Happiness: Elusive or Illusive?

Happiness. It is a simple concept that every person would say they are familiar with and could explain to another person. Yet, in actuality, how many of us truly understand what the meaning of happiness really is? After all, is being happy simply a chemical reaction of feeling elated? If so, would one readily agree that putting everyone in a drug induced state be the equivalent of making everyone happy?

In “Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.,” Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton approach the whole notion of happiness from the idea that happiness is connected with money. They even bring up an interesting notion regarding how $75,000 is considered to be a comfortable salary. In many regards, I’m sure most of you would agree with that sentiment. After all, it’s difficult for most people to envision a “happy life” where they did not have the means to support themselves or buy the things they wanted.

Yet in reality, money ends up being a short term goal that society has informed us to chase like dogs on a racetrack. We are told that we should focus on getting “high paying jobs” so we can “afford” things that we want. In addition, we are told that we “need” to make a certain salary to survive in this world. After all, isn’t that why we all went to school? For the opportunity of making more money?

Although it can be a fantastic distraction that can serve as a motivator for some, the sole pursuit of the acquisition of money always ends in an empty life. And unless you have any evidence to the contrary, my research and experience in life has taught me that there is no lasting happiness to be found in money.

So we know that drug-induced highs and money isn’t what happiness is, but where does that leave us? Family? Friends? Career? Power? Politics? Self-actualization? Love?

After a great deal of thought and soul searching, I’ve been thinking that maybe there is no such thing as happiness.

Think about it. Happiness is entirely relative is it not? Let’s take the following example:

You and your team have just finished a big project for your company that you are really proud of. The next day, your boss comes into your office and congratulates you on a job well done and hands you a $50,000 check for doing such a great job.

I’m pretty sure most people would describe their current feeling as “happy” no? After all, there are some people who’s annual salary is that much!

Now ten minutes later, your fellow teammate comes in to inform you that the boss stopped by his office as well and gave him a $60,000 bonus check.

Wait a minute… that so called “happiness” probably faltered for a moment there didn’t it? In fact, if you are like most people, you may even have felt the completely reverse emotion. I mean after all, what did your teammate do that made him earn $10,000 more than you? Aren’t you worth it?

Within that short time frame, the thing so many call “happiness” becomes “jealousy” and even “anger” or “hatred.”

Curious no?

In that case, perhaps  it’s just that society’s portrayal of happiness is an entirely empty notion. And with that in mind, the conclusion I’ve managed to draw from my own experiences is the following:

True happiness is the ability to appreciate the present moment regardless of the conditions around us.

I know that this may seem downright crazy, but this is one concept that many people fail to grasp their entire lives. They spend all this time and energy trying to pursue this notion of happiness that society has defined to only end up never really getting to truly enjoy their lives. Think about it: perspective is everything. What seems amazing in one respect can be completely awful from a different perspective. Being able to grasp this can make all the difference in your life.

Orson Welles once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Remember that no matter what tragic event has befallen you, it is not the end of your story. There is no telling when your story will end, but you would be selling yourself short if you were to choose your story to live out as a tragedy.

The time you have now is the best opportunity of all. There is no guarantee of tomorrow, and there is no way to change the past. The present is the only time you have complete control over, so stop letting that time pass you by any longer. After all, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

Today’s post is inspired by Don’t Indulge. Be Happy. – NYTimes.com.


Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career – TED Talk

TED Talk Series is now making its comeback to my regular monthly schedule! For those who have yet to realize the amazing knowledge and perspective that can be gained from this amazing series, keep an open mind and prepared to enrich your mind!

As we return to the whole concept of the job hunt, it’s really important to wonder whether or not the beliefs passed onto you by the educational institution are really worth anything. After all, we are told that we will go on to have great careers; but what does that really mean?

Today’s TED Talk is given by Larry Smith on “Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career.” If you are even remotely thinking that you want to have a great career, trust me when I say this is worth your time.

For those who still seem to need some convincing, here are some highlights. I won’t elaborate, because I really do want you guys to watch it to get the full effect; but here are some of my favorite moments.

