Why Smart People Fail to Be Happy

A list of the 5 most common themes for self-analysis and growth

Niklas Göke
10 min readNov 12, 2020


Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

“If you’re so smart, how come you aren’t happy?”

That’s Naval Ravikant’s challenge¹ to everyone bathing in the misery of their own intelligence. “Happiness is a choice,” he says; something you can work on, like your fitness, nutrition, or career.

Naval knows it’s a choice because he too had to make it for himself: “I was born poor and miserable, and I’m now pretty well off and very happy — and I worked at those.”

Naval also knows that’s an unpopular statement to make for two reasons:

  1. Some people are depressed at a molecular level and thus have a real, biological disadvantage.
  2. Some people don’t believe it’s possible to learn to be happy, and they don’t like being made responsible for it.

About 10% of the world’s population suffer from a mental health disorder of any kind.² That means for every one unhappy person with a chemical imbalance, there are nine who refuse to accept what science has proven countless times:³ You can learn to be happy — especially if you’re smart.

Thankfully, many of those smart and happy people have researched and compiled the most common obstacles to our fulfillment over the years…



Niklas Göke

I write for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. Read my daily blog here: https://nik.art/