Don’t Worry, Be Happy … At Work

Don’t Worry, Be Happy … At Work

This article reminds me of a quotation that goes something like this, “If you like the work that you are doing, then it is as if you are ‘playing’ everyday.” I agree with the author on the point, “…find the kind of work that can bring you joy. You will be happy in your work…”, and yet how many have the courage to find the work that they like?

“The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it. ” — John Ruskin

My son came home from a basketball game last night all aglow bragging about how he almost made a double triple, or was it a triple double, I’m not sure. The reason it struck me was he was in a state of pure joy. Exhilarated from just playing a competitive game with a bunch of other basketball enthusiasts, he was unaware of how his shining face and simple state of joy made me feel happy for a brief moment. Yes, joy is catchy! I started to think about joy and how it applied to our work.

Another thing came to my mind when I saw that remarkable moment of pure joy in my son’s face. It was that Bobby McFerrin song from back in the 80s, remember, Don’t Worry – Be Happy? Talk about being a millionaire, I bet that McFerrin has a decent amount of scratch lying around. I recently read an article that showed how much that song has been used in movies, pop culture, and advertising and I was blown away!

Here is a brief summary:

Don’t Worry, Be Happy was referenced in the movie Public Enemy. George Carlin wrote about it in his book, Napalm and Silly Putty. It was used in the movies Jarhead, and Dawn of the Dead, Flushed-Away. It was used by George H. Bush in the 1988 elections until McFerrin protested against it. He was a democrat of course. It was used in two episodes of ‘The Simpsons’. The song was adapted to an ‘Alamo Rent Car⒝ commercial. It is used in a ‘Nintendo DS’ game, ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’. It was used in an episode of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. It also appeared in an episode of ‘The 70s Show’ and made it on a Huggies commercial. The song won a Grammy for Best Song of the Year in 1989. It remained in the number one spot of the ‘Top 100 Billboard Hits’ list for two weeks in 1988.

I guess the popularity of that McFerrin song has a lot to do with the fact that not worrying and being happy is where most of us want to be. Humans need to be happy. Come to find out, our being happy is essential to our health. Recent studies have indicated that when we are happy we secrete hormones that bolster the immune system in our bodies. A study on stress for example revealed that stress brings about a drop in the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the body. These white blood cells are important players in the immune system. So, if you can control stress, you can increase your immunity. This of course controls disease and ultimately relates to how long we live. I’d say that has everything to do with being happy!

Yes, happiness is important! We need to be happy in all our activities, including work. That is why when I became a workforce development trainer in 1998, I was startled to learn that most Americans were unhappy about their jobs. Statistics tell us that over 60% of Americans are not happy about their jobs. I saw it everyday, people coming in to see me after losing a job and declaring they were never happy at most of their jobs. It’s no wonder we hear songs like ‘Working Nine to Five’ and ‘Take This Job and Shove it!’ as Americans lash out from anger at their unhappiness with work.

But take comfort at the thought that this information has made an impact and we are seeing a new generation of workers that are turning to face the issue and making happiness at work their concern. Ultimately what we are finding is people are looking for right job matches more than ever before. They have been made aware that happiness on the job is important and they are looking for jobs that will supply them that happiness even at the sacrifice of wages if they must.

Which brings us to the quote for today which I feature on my website by John Ruskin, an English reformer from the late 1800s said, “The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” Ultimately, work must bring us satisfaction, just like the satisfaction my son had when he came home from his basketball game gleaming with joy of his competitive victory. Work must be like that! Satisfaction about our work expands us; it fills our void we have to be needed and useful human beings. When we strive to learn an occupation and put our knowledge to work, striving to better the world or the things that will make the world a better place, we ultimately feel the rush we can only explain as “joy”. My maxim for life is: “when our work makes a better world, it makes a better us.” We ultimately create ourselves through our meaningful work. Our work is us.

My encouragement to you is find the kind of work that can bring you joy. You will be happy in your work; your days will go by quicker; and you will see that living is a beautiful thing! You will feel the pride that comes from creating, mostly creating you. You might then find yourselves humming that catchy little tune I can hear now: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

About the Author: John Cyr is a retired workforce development trainer and motivational consultant who writes articles and editorials under the pen-name Johnny Cyreous, or Cyreous. He maintains a website of quotes by famous people and advocates his method of teaching at

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