5 Questions with Daniel Wong, Author of The Happy Student


Very pleased to bring you our second installment of the 5 Questions series. Today's post features Daniel Wong the author of The Happy Student; 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success. You'll be intrigued by his insights on students and the issues around happiness.

What percentage of students in high school and college are happy?

As an education excellence coach and speaker, I've had the privilege of speaking to and working with thousands of students. A majority of students tell me that they're simply not happy! I estimate that only 5% of students say they're happy.

Just to be clear, when I say "happiness" I'm not just referring to a temporary emotion. I'm referring to something you experience at a much deeper level even when you don't feel very cheerful. I'm talking about long-lasting fulfillment.

I believe the main reason students are unhappy is that they feel "forced" into education. They feel like they have to do their homework, have to participate in extracurricular activities, have to study for exams. Teachers and parents don't commonly encourage students to take full responsibility for their education, so students don't feel like they have a choice.

But if you want to be a great student— or great at anything, really— you need to make a conscious choice. No one can force you into becoming great! Even the most well-meaning teacher or parent can't force a student to become a great one. We need to empower students to commit to their own success, instead of trying to nag or coerce them into becoming successful.

Based on your experiences what makes most students unhappy?

Students become unhappy by trying to run the race that other people want them to run, instead of deciding to run their own race. It's easy to give in to peer pressure and to "go with the flow," but if you do that, you're trying to find happiness on other people's terms. Placing your happiness in the hands of others definitely isn't the way to become a happy student.

Students need to define success for themselves, rather than just accept society's definition of success.

What connection should be made between the state of happiness, or unhappiness, in students and career aspirations?

When students don't ask themselves what's truly important to them, they end up pursuing the things that other people tell them is important. This is true when it comes to what classes they choose to take, and even what career they choose to pursue.

I've spoken to many students who are pursuing a particular course of study just because other people think it's a good idea. That's a recipe for unhappiness in the long-term!

People who haven't learned how to find enduring happiness as a student will potentially become unhappy workers, and even unhappy parents. The problem of unhappy students is one that we cannot ignore.

Happy students are much more likely to discover their passion and their calling, which will lead to more happiness and success in their careers and beyond.

Is happiness a choice?

Yes, happiness is a choice, much more than it is a feeling. Besides, when we think of the people we admire and respect the most, we'll probably realize that they are people who have done many things to make themselves unhappy in the short term. But in the long term, they became people of courage, commitment, conviction and character. These are the things that contribute to your happiness in the long run.

So happiness really is a matter of making day-to-day decisions that will result in you becoming a bigger person who will be able to add more value to other people's lives. At the heart of it, happiness isn't just a personal thing.

Where in the world are students most happy?

That's not an easy question to answer, because even though I've had the opportunity to travel to many different countries, I haven't been to every country in the world.

But I have observed that the happiest students are the ones who are given plenty of freedom to explore and discover. I think it's a sad fact that the longer students are in school, the less curious they become! Students who are encouraged to develop a spirit of curiosity— rather than a spirit of competition— are the ones who end up the happiest and also the most successful.

We live in the Information Age where there's so much knowledge available online. Education shouldn't be about forcing students to memorize facts and equations— you could easily find that information on Google or Wikipedia. Education should be about teaching students to care— to care about what they're learning and doing, and to care about the world around them.

The happiest students are the ones who have learned to care.


Thoughts on Marriage-The Winning and the Losing

I don't know if I've ever written a post on marriage. I know I've never written about the winning and the losing side of it. With the exception of my wife, I just haven't. Sorry.

Marriage can be a powerful part of Epic Living.

I happened upon this post while on rel=”youtube” target=”_blank” title=”Google+ Update: Share Your Favorite Circles with Others”>Google + last week. The writer, Kelly Flanagan, is a therapist practicing in Wheaton, Illinois. It is by far, one of the best takes on what makes for a thriving marriage. He does an excellent job of breaking things down in a way that most anyone can unwrap. I think he's onto something that many already know; a life-long relationship is essentially about serving/giving to the person you love. The greatest irony of this is found in the fact that you get so much more back from that serving/giving.

Married or not, you'll gain a lot out of his perspective. I'd love to know if you see applications beyond marriage too. 

When Winning Produces a Loss

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May sound contrariain, but sometimes winning can produce a loss. From a sports perspective, your team may win the game, but if your star player goes down with an injury, that's a big loss. This can apply to life too. You know, we've been told how great it is to be the one who's in charge or the one everyone wants to hear from. All the while forgetting the price involved.

We've been turned into sheep. We're led along with the herd and told what we must be. All the while being seduced into believing that all of the goods and awards make being a sheep not such a bad thing. And the longer we stay in the herd, the greater the chance we will never have the will to live differently.

The reality is found in understanding that if we win at the expense of something very important, we will lose and that will be the lasting legacy.

I really don't want to insult your intelligence by creating a "here's how" list for avoiding this plague (winning that produces loss). Truth is, most of us know what we need to do (take our spouse out on a date, begin the exercise plan, cut back on work, etc.), it's just our will and courage to do it.

If you're in the category of not knowing, then read this post from awhile back for some direction.

