The One Thing More Important Than Your Career

Every now and again, I like to bring you short interviews to give you a new perspective on work happiness. During my study of work happiness I have found that there are many paths to the same goal. Some people believe that loving what you do is a must, while other people believe that relationships are vital to enjoying the work that we do. Interviews are a great way to get out of your own perspective and see what other people are doing to be happy at work.

On this blog I try to push myself outside of my comfort zone to a place where I’m a little afraid. I have to admit that I was a little afraid of interviewing Penelope Trunk. Not because her blog is űber popular or because she was the CEO of Brazeen Careerist a popular career networking site.

I was afraid because of how honest she is. She wouldn’t be afraid to call me out.

She wasn’t afraid to tell me that career happiness really is a crock of shit. Her words. She actually said it a few times. She explains how we overcomplicate life in the audio interview that I posted below. You’ll just have to listen to the audio to find out why she believes so strongly in her ideals.



The Pitfalls

She is right. We expect too much and almost always feel disappointed.

What a career really comes down to is our relationships. If we work with good people and enjoy the person that we are, that’s all that matters. The tedious tasks don’t feel so torturous.

Penelope makes reference to all the business data that indicates one of the best jobs for happiness is being a janitor. This career is usually filled with good-hearted people. They feel like they are making a difference at their job. They can easily see that if they aren’t there the place would go to hell. Many of you work in an office and don’t get such instant satisfaction. You don’t see a dirty room become clean in a half hour. Most office work seems invisible. There is always more and the work is always there.

Building Lasting Relationships

I liked that Penelope said that if you don’t like the people you work with, you need to quit. I agree. Not every job or workplace you work is a good fit. Sometimes you need to cut your losses and find a better place to work.

She also said that career advice is a “crock of shit.” I love this candor. She knows that her blog is filled with career advice, but most of it won’t make you any happier. She believes that we get more value out of building a lasting relationship with our spouse than we would get from any work. I don’t totally agree with this line of thought. I believe that our jobs can help us build our emotional intelligence, which will help us become happier. I also believe that people who are happy at work are happier at home. If we are doing something that stimulates us during the work day, we treat the people better at home. We carry the good feelings home from work.

By understanding more of our needs, we are able to connect more with our work and the people in our lives. If we feel that our work is making a positive difference, we feel happier because of the influence that we have in other people’s lives. It all comes back to relationships.

My Favorite Part

My favorite part of the interview is the ending. You’ll just have to listen to it and see what we laugh about. It’s a contradiction that pulls the whole interview together.

Enjoy. I know I did.

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* Lance of the Jungle of Life and Katie of the Levity Project are trying to bring more fun and laughter into our lives. Check out what they are trying to do with car dancing videos.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like this one too:

Career Renegade Interview
Have Fun and Be Weird

6 thoughts on “The One Thing More Important Than Your Career”

  1. Your posts have helped me through my days at work and I’m using them to help me find a new job. I left an award for you on my blog…because everyone needs a little sunshine. Thanks for all you do.

  2. I’ve never thought of workaholics being people who think they need to prove something to be loved. I think it’s true for some but there are a lot of people who have two minimum paying jobs because they need to make ends meet not because they have to prove something. Video…good food for thought Karl.

  3. There’s a lot to be said for the power of instant gratification. Whether it’s mowing lawns, cleaning a house, or being a janitor, it’s great to see the immediate fruits of your effort.

    I think blogging is another channel where we can enjoy the fruits along the way, while we might be working towards a larger creative effort.

  4. Hi Karl

    I have to be honest, I am not sure to begin with my comment. I listened to the whole interview and I found it fascinating indeed in many respects of the matter. I want to give Penelope the benefit of the doubt in why she says or believes some of the things she does.

    I definitely agree with a lot of what she said, like the fact that yes, true “happiness” is about the relationships we have. But I have to disagree that it is all about marriage.

    I have made amazing relationships online with people that definitely add to my sense of happiness. Also, some of my co-workers are today close friends who I see regularly even though I am not at that job any more.

    So this is coming from a person that is in a super happy marriage, when I say that it is so much more than about marriage. In fact, I think it is more important to have a “unity” with your partner, which is possible even if you are just dating or living common-law. Marriage to me is really just about a paper and contract, which enough businesses do that. And I definitely don’t think it should be held onto at all costs. And this is coming from a person who used to not believe in divorce for many years of her life.

    Today I know that if we box ourselves in, in any relationship, we stop growing, we limit ourselves. Today I respect highly couples who are “big” enough to look at their relationship consciously and know that they have come to the end of their journey together, they have reached the maximum way in which they can grow together and part on loving terms, not once they have grown to resent the other for limiting their growth and happiness or simply from not being able to express or seek what they need. And I am in no way advocating for higher divorce rates, the reason for that is a whole other story.

    So yes a great dinner with your wife is an amazing aspect of happiness, but what if a person really does not like their spouse, then couldn’t maybe their job environment bring them more happiness?

    Gosh, there is so much I want to say here….basically I believe that what makes people happy is when they truly know who they are, and that no matter what job they get, or what partner, they can still maintain a base level happiness. Naturally an awesome job, or awesome partner can make us happier, but there has to be some core sense of self that we are completely happy with, with which we go out into the world.

    So I really like the examples you used too from your past, and how you are handling situations like that today.

    In the end, I guess each person has to ask themselves – what is it that I really want in life right now (not for life, as we change) and why do I want it?

    Once we start to decipher that on a deeper and deeper level, what we find may really surprise us and cause many shifts to the path that we were so sure we wanted to be on.

  5. I’m shocked to hear that NYC ranks on the low end of the work happiness scale. 🙂 I’m from New York, actually, and I can tell you people have really been a lot nicer there since 9/11. But then again, I moved to CA, so I’m not the most credible NYC advocate.

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