Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett: Overview

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Happy Sexy Millionaire" by Steven Bartlett. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Looking for an overview of Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett? What’s his advice for living a more fulfilling life?

In Happy Sexy Millionaire, Steven Bartlett explains why wealth and fame didn’t bring him happiness. After reevaluating his priorities, Bartlett wrote Happy Sexy Millionaire to warn against chasing false idols and encourage others to find contentment and success by being themselves.

Read on for an overview of Steven Bartlett’s Happy Sexy Millionaire book.

Happy Sexy Millionaire Overview

In Happy Sexy Millionaire, Steven Bartlett calls out the myth that you can find happiness, love, and wealth if you just follow three simple steps and a hack or two. Bartlett says the internet, social media, and algorithms have dazzled us into believing that we can have the perfect life if we just chase the “right” dreams—a lie that pulls us off the path of genuine contentment, meaning, and fulfillment. 

Bartlett, a social media mogul and public speaker, was born in Botswana to a Nigerian mother and British father and was raised in a predominantly white area in England. A university dropout, once so poor that he scavenged for food, Bartlett founded the successful internet company Social Chain at age 21 and was by all objective accounts “living the dream.” But when wealth and fame didn’t bring him happiness, Bartlett reevaluated his priorities. Steven Bartlett wrote Happy Sexy Millionaire to warn others against chasing false idols and to encourage them to find contentment and success by following their true path. 

First, What Is a Happy, Sexy, Millionaire?

Before reading this overview, it’s helpful to understand Steven Bartlett’s definitions of “happy,” “sexy,” and “millionaire,” because he doesn’t use the terms literally. Early in Bartlett’s life, he thought if he were a sexy millionaire, he would be happy. When he later learned the true meaning (and source) of happiness, Bartlett clarified what each term actually means. According to Bartlett: 

  • “Happy” is an internal feeling of contentment in your life as a whole (not a momentary mood in a snapshot in time).
  • “Sexy” is the reason you want to be sexy—in other words, so that you can find love, have love, and be loved by another for who you are.  
  • “Millionaire” is a metaphor for success—a subjective measure that’s based on your personal goals and what’s most important to you.

With these definitions as a foundation, Bartlett argues that contentment, success, and love come when you:

  1. Understand that you are good enough, all on your own
  2. Are true to yourself and pursue goals that are meaningful to you 

(Shortform note: Bartlett covers happiness and success extensively in this book but doesn’t go into great detail about love. Though he doesn’t say it explicitly, we can infer that having an internal feeling of contentment, feeling good about and being true to yourself, and pursuing what’s meaningful to you are all prerequisites to experiencing genuine love.)

Know That You’re Enough, Even When Society Tells You Otherwise

In Happy Sexy Millionaire, Steven Bartlett says that fulfillment is something that exists within you here and now—it’s not some elusive thing you achieve when you reach a certain level of success. He argues that we’re born “enough,” but society bombards us with messages that say we’re inadequate and need to fix ourselves. For example, corporations sell us things they say we need, schools and universities tell us we have to ascend to a more elevated level, and social media influencers say that we should do what they do to have a better life. 

(Shortform note: In You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero agrees with Bartlett’s assertion that you’re born “enough” and takes it a step further, arguing that you were born—and will always be—a badass. Sincero contends that the universe loves you unconditionally, wants you to see in yourself what it sees in you, and wants to give you everything you desire—including happiness. She says that we all get to choose our perception of reality, and that when you have insecure moments, you should try looking at yourself from the perspective of someone who admires you and sees your potential and talents. Doing this will counter your negative feelings and make you your own biggest fan.) 

Bartlett argues that when we compare who we are, what we do, and what we have to other people, it makes us miserable. This is because we don’t know that anything’s “wrong” with us until we see other people who appear happier, more attractive, more satisfied in their relationships, and more successful than we are. But, he says, nothing in the world actually has value until you assign meaning to it and compare it to something else. So, when you compare yourself to someone who appears more successful than you, you feel insecure, worthless, and powerless. Conversely, when you compare yourself to people who appear less successful than you, you experience a temporary feeling of pleasure that disappears. It’s important to note that pleasure, a fleeting feeling, is not the same as the ongoing state of contentment. 

(Shortform note: Bartlett discourages comparing yourself to others but doesn’t go into detail about how to stop doing it. Experts say you can step out of the comparison game by first acknowledging that you’re engaged in it. Recognizing that comparing yourself to others is a no-win game—because there will always be someone smarter, funnier, better looking, or richer than you—prevents you from getting trapped in it. You can also exit the comparison game by understanding that while it’s nice when someone pays you a compliment, that doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone else. Finally, you can free yourself from comparison by being yourself and doing things you care about, which will bring you true contentment.)

Strive for Your Goals, Not Other People’s Goals

In Happy Sexy Millionaire, Steven Bartlett says you should ignore the external brainwashing that comes from social media and television and instead turn inward to figure out what’s meaningful to you. He argues that striving to achieve your own goals brings a sense of calm and contentment, even though pursuing your dreams inevitably comes with failure and rejection. In contrast, achieving the goals society says you should—like getting rich and famous—makes you feel lost and chaotic. This is because once you achieve society’s goals, you have nothing left to strive for and the achievement doesn’t have deep meaning. Bartlett recommends that you identify your goals by thinking about the one thing in life you want and value above all else—the thing you’d sacrifice everything for. Ask yourself why this is important to you. Once you know what it is and why it’s crucial to your happiness, every decision you make should drive you toward that goal. If you don’t, you’ll get distracted, lose energy and focus, and diminish your chances of achieving your dream and ultimately finding fulfillment.

