What creates happiness? How do we find it and hold onto it?
These ultimate questions have troubled me for years — always there, nagging at the back of my mind.
I had a close friend when I was a teenager. He had loving parents, and in school, he was popular, being the captain of the rowing club. We created movies together, one of which won an award in a film festival in San Francisco. He was clearly very talented and was always the center of attention. I thought he was happy.
But then he committed suicide. I was the last person my best friend reached out to before he took his own life. He emailed, “I’m ready to die. Goodbye.”
I couldn’t save him. I did not know that he was immensely unhappy.
Seeing the deep sadness that his parents, his girlfriend, and his friends were going through, I felt that I should have done something.
I also started questioning. Am I happy? Deep down, could I be as unhappy as my best friend? Why did he take his own life? Would I someday feel as he did?
In order to save myself, I wanted to understand what true happiness is.
I tried meditation in the facilities located in the deep mountains of India.
I tried taking hallucinogenic and psychotropic drugs. I also took a job in a mental hospital.
As I battled my own mental issues, all I could think about was how could one become happy. With constant conflicting thoughts, I felt lost. I did not know what my purpose in life was. But I knew I want to be happy.
A few years later, in 2005, a good friend suggested that I build a wood-fired pizza oven in my garden. She showed me a book to help me build it.
At first, I did not think that building a pizza-oven together and afterwards, making pizza would be enjoyable and a bonding experience. I was wrong.
It took 6 months to build. Once it was done, we threw pizza parties pretty much on a weekly basis, inviting many friends over. We also hosted pizza-making classes attended by local families.
All these people who just met each other instantly became friends. This is what pizza and the oven did. It felt magical. It brought people together and brought smiles to everyone’s faces. During and immediately after these pizza parties, people were happy. They seemed calmer and more at peace.
Originating from Italy, Pizza has evolved into a variety of forms and styles. It has become one of the most popular dishes all over the world, crossing borders and appealing to all ages and genders.
My friends and I were all fascinated by this simple yet flexible dish that seemed to hold the power to bring happiness. You could put almost any topping on a pizza and still make people smile. My good friend quit his job as a commercial film director to become a pizza chef because of the excitement of those pizza party experiences.
Through all this, I came to this thought: “Maybe it’s the small triggers (like a pizza party) that enrich people’s hearts that can make the world happy.”
By pleasing, cheering up, and providing even just a small amount of happiness to someone, I realized that I myself could feel happier and energized as well.
I was fascinated by the idea that providing small triggers might serve as an essential “taste” of happiness that reminds us of deeper, longer-lasting happiness — of internal peace — that lies within. Pizza is my “trigger.”
I wanted (and still want) to create a world where everyone can live smiling.
This might sound like a fantasy to some people. But I’ve spent a huge amount of time thinking about it, and this desire became stronger and stronger within me.
How can I create such a world?
How can I contribute to this world?
Six years later, my wife, Sani (one of the people I had pizza parties together) and I decided to open Pizza 4P’s in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
Soon enough, I became fully convinced that this is what I want to do with my life.
“Make the World Smile for Peace”
4P’s pizza creates smiles. These smiles are the triggers that give us a taste of the last-long happiness and our natural inner peace. I truly believe Pizza is the gateway to a light-hearted fullness that fills your soul.
That is my vision — my ultimate goal.
Behind the creation of this vision is this whole story of my inner struggles throughout the years. After going through an extra amount of emotional battering and heartache, the remaining amount of courage I’ve managed to squeeze out has led me to this vision.
The reason why I particularly insist on realizing “inner peace” is because of this one thought I reached after being distressed to the point of thinking about my own death:
“Once the problem within each person’s heart is resolved, the world will be at peace.”
I don't think inner peace is something that can be provided or taken away.
No matter how brutal the circumstance is, or how unfortunate the situation may seem — if you really look within, inner peace is something that’s always there. If only people can truly realize the inner peace from the heart, we can accept ourselves, and we will have more room in mind.
When you have more room in mind, compassion — the care and thoughtfulness towards others — will be generated.
With compassion, you will be able to help those who are struggling to realize inner peace.
When this positive loop is brought to the world, there will surely be peace in the world.
Can a pizza restaurant provide all that for the world? Maybe not on its own. But we can start. We can help. We can provide the trigger moment, a taste of happiness for every customer. We can provide a happy experience that can remind the customers' hearts of the inner peace and long-lasting happiness that lies hidden there.
This is my vision.
This is why 4P’s and I are committed to making people’s inner peace come true.
I wholeheartedly believe that this will guide the world to a better place.
This vision, I feel, is not just for myself and 4P’s, but it’s also a universal wish for all of humanity.
I hope that you will join me in this vision. By joining together in our thoughts, it will have a positive impact on your life as well.
Let’s all start this long journey together in this large boat.
“Make the World Smile for Peace”