  1. Attempting to reassure yourself by telling the world that you are “competent” is nothing more than damning yourself into oblivion.
  2. There is a fine line between crazy and genius.
  3. Some people believe, “If I work hard, I’ll have a good career. Therefore, if I work really really hard, then I should have a great career.” Don’t worry. The world will give you plenty of opportunities to work really really hard, but who gave you the crazy notion that equaled a great career?
  4. Passion and interest are two very different things. After all, who says, “Marry me darling! You’re interesting!!” I assure you it won’t happen and you’ll die alone.
  5. “If only I had…” is the last phrase you want echoing through your head once your life has passed you by.
I hope that these five points were interesting enough that it has peaked your interest to watch the TED Talk. And in case you’re thinking that my highlights are good enough, there is an anecdote he posits at the end of the lecture that stopped me dead in my tracks. It certainly helped spur me forward with my life, and I have a feeling it will help motivate you too.
So again, please check it out and let me know what you thought of it below!

The Foundation for Any Promotion

Today’s post is inspired by @Passenger00 for her suggestion to discuss a critical aspect to people who have jobs: Promotions.

Let’s face it, I don’t think there’s a single in this universe employed person who wouldn’t be psyched at the idea of getting a raise. I know I know… didn’t I just say that we’d be talking about promotions? Well, for the majority of people, they are only interested in promotions because it comes with the notion of being paid more. The types of people who acquiring more responsibility for their own personal fulfillment tend to do so on their own, so we won’t talk about that group for today.

Before we jump into understanding the foundation for getting any promotion, it’s important to keep the following caveats in mind:

  1. Organization’s Financial Standing – Let’s face it. Even though you are the best of the best in the organization, if their profit margins can’t support the salary you’re looking for, you better not hold your breath in anticipation.
  2. Career Earning Potential – On the flip side of the coin, if the career path you’re getting into has known salary range of $30k to $70k, I wouldn’t sit idly in my ivory tower waiting for my charming supervisor to come rushing over with a grandiose salary of $100+k.
  3. Your Organization’s Earning Potential – Sandwiched in-between caveats 1 and 2 is the fact that the salary of the people you work with would be a VERY good indicator of what you could potentially stand to make. It doesn’t matter that your career has an average starting salary of $80k a year. Because if the organization you chose to work for only pays entry level people $50k and your supervisor only makes $80k, fat chance getting that six figure salary.
Disclaimer: As with just about anything in life, there is an exception to every rule. These caveats are no exception to that. Read on to find out the single exception to these caveats.
That being said, the #1 thing that you have to understand when it comes to getting a promotion is that it is all based on one single factor: the value you provide to the organization.

Now many of you will retort that with other aspects that come into play, such as trust, reliability, and so forth; but I would argue that a person who truly provides a solid value to the company that is recognized by his/her peers and supervisors inevitably has all those other traits. After all, I would say that it would be difficult for you to be valuable to the company if they had a hard time trusting you to get your work done on time or doing you work well.

So the question ends up being: How do I provide value to my company that will increase my chances of getting a promotion?

1. Bring in new business

That’s right. Sales… revenue… profit… donations… endowments… in the end, it all boils down to new money.

Let’s remind ourselves what the ultimate purpose of 99.999% of every organization is: avoiding going in the red(i.e. avoid debt). (I know most you probably thought I was going to say something along the lines of “make money,” but I’ve already thought of the non-profit rebuttal and thus you lose your chance to be a smarty pants. Muahaha.)

For those of you smarty pants, you probably also suspected that this is the ONE exception to the caveats I posed above. After all, if you can bring in new business and increase your organization’s profitability, you can be damn sure they are going to pay you well. And here’s the thing, if they don’t, someone else DEFINITELY will. If you can bring in new clients, customers, donations, you will not only be one of the most valued people in your organization, but chances are you will also be one of the most well paid as well.

But in all honesty, so sales is something that doesn’t jive well with most of us. And let’s face it, if that was one of our stronger suits, we’d already be in sales. So since #1 won’t work for most of us, let’s start with the next best thing you can do to get a promotion.

2. Be present in your organization.

This sounds REALLY simple, but I assure you that MOST people fail to do this. Because ultimately, being present in your organization is far more than just showing up to work and getting your work done on time. This is about being engaged with the people and culture that constitute your organization.