5 Questions with Lois Kelly of Rebels at Work


Welcome to our 5 Questions Series. These are interviews I'll be putting out there in the coming weeks for your digestion and inspiration. There will be a variety of interviews with thought leaders from many different walks, so buckle in.

I'm honored that Lois Kelly is our first interview. I've known Lois for some time now and she never ceases to inspire me. The following conversation is no exception. Enjoy!

Why do rebel thinkers so often feel miserable inside of their organizations? 

Three overwhelming reasons. Restlessness, loneliness, and self-doubt. 

 We’re a restless bunch, always seeing new ways to do things better, easier, faster, better. Yes, I say better twice because we’re wired to keep raising the bar on excellence. Needless to say our ideas and relentless energy often exhaust or threaten our colleagues and bosses. So people often keep us at arm’s length, even those who appreciate the value we bring. This can feel lonely and lead to self-doubt, “Why aren’t they moving now on  this idea? Am I off base? Am I not communicating the value well enough? Is it me or is it the idea? Why can’t I just slow down and take it more slowly like everyone else? Do I belong in this organization?” 

What value do most rebel thinkers bring to the table?

 Rebels have the courage to name the elephants in the room, see new ways to solve problems, bring outside ideas into the organization, and be the first to try new approaches.  My research has found that rebels call out problems others are afraid to (92%) and challenge assumptions and sacred cow practices (92%), both of which are essential to real innovation, but often shunned in organizations.

The other overlooked value rebels bring is devotion to duty. Rebels care more about their organizations than most people. That’s why we ask the difficult questions that most people feel more comfortable avoiding, and risk being snubbed for suggesting unpopular ideas.  We want our organizations to be the very best and we believe that our colleagues and we have what it takes to achieve more than our competitors.

(see the following chart for more)

Why are many managers afraid/intimidated by rebel thinkers?

We tend to trigger three threats that are wired into every person’s pre-frontal cortex, including those of our bosses.  Our ideas often threaten managers’ sense of status, certainty and autonomy. 

An overwhelming number of managers believe that they are supposed to create the strategy and have the answers — and employees are meant to execute on those ideas. Not question them. I’m the boss. I’ve got the senior vice president title. Hence, I know more and you should respect me for it.  It sounds silly in this day and age of empowerment and collaboration, but protecting our status can lead all of us to act in illogical ways. 

We humans are also wired to crave certainty. So when we rebels present innovative ideas that have no best practice precedents or haven’t been Six Sigma’d we trigger fears about certainty. Managers worry, “How will we know this will work? What if we make a mistake?” You get the picture.

The last threat is autonomy. Our managers like doing things their way. To suggest something different is to violate their sense of control and autonomy over what they know and like.

What are the consequences of not engaging with the rebel thinker?

Missed opportunities, a complacent corporate culture, and a talent deficit.

Rebel thinkers see risks and opportunities earlier than most people. This is a tremendously valuable competence in age of such rapid change and smaller windows to seize and capitalize on opportunities. One way to look at rebels is as your “intrapreneurs” bringing entrepreneurial thinking, speed, and competitive instincts inside the organization. They spot ideas and see ways to make them real.

The other consequences are that shutting out rebel thinking sends a signal to the organization that creativity, diversity of thinking and change are not welcome. When that happens, your best talent usually leaves, and the culture becomes complacent. Not rocking the boat. Accepting good enough as good enough.  In today’s hyper competitive world, few organizations can survive with a “good enough” approach.

What is most surprising about corporate rebels?

Rebels are not motivated by formal recognition or financial incentives, nor are they “troublemakers.” They’re self-motivated to want to make a difference to their organization and to solve things that are not working as well as they could. My research found that just 27% want formal recognition. What they do want is to be asked their opinions more often and be invited to work on teams to solve specific issues. They don’t want to just talk about ideas, opportunities and problems, the want to make things happen.

The second surprising thing is how many closeted rebel thinkers there are in companies. People are yearning to do more – and they know more about what to do than most executive teams realize.

About Lois

Lois Kelly is an international marketing strategist, organizational change facilitator, successful author and dynamic speaker. She’s passionate about helping leaders at all levels make innovative ideas real, and serves as a creative outsider, igniting organizations to see new ways to accomplish important goals.


How to Choose Happiness

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How to choose happiness may seem strange to you. Many times we look at happiness as a feeling that comes and goes. And that certainly is a part of how happiness shows up, but there is more.

I'm living proof that happiness is often a choice. It is a choice in the moments.

My statement above is not one designed to give you the impression that I am superior or more with it than you. I'm not, I just discovered a secret that's not a secret at all. Here's how it works:

Value the moments of each and every day. Really value the moments. Once you've done this you'll realize two significant things:

  1. Life is brief.
  2. You don't have time to waste.

When we REALIZE that life is brief and we don't have time to waste. Things begin to turn.

A word of caution here, there will be days of sadness and unhappiness. Don't try to be the annoying positive thinker who pretends that everything is great. Sometimes we all have to do time in the dark seas. It's ok, just don't linger beyond the time necessary. Only you and God knows how long that is.

The great thing about choosing happiness is you'll become those choices. That's a beautiful place, a beautiful place indeed.