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 The Synergist by Les McKeown

Very excited to share some thoughts on a new book titled, The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success by Les McKeown. I must say the book is a must for anyone involved or interested in organizational development and teamwork. Mr. McKeown articulates a reliable way for groups to form and perform as a team. As someone who thinks the word team is as worn out as the word leadership, it's refreshing to read a thought leader who truly understands what the word means in the real world.

I am biased in my fondness for this book because he described me, personally, in one of the chapters. It was rather haunting, but in a good way.

Mr. McKeown has a vast background in working the land of organizational development. He applies this in a way that is understandable and relevant, regardless of your position/role. 

Here are some key take-aways I gained from the book:

  • Effective teams are made up of 4 different types (the visionary, the operator, the processor, and the synergist) of people.
  • Every group and team comes to the table with a natural bent. The bent is neither good or bad, it's the human being being who they are.
  • Evey organization is aligned for the outcomes it experiences.
  • There is a life cycle for every team and organization. I found it interesting how choices drive so much of this.
  • Many groups find themselves in a ditch due to their inability to see each player as a unique contributor.
  • The synergist role (the person who brings clarity in an unbiased manner) is a sort of lynch-pin in every high performing team. You'll understand more when you read the book.
  • Mr. McKeown uses real-world examples to drive his premise. 

This post is not long enough to give you all that the book delivers. But the book really is like guidebook. You owe it to yourself to check it out. 

Thoughts on Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden

Had a chance to dig into a new book recently titled Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden. The book takes a path I like, namely, it doesn't pull any punches. Rory makes it clear that if you want success you better be prepared to do the hard work, but in the end it's worth it and most truly successful people get this.

He also takes on our cultural norms (at least in America) and plays the true contrarian. Fortunately he doesn't leave you with long-winded diatribes. Solutions are found through-out the book. In the end, the resounding theme goes the direction of no easy path to true success. The following are some of the things I liked about Rory's insights:

  • He makes a suggestion to check email 3 times a day. I like that idea.
  • We shouldn't be so fixated with "should I." A better plan is to move forward and focus on how you can make something work.
  • Commitment is lacking in our age and its essential to making our success happen.
  • Get through the upfront pain of change and you'll be alright.
  • Procrastination is the enemy.

All-in-all the book is worth the read.

A Book About Acting Up In The Workplace

I found a book that you should check-out.  Acting Up Brings Everyone Down is a book by Nick McCormick of Be Good Ventures.  The book is a short read, but is packed with wit, irony and useful workplace tips.

When I began reviewing the book, I couldn't help but think back to my days in the corporate world.  The irony was inescapable.  Nick does a good job at finding situations and anecdotes that breed a sense of relating.  I especially like the 3rd chapter, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.  Sincere lying is an art form in some corporate halls.

The tips are also not to be overlooked.  Nick gives the reader no-nonsense help without resorting to worn out motivational techniques.  It's the stuff we no we should do, and shouldn't do.

Maybe Acting Up Brings Everyone Down will help us get back to some basics.


Interview on Total Picture Radio

I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Peter Clayton over at Total Picture Radio some weeks ago.  Peter is a great talent in many forms of media and I’m pleased that I could be a part of his program. 

If you feel so inclined, both Peter and I would appreciate you spreading the word through Digg, Del.icio.us!, Reddit! or Technorati!.  You”ll find those links at the bottom of the Total Picture page that corresponds with the interview.

You can listen to the interview here

The Traditional Book Publishing Quandary

Traditional book publishers are in a quandary.  I won't bore you with my thoughts on what I've learned since the release of my book Waking Up in Corporate America.  But one thing is clear, executives at traditional book publishers should consult their counterparts in the music business.  Their story is very similar.

I wrote late last year on the approach/expectations for my book.  You can read that post here.

Now comes a piece from Dave Balter (thanks, Guy for pointing out onTwitter) entitled How the Book Publishing Industry Should Reinvent Itself.  Dave's thoughts are informed and point to a different, if not better future, for authors and publishers.

The downside is change is never easy, and publishers are holding on tight to the old model.  Harper Collins seems to be bucking this trend, as evidenced by this article in the NY Times from earlier this year.

As an author, I'm encouraged by the trends.

Additions and Updates to Waking Up In Corporate America Site


We just made some additions and updates to the Waking Up site.  Here is a link to the Media Information page.  I am grateful to all of my subscribers who have referred me onto to outlets and organizations for engagements.

If you don’t know about the other things I do to spread the ideas of Waking Up, you can go to the Epic Services header to the right of this post to learn more.  Better yet email me so we can begin the conversation.

OK, enough of the shameless plugs:)