Remember the following, unless your organization is completely backwards and likes Mr./Ms. Outside Hire for higher level positions (in which case I’d suggest you leave as soon as you can because you’re never going anywhere), the people who will end up recommending you for your promotion will ALWAYS come from within.

Invest time in your co-workers, supervisor, clients, and just about anyone else you encounter at work. Each genuine and well-executed decision will serve as another building block to your recognition and eventual promotion/raise. After all, it takes nothing more than an ecstatic customer who sends a letter of gratitude to your supervisor for you to be put on the radar for that next position.

So go out to happy hour, eat out with your co-workers when you can, and enjoy your work environment as much as you can. After all, we spend 40+ hours a week there, so why not invest some time and money in making it a place that’s enjoyable?

Also, while these are all great things to do while at your job, these are things I would recommend avoiding:

  • Working from home for a majority of the time – Yes. I know. Working at home can be awesome and relaxing, but I assure you, just as quickly as you forget about the office and stop worrying about people looking over your shoulder as you fire up the TV as you sit on your laptop, the people at the office will also forget about your existence as well. I don’t think it takes a genius to see how this might be disadvantageous to you if a promotion/raise is something you’re gunning for.
  • Being a kiss ass – While some people enjoy having someone kiss their ass, this is a high-risk approach that will most likely leave a nasty impression on the people around you. Being kind and genuine is one thing, but the moment people start noticing that you’re fake and insincere, you are going to have one hell of a time digging yourself out of it. And a great work environment is about trust and mutual respect, not about selfish people out for their own benefit.

Remember that every relationship you invest in will only serve to benefit you in the future. This could range from letters of recommendations, networks into future employment, possible entrepreneurial ventures, and so forth. So don’t forget that being genuine and honest will not only serve you well in your career growth, but many other aspects of your life as well.

3. Be crazy productive at your job.

In all honesty, I wanted to leave this one off the list. Unfortunately, I cannot deny the fact that a lot people do get promoted based on this very fact. So here we go…

To start, let me clarify that being good at what you do and being crazy productive are two different things. Being good at your job is the prerequisite to any kind of promotion, but just being crazy productive at your job is one of the worst ways to get a promotion. Before you go off, disagreeing with me though. Hear me out.

The logic for this fundamental is as follows: Produce a lot for the company, therefore you are valuable to the company.

From a simpleton’s perspective, it makes perfect sense. If you consider the complexities of well, life in general, it actually exposes you to a huge threat. What is that threat? It is the threat that you will work tirelessly to be the most productive employee in your organization and only end up with a plaque at the end of the year that says “Employee of the Year.” I don’t know about you; but to me, that kind of recognition is another way of saying, “We thought about paying you more, but we’ve decided that all we can afford is this plaque and some cheese/veggie/cookie trays. Good job kiddo!”

I’m not trying to discredit the fact that it is important to be recognized and that being “Employee of the Year” wouldn’t be an achievement. It is a big deal and is something to be celebrated; but let’s not lose our focus here, you want a promotion/raise. I know that some people will argue that it is a step forward in being recognized and an eventual promotion, but I think that people in modern society are trying to live their lives more efficiently.

That may sound weird to you at first, but think about it. Who in their right mind would want to wait five years for a promotion? Even if you were to say you’d get one in three years, let me remind you would have spent those three years toiling away at your desk and not living it at all. If this recent recession and job scare has taught you anything, it should be that layoffs don’t discriminate between anyone. After all, why pay one person a lot of money when you can just lay him off and make lower paid workers simply do more or just outsource? With the exception of sales, whether you like it or not, you can be replaced. And in a time like now, your “productivity” can be replaced for a much lower price tag.

We’re part of a new generation that is realizing that ideals such as “work-life balance” are things that are actually achievable if we give it the effort it deserves. So why follow an old model of career promotions? I can tell you for certain that I will not be waiting around for someone to hand me a promotion because I’ve been super obedient and give up the one resource I can never get back.

In the end, if you are still going to insist on using this route, then let me ask that you revise your approach to the following:

4. Be one of the best in your field.

I know that sounds really ambitious and can be very vague for a lot of people, but believe me when I say that this is a far better path than being “crazy productive.”

