“Happiness is not a tangible thing, it’s a byproduct- a byproduct of achievement.  Achievement must be made against the possibility of failure, against the risk of defeat.  It is no achievement to walk a tightrope laid flat on the floor.  Where there is no risk, there can be no pride in achievement, and consequently, no happiness.”

-Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s

Something about this quote stuck out to me more than any other in the 300 page autobiography of Ray Kroc, the founder of one of the world’s most recognizable brands, McDonald’s.  I agree with him that happiness doesn’t come without achievement of some sort, and more so without risk.  I am curious, though, as to what he’d say in response to the inextinguishable desire to achieve, thus resulting only in short-lived happiness as the urge to achieve is insatiable.  From what I learned in his story, it seemed he was was certainly guilty of this for the majority of his life, forgoing a marriage and a personal life for decades in return for risk-taking and success in business.  Clearly it’s paid off, but Mr. Kroc admitted that it came at a cost for him.

I think to my own happiness and how I find so much of it in my personal achievements.  This takes me back to some previous reading I’ve done in Spent that talk about people having ‘set points’ of happiness.  For example, do you tend to always be happy?  Or do you know that person who’s bubbly nature seems disingenuous? On the flip side, are you or do you know the person who is prone to be down?   Spent talks about both of these scenarios being real and genuine.  While we all are capable of hitting different points on the happiness spectrum, author Geoffrey Miller talks about how we spend the majority of our lives at our set point.  For me, it’s generally content.  Not excited and not down, but satisfied. So, when Mr. Kroc writes of happiness being defined by achievement, I wonder if those generate spikes in our level or if they play into the set point?  Either way, it’s pretty interesting to evaluate and hear from such an innovator. With that, heed his advice, take a risk, and in turn, receive happiness.

Note to my brother, the marketer for the global ‘happiness brand’ Coke: perhaps there’s some brand tie-in here with McD’s.


  1. Guess I need to brush up on my Beatles trivia.

  2. Anything that inspires you that relates to quarterlifers 🙂

  3. Sure, is there anything in particular you have in mind?

  4. Happiness is a warm gun

  5. Atlantachap, you sound like a thoughtful person. I’d love to open the Betwixter floor to you to pen your own post on a meaningful topic to you.

  6. Complacency has reduced greatness into commonplace on too many occasions. The time you stop progressing is the instant you may begin to lose ground as Father Time never waits. Of course we all have spent occasions floating on our backs and enjoying the stars, or stopping to smell the roses. However, do we envy those that are more often enthralled by the heavens while we ourselves strive onward? I often wonder.

    Even the smallest step forward may bring achievement and perhaps happiness along with it. In Ray’s life, some of his steps were huge leaps in hindsight. I wonder what wisdom he would impart to us now looking back at his masterpiece. A masterpiece that moves man another step forward may be anything: a business, a theory, an idea, an invention, or even your own children. One can always hope that he or she leaves behind a masterpiece or two that may bring one the much sought after immortality.

    Even if we looked in Geoffrey’s kaleidoscope at the same time, we’d all see something different. Perhaps he turned it while we blinked. Or what if he was actually looking through a telescope? From a far a life may be a line. Up close it’s a long string of points. What’s your perspective?

    In whatever you do I suppose there’s a trade-off, a decision to be made or a fork in the road to choose. Even the darkest black will be a shade of gray in the most brilliant white light. How dark or light do you wish to shade your gray? I chose to lighten my gray until the storm.

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