Like Lucille Ball working in the chocolate factory in the classic episode of I Love Lucy, office workers can experience job strain from emails or assignments rushing by like unwrapped chocolates zooming along a conveyor belt. The second factor that correlates with workplace depression is an environment with an "effort-reward imbalance," in which workers don't see much return for their hard work, be it through increased pay or recognition. At the heart of both job strain and effort-reward imbalance, according to Stansfeld, is a lack of control. Depression costs the US economy over $51 billion annually in absenteeism, according to Mental Health America, but that number doesn't even scratch the surface of the lost potential of millions of Americans who suffer at work without a medical diagnosis. Furthermore, it doesn't account for the mild depression-like symptoms caused by unhealthy work environments that lead to unwanted consequences, such as distraction. Because we turn to our devices to escape discomfort, we often reach for our tech tools to feel better when we experience a lack of control. Checking email or chiming in on a group-chat thread provides the feeling of being productive, regardless of whether our actions are actually making things better. A while back I went to the casino with my friend Tom. As we walked by the gambling tables he said, "I've got a sure-fire way to win at Roulette." When I asked him about the system he said, "Bet on either black or red, and if you win, take the money and make the same bet again. If you lose, double your bet on the next spin. Think about it. You can't lose too many times in a row--it's close to a 50/50 chance after taking out the house's edge--so you're bound to win fairly soon. And, when you finally win after a few losses, you'll recoup all of your prior losses and still win the current bet. You can't lose!" The system sounded great, so we pooled the meager resources we had at the time and went to the table with around $400. We put $5 on red and lost on the first spin. Undaunted, we doubled our bet and put $10 on red. Lost again. We then doubled the bet to $20 and lost a third time. Tom said, "We can't lose every time," so we put $40 on red--and lost. Thinking it couldn't go on much longer, we put $80 on red, and lost.

Finally, we put $160 down, and watched as the ball landed on black. Losing most of our money, we walked away in disgust. Why doesn't this system always work? It seems like it should. To understand why, we have to realize that there are distributions for most things in this world. What do I mean by a distribution? Consider the height of all the males in the United States. There are many men around 5'8" to 6', and fewer men above 6'8" or below 4'8". If we were to graph the numbers of men in various height categories, we'd see a picture something like figure 4. This is a common shape for a distribution, and it's known as the bell curve. The midpoint of the distribution is quite high, indicating more people at that height, while the two ends tail off, indicating far fewer people with those heights. Distributions like the bell curve are significant when we think about chance because they illustrate that there are extreme observations, called outliers, for many different types of measurements. As a result, if you observe any single case, you can get an outlier by chance alone. If you select one male from the United States, he could be seven feet tall, or only four feet tall. What does this have to do with our miserable performance at the roulette table? Forgetting about the house's edge (the ball landing on 0 or 00), the probability of coming up red or black is similar to flipping a coin. If you flip a coin, the probability of getting a heads (or tails) is 0.5, because there are only two possible outcomes. What's the probability of getting two heads in a row? It's .5 x .5, or .25. That is, there's a 25% chance of getting two heads in a row.

We can see this from the following list of possible outcomes, where H and T designates heads and tails: Since there are four possible outcomes, HH has a one in four chance of occurring (25%). Now carry this reasoning to six flips. To calculate the probability of getting six consecutive heads, just multiply 0.5 by itself six times. The result is 1.56 percent. So, the probability of getting six heads in a row is roughly 1.5 percent for any set of six flips. While the probability is low, there are times when six coin flips will yield six heads. It's not as likely as, say, three heads and three tails, or four heads and two tails, but it can still occur for any given sequence of six flips. In fact, it's very likely to occur some of the time if we make a large number of six coin flips. For example, if we performed one thousand flip sequences, we would expect fifteen of them to be all heads by chance alone (1,000 x 1.5%). The same goes for the roulette wheel. With the thousands of spins on the roulette wheel, my friend Tom and I were just unlucky to be there when the ball landed on black six times in a row. Unfortunately, we lost our bankroll before a red number hit. Since people think these extreme events are unlikely to occur, they frequently attribute some other, often mysterious, cause for the occurrences. They may think that the person flipping the coin or spinning the roulette wheel has some special power to control the outcome. However, before we attribute other possible causes, like psychic or mystical powers, for an event, we have to determine if those powers can make the event occur more than what we would expect from chance. As we saw, if we conducted one thousand six-coin flip sequences, we would expect around fifteen to be all heads from chance alone. Before we believe that someone's psychic power caused six heads in a row, it must be demonstrated that their power can yield significantly more than fifteen series of heads out of one thousand. If not, the six heads can be explained by chance. Happiness and peace are really the prime issues in human existence. That is what all of us are seeking.

This is often a bit hard to see because we cover up those basic goals with layers of surface objectives. We want food, wealth, sex, entertainment, and respect. We even say to ourselves that the idea of "happiness" is too abstract: "Look, I am practical. Just give me enough money and I will buy all the happiness I need." Unfortunately, this is an attitude that does not work. Examine each of these goals and you will find that they are superficial. You want food. Why? Because I am hungry. So you are hungry--so what? Well, if I eat, I won't be hungry, and then I'll feel good. Ah ha! "Feel good": now there is the real item. What we really seek is not the surface goals; those are just means to an end. What we are really after is the feeling of relief that comes when the drive is satisfied. Relief, relaxation, and an end to the tension. Peace, happiness--no more yearning. So what is this happiness? For most of us, the idea of perfect happiness would be to have everything we wanted and be in control of everything, playing Caesar, making the whole world dance a jig according to our every whim. Once again, it does not work that way. Take a look at the people in history who have actually held this type of power.

They were not happy people. Certainly, they were not at peace with themselves. Why not? Because they were driven to control the world totally and absolutely, and they could not. They wanted to control all people, yet there remained people who refused to be controlled. These powerful people could not control the stars. They still got sick. They still had to die. You can't ever get everything you want. It is impossible. Luckily, there is another option. You can learn to control your mind, to step outside of the endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn not to want what you want, to recognize desires but not be controlled by them. This does not mean that you lie down on the road and invite everybody to walk all over you. It means that you continue to live a very normal-looking life, but live from a whole new viewpoint. You do the things that a person must do, but you are free from that obsessive, compulsive drivenness of your own desires. You want something, but you don't need to chase after it. You fear something, but you don't need to stand there quaking in your boots. This sort of mental cultivation is very difficult. It takes years.