The reason for this is because it is precisely this kind of drive and ambition that open doors of opportunity for people. When you aim to be one of the best in your field, you are talking about one of the most prized traits that people try to systematically create but can’t: innovation.

I hate to leave this approach with such a short description; but that’s the thing about innovation and drive, there are no formulas that will guarantee your success. I will say that based on a person’s personality, circumstances, and skills, I could craft a guideline for him/her. But as far as generic advice goes, I can only recommend that you read more about the concepts of creativity and innovation. And if you need role models to remind you of the great things you can do, I recommend reading more books about entrepreneurs and the amazing things that they are doing.

In summary, most of you will be utilizing a combination of the approaches above. If I were to recommend a single approach to work on however, it would definitely be #2. The thing you have to realize is that ultimately, promotion or not, people want to live their life as fully as they possibly can. After all, there is no guarantee that any of these methods will result in a promotion. If I were to promise you anything though, it’s that growing your social skills, ability to be genuine, and being engaged in your life will be an inspiration and joy for the people around you to see. And if I’ve learned anything from my own experiences and the people I know, it’s that the people around you are what really make your life worth living.

Inspiration – This Is It.

Happy Fourth of July week to all those who live in the United States! Since this tends to be a very celebratory week with vacations and time spent with family and friends, I thought it be best to take some time and inspire you in taking this opportunity to turn over a new leaf and begin your life with a different approach. I hope that this helps put a new spin on how you’ll view life from this point on.

This is it.

Today’s not a warm-up.
It’s not a dress-rehearsal.
There is no second act.

What you do with it.
Where you take it.
Who you bring.

These things matter.
No do-overs. No tomorrows.
No gimme’s or get-backs.

No single moment holds more power.
Nor potential than this.
To bless or fail.

This, too, shall not pass.
Nor yearning manifest.
Until you own it all.

Rise up.
This is it.

Beginning Your Job Search

For most of our lives, we’ve had everything planned out for us. There were some deviations that were permitted along the way (e.g., elective classes); but for the most part, we were always quite sure of what lay ahead of us and never had to really worry about going outside the box. While this may seem all dandy for the first twenty of so years of people’s lives, the shock of reality comes when we find ourselves confronted with a job hunt that is more open ended than we could have possibly imagined.

It’s ironic that choosing a major seems to be of such importance when most students never truly confront the question that is posed to them numerous times throughout high school and college:

“So what do you want to do (with your career/life)?”

Most of us shrug it off with “I’ll figure it out later” and go on wandering aimlessly through college. While this may work for some, there are many others who end up at graduation with little to no idea as to what they will do to combat unemployment.

The most common way that most people go about narrowing the job hunt is to start by focusing on jobs that request for their degree. This would seem to be the most logical method, but this is the #1 way to end up in some random job that you start second guessing before your first week is even over.

Instead of trying to narrow it down from such a huge range of positions, I would start the other direction: Start by looking at positions that sound interesting to you. This means any positions with a job description that you think you would want to do. The reason I recommend this is the fact that there are too many people who find “entry level” positions and try to tailor their resume toward this hollow job that they don’t give a rat’s ass about.

If you find a position that you actually care about and think that you might actually enjoy, chances are pretty good that the resume you will begin to craft and the application process you are about to embark on will be a much more meaningful journey.

Some concerns that may occur to some of you is the idea that you will not always qualify for the jobs that you actually want. For this sentiment, I would put forth the idea that when you find that position you are unqualified for, that’s the time to start working backwards to figure out how to get to where you want to be.

Give this method a try. It might be kind of unconventional, but I assure you that you are much more likely to find your dream job this way than to search for jobs the way everyone else is doing.

Rejection = Overrated

When it comes to applying for jobs, the fear of rejection is the #1 reason why people hesitate to be more proactive.

“What if they never contact me? What if I interview and they don’t like me? What if all of this ends up being a waste of time? I’m not qualified, so I’ll probably be rejected anyways.”

The problem with this mindset is that you are leaving your employment status in the hands of lady luck and other people who are not invested in your success. This is a mindset that will only set you up for more failure and making you more miserable, so I implore you to stop this madness.

How does one overcome this innate fear that seems to be encoded into our genetics?

Repeat after me: Rejection is overrated. 

Sound crazy? Well hear me out.

