History

Albert Einstein's Theory of Happiness is a Simple Handwritten Note on How to Live a Happy Life

Here it is: your chance to read work by Albert Einstein that won't turn your brain into a black hole. This isn't his Theory of Relativity; this is his Theory of Happiness. Not only is it actually easy to understand, you can even apply his advice to your own life. Einstein is the gift that keeps on giving, isn't he?

Shut Up And Take My Money

Albert Einstein made news in 2017 not for anything about gravitational waves or time dilation, but for how to be happy. On October 24, 2017, a simple handwritten note penned by Albert Einstein fetched $1.56 million at auction in Jerusalem. On the hotel notepad is Einstein's Theory of Happiness, which is less a fleshed-out scientific paper and more an inspirational tidbit.

The note reads "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." The letter was originally estimated to sell for between $5,000 and $8,000, according to the Winner's Auctions and Exhibitions, but the bidding quickly escalated into six figures. Another note, which reads "When there's a will, there's a way," sold for $240,000 after it was initially predicted to sell for no more than $6,000.

A Generous Tip

The notes that were purchased (the buyers and sellers were anonymous) are autographed pieces from a Tokyo hotel notepad. Behind the succinct writings, however, is a story. In 1922, Einstein traveled to the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo while on a lecture tour. He had recently discovered that he had won the Nobel Prize. A bellboy came to deliver a message to the physicist, but Einstein either had no change to tip him, had only big bills, or the bellboy refused to accept a tip, in line with local practice.

To avoid letting the kid go empty-handed for whichever reason and capitalizing on his soon-to-be growing fame, Einstein scrawled two messages on Imperial letterhead and handed them over. "If you are lucky, the notes themselves will someday be worth more than some spare change," Einstein said, according to the seller of the letters. The seller lives in Hamburg, Germany and was said to be the grandson of the mysterious hotel messenger's brother. As usual, Einstein's prediction was right on the money.

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Einstein's handwritten theory on happiness sells at auction

Looking for more ways to live a happy life? Listen to our conversation about the psychology of happiness on the Curiosity Podcast. Stream or download the episode using the player below, or find it everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Gretta.

Written By Joanie Faletto October 25, 2017