How To Be Sad with Helen Russell

#4 Mo Gawdat

March 10, 2021

Mo Gawdat of Solve For Happy is a tech entrepreneur, engineer, and former chief business officer for Google X - the “moonshot” factory tackling the world’s toughest problems in innovative ways.


Mo reached a place early in life where he was extremely successful, yet deeply unhappy. He set about solving this, developing an equation for happiness. But this was put to the ultimate test in 2014 when Mo’s beloved son Ali died unexpectedly. During the grief that followed, Mo channelled his heartbreak in an unlikely way – by writing about his happy-algorithm.


Here, Mo talks to Helen about:


  • How an algorithm for happiness helped him handle his sadness
  • Why being happy doesn’t mean never experiencing pain – and loss is part of life
  • Differentiating between ‘sadness’ and ‘unhappiness’
  • The usefulness of fear and loneliness
  • How everything is good and bad
  • What other cultures can teach us about sadness
  • The link between technology and unhappiness
  • The power of unconditional love
  • …and why ‘life is a game – we just have to play it’.


Trigger: bereavement


(Sidebar: if it sounds as though Helen’s choking up at one point, that’s because she is. Speaking to Mo can do that, in a good way. Goal for 2021: make it through a chat with Mo without welling up…)

Find out more about Mo’s equation for happiness and follow Mo on Twitter , Instagram and YouTube.

Follow Helen on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook @MsHelenRussell

Read more about Helen’s new book, How To Be Sad at Waterstones, Amazon or Apple.

Get in touch with the show at

Thanks to Joel Grove for production and to Matt Clacher at HarperCollins for making this podcast happen.

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