, “Artists know from experience that what appears, at first glance, to be divinely anointed talent is really countless hours of study and endless drive. Talent matters, but work is what delivers you.” This book will help you get there.
I started reading The Happiness Equation shortly after starting this one, often flipping from one to the other with a pen still in my hand. I’m happy I did—like with Elephants, I found myself filling The Happiness Equation with highlights and comments as I pored through it. The book was a blast to read. Like Let the Elephants Run, it’s playful, beautiful, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you dive deeper and deeper in the book. But above all this, it’s practical. The book boils down all of the happiness research out there into nine principles we can live by every day. Some are simple, like continually reminding ourselves of how lucky we are, which Neil names “remembering you’ve won the lottery.” Other principles are more unexpected, like why you should never retire. (I didn’t buy into this one before reading the book, but Neil changed my mind.) If you’re curious about happiness, but haven’t jumped too deep into the research surrounding the topic, pick up this book.
Aside from being interactive and pretty, what makes these books so good is how they treat both creativity and happiness not as magical, impossible-to-reach ideas, but as practices—things we can improve upon, and eventually master. Both books are portals that suck you in, and invite you to stay longer and learn more.
The connection between creativity and productivity is simple. When you invest in your creativity, regardless of the work, you come up with much more clever solutions to problems, and begin to see opportunities all around you. Happiness is similar because it can help you see more opportunities and work smarter. Studies also show that happier people are 31% more productive than everyone else.
In my mind, creativity and happiness are integral to productivity—both let you bring more energy and attention to your work, and perhaps more importantly, connect with what you do on a deeper level.
If you’re curious about either, I highly recommend these two books.