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Oct 03, 2017

Japan, Asia & the World What is Life's Greatest Pleasure?

“A genius at enjoying myself.” That’s one description I give when I’m asked to provide a short self-profile for social media. “It’s creepy for you to describe yourself as a genius,” my wife protests—but I ignore her (on this one point, at least).

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fun-loving person, and I’ve found new ways to have fun as I’ve gone through life. In my twenties, it was clubbing every night. In my thirties, I spent every spare moment playing with my children. In my forties, I discovered the joys of snowboarding, competitive swimming and the game Go. Since turning fifty, I’ve taken up mountain hiking.

I divide enjoyment into three categories.

#1 PARTYING

First there is the hedonistic, fleeting kind of pleasure. In my case, that means going drinking with my friends, dancing at clubs, and staying out all night. The most striking thing about this sort of fun is… that you usually regret it the next day and sink into self-disgust. “Ugh! Why did I drink so much? Oh, I really lost control of myself. Did I really spend all that money?” This kind of enjoyment never lasts long.

#2 MEETING PEOPLE

Next is the enjoyment that comes from getting to know people by hosting parties and events and attending dinners and seminars. Networking of this kind is essential to human beings as “social animals.” Besides, none of us can achieve anything by ourselves, so we need to broaden our networks and make friends with people with different areas of expertise. Getting to know new people in this way can be very productive. If, however, you only socialize with a view to economic advantage, you’ll quickly wear yourself out.

#3 LEARNING WITH MIND AND BODY

Learning new things—and feeling yourself grow as a person—is the third category of enjoyment. For me, that’s meant things like learning to be a good leader, learning to connect with people, learning to be an effective public speaker, and mastering all the latest technology.

You can acquire this skillset in one neat package by getting an MBA. Still, I don’t think learning should be restricted to knowledge alone. Learning also has spiritual, technical and physical sides that will help you grow.

On the physical side, I make a point of going swimming three times a week to improve my lap times. My ultimate goal is to set a world record in an upper-age band for the 200-meter individual medley. When it comes to mastering technique, I’m working on improving my rank in the game of Go by studying how the professionals play. On the spiritual side, I study Western philosophy at the Aspen Institute in the US, spend time in ashrams in India, and also study Eastern philosophy.

Which of these three kinds of enjoyment is the most enjoyable?
It’s learning that gives me the most pleasure. How come? I guess it’s just because I love that feeling of being able to do something today that I couldn’t do yesterday. The learning process can be tough, but growing as a person is always so much fun.

Even if I do see learning as my No. 1 source of enjoyment, I don’t feel any obligation to stay away from other kinds of fun. Sometimes I want to be hedonistic and let my hair down in a nightclub. Equally, I’m always happy to go to Davos or my own G1 conferences here at GLOBIS to widen my circle of stimulating friends.

What’s your pleasure?

Perhaps like my wife, you think it’s inappropriate for me to describe myself as “a genius” at enjoying myself. Nonetheless I hope you will share with us what gives you the most enduring pleasure in the comments section below.

(Any tips for dealing with hangovers also welcome!)

Article also found on GLOBIS Insights.

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