Success Skill #1: How to Make Your Work Meaningful and Your Meaning Work


Welcome back avid readers! If you read my previous post on the Intro section of “The Education of Millionaire” then you must have been waiting anxiously for this second post. Here we go: the first success skill in which Michael Ellsberg mentions is “How to Make Your Work Meaningful and Your Meaning Work” (or, How to Make a Difference in the World Without Going Broke).life-meaningful-quotes-witty-sayings-live-your-life

What comes to your mind when thinking about “Living a Meaningful Life”? Personally, it prompts me to think about this catchy phrase “Follow Your Passion.” I’ve been talking to renowned speakers from various networking conferences, reading a lot of literatures from successful people, and researching information to learn what passion is and how to turn passion into a career. Nevertheless, it’s still kind of a hard-to-write-about topic since each person has his/her own unique opinion about the concept of passion. Michael Ellsberg talks about “The Art of Earning a Living” (in which he presents a case study of Anthony Sandberg, founder and president of OCSC Sailing) and gives 4 steps to “aligning your money and your meaning.” The basic premiere being, once you aren’t worried about paying your bills, you can create more time to focus on meaning.

Step 1: Getting on Your Feet Financially

Ellsberg recommends getting on your feet financially before trying to pursue your art: “Get a square job, a corporate job, a temp job, a boring 9-to-5. Don’t feel anything is ‘beneath you’ so long as it pays… Give up your ‘art’, ‘purpose’, or ‘meaning’ for a little while and know what it means to be financially stable.”

“Finding a comfortable meeting ground for your money and your meaning is going to require a lot of experimentation. Experimentation takes time. It takes money. And it takes room to fall and to fail.” It’s so much easier to make a difference in the world when your bills are covered.

I barely have to say anything more about this first step. Most college students have already been working part-time jobs (waitressing, serving coffees, bartending…) during their undergraduate years, or even sooner. For us international students, it’s working on-campus and getting some extra money outside of paying tuition. The idea here is to practice earning money on your own. However, I believe this still seems unfamiliar with the Vietnamese youths because of the lack of motivation for being financially independent.

Step 2: Create More Room for Experimentation

Creating time for experiments if you are working freelance should be easy. But if you’re working a full-time corporate job, it will prove more difficult. In this case Ellsberg recommends seeing if you can move to a results-focused, instead of an hours-focused position and recommends some books to help make the transition.

4-hour-work-weekHmm how am I allowed to have more time when I still struggle with handling academic workloads and committing into extracurricular activities? The answer is certainly being more flexible and efficient in classrooms, club meetings, doing assignments… Everyone ought to work more on his own interpersonal skills and turns them into habits.

Step 3: With This New Space, Begin Experimenting!

This step is a bit of a let-down if you are hoping to uncover your passion, should you not know it already. There’s no real advice on how to experiment or what to look for when you try something. Probably a topic outside the scope of this book…

He does say, “many people are quite content to leave things here: they have a career that pays the bills and in which they’re increasingly making a difference and finding meanings, through exercising leadership. And they also have time during their day or week to pursue meaningful passions outside of work.” For these people there’s no reason to move to step 4.

Take advantage of the clubs you’re involved with and try to hold a leadership position. This makes your life more meaningful, influential, and creative (another reason why I enjoy working with the Leadership Fellows).

Step 4: Striking Out on Your Own

No matter how “striking out of your own” looks for you, Ellsberg says “you’re going to have to do a deep dive into the success skills in this book, particularly marketing, sales and networking.”

For me, “striking out of my own” looks life: starting an entrepreneurship, forming a new organization on campus, studying abroad in a third country, honing a new expertise… I certainly believe that most of you have even bigger realms that you are willing to step into.

Yeah I know that this “Art of Earning a Living” sounds too much in theory; but if you redefine it as structured habits that you ought to practice from now on, your life will be much different and more meaningful.

That’s just my own opinion on Michael’s 1st success skill. How about you?


Ellsberg, Michael. The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful. New York: Portfolio, 2012. Print.



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