Ted Talk of John Masud Parvez on finding scalable happiness and optimal trade off



Finding the Happiness Over Scale


“Even though you know a challenge is so big that it’s impossible to solve, but if you know solving that can help a lot of people, it's definitely worth trying to solve that.”


I have a question for you:

“Who wants to become happy in life? Raise your hand”

Now a bit more deep-dive question: “How many of you really have a clear view of what that happiness looks like?”

I'm very glad that many of you raised some hands. Today I'm here to tell you something which has really changed my life: I was living and visioning a completely different present and then something happened to my life which really made me wake up to realize I have to pursue something else. I did not know it got to be bigger and larger. It all started from knowing so less and looking for a purpose that leads to happiness.  

Today I want to tell you how you can really find your special masterpiece, called true happiness.

As for me, until now, I have found three levels of happiness in my life./ To start with the first level, my life has taught me that everything in life has to go with a purpose - and it’s important to know what and how to set up one.

I was born into a family with 16 doctors, but I fell in love with technology / when I was 4, and hence, I found my purpose of going to school: to study computer science and engineering. With that purpose, I scored top 1% in the country merit list and got a scholarship to study Computer Science at a top university - which took me 18 years to attain my first level of happiness. What a price!/


​After I graduated, I was wondering what I would do next. I thought of being the top of Technology for an organization. At first, it was scary to think about it / because most of my friends were going for a Master’s Degree, and I realized that it took more than just a high-scoring student to be a CIO. It took me some great days to realize that I need to get out of my comfort zone to build a completely new set of expertise. And to do that, I have had an idea, which was to become an expat like most of my family members to stretch it out and grow more. / So I started and stayed persistent on that purpose. That’s why becoming a Chief Information Officer (CIO) has “upgraded” my happiness level from 1 to 2


And then, I looked for my level 3 of happiness, /and I recognized a pattern: “what I want - what I want to do - and what I am going to get” - all my purposes and goals, they are all about me, me, me, and me. So, it came to my mind that I should do something for a larger population, something which is my passion and not related to my job, which is about transformation and helping organizations to achieve bigger goals. So I thought of having a Ph.D. as I could not think of anything else, and as my knowledge and imagination are limited, too!


I got 4 offers to start my Ph.D. It was 2013, and I was in Vietnam. As I got the offer I was aiming to leave Vietnam at the end of that year for my Ph.D. study. Ph.D. was one of my long-lasting dreams, and I just needed to accept one offer to make my dream come true.

And that is when the big moment came! The moment which set a different tone to my life.


I contracted a serious health issue, so bad that I was sick for almost six months. I spent time in different hospitals - local, private, and even international for 6 months, and I was thinking “What is wrong here?” For our healthcare system, why do I never feel like a customer? How about my patient experience? That came to my mind, I think that I should do research on this to find the problem. I had finally had 4 offers in my hand, but now I was confused as I figured out that it was not just about doing research but I wanted to do research for mass people. And then, I sent 4 emails to 4 of my supervisors saying:


“Thank you very much for offering me the Ph.D. and please give this position to others.”

So my level 3 happiness turned 360 degrees from achieving a Ph.D. for myself to making a difference in society. I knew that I couldn't put my two legs into boats. I need to let one go away. So I have let the Ph.D. boat go away or I will always be confused. It was so difficult to make the decision, and even more difficult to see the results and attain my level 3 happiness, as a lot of problems came to me afterward:

  • Lack of data

  • Unsupportive friends

  • Lack of vision

  • Lack of instruction

  • Surprised family

  • Self-doubt when I cannot see the result, receive nothing, and question if it were a big mistake to give up my Ph.D. study?

Here is the Point:


I bet there would be a time, you traded off something and felt almost regret your decision and may feel sorry for that when it’s too hard to pursue what you have chosen. Suppose you still keep doing, like me, 4 years doing research made me feel addicted to it and gave up all my time for hobbies, badminton, traveling, tennis, meeting friends time, movies, hang out, and all the entertainment activities just for the goal. So since 2017, my schedule from Monday to Friday I work on my job, career, and Saturday and Sunday I go to the VSHR office, too. Yes, it's 7 days a week. But life is not so easy, EVERYTHING COMES WITH A PRICE



And I believe those events can easily beat you down and those are really a million reasons for you to give up. / But like Lady Gaga, I just need one good reason to stay and move on. I want to be honest with you, I am also made of blood, flesh, and bone. But for me, I even have many reasons, and here they are:

  • Reason 1: The purpose and everyday working can put us ahead of our vision and mission. 

  • Reason 2: When I see results during the process and see my organization develop day by day, it turns into an addiction for me to keep contributing. And to notice the results, we use technology to measure our every action and impact:

And here are some numbers which showed the progress. 

  • Growing an organization from 0 members to 350 members in 3 years, to run 25 national-level initiatives

  • The number of tasks done in the last 3 years – 1,400,000 by our members.

  • The impact reached in the last 3 years – 500,000 people and we can't wait to bring that to a Million.


I am my own biggest critic. When I put myself in a mirror and look at myself this is what I found was deep inside in the core for making this progress.


And the third, but also the most important reason, is “happiness over scale”.


So how did this really help my process and empower my decision-making skills? Because I was always looking for the thing which can make me happier. And I found the answer – which is the scale. In our life, everything needs to be scalable. So our happiness too. It’s not just listed to our 3 – 4 member’s micro family, every human of this mankind is part of our family. If you give out your hand to help a person, both you and that person will feel happy, and the happiness will be multiplied. Now, imagine the number that you help is a hundred or even a thousand people, how much happiness will be spread?


A real-life example of what I am saying which is also happening in 2020, probably someone in your next door is also part of it. The COVID-19 doctors, health workers, giving up their personal life, comfort, giving up their family responsibility, even putting themselves at risk for a great cause which is about helping others.  


So do we have to be a doctor or a great person to do such a thing? It is actually not about your fate or your job or career. No one is destined to be a great person and help others. We all can do it together. By donating food or money to the poor when they are in need, or donating books to poor children, which are by no means too difficult, we can multiply happiness to many people and hence, make ourselves happier.


Our world has big problems - we have hunger, poverty, disease, ignorance, inequality etc. But we are so fortunate that we are living in 2020 when we have the weapon named – technology and education which can evolve mindset – “Putting others before us’, ‘giving up now everything, for the better future’. If you are courageous to put others before yourself, you never lose ultimately as your actions will multiply itself and initiate, run and create positive changes, make the society, community, or world a better place, when we are living now. 


Another point is - mindset can trigger our actions, make us consistent on that journey, we can also use technology to make our actions – more effective, efficient, and more sustainable. These should work for hands on hands. 


But who will use that weapon for actually solving the problem? Superheros? Like marvel, the superheroes do not come from another planet, from the ocean, or from futuristic technology.  But there is a small superhero living among us. Anyone in this room can be that person.  



And we can only grow that little superhero to a real-life superhero by adding passion, energy, and knowledge to build a mindset for making position impacts by giving up our comfort, economic benefits, quick wins, for a long period of time. So if not you, then who? You are not less than anyone else, right! So why not you? If you are not starting now then when? It is the best time ever on this planet to start, where you can use all support, technologies to fight the war of those problems. 

​Our life is a journey, AND YOU WANT TO BE MORE HAPPIER RIGHT? THEN make every decision of your life moving on happiness over scale, and you will see a huge difference.


Download the ted talk slides, click here

John Masud Parvez TEDx Talk 2020
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