On Careers and Happiness

I’ve been thinking about the subject of careers and happiness recently, and stumbled upon this Q&A session with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. From this piece, I learned that Tony Hsieh studied computer science at Harvard and that Tony is really interested in the science of happiness (so am I!).

The entire piece is a great short read, but Tony’s response with how students should approach pursuing a career is what resonated with me the most:

I would say rather than focus on what will make you the most money or be best for your career, figure out what you would be passionate for in 10 years and go pursue that. A lot of people work hard at building a career so that one day down the road they think it will bring them happiness. And most of the time, when they finally accomplish their goal, they realize that it doesn’t really end up bringing happiness or fulfillment for the long term.

I do think Tony’s advice is applicable not just for students in college, but for aspiring entrepreneurs and those that are working in the corporate environment. It seems the advice is recession-proof: so long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you can feel proud of your efforts, that what you’ve worked for has not been in vain. My only criticism is this: you never know how your life may unfold and what interests you may discover in living your life. So figuring out what you might be passionate about in ten years might not work for everyone.

I also liked Tony’s response to the question below:

Interviewer: What did Harvard bring out in you that you might not have had when you arrived on day one?

Tony: For me, most of what I got out of Harvard was outside the classroom, including people that I met and running the pizza business. My concentration was in computer science because that’s what I was most passionate about at the time, but I also learned to discover other passions through other classes (for example, linguistics).

What do you think of Tony’s advice on choosing a career? Do you have any advice of your own?

Note: the best book I’ve read on happiness is Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss. I highly, highly recommend it.

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