Profits, Passion, And Purpose

I meet all kinds of people who don’t enjoy what they do. They simply go through their lives getting on with it. They get no great pleasure from what they do. They endure it rather than enjoy it, and wait for the weekend. But I also meet people who love what they do and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. If you said, “Don’t do this anymore,” they’d wonder what you’re talking about. It isn’t what they do, it’s who they are. They say, “But this is me, you know. It would be foolish to abandon this, because it speaks to my most authentic self.” And it’s not true of enough people. — Sir Ken Robinson

自分の仕事を楽しめない人が大勢います。この人達は人生を黙々と耐えて生きるだけです。仕事から喜びを見いだすことはありません。楽しむというより 耐えながら週末が来るのを待つのです。一方で仕事が大好きで他のことをするなんて考えられない人もいます。やめろと言われたりしたら訳が分からないという顔をするでしょう。彼らにとってそれは 自分の存在に関わることだからです。「だけど これがあっての私なんです。これをやめるなんて馬鹿げてる一番本当の自分がここにあるんだから」。でもこのような生き方をしている人は多くありません。

It doesn’t take very long to figure out that job satisfaction is not very high in Japan.

The thing about working in Japan is that once a person is employed by a respectable company, usually that person will be employed for life. While this provides stability and a steady income, there are many who have chosen this path only to find out that the job they’ll be doing for the rest of their life is something they don’t truly love.

Living and working in Japan has given me an up-close and personal look at this phenomenon. While I haven’t encountered such incidents personally, it is common to see these types of stories in the news.

Karoshi, death by overwork, has a long history in Japan and plagues its society even up to this day. It is one of the many unfortunate results of poor company culture, work standards and job dissatisfaction in Japan.

It’s common to see during the late evenings salarymen passed out on trains from binge-drinking away their stress after a long day of work & overtime, and then only to see them wake up a few hours later to repeat the same routine.

And as a teacher of nearly six years in Japan, at the many different schools I’ve taught at, I’ve seen the faces of passionate teachers who really enjoy their job and being with students. And I’ve also seen the faces of those of only apathy—working only for a paycheck.

One can only imagine how much stress will build up in a person when living out their lives doing something they’re not truly happy with. It’s only a matter of time before they decide enough is enough.

So this forces us to beg the question—why do so many people live out their lives in complacency and how can this mindset be prevented?

While focusing on the latter part of this question, this brings me to what I ultimately want to talk about in this post…

Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, And Purpose by Tony Hsieh

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Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose 

A book I originally discovered through recommendation provided by the folks of Automattic, I read this from cover to cover and was inspired.

High levels of job dissatisfaction is not exclusive to those only in Japan, but also to many others living all across the globe. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, set out to create a company culture that challenges the status quo. Employees who work for Zappos are among the most happiest and satisfied employees due to the work culture and values Zappos represents.

Tony shares an account of how his many personal failures and successes led him to research and discover the one goal people are ultimately in pursuit of: happiness.

Tony’s idea of how to create a thriving company culture and his frameworks of happiness are what became the cornerstone for a series of lessons I gave to my high school seniors.

In my current profession, I teach English writing composition to Japanese high school students. This is my main role, but I also know that beyond just writing, I have a responsibility to teach students about success, personal development, and how to live life in meaningful ways.

The lessons found in Delivering Happiness were perfect examples to share just that.

It teaches us how to avoid a life of complacency by thinking differently and finding purpose in the work we do and the life we live.

Thinking differently is something rarely found in the traditional Japanese classroom setting, so when the opportunity arises to do so, I take it. I focused on the last chapters regarding frameworks for happiness, as I thought it was the most relevant and important section of the book.

The Happiness Frameworks

Who is Tony Hsieh?

That was the question I asked my students when we first started our lesson.

As expected, no one had heard of him, despite Tony being a billionaire CEO of a company acquired by Amazon. And so I started off by showing them this clip that introduces Tony and the lifestyle he lives.

I really wanted students to understand that happiness does not come from money or things that can be had, but from the intangible. Tony embodies these values not only by the lifestyle he lives but through the company culture he has built.

Reporter: You’re definitely different than your typical billionaire CEO.

Tony: I care a lot more about experiences, than… stuff.

In his book, Tony writes that he believes our ultimate purpose in life is to find happiness. Part of paving the way to that goal is to define our core values—beliefs or rules that we personally abide by.

Framework #01

Tony constantly questioned the direction of Zappos, what would define his company and what they were all about. This process led him to the discovery of three particular frameworks for happiness he found to be most useful.

