The Short Happy Life

2 min readJul 6, 2022


Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”.

What a title. It’s a story in itself. It seems like a spoiler, because we know how things turn out for old Frank, don’t we?

But that’s how the story ends for all of us. We just get distracted by the ‘short’ part, and forget about ‘happy’.

In order to have a long happy life, you have to have a short happy life.

It’s easy to say, I’ll be happy when I’m successful. But Hemingway was tremendously successful, and tremendously unhappy. An amazing career, affairs with beautiful women, wealth and fame, respect, and starting a family of his own weren’t enough, and he took his own life.

He ate from the trough of success with both hands, and it still couldn’t make him happy. You can’t say I’ll be happy when. You have to be happy now.

In the story, Francis has a moment of enlightenment when he’s put in danger, and has to act without thinking. We can be distracted from thinking about ourselves for a minute. But distractions all wear off.

They say you should live your life like every day is your last. That’s not a life, that’s a bender. Constant gratification results in ill health and eventually must end.

Live like it’s _everyone else’s_ last day. What would you do if you knew, tomorrow, that person will not be coming back? You’d do something special for your loved ones, you’d make that change in your life you know would make them proud, try to make the world a better place, care for passing strangers.

Some gratification is obligatory. We have to enjoy ourselves or we’ll never be happy, and what’s the point of living if you don’t appreciate it?

Find gratitude in serving others.

You can have it this second — thinking about others’ well-being is instant and free. It wears off but it never wears out — I always feel good when I think about others’ well-being. No one can take it away from you.

Work for the future but don’t worry about it. Flip the script like Obi-Wan: if death should strike you down short, you defeat it because you die happy.

Live a short happy life as many times as you can.




Lifelong musician, quarter century programmer, recent writer. Punk Buddhism, Bike Party Party, Practice Uncertainty