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Neil Pasricha Happiness Speaker

November 30, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

The Four Ss of Meaningful Work

A Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil Pasricha is “a pied piper of happiness”* who dazzles audiences with ideas and frameworks that skyrocket happiness into the stratosphere. With infectious enthusiasm, heartfelt authenticity, and a “what works” authority, Pasricha draws on the latest research in happiness to increase individual performance and create a more positive and productive workplace. In this column for The Toronto Star, Neil explains why you should skip retirement and instead keep doing the work you love (and you can watch him explain here):

Never retire.

We talked about retirement in a previous column so I won’t get into it again. But I believe retirement is a false concept based on assumptions no longer true. Retirement at age 65 was invented when average lifespan was 67, and there’s a big reason the healthiest societies in the world have no word for retirement.

So what’s the solution?

Keep working.

And make sure whatever you’re doing includes the 4 Ss of meaningful work:

S — Social: We are the most social mammals on the planet for a reason. According to Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, our social relationships have a greater effect on our happiness than our income, religion, gender, or even health. So what does a good workplace foster? Team breakfasts. CEO AMAs. Lunch walking groups. Work sports leagues. If these are missing, start one.

S — Structure: There are 168 hours in a week: 56 for sleep (eight hours a night if you can get it), 56 for work (including commuting and extra work at home, etc.), and 56 for your passion.

On structure, there are two things to point out. One, work helps create and pay for your third bucket. The fun bucket. The passion bucket. And two, if everyone in this structure has a third bucket, what can each person bring in from outside of work? Can the word nerd start a book club? Can the hospital volunteer start a company volunteer program? Can the late night DJ plan the Christmas party? Work structure should allow and create outside work passions to be big parts of our lives.

S — Stimulation: Always learning something new. In every job you have it means ensuring the steepest possible learning curves between “value giving” and “value getting.” Examples to make sure this happens are things such as maximum two years in roles, job sharing or job trades, regular development sessions, and quarterly growth meetings with one- and two-up managers. Making sure you can always say yes to the question “Am I learning a lot and adding a lot?” If your answer is tilted one way it means you’re giving something else up.

S — Story: Feeling as though you’re part of something bigger than yourself. Ensuring the company’s mission and higher level purpose captures the heart — and bringing it to life regularly through customer stories, printing it on walls, and talking about it to open or close meetings. There’s a reason that Medtronic, the medical devices company famous for popularizing the pacemaker, has family members of patients read letters at company meetings. How would you feel about your job if an eleven-year-old girl thanked you for giving her five extra years of memories with her father? At Facebook you’re connecting the world. At Wikipedia you’re giving the world the sum of human knowledge for free. At your town paper, you’re increasing community. What’s your workplace story?

So I say never give up work. Meaningful work. Work you love. Because you’ll be giving up the Social, Structure, Stimulation, and Story you get every day from being there. Forget the money.

You’ll lose the 4 Ss, and they are much more important.

Neil Pasricha/Toronto Star/November, 2016