Updated: May 10, 2021
By Elizabeth Gracen:
During the process of shooting an ongoing documentary project, The Gen Z Collective, I sat down with a number of people who work with young people as educators or mentors. I was curious about their take on the vivacious, outspoken game-changers that make up Gen Z. I ended up talking to one of these "experts" for quite a long time. His name is Dr. Robert Carpenter. His optimism and keen observations were discerning, positive, and hopeful, and it didn't surprise me in the least when he reached out to tell me about his upcoming book, (available April 27, 2021) The 48 Laws of Happiness: The Untold Secrets For Mastering Happiness.
Please meet Dr. Robert Carpenter!
EG: Rob, I’m so excited to see your book here at the start of the new year. It’s the perfect time to sweep out the cobwebs of what is and what is not working in our lives and to look ahead to the many possibilities in store for us in the coming year. Would you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and why you wrote The 48 Laws of Happiness: The Untold Secrets For Mastering Happiness.
RC: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my book, Lizzie. I'm an author, movie director, and CEO whose mission is to entertain, empower, and uplift people and humanity. I wrote The 48 Laws of Happiness not because I wanted to, but because I felt I needed to. I saw that our generation—especially the younger generation—is facing sky high rates of depression, suicide, self-harming, and insecurity and felt that we needed a practical, science-based, and compassionate step-by-step manual for how we can attain the happiness that we all desire. I wrote this book because I felt that if people had access to the "secrets" of happiness, they could live dramatically better lives and finally access the peace, joy, freedom, and success they deserve.
EG: What are the basic precepts of your book and what makes your approach different from other self-help and motivational books on the market?
RC: While there are other great books that talk about happiness, this book is different from all of them in 3 ways: 1) it talks about the "hidden traps" people face in becoming happy in their mind, emotions, body, relationships, and so on; 2) it identifies specific, scientific, and proven solutions for each of these traps; and 3) it shares "Chicken Soup for the Soul"-type stories for each trap from real people around the world who have overcome these traps to become happier. So in a way, it really is a guide—and a fun and fast one at that—that helps people become happier in a step-by-step way.
EG: In your book, you talk about “accepting yourself warts and all” and the liberation that we can experience when we quit trying to be perfect. Why is this so important?
RC: I'm so happy you brought this up, because 85% of people face the trap of "not feeling good enough" about themselves in one way or another. In other words, they feel they have to try to fit in; prove themselves; get more social media likes; get more money/attention/better looks/etc.; or change themselves in order to be happy when in reality the research shows that doing these things will actually NOT make them happy at all in the long run. As a result, people are not only chasing after the wrong things society has told them to chase after to be happy, they are chasing after trying to be somebody other than who they were created to be, which is causing them to constantly feel insecure no matter the circumstances going on in their lives. They're trying to cover up their "perceived" flaws instead of unconditionally accepting them, which leads to complete inner peace, emotional healing, and a personal satisfaction and contentment.
EG: I met you early on in the Gen Z Collective project, and you were kind enough to sit and talk to me quite extensively about this powerful up-and-coming generation and how they look at the world. You’ve worked quite extensively with these young people, and I’m sure your ideas and philosophy of how to approach their lives made quite an impact on them. They are strong-minded and a little pissed off with adults about how we’ve dealt with so many issues such as climate, equality, gender identity, etc. How can the simple principles in your book help us communicate better with younger people and even forgive ourselves for missing the mark on these bigger issues?
RC: I completely empathize with our young brothers' and sisters' perspective. But I would also offer this word of compassion and understanding for ourselves too: the adult generation cannot heal what is outside of us (i.e., major social issues) until we heal what is inside of us (our own wounds, traumas, and not feeling good enough about ourselves). Before we can take any meaningful action for the world, we have to first take meaningful action for ourselves by doing the hard work of healing our minds, hearts, and souls so that we have the clarity, courage, and conviction to tackle and solve the major issues that young people are rightly holding us accountable for. Once we do the inner work, the outer work will follow.
EG: During the pandemic, we’ve all seen—and the whole world has seen—how America has approached and reacted to the various guidelines, restrictions, and mandates that have been imposed out of necessity to help stop the spread of the virus and to help our health care workers on the frontlines. As an American, I’m astonished and sometimes embarrassed at how we have handled it all. There is something “uniquely” American about how we’ve navigated the situation. Do you think that who we are as a collective is influenced by a “unique” way of looking at ourselves? How does your book address the root causes of what makes us American—warts and all?
RC: My take is that America is an empire—similar to how the British, Romans, and Greeks were empires—and as an empire, we are in a position to often dismiss things that aren't convenient for how we view the world (and ourselves). Because we're an empire (even if we don't see ourselves that way), we have not forced ourselves to look at facts and data in all areas of life (i.e., health care, etc.) in a serious way because in the past our cultural or economic or military dominance has allowed us to crush facts with pure power.
What this means is that as Americans we get to pick and choose how we see the world and ourselves as opposed to seeing it as it really is, and we react in ways that aren't always evidence-driven; instead we react in ways that are more convenient for our worldview.
This is certainly true for how we responded to Covid-19 but is often also true for how we respond to our own personal warts and flaws: we pick and choose the worst things about ourselves and magnify these things without looking at the overwhelming evidence of the good and beauty that is actually within us—and we suffer (various levels of unhappiness) because of it.
EG: 2020 was such a challenge for all of us. 2021 will no doubt be just as challenging on many fronts, but I do think we all feel a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Using the basic template of your book, how can we turn toward this new year with resolve, compassion, and hope?
RC: My sincere hope in 2021 and beyond is that we can all start to do the inner-work and healing we need so that we can not only recover from 2020, but so that we can become better and stronger than ever before.
In The 48 Laws of Happiness, I show that even though we cannot always control our circumstances, we can control our perceptions and reactions to them—and we can control the level of peace, compassion, and strength we reach for within ourselves so that we can be happy no matter what is going on around us.