Introduction

Why joy matters to me

Pick a phrase to describe myself? It would likely be “joyfully relentless.” But joy is the juice. That’s why joy is a topic I’ve been actively exploring for the past five years—and implicitly for decades before that.

Why joy? Why joy at work? Why now?

The short answer is: Why would we settle for anything else?

When there is a clear lack of something in the world, it’s human nature to seek it, anywhere. In the recent past, there has been no shortage of mayhem, uncertainty, and despair of semi‐biblical proportions. Is the pursuit of joy a kneejerk reaction to the day and age, or is it more fundamental? We are born happy, in our parents’ arms. As children, we’re brimming with joy. Even when we face big firsts—first day of school, first day on a new job—we’re optimistic and can find joy in the unknown opportunities ahead of us.

What happens as adults that makes us despair and disengage?

I likely inherited my calm sense of optimism from my dad, whose life certainly was not easy. Growing up as a poor peasant in rural China, he had 10 siblings and was the only kid in the family to get past an eighth‐grade education. My parents came to the United States as immigrants from Taiwan when I was a baby, and my father built his career as a professor, teaching at historically Black colleges and universities in the US South. Because he was not white, he wasn’t allowed to teach white kids. Having endured wars, revolution, racism, and hostility in various doses ...

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