Full text of psychologist Shane J. Lopez’s talk: The Secrets of People Who Love Their Jobs at TEDxLawrence 2015 conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: The secrets of people who love their jobs by Shane Lopez
Shane J. Lopez – Psychologist
When I was six, I started going to work with my grandmother on Friday nights.
I’d sit there quietly on a stool, watching her and her colleagues. They sat there, shoulder to shoulder. Some would fold things. Others would add to the pot. Most were smoking. All were gambling.
My grandmother was a professional card player. And she brought me to her card game because I was her good luck charm. What I learned at an early age is that jobs came in all shapes and sizes.
At nine, I started working in our family restaurant- Joe’s Drive-In, which was neither owned by Joe nor a drive-in. But I worked three shifts a week there – prepping, cleaning, frying, baking, all alongside three generations of my family.
There I learned that work was a very social experience.
Now, you may be wondering about the legality of gambling and child labor. Well, this was Louisiana in the 1970s. So I think it was OK.
At 12, I went legit. I thought I was going to be a podiatrist. Don’t ask me why. We all have wacky reasons as to why we choose the careers we choose. But I thought I was going to be a podiatrist. Until that summer… I went to the pool and I saw grown-ups feet for the first time in real bold, big life.
After that, podiatry… thoughts of podiatry were parts of my past.
I went to school for 10 years to become a psychologist. How did I end up there?
Well, I always wanted to make people happy. And there was this summer where I binge watched old Bob Newhart episodes, and I thought that was a great career. That’s a great career for me.
And I became a psychologist after 10 quick years of college. I got out and I was studying what was right with people. So I became a positive psychologist, studying what was right with people.
And today I want to talk about the emotional fruits of labor. The emotional fruits of labor.
I want to talk about what life gives you when you love your job. And since I’ve been researching this, I have lived differently. I work differently. And I hope the same happens for you.
Now, even though I look for people who love their jobs all the time, I meet people who don’t like their jobs quite often. In fact, they had this uncanny ability to find me and sit next to me on long flights. And I learned a lot about the jobs they hate.
Now, the reason I think these people talk so much about the jobs they hate is because they’re in pain. They’re in pain. I know… I’ve been a job hater. I’ve been in that pain.
You spend a third of your life… a third of your life going to a job that makes you miserable and you don’t get to do what you do best. You don’t get to shine. You don’t get praise and recognition. And you work for this boss that you secretly call a soul sucking happiness vampire.
I hope she’s not here. And it just drains you. But I also meet a whole lot of people that love their jobs. The first person I ever knew who loved his job was my Uncle Ray.
Uncle Ray was just this fascinating enigma to me. He would swoop into our little town of New Iberia, Louisiana, and just change my life. My life would go from black and white to color when Uncle Ray was in town.
And he just had this way about him. While other people were talking about jobs they hated and clearing my grandmother’s living room, Uncle Ray would captivate us with talk of the travel agent job he loved. So let me tell you a little bit about his job.
He started in the travel industry in a job that wasn’t all that exotic. It wasn’t all that adventurous. He was a customer service agent at a regional airline, a customer service agent at a regional airline. And he didn’t get to travel as much as he had hoped. But what he did get was just a ton of experience and a ton of opportunity.
And he had one manager that changed his life. His manager said to him, “Ray, you’re people soother. You calm people down.”
My Uncle Ray built a career and a life out of that one talent. Being a people soother. When the airline National Airlines shut down, he moved to California, doubled down on his commitment to the travel industry, doubled down on his commitment to what he did best.
And while working in an orchard, he sought out his next job in travel. He was recruited by the owner of a travel agency, Mr. Galley and Mr. Galley recognized Uncle Ray’s potential to put people at ease.
Ray quickly learned the business. He had no experience playing interests, but he quickly learned the business and he carved the job into something that was uniquely his. He shaped it little by little, and it became his job.
And he would turn hassles of travel into plans for a dream trip. And customers flocked to him. In just a little bit of time, he became one of the top grossing agents at the firm. And then after 10 years, he was one of the top grossing agents in the country and he was also named vice president of Segale Travel.
I tell you this story about Uncle Ray, because he inspired me. He inspired me to look at life as if there was potential, to look at life as if I could make a difference. I could work on my job. I could change my job into something that really meant something to me. That something that really mattered to me.
Now, I believe the best career advice comes from the Rays of the world. And these people really do exist. These people who love their jobs, they really do exist.
They pop out of bed in the morning, energized, ready to go. They come home at night, still full of energy, ready to share with their families. These people do exist. They’re not mythical creatures like Unicorns or Jay Hawks or Democrats in western Kansas. They’re real. They really do exist.
And I want to tell you about the work I’ve been doing to find these people and discover their secrets. In the last three years, I’ve been working with huge data set of 8500 working Americans and trying to figure out exactly how many people in America love their jobs.
How many people are having a love affair with their jobs? What do you think? What percentage?
You’re all wrong, 13 percent. 13 percent of people are having a love affair with their jobs. They are uniquely engaged. They are uniquely passionate about what they do. 87% of people are not.
Who are these people? These are real people. These are artists. These are accountants, teachers, preachers, soldiers, mechanics. These are real people. And they don’t have special degrees from special universities. They don’t have beautiful, perfect resumes. They’re people like you and me. So even I can love my job. Even you can love your job.