"Finding Tranquility and Growth: Lessons in Happiness and Scaling from Epicurus and Pinterest"


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 11, 2023

5 min read


"Finding Tranquility and Growth: Lessons in Happiness and Scaling from Epicurus and Pinterest"


In our fast-paced and achievement-oriented world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and constantly falling behind. Oliver Burkeman, author of "Barking Up The Wrong Tree," highlights the importance of finding pure pleasure and enjoyment in life. This concept resonates with the teachings of Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher who believed that pleasure and tranquility should be our guiding principles. On the other hand, scaling a successful company like Pinterest requires strategic decision-making and a focus on the right metrics. By exploring these seemingly different topics, we can discover valuable insights on how to be happier and achieve growth.

Finding Tranquility Through Pleasure:

Epicurus argued that pleasure is the essence of a fulfilling life. However, he cautioned against indulging in excessive or corrosive desires that can lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Instead, he advocated for choosing pleasure wisely by balancing necessary, extravagant, and corrosive pleasures. Necessary pleasures, such as enjoying a good meal or wearing comfortable clothes, are easily accessible and should be prioritized. Extravagant pleasures, while acceptable, should not become the sole focus of life. Corrosive desires, such as the pursuit of wealth, power, and fame, should be avoided as they can lead to perpetual dissatisfaction.

Performing a Pleasure Audit:

To align our lives with Epicurus's philosophy, it's essential to conduct a "Pleasure Audit." This involves identifying our necessary pleasures and ensuring they are not overshadowed by extravagant desires. By focusing on the pleasures that truly bring us joy and contentment, we can achieve tranquility and avoid the treadmill of corrosive desires. Reflecting on our priorities and making conscious choices about what truly matters to us can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Satisfaction vs. Success:

Epicurus believed that satisfaction should be our ultimate goal rather than chasing an ever-elusive notion of success. Many people equate success with achievements and external validation, but this mindset often leads to dissatisfaction and constant striving. Instead, finding satisfaction in what we have and appreciating the present moment can bring true contentment. Success, as defined by societal standards, can be a trap that keeps us on the treadmill of corrosive desires. By shifting our focus to satisfaction, we can free ourselves from the pressure to constantly achieve more.

The Power of Meaningful Connections:

Epicurus emphasized the importance of friends as the greatest contributors to happiness. Modern research supports this idea, highlighting the significance of trust and shared values in friendships. In today's digital age, it's crucial to be mindful of the impact of social media on our well-being. Platforms like Instagram often promote comparison, pride, and status-seeking, which can diminish our overall happiness. Instead, Epicurus encouraged surrounding ourselves with loved ones who provide emotional and material support during challenging times. Reflecting on past pleasures, savoring present joys, and anticipating future happiness can also contribute to our overall well-being.

Lessons in Scaling: Measuring What Matters:

Shifting gears to the world of business, Pinterest offers valuable insights on scaling and growth. One key lesson is the importance of measuring the right metrics. While it's true that what you measure improves, it's crucial to focus on the metrics that align with your strategic goals. For Pinterest, shifting their focus from Monthly Active Users (MAUs) to the number of new weekly active pinners allowed them to prioritize their core action and drive growth effectively.

Organizational Structure and Decision-making:

Scaling a company requires making tough decisions about organizational structure. As a company expands, an org structure that once worked may become a hindrance to execution. Adapting the structure to reflect the company's strategy is essential. Additionally, ensuring the right people are in the right roles is crucial for success. Addressing execution problems often boils down to identifying whether the org structure or the person in a particular role is the root cause.

Embracing Growth and Ignoring the Vocal Minority:

To reach the next level of growth, Pinterest realized the importance of building for the future rather than solely catering to existing users' demands. While feedback from engaged users is valuable, it's essential to focus on what will resonate with the majority of users. Sometimes, ignoring the vocal minority and making strategic decisions based on data can lead to significant breakthroughs. It's crucial to communicate effectively with users, but also be willing to steer the product in the direction that serves the broader user base.

Sticking to First Principles and Long-term Vision:

Scaling a company involves navigating moments of self-doubt and organizational challenges. It's important to stay committed to the company's core values and long-term vision. Pinterest's success story teaches us the importance of digging deep to understand who we are, reinforcing our value proposition to users, and persevering through growth challenges. By staying focused on first principles, leaders can guide their teams through periods of uncertainty and maintain a clear path to success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Perform a Pleasure Audit: Reflect on your necessary, extravagant, and corrosive pleasures. Prioritize the pleasures that bring you true joy and contentment, while avoiding the pitfalls of excessive desires.
  • 2. Embrace Satisfaction over Success: Shift your focus from chasing external markers of success to finding satisfaction in the present moment and appreciating what you have.
  • 3. Build Meaningful Connections: Cultivate friendships based on trust and shared values. Limit the influence of social media on your well-being and seek support from loved ones during challenging times.


Finding tranquility and achieving growth may seem like separate pursuits, but they share common threads. By learning from the teachings of Epicurus and the experiences of scaling companies like Pinterest, we can discover insights that enhance our personal well-being and professional success. Prioritizing pleasure wisely, embracing satisfaction, nurturing meaningful connections, and making strategic decisions based on data and long-term vision can lead us on a path to a happier and more fulfilling life.

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