The Pursuit of Happiness: Life Lessons from Silicon Valley’s Longest Serving CEO
So, is there an art to happiness? A formula or a path? In reality, happiness is as unique as the individual pursing it but in my many years as a CEO and entrepreneur, I have learned some truths about being happy:
Give, Not Take.
First all, was King Solomon right? No. If, like King Solomon, your focus is on yourself and the gain you are expecting to get, life will be futile. This is because you cannot satisfy your appetite for life with the pleasures of the world. This is not true happiness.
True happiness comes from going outside yourself and helping others. Don’t let your life be futile. Live your life for others and you will be the happier for it. As a follow on to this, true happiness can only come from selfless service to others. A recent study showed that the gift giver had a longer lasting feeling of joy and happiness than the gift receiver.
As the saying goes, “‘tis better to give than to receive”.
And with respect to the despair so many have experienced during the pandemic, when life seems dark and dreary, and you feel all is lost, try losing yourself in serving others who may feel like you do. Lifting them up, lifts you up. You will become the servant, not the victim. It is life changing to go outside yourself and help others. Letting them feel your love fills your life with happiness and joy. Soon you will feel that life is not so dismal. Lifting others up, lifts you up. It is life changing to go outside yourself and help others.
So, the best medicine to fight the seeds of loneliness and depression is to work in the service of others. I view it this way: this medicine will inoculate you against those things that will, in part, tend to destroy you. Serving others will bring you peace and happiness. Let peace and happiness fill your soul through your selfless service of others. Don’t just sit around and stew when things are not going right. Grab on to something that will cheer you up, take charge of your happiness.
In my 37 years running Micrel Semiconductor, I made sure my managers all practiced servant leadership which meant that we were there to help employees succeed, not the other way around. This, in turn, translated into very high levels of satisfaction, happiness if you will, of our employees. And this happiness meant that we had one of the lower attrition rates in the industry and one of the highest boomerang rates.
People who did actually leave the company more often than not, wanted and often did return. Employees told me that they found that the grass was not truly greener on the other side of the fence and that being happy at work was more important than anything else. Being valued at work, being respected and ultimately, being happy, was more important than another notch on their career belt.
No Free Lunch
Ultimately, as I say in Zen of Zinn 2, when it comes to happiness, like so many things in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Don’t expect or feel entitled to something you did not work for or at least contribute in some fashion. You are only entitled to freedom and the direct pursuit of happiness. The rest you must work for.
Finally, I read recently a lamentation by Steve Jobs of Apple fame. Most think that Jobs had it all, fame, money, amazing career, perfect life and yet, he wrote just before he passed away that wealth isn’t what makes you happy. Happiness comes from good friends, good health, and good family. Arguably, one of the most successful and well-known men in the world, as he faced down his mortality, Jobs knew what was truly needed in order to be happy.
Do you know what it takes to make you happy?
About The Author
Raymond D. “Ray” Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley. He is also the founder of a nationally launched ZinnStarter program at colleges around the country, providing the financial and mentoring support for students to launch new products and companies.
In 2015, Ray published his first book, Tough Things First, with McGraw Hill. The book covers Zinn’s analysis of his nearly 40 years at the helm of Micrel, a Silicon Valley institution along with the critical factors that entrepreneurs and seasoned executives alike need to know, including the intricacies of nurturing corporate culture, how to make every employee (and every human) feel valued, the impact and limitations of policies and procedures, and how to manage growth.
Ray has also published Zen of Zinn and Zen of Zinn 2 both books encapsulate Ray’s observations about how individuals motivate themselves and push others toward greatness. Zen of Zinn and Zen of Zinn 2 collect Ray’s wisdom on people, business, society, entrepreneurship, happiness, personal discipline, leadership, government, and life itself.
In my latest book Zen of Zinn 2, I discuss the pursuit of. With the advent of the pandemic, people stayed home a great deal and were confronted with simply being with themselves. Happiness, therefore, has become a real conundrum. People are still stuck at home, happiness still something everyone is pondering and yet? Many tell me that finding joy, with COVID and being on lockdown, feels more elusive than ever.
Ray Zinn holds over 20 patents for semiconductor design. He has been mentioned in several books, including Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running and Essentialism by Greg McKeown.