Delivering Happiness comic
I used these two excerpts from the comic version of Delivering Happiness for my lesson with students. It explains the three happiness frameworks Tony found useful in his life.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose; A Round Table Comic 

By following either of these frameworks, a person’s capacity to find happiness would increase exponentially, simply because of the fact that happiness and fulfillment is most commonly discovered by contributing to something greater than oneself.

To my surprise, the first happiness framework introduced was an ideology I had been using all along in my classes.

It said that happiness is about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness, and vision/meaning.

Perceived Control

I’ve always conducted my lessons with a clear goal in mind and students know what I expect of them. And so with perceived control, there are many instances when I let students decide what they want to do in class.

  • During class, when working on an assignment, I give students a choice to move, work in a pair, work in a group, or to work alone.
  • At the end of a lesson when there happens to be some free time, I always give students a choice: do their homework or to relax freely.
  • When students receive their tests after the midterm and sometimes see their not so stellar grades, I usually give them an option to do an in-class writing challenge, a one-time offer that would give them a chance to raise their grade.

As a teacher, I believe that by empowering students to make some of the decisions in class builds trust.

Perceived Progress

Every class, I always make time to check everyone’s homework, one by one. Students know that I do this every class and so they, for the most part, are prepared to show me that they did it. Not only does it keep students in check, but they are also able to feel a sense of progress since their grade is based on the amount of work they accomplish before the end of the term.

Connectedness

Like I previously mentioned, part of how I let students feel comfortable in class is by letting them sit with their friends or to work in pairs or groups when the opportunity arises to do so.

Tony says, “studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, and that the number of good friends an employee has [at work] is correlated with how engaged that employee is.”

Just like the way Tony places much emphasis on company culture, I try do the same with classroom culture.

Vision/Meaning

Finally, Tony mentions that part of what separates a good company from a great one is its vision, one which has a higher purpose beyond just profits or being number one.

Students may have come to realize that at the beginning of a lesson or when I’m introducing a new topic, I always tell them why we are learning it. I let them know how what we’re learning is relevant. And I always try to find some way that connects the material to something meaningful.

For example, the time when I decided to screen Zootopia in class, I told my students the significance behind the actual messages being portrayed in the movie and how it is a direct commentary to what’s going in our world today.

Making connections such as these, finding meaning in the things we learn, and discovering a higher purpose in the work we do are what I also believe brings happiness.

Framework #02

This framework is based off of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Basically, when a person’s basic needs are met first, they are then more motivated by non-materialistic needs.

Tony points out the connection from Chip Conley’s description of condensing Maslow’s hierarchy into three levels and splitting them into groups: customers, employees, and investors.

I used to work as a barista at a boba shop back in my prime and one reason why customers kept coming back to our store was because of our great service. In fact, the owners and managers often told us that we don’t just give great service—we give WOW service.

I wonder if it’s any coincidence that my managers knew of Tony’s belief in WOW service. They just so happen to be Taiwanese too. Hmm…

Anyways, this was my first experience with WOW service, having learned about it years before reading Delivering Happiness, or even knowing who Tony Hsieh was. We delivered WOW in a number of ways at our store.

When new customers came along, we would offer them free samples of almost anything on our menu, letting them try before they buy. This was something you wouldn’t usually see at other establishments. And because of this, many people took notice.

For our returning customers, it was often common practice to upgrade their drink order to a larger size than what they ordered. It was our small way of saying thank you for always coming to our store. Seeing the different reactions on their faces when they got their drinks were the best. I think my favorite one was the kind of customers who would get their drink, stop and look at it, say nothing with a look on their face as if we were the ones who made a mistake, and then dashing out the store creepily grinning away.

In addition to not only making tea beverages for our customers, we would also educate them about the kind of tea we have, its various health benefits and the methods we use to make our tea. Customers would leave our store feeling much more knowledgable about tea often saying, “Wow, I never knew that about tea…”.

From an employee perspective, there’s been a couple past jobs I’ve had where the job itself was actually fun and enjoyable, but the conditions under which I was working was not meeting my basic needs. That ultimately led me to leave to go and search for better opportunities.

I can see how this framework strips away all the fluff and can really make someone realize what their necessities truly are. Because once we consider what our basic needs are, then identifying which jobs are no good becomes easy. Even if it’s a job we love, but hangs in the balance of necessity and what we’re passionate about, we’re often left to make sacrifices somewhere in one way or another.

