How 37Signals’ David H. Hansson Found The “Epicenter Of Happiness”

The Ruby on Rails inventor, best-selling author, and 37Signals partner does work he loves with people he admires. Oh, and he doesn’t get all worked up about a measly $5 billion.

How 37Signals’ David H. Hansson Found The “Epicenter Of Happiness”

David H. Hansson isn’t worried about a $5 billion dollar payout. Though his 37Signals was doing Basecamp well before Dropbox made massive dough, he doesn’t sweat the temptation of a buyout in the billions.


“That is such a fleeting moment,” he says on This Week In Startups. You get the massive payout and “then it is fucking Monday again and you have to do what it is that you do.”

He mentions happiness research that we’ve discussed–that after one reaches earnings of $50,000 or $75,000 a year, the salary-to-well-being correlation starts to taper off.

As a partner at a firm with a suite of high-retention collaboration webapps–like Campfire, Highrise, and the aforementioned Basecamp, he seems rather content with where he’s at. And he’s wholly explicit with his goals:

The game I’m in is maximum happiness for the maximum amount of time. What I found is one of the things that makes me really happy is to work on stuff that I care about with people I really like working with, with the independence of nobody telling me what the fuck to do.

It’s the Rework ideal in action: no one bossing you around and working with people you like–GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner practices a similar happiness-optimizing approach.

For 37Signals, part of the optimization keeping the team size small–they’re only now hiring their 37th employee. And what’s more, Hansson only works 40 to 50 hours a week–part of designing his life so he can work at 37Signals for the rest of it.

The company’s success provides him an “extreme luxury“: He writes what he wants to write, makes products he wants to make, and doesn’t do all the stuff he doesn’t want to do. He says he’s at the “epicenter of happiness”–and it doesn’t sound like he’s going to leave.


“Would I give all that up for somebody to give me a lot of money and then like (say) ‘Oh. Now you have to work in the bowels of Google or whatever?”’

You probably know the answer.

Bottom Line: If you’re already doing work you love, don’t sell your autonomy.

Watch the original video here.

[Image: Flickr user Tehusagent]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.