Know Your Motivations

To feel fulfilled and find success, it’s not enough to know what you’re pursuing, you must also understand why you’re pursuing your goals. In Happy Sexy Millionaire, Steven Bartlett says we’re not as attuned as we should be to this question of “Why?” because internet and social media algorithms have distorted our understanding of what should motivate us. They’ve done this by bombarding us with—and selling as the “ideal dream”—images of influencers as amazing people leading extraordinary lives. This effectively normalizes the flawed idea that to be happy, we have to do whatever it takes to be just like them. 

For example, Instagram’s algorithm will, by design, show your content to more people if it  fits into one of the app’s predetermined popular categories. As a result, a photo of a woman in a swimsuit will be shown to more users than a picture of you examining a mushroom. How this tricks you is that if you post both of these photos, one will get considerably more likes than the other, which warps your perspective of what other people find pleasing or acceptable.  

(Shortform note: Bartlett’s concerns about the internet, social media, and algorithms brainwashing us are bolstered by the bill of goods we’ve been sold by influencers who fake their success. There are documented cases of influencers faking private jet rides and posing in local mansions while pretending they are on exotic and expensive vacations. Some argue that all you need to be a social media influencer is a credit card—that, and several thousand bot followers.)

Bartlett says that truly successful people—those who experience consistent contentment—are motivated by internal factors and doing things that they genuinely enjoy. This is because you feel most fulfilled when you genuinely care about the dream you’re chasing and feel you have control over the way you pursue it. He cites research that finds that: 

  • People who pursue things that bring them authentic joy experience more lasting contentment than those who chase things that don’t. 
  • People lose interest in activities they love when they’re provided financial incentives to do them—because the incentive negatively alters their motivation to do the thing they love.

Bartlett’s Best Practices for Pursuing Happiness and Success 

In this overview of Happy Sexy Millionaire, we’ve discussed Steven Bartlett’s arguments about how social forces have warped our sense of ourselves and our goals, and how reclaiming your true self and your own goals will increase your levels of contentment and feelings of success. Finally, we’ll look at Bartlett’s best practices for pursuing happiness and success.

Recommendation 1: Be Consistent

Bartlett argues that consistently taking steps to achieve your goals is the under-acknowledged and underrated key to success. The more time and energy you regularly put into doing things that will help you reach your dreams—even if the steps you take are small—the more growth, momentum, and progress you’ll experience. 

Recommendation 2: Make Decisions Rationally, Not Emotionally 

Bartlett argues that you should make difficult decisions and react to crises from a place of calm analysis, not panic. Responding to challenging situations from a clear, rational headspace will land you in a more contented space in the long run than if you react from a place of instability, which will only fuel more instability and unhappiness. He says that the only thing you control in the heat of challenging moments is how you react to them, not how they arose or what their outcomes will be, so you shouldn’t waste time getting distracted by your emotions or how you feel about the situation.

Recommendation 3: Take Responsibility 

Bartlett asserts that you’ll experience greater contentment and success when you take control of your emotions, accept responsibility for problems you face, and acknowledge your weaknesses and failures. He says that the more control you feel you have in life, the more confident you are in your ability to navigate the challenges you face, and the more content, healthy, and independent you feel. 

In contrast, people who blame and get angry at others for their problems are unnecessary hostages to their emotions and factors that they think are outside of their control but, often, are not. The less control you feel you have in life, the more unhappy, helpless, and victimized you feel, because it seems as if outcomes are the luck of the draw and you unfairly drew the short straw. 

A Final Word On Love

While Steven Bartlett doesn’t go into great detail about how to obtain love in Happy Sexy Millionaire, he does believe that love is in the eye of the beholder—meaning that there’s no single, universal definition of what it is or what it means—and that we should conceptualize love in a more nuanced way than we do. He argues that there’s no way to develop a universal definition of love because every human being experiences and feels things differently. 

For example, Bartlett says that his mother and father’s often volatile relationship taught him that love and marriage are a prison you can’t escape from. And although he’s been in relationships, Bartlett says he remains unconvinced that he’ll ever fully escape the deep-seated feeling that love is a form of entrapment. 

Bartlett argues that there’s no single, universal definition of love, but in The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck contends that genuine love is five specific things:

1. An intentional action that you take to support another person’s growth and well-being—whether or not you feel a sensation of love for them.

2. A choice you make to be with someone—even as you know that you’re free not to be with them. 

3. An extension of the self that centers on spiritual growth—not an annihilation of the self.

4. A conscious, deliberate effort that leads to growth.

5. An entity that respects and honors the separation of the self and the other, and requires each party to fully and genuinely accept the other’s individuality.
Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett: Overview

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Here's what you'll find in our full Happy Sexy Millionaire summary:

  • Why wealth and fame won't always bring you happiness
  • Why you shouldn't follow steps and hacks to find happiness
  • The best practices for pursuing happiness and success

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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