The one sentence summary

We live one big, complex life, and it is a mistake to believe that we can split it up into parts – in doing so, we lose all meaning.


  • People in prosperous countries with high living standards continue to become sick, particularly due to work-related stress. This is the happiness enigma: in theory we have it all but we are unhappy.
  • Work-life balance is a misguided and essentially meaningless distinction because we live one big, complex life. It is a manipulation to think we can ‘split time’. In fact, we live one life, in one time. If we divide time, we divide life, which means we divide ourselves.
  • Part of this comes about because of pluralistic ignorance. If nobody really cares about a given norm, but everyone believes that everyone else does, then nobody will dare breach it. Being busy and wearing it as a badge of honour is a classic example of this: the meaninglessness of being busy.
  • We have lost our ability to distinguish between satisfaction, happiness and meaning. Satisfaction is the meeting of a need. Happiness is the experience of everything coming together beautifully in one moment. Meaning is neither of those: it is the feeling that your life has dignity and hope based on self-worth and self-respect.
  • Self-worth leads to self-awareness, which leads to self-worth, which leads to self-respect. That’s the ladder of self-respect.
  • The Dunning-Kruger effect means that people who lack skills or knowledge in a given field consistently and significantly overestimate their capabilities. This is the better-than-average effect. Prisoners, for example, consistently believe they are better than non-offenders.
  • Studies show that people who are dying share five main regrets:

1. Not keeping in touch with their friends

2. Not having allowed themselves to be happier.

3. Not having had the courage to express their feelings more.

4. Not having had the courage to live a life truer to themselves, rather than the life others expected of them.

5. Spending so much of their lives at work.

  • 85% of the global workforce is unengaged with their work.
  • Over 70% of people find meetings unproductive and inefficient.
  • More than half of all professionals describe appraisals as pointless or time-consuming. Only 23% of employees think that their managers provide meaningful feedback.
  • All of this adds up to inhuman management, in which incompetent managers put pressure on their subordinates without attending to their human needs for meaning and self-awareness. They are not even trained to look at these areas – just to generate productivity.


  • Teflonic Identity Manouevring (TIM) allows executives with dubious work practices to navigate their identity through the moral dilemmas thrown up by their work without any scratches on the surface. In other words, they convince themselves that they are doing no wrong, usually in the pursuit of money.
  • IQ and EQ can be complemented by MQ: the Meaning Quotient. This is the level to which people find meaning in their work and derive motivation from it through the work they do. This is based on whether they are familiar with and believe in the organisation’s purpose; whether they feel they are growing; whether they feel an emotional and social sense of belonging; and whether leadership is clear and human.
  • What we need is humanistic capitalism. The value of money depends on how it is earned – with a clear conscience, and proper attention to peoples’ wellbeing.
  • 75% of consumers expect brands to contribute positively to their lives, but only 40% think that this actually happens.


  • Not much, but you have to dig fairly deep to find the nuggets.