Emotional Equations is by far a top five favorite book of mine. As simple as the title is, Chip Conley goes very deep into the various types of emotions we experience and explains how he came to start using these equations in his business as a successful hotelier. The equations helped him and his team through hard times. I’m sure what he learned by writing this book has helped him as the Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy at Airbnb.
Why I find his book useful and very informative is because it gives a framework for evaluating feelings. Humans evaluate our lives with contrasts and comparisons. We compare our personal situation with those of others. We compare our careers with our peers. Our emotions are no different.
Emotional equations provide a novel and well thought out process for comparing and contrasting these feelings. Sometimes doing so gives us a better understanding of the struggles we are facing. It has certainly helped me. Sometimes we don’t even understand what the underlying feeling is that we are actually feeling.
Think of your emotions as messages that give you the freedom, rather than the obligation, to respond. Fear protects. Regret teaches. Sadness releases. Joy uplifts. Empathy unites.
Our emotions let us know that we are alive and that we care about something. But modern life can be a form of “tri-zophrenia” when we think one thing, feel another, and act out a third. The more conscious we become about the ingredients of our emotions, the easier it is to transmute the more complicated, high-volume emotions into something more manageable.
Happiness = Wanting What You Have / Having What You Want
“Wanting What You Have” is like practicing gratitude. It means appreciating the good fortune in your life. “Having What You Want,” to me, means that you are pursuing something that will give you gratification, potentially to the neglect of what you already have.
Anxiety is an emotion, not a character defect. People with the greatest need to control their lives are often hit hardest by anxiety symptoms. Those who experience high anxiety levels tend to be high-functioning, high-achieving, strong individuals who exercise a lot of influence over their lives, yet can’t understand when things go wrong. For me, anxiety is a big clue that something in my life is out of balance— whether my mind is too future-oriented, my desire for control too amplified, or my sense of my own power too unappreciated.
My Own Equation
At the end of the book, Chip recommends we make our own equations. This is one I came up with myself:
Insecurity = Ego / Vulnerability
Our insecurities come from a place of an outsized ego. Being vulnerable will diminish the value of the ego in comparison, and leads to a healthy level of insecurity. That is why they’re represented by division. If, on the other hand, you’re not being very vulnerable, your ego will overshadow in comparison and leave you with a high level of insecurity. When someone talks about another being very humble, it is typically synonymous with a small ego. Essentially, their ego is in check. When someone lashes out and is domineering it can often be because of a misbalance of the ego and vulnerability equation. They may get a momentary high for their primitive dominance, but these are brief and in their wake is narcism and emptiness. It is like a bully, they’re compensating for insecurity.
I could have copied the whole book here because it is that good. I highly recommend it.