#1. When people apply for a job, rejection is generally defined as the failure to obtain the desired position.

To all of you who still think this, wipe this notion out of your head. There are so many reasons why you don’t get a position that there is no reason to even begin getting dejected because you didn’t get the position. Here are a few common scenarios that people encounter:

A) You receive zero communication from the company.

This should mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to you. First of all, there are a million reasons why you haven’t been contacted. Maybe they never received your application, maybe the HR recruiter responsible for reading your resume never got around to your application, maybe they already had someone in mind, maybe…

Do you get my point? The fact that the company never responded to your application should not even bother you in the slightest.

B) You were contacted, but you were never referred for an interview.

Just like Situation A, there are a number of reasons why this could be the case. Some companies contact applicants back as a formality, but in the end they hire whomever they had in mind instead of giving all candidates equal opportunity. I’m not saying it’s necessarily fair, but it’s something that’s not going to ever change. Again, this is by no means a reflection on you, so don’t give this situation a second thought either.

C) Contacted, had an interview, but didn’t get the job.

This is the situation where people tend to have the most angst. After all, you had a chance to interview with your employer and prove that you were the best candidate for the position. In fact, doesn’t this situation mean that you beat out hundreds of interested applicants who were also interested in this position?

Bottom line: Unless you received detailed feedback (like I did) about your shortcomings and why you weren’t selected, you should still be holding your head up high when you don’t get the job. Again, I must reiterate the fact that there are so many variables involved in how companies hire employees that any notion that you have control over the process is only going to do you more harm than good.

Remember, this is the key that will not only serve you well in your quest for your dream job (or any job); but in many other aspects of your life as well. So spend this week to grasp this concept so that you are ready for next week’s post on how to maximize your time and energy when applying for jobs.

For those who are wondering what happened to my 500 word count limit, I’ll be increasing the maximum word count to 800 in order to pack in the more content for your reading pleasure and usage! Hope you enjoy!

The Path to My Dream Job – Chapter 8 – Conclusion

First, I find out that my skills were “too junior.” Then, after knowing I was only up against a single candidate and getting feedback that the interview went well…. Crushed. Broken. Whatever word you want to use, I definitely was at an all time low.

Meanwhile, I had received a call from the Beta-Inc. regarding another opportunity to interview with them for a different position. The recruiter said that my feedback on my first interview was so good that they wanted to give me a shot at an invite-only open house. Now while this may sound like great news to some of you, the position I was interviewing for was one that I did not think I was qualified for. Up to this point, I felt my skills were really more on an introductory to novice level if anything, and some of the job description requested for a decent amount of experience (usually around two to five) on things I didn’t know too much about.

After getting rejected twice from both Alpha-Inc. and Beta-Inc., I was ready to just throw in the towel and try and possibly go for another graduate degree while improving my skills so that in the future I would have some shot at actually getting a job in the field. While this may seem normal to some people, remember this: I was already in a graduate program in which I was accumulating some debt (not much, but a good chunk nonetheless), and then on top of it all, I was thinking about sinking even further into debt and quitting my job (because the program I would have wanted to go to would’ve been like $60,000 and in PA). High risk indeed.

The interview was two days away. I had one of two choices: continue feeling terrible about myself and let my own misery ruin a possible opportunity, or I could learn to stomach the rejection and get ready for one final shot before committing to an extremely high risk path. I chose the latter of the two, and spent the remaining time doing all I could to prepare for the interview. Before I knew it, the interview had come and gone.

A few days later, I received the fated call informing me that I was going to be offered a full-time position with Beta-Inc. as an Associate User Experience Consultant.

There are many words that would attempt to describe how I felt at the moment: ecstatic, elated, cloud nine… but in the end, after all the trials and rejections that I had gone through, the relief and happiness that I felt to know that I had finally reached my dream job is indescribable.

Finding and acquiring the dream job that some people believe to be mythical? Mission accomplished.

In light of wanting to move on to tactics and mentalities about the job hunt, this will be the final chapter of the series. In the future, I will be revisiting my story and fleshing it out with more details; but until then, I believe it’s time to move on to things that you can use to find your own dream job. Starting next week, we’ll be starting on topics I believe are critical to anyone’s success in the job market.