I think the goal of this framework is to prevent us from making sacrifices. We should be able to do what we love and at the same time do it while our basic needs are met. In these conditions, a person will feel safe, and in turn will also feel motivated to work harder and pursue other meaningful endeavors within the organization.

Framework #03

In this last and final framework, the three types of happiness outlined are pleasure, passion, and higher purpose. This framework would seemingly be more fit to use personally, so I’ll present it from a first-person point of view and show how it applies to my life.

Pleasure

This type of happiness could be considered as the “tangibles” of life. They are the things that could be had and will only last temporarily. In my lifetime, there are many things that have brought me great pleasure…

These are all examples of things that brought me happiness during the time that I had them. However, this happiness is the kind that is not infinite. It is the kind that is the most short-lived among the three types of happiness and is the kind that lasts only in the moment.

Passion

I’ve been fortunate to discover many things I consider to be a passion in my life. Some of those include…

Higher Purpose

Being part of something bigger than yourself. Being part of something that has meaning to you. This is where the longest lasting happiness exists. And for me, I can trace back a number of instances of when I’ve felt this happiness…

Video-editing, by the way, has also been a long time passion of mine, which I still happen to do to this day. But why I’m mentioning it now and here instead of the previous section is because of this…

I love information gathering and connecting what I find in creative and inspirational ways, and sharing it with others. For me this has always been something I’ve enjoyed. And one way I’ve been able to do that has been through video documenting and editing.

The Lorien Documentary. This was a project I did voluntarily for my dorm mates back in my university days. Lorien was the name of our dorm, and while it served as only the physical building in which we lived in, it was the people who lived in Lorien that made it perfect. The bonds we made happened under that roof were ours and ours alone. It was these memories and experiences we never wanted to forget when the day finally came to move out from our dormitory. So as a gift, from all the footage I recorded throughout the year, I made a tribute to them and presented it on that last day. It was an hour long documentary style video, which we watched that day and wished our time together never ended.

B-Boys Anonymous Trailer. Dance has been is still is a large part of my life. It has played a significant role into shaping me into who I am today. There’s something about dance that empowers the spirit, and builds confidence in a person. It’s a form of self-expression that can’t really be explained, because dance is a feeling. During my entire years at university, I was a part of a dance team that shared this love for dance. I was so happy to be a part of this group because we all knew what we were all about. At the time, our team didn’t have any kind of promotional media, so throughout the year, I filmed extensively at our practices, events, performances, and battles. Finally, I decided to make our team’s first ever video trailer.

The Definition of SPOP. This project holds a particular place in my heart as one of those defining life experiences. I actually wrote about this in a post a while back, so I won’t talk about it so much. But to briefly explain, this was for a volunteer program I participated in. I was part of a staff that were trained to be orientation leaders for our university’s orientation program. The experience I had along the way, during both the training and the orientation with freshman students, was among the most fulfilling experiences I ever had. And like with all my previous experiences that have brought meaning into my life, I always find a way to give back. I wanted to create a video that captured the essence of inspiration, the word and feeling that everyone wanted to describe, but struggled with when asked to respond to the statement, “define SPOP”.


These are just some of the video projects I’ve worked on over the years and by no means do I consider myself a professional video editor. What I believe matters most is why I do it.

You see, for most people, they could watch these videos and easily spot that they weren’t professionally made. And maybe even worse, they could care less about what they’re all about.

The thing is, I made these for the groups I was a part of. I did it for the people who shared the same values as I. I did it because I wanted to give back to the people who once gave to me. This is what brings me the greatest fulfillment in life. To give back and help others through creative and inspirational ways.

But in regards to what brings me the most happiness in life, we would have to fast forward a bit to present-day.

Nothing has brought me greater joy in life than my beautiful wife & son. They are my higher purpose. When I think about our future and the decisions I make moving forward, they are always at the forefront of my mind.

Parenthood especially, has broadened my perspective on life. It truly is something a person can never really know until they have a child. The birth of not just any child, but your own child, is the height of any human experience (inspired by the words of Sarunas Jasikevicius).

Of all the roles I play in life, being daddy is best.


So at the end of the day, the lesson I wished to leave with my students was to find their “why”—the reason for doing the things they do and love. If they can have a clear vision of their “why”, then happiness will naturally come. It’s a person’s “why” that represents their higher purpose in life.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose was certainly an inspirational read, one which I’m glad to have picked up. I think everyone should give it a read, as the lessons taught can be applied in not only business, but everyday life as well.

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