By Davis Nguyen

Last month, I gave a talk at my high school. During the Q&A session, a student asked me what I did for community service (our high school requires a certain number of hours).

In high school I had done more than three times the required amount, but it was the first time I really thought about why I chose those particular activities.

I thought about answering the student’s question by telling her what I did: “I spent most of my time going door-to-door collecting unwanted books.” But that hadn’t been how I viewed my community service. While I was volunteering for a Nigerian non-profit, I saw my task as helping Nigerian students 6,000 miles away get a chance to read books that would otherwise go unread.

Had I looked at my required community service as something I had to do, it would seem like a chore. Instead I asked, “Why does it matter that I do this?”

How I almost stopped myself from finding a job I was passionate about

If I selected my community service projects by asking “Why do I want to do this?” instead of “What do I want to do?”, I realized I didn’t do the same when it came to picking my job.

As I was searching for my first job, my failure to ask “Why does it matter?” instead of “What am I doing?” caused such a headache.

I knew coming out of college that no first job would be perfect. But as most things I had done in life, I made a list of pros and cons of what I would be doing at each potential job. The more I wrote the more I found myself uninspired to apply for any of these jobs.

Unlike what I had done with my community service projects in high school, I focused on the “what” instead of the “why” of my job.

How I found my “why”

To find my “why” I started thinking about the people who I looked up to most who were changing the world. The type of people I wanted to grow into someday.

I knew I wouldn’t be a CEO of a large company out of college, but I thought about the people I looked up to and why I looked up to them. I asked myself, what qualities do I admire in them?

I made a new list. Instead of pros and cons, I made a list of qualities I wanted in myself, and I restarted my job search. The qualities I listed included:

  • Being a more structured thinker
  • Gaining more self-discipline
  • Being challenged to deliver every day
  • Being a better communicator
  • Being better at time management, and
  • Constantly learning

My “why” for each job became “because it will help me become the type of person I want to be.” I looked at jobs that would help me reach my “why.”

We’d love to hear from you in the comments:

What type of person do you want your job to help you become?

Join the Momentum Safari!

Looking for find more joy and passion in your work right now? It’s not too late to join us on the 21-Day Momentum Safari! Each day you will get a small prompt to complete an action, reflection or connection, all based on themes from different animal avatars.

By the end of the three weeks, you will have a renewed sense of lightness, play and exploration . . . and hopefully unstoppable momentum! See you there!

Davis Nguyen

About Davis

Davis Nguyen (@justdavisnguyen) is currently on a year-long quest to connect with 52 entrepreneurs, writers, and motivational speakers who are already living the life he wants to live. Want to know how to connect with your role models?


Written by Marisol Dahl

Joy, Inc.Try to think back to the last time you felt focused and in a wonderful state of flow in your work. Your spirit and energy are buzzing. You pursue each task with great concentration and a promise to do your absolute best work. Your projects are challenging, but you approach them not with fear but with a sense of adventure.

Now imagine if that is how you felt every single day.

At Menlo Innovations, a software company in Michigan, this type of work isn’t just a dream but a reality for all employees. In Joy, Inc., cofounder and CEO Richard Sheridan shares the true secret to achieving great work and unparalleled workplace satisfaction.

That secret? Joy.

The reasoning is simple. When we feel a sense of internal joy, we are more productive, more engaged, and produce better outcomes. Internal well-being translates to an external environment of positive thinking, fearless experimentation, and high quality work.

As Sheridan notes:

A pursuit of joy within a business context is not about the pursuit of fame or profit. Humans aspire to a higher purpose. Teams desire to work on goals bigger than themselves. They want to have a lasting and valued effect on the world. They want to make their mark, not for the glory, but for the purpose of bringing delight or ending suffering. Like the Wright brothers, we at Menlo want to fly. We’ve found that profit, fame, and glory often follow us in this path, too.

3 Ways to Bring More Joy to Your Workplace

1. Create an open, flexible space

When you walk into Menlo Innovations, you’ll notice that there’s tons of open space, lots of light, and an “underlying current of useful noise…the noise of work.”

The space itself is designed to be conducive to human interaction, a key ingredient for a more joyful workplace. Having lightweight furniture and strategic electrical wiring make it easy to move desks around in seconds, so the people working on the same project can easily collaborate and build off of each other’s ideas. The open space with few (if any) physical barriers allows everyone to be within eyeshot of each other, allowing for faster and easier flow of communication. An environment like this breeds a productive serendipity: the constant exchange of information and stimulation allows great ideas and solutions to bloom.

2. Pair Up

At Menlo Innovations, you’ll find something even more peculiar: employees work in pairs. Two people, one desk, one computer. Some may think this way of working is incredibly inefficient and a waste of a client’s money, but it’s actually quite the opposite.

When employees pair up, they teach each other and build on each other’s skills. When two people are together and not alone, they are able to tackle new problems with less trepidation and more comfort. With two sets of eyes on the computer screen, mistakes are much less frequently made.

With employee pairing, workplace culture and production are at their highest quality. The whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

3. Feel Safe, Don’t Be Safe

Sheridan notes that freedom from fear is one of the most important components of a joyful workplace culture.

Freedom from fear requires feeling safe. If you feel safe, you run experiments. You stop asking permission. You avoid long, mind-numbing meetings. You create a new kind of culture in which you accept that mistakes are inevitable. You learn that small, fast mistakes are preferable to the big, slow, deadly mistakes you are making today.

When people feel safe to make mistakes and try new things, the potential for great work and innovation is infinite. A universal commitment to quality, meaningful work makes it easy to own up to a mistake without fear of punishment. It’s not about being on the safe side and only doing things you know will work. It’s about feeling supported enough to be bold cavaliers.

In all, Joy is about deep satisfaction and knowing you are working towards something great. It isn’t always happy and easy—sometimes you will feel stuck, angry, and frustrated. But joy is what drives you to keep going and deliver greatness.

Book Giveaway

We’re excited to give away a copy of Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan to one lucky Life After College reader. To enter, answer the following question in the comments by Friday, March 27:

Comment to Be Entered to Win:

What is one action you can take this week to bring more joy to your workplace?

Join the Momentum Safari!

Looking for find more joy in your work right now? Join us on the 21-Day Momentum Safari! Each day you will get a small prompt to complete an action, reflection or connection, all based on themes from different animal avatars.

By the end of the three weeks, you will have a renewed sense of lightness, play and exploration . . . and hopefully unstoppable momentum. The adventure starts March 23—see you there!

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction, and trying out new recipes. She can be reached at marisoldahl [at] and on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

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