Mo Gawdat's LinkedIn profile reads like a how-to playbook for success. He worked for IBM and Microsoft; he was a VP at Google and then chief business officer for Google X, the famously secretive "moonshot" factory known for tackling with innovation some of largest problems affecting the world.
But as quickly as Gawdat, now 51, found success in the tech world, it took him much longer to understand that it was not enough to make him truly happy.
"I am the typical driven businessman engineer who solves problem with his left brain. And that got me to a corner early in my life where I was extremely successful — like scary successful — at age 28. But completely depressed," Gawdat tells CNBC Make It.
At a high point of his success Gawdat says he had a handsome salary, two company cars and a massive villa with a swimming pool; he traveled first class, "it was incredible," he says. He was living in Dubai at the time and also had a day-trading side gig. "[I] made double-digit returns every single month of my life. Right? And you know my math skills I developed my own little algorithm and I made a ton of money — market going up, going down, I was just making money, nonstop.
"And I wasn't happy."
One night he even bought two vintage Rolls-Royces online. "Why? Because I could. And because I was desperately trying to fill the hole in my soul," says Gawdat in his 2017 book, "Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy." "You won't be surprised to hear that when those beautiful classics of English automotive styling arrived at the curb, they didn't lift my mood one bit."
It was a hard realization for Gawdat.
"When you're unhappy but you haven't made it yet, you go, like, 'Yeah, when I make it, I'm going to be happy.' Right? No, I made it," Gawdat says, speaking with CNBC Make It at the Northside Music and Innovation Festival in Brooklyn, New York in June. "I had everything that everyone's dreaming of: I had the wonderful wife, two amazing children, right? And I wasn't happy.
"So it gave me a wake up call and I had to research the topic."