Note: This is a chapter from the book. The text has been changed for style and clarity.
When I was a ten-year-old boy, my dad was my mentor, coach, and role model. He was my friend and my world. He loved to tinker and build things and was very handy around the house. He decided to renovate my brother’s bedroom, which seemed like a fun project, and I was his assistant. I couldn’t add much value as a child, but together we hung a drop ceiling, put up new panelling, and installed new light fixtures and outlets. And when I say “together” I mean he did the work, and my job was to hold the tools and feel like I was contributing.
We were almost done hanging the last piece of panelling when Dad let out a horrifying scream. I looked up and Dad was tightly grabbing the fingers of his left hand. Dad had sliced his finger while cutting the panelling. It was one of those “sort of bad” cuts. He didn’t sever the finger, but it required more than a Band-Aid.
My grandparents lived only a few blocks away. My grandfather, Poppy, was the all-knowing patriarch of the family. While he knew nothing about medicine, his “expert opinion” was that Dad should go to the emergency room and have the cut examined by a doctor. They left together early that evening, and I fell asleep. A few hours later, Mum jarred me awake. As I opened my eyes from a deep sleep, I saw her leaning over me. She tried to catch her breath and said, “Dad had a heart attack while waiting in the emergency room.” It turned out it had nothing to do with the injury to his finger; he was in the right place at the right time. He was only forty-two years old and way too young to have a heart attack.
He spent the next week in the hospital. His doctor determined that a number of arteries around his heart were clogged and recommended cardiac bypass surgery. In 1984, not many physicians performed this type of complex surgery, so he and Mum flew to Houston to have one of the leading experts and pioneers in bypass surgery perform the procedure. They were gone for about a week. My brother and I stayed with our grandparents and went about our lives as normally as we could. At ten years old, I was unable to comprehend the magnitude of the situation.
I was scared and confused. I hadn’t truly appreciated the risk or the complexity of the surgery at that time. About two or three days after the surgery, Mum called and put Dad on the phone. I heard him whisper “Scott,” and I cried like never before and probably never have since. I fell to the ground speechless. The floodgate of tears opened, and the cocktail of brewing emotions erupted. A full explosion. This was the moment I realised life is precious and finite. We don’t live forever. This was my first major aha moment, and it changed my life forever.
The seeds were planted for The Life is Too Short Guy.
Why so negative?
As I look around the world today, I am disappointed to see negativity everywhere, and I am on a mission to change that. This is my mission because we have so many opportunities to live a happier life.
Why is negativity so prevalent in our society? As a starting point, it is evolutionary. I believe survival in the earliest days of humanity led to a general negativity bias. Our ancestors with the greatest level of fear, scepticism, and pessimism were more astute to daily threats from predators. They constantly had to be aware and alert of predators and risks. This persistent fear and focus on the worst-case scenario kept our early ancestors from being attacked by a bear or a tiger and helped them survive extreme weather conditions. As a result, the gene pools of the most negative survived and were passed on from generation to generation. Those who trusted and didn’t fear likely succumbed to the harsh realities of early life.
Survival of the fittest required a certain level of perpetual negativity. As a result, we now live in a world dominated by that same general negativity.
But it seems ‘so’ bad
And the reality is, so much of this negativity is logical at a superficial level. We live in a complex world with complicated problems. It’s the beginning of 2023, and we just spent almost three years in a world turned completely upside down by the global Covid pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, as of June 2022, approximately half a billion people contracted Covid and over 14 million died. We had barely emerged from this life-altering Covid experience. when the world faced its first significant military action in Europe in decades as Russia invaded Ukraine. Homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, addiction, environmental destruction – the list of global concerns grows every day.
As I rattle off this depressing list of events, it is no wonder people around the world have so much negativity and stress. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association and the Harris Poll in February 2022, 87% of adults cited inflation as a significant source of stress and 80% cited the invasion of Ukraine as a significant source of stress. About three-quarters of survey participants said they were overwhelmed by the number of crises in the world today.
As I dug further, the story got even gloomier. According to an article published by the National Science Foundation, 80% of all thoughts are negative. Not surprisingly, almost 90% of media news in the US is negative. Depression rates have tripled in the two years leading up to 2022, and today suicide is among the top 10 causes of death in America. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the rate of suicide has skyrocketed, increasing 35% over the last two decades.
Whether it is at home or in the workplace, people just aren’t happy. According to a recent study conducted by Monster.com and published in Insider, 95% of workers said they were considering leaving their jobs and 61% of those same workers said they were burned out. Most compelling is that during 2020, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Americans were more unhappy than they’d been in nearly fifty years. More unhappy than in half a century.
Wow, life sucks! What a miserable world we live in. It’s human nature and easier to be negative and to focus on the worst the world has to offer. It is evolutionary. As we reflect on life in 2023, most people believe the world we live in and life, in general, have never been worse. Most people live with negativity.
bias. Most people don’t strive to make every day the best day ever. Most people don’t proactively cherish their finite time on earth. Most people are wrong.
