Career Happiness? First, Discover Your “My Three Things”

Career-Happiness-Discover-Your-Three-ThingsI am the original crash-test dummy of careers.

Waiter, salesman, teacher… CEO (three times now), nonprofit leader… My adult life has been rife not just with different jobs, but different careers.

As long as I’m getting “My Three Things,” though, I’m good. Very good.

What are “My Three Things”?

I worked with a really talented success coach for about a year. One of our major points of focus: what do I want from my work? Through that process, regardless of the title I had at the time, I identified the three bedrock items needed for me to be happy in my work:

Human Interaction

I put human interaction first because I have never – literally, never! – had a job that wasn’t heavy on the human factor. I love people, interacting with them, working with them… we’re all social animals, and I’m certainly no exception.

Please God, never put me in a quiet office and ask me to write code for you. I wouldn’t last a day!


Learning is also completely essential to me. I left teaching when I felt I had learned all I could. I learned how to build a successful business, then left it when I realized to continue on would entail doing more of the same stuff, every day.

Learning is much, much more important to me than wealth, recognition, or anything else that work could provide.


We all crave meaning in our work. If our company stands for something important – life-changing diabetes treatment, green energy, customer delight; taking down the Goliath of our industry – anything bigger than stock price and wages, we’ll often thrive.

Meaning at work is essential for me; I know I’m far from alone there.

Those are my three things. Give me these three… and I’m happy. I’ll be fully engaged. My employer will prosper.

Notice we haven’t discussed money at all yet. That wasn’t an oversight.

Pay is not one of My Three Things.

Pay is important, of course, but several times thus far in my career, I have held jobs that pay less than my family needs to get by because the work provides me… My Three Things.

Most likely, your Three are different from mine. If you take work because you’re desperate to move from Ramen before you get the rickets, I totally get that. However, if you don’t have to take the first job, any job, you can: please, satisfy your Three Things through that work, that job.

As your career unfolds, there’s an outstanding chance that you’ll end up leaving the position and employer. This will happen often as your priorities, passions and life situations (including your savings accounts) change. If you focus on your My Three Things as you progress, however, your career is going to surprise and delight you.

What are your My Three Things?

Do you have a good handle on this? Is pay one of your three? A few years ago, I would have listed pay, too: no one’s judging you. Just think a bit about the bedrock issues behind why pay matters. Does high pay mean security? Respect? Being able to afford a certain lifestyle?

No matter where you are right now, regardless of your current level of work experience (or lack thereof) – the era of waiting in line for your turn to lead is over (as much as a lot of old farts hate and deny it). You’ll be leading sooner than you think, if you aren’t already. So here is one of the most important things you can focus on:

As a leader, what are my people’s My Three Things?

Only if you tap into people’s bedrock motivation will you ever unleash their full brainpower. And in this brave new century, we are all knowledge workers, every one of us. And when we understand our Three Things, and the Three Things of those we lead and mentor, our careers will fulfill us, no matter where we find ourselves.

Get started. Before your next day at work, or your next gig, discover your “My Three Things”.





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Switch & Shift!


Switch & Shift


Ted CoineAbout the Author: Ted Coiné is one of the most influential business leaders on Twitter, with a following of over one hundred thousand and growing rapidly. His leadership was recognized on the Forbes list of Top 50 “Power Influencers” in Social Media. Ted is a featured regular contributor to the Sustainable Business Forum. An inspirational speaker, Ted is author of Five-Star Customer Service (2005) and Spoil ’Em Rotten! (2007).

Prior to writing his first book, Ted was founder and CEO of Coiné Language School, a B2B company he brought from his living room to a $10 million valuation in four years by focusing relentlessly on customer service. He is currently writing his third book, exploring the relationship among Leadership, Culture, Service, and Profit. Ted and his family live in Naples, Florida. Follow Ted on Twitter!


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