There is a demand for happiness
But you aren’t like most people. You proactively made the decision to explore a path to greater happiness by reading this book. Even in a world focused on negativity, we all yearn for greater happiness and fulfilment. This is one of the primary reasons I wrote this book. We all want happiness; we just don’t make it a priority or even know how to focus on living a happy life. Given how much negativity we currently face, we have massive pent-up demand for happiness. However, too many people do not prioritise happiness. Most of us generally believe, “I will get to it when I get to it”. Or we focus on our physical health and neglect our mental health. Happiness is something we yearn for but don’t do anything about.
Thus, The Life Is Too Short Guy: Strategies to Make Every Day the Best Day Ever! was born. I will walk you through my life philosophy, which I call “LITSG,” an acronym for “Life Is Too Short Guy.” LITSG makes happiness the top priority every day, starting with today. In a world emerging from the COVID pandemic, it seems more people are looking for meaning, purpose, and happiness. Arthur Brooks teaches a class for Harvard MBAs called Leadership and Happiness. The three primary objectives of the class are. First, students will create a map of their own happiness, desires, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. In short, they will know themselves more deeply. Second, students will learn tactics and strategies to raise their levels of well-being and life satisfaction. 3. Students will learn how to lead others in a way that increases happiness.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the 180 spots in the class fill up quickly and many students who don’t get in attend the lectures virtually or receive recaps from students in the class. The course started in 2020 with seventy-two students and has more than doubled in two years. Here are some of the best and brightest young minds in the world prioritising the search for happiness. They have proactively and aggressively chosen to use some of their very precious minutes at Harvard to learn how
to be happy. Stop looking, and make it happen. Make it a priority. I use every precious minute to make myself and those around me happy. Join me on this journey as we further explore the core principles of LITSG.
Life has never been better. Pause, take a big deep breath, smile, and realise life is too short to spend time focused on the negative. While the vast majority of people look around and see negativity all around them, each person has the ability to find positivity everywhere. I mean everyone and everywhere. You have the ability to find positivity and live a better, happier, and more fulfilling life today.
Don’t wait for that epiphany
For many people, it takes a life epiphany (or more) to escape the doldrums and negativity bias of daily life. People generally go about life without a deliberate focus on happiness, positivity, and gratefulness. And then something happens to change their perspective. I call these “aha” moments. They are the significant, sometimes catastrophic moments when your perspective changes and you make the decision
to replace the negativity bias in your life with a positivity bias. While everyone else is wasting precious minutes waiting for life’s kick-in-the-teeth, embrace today as your aha moment. As you learn about the LITSG philosophy, I hope reading this book will be your aha moment.
I am living an amazing life, making the most of every minute. I am the happiest guy in the world. I will have faced, and will continue to face, twists and turns along my journey. Everything isn’t always perfect or easy, but with each aha moment, my LITSG philosophy evolved. LITSG drives how I think and how I live.
In addition to my dad’s heart attack, I had a major aha moment while witnessing a commercial aeroplane crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11, and other aha moments when I buried both my mom and dad way too young. I have been blessed to learn from each of these aha moments and live a wonderful, happy, and fulfilling life today.
We all have aha moments in life, and these moments transform us. As we explore this LITSG philosophy, I will share truly amazing, thought-provoking, life-changing, and extraordinary aha moments of ordinary people I interviewed for this book. Many have dealt with major transformative events including illness, addiction, death, and serious injury. All have altered their philosophy on life for the better. You have the opportunity to take these stories and make deliberate choices to change your life philosophy and attitude today. I mean today and I am so excited for you.
I want to share this LITSG philosophy with the world. Everyone has the ability to embrace the messages in this book and the principles of LITSG to live a happier life. Whether you are graduating from high school or going to university, starting your career, plodding along in life without direction or purpose, or recovering from a major life setback, everyone can benefit from LITSG – I mean everyone.
As I reflect on my role in the world and what motivates me, I realise my purpose is to inspire, motivate, and make people happier. I am on a mission to make the world happier, one smile at a time. Simple but powerful. LITSG is my lens for life. I live every day to the fullest. I am grateful for all and find happiness everywhere. It is not merely a belief or an idea. It is not a passing fad. It is not a singular concept. It is a way of living. It is an all-encompassing lifestyle. Like my purpose, it is simple but powerful.
I welcome you to join me on a journey of inspiration, motivation, and transformation of your perspective in a way that can make you happier. Each chapter will focus on a key principle of LITSG and share stories about how I, and others, have seized major AHA! moments to rewrite our life stories. This book is intended to provide practical tools and give you the opportunity to change your life. Each chapter will provide you with simple, powerful, and actionable takeaways. You control your own destiny, and you have the ability to live a happier life. Put on a smile. Open your mind. Embrace the principles and enjoy the ride.
Life is too short.
Scott White is the “Life Is Too Short Guy” and author of a new book by the same name. After spending 15 years on Wall Street, he took a chance and became an entrepreneur and business builder. Today he is the chairman and CEO of a public real estate company.