Career with a purpose


This barista served me a cup of coffee while my flight was delayed. I asked for a selfie and she was happy to do so. Her happiness and dedication made my day. I will be back. 

Key takeaways:
– Find your purpose, but it takes time;
– Purpose doesn’t always bring you money, but definitely bring you happiness;
Happy people achieve goals and definitely live the life fully;
– Respect ‘the other half’ of you, because they are meant to ‘complete’ you!

I teach in a world top-50 university and I’m grateful for what I’ve got at work and at home. I thought this was the purpose of my life: working hard in a top university and becoming a great professor (maybe a ‘celebrity’ professor).

I was wrong. That’s not my purpose of life and not my calling.

I came across the ‘purpose thing’ a few years ago through reading. Then I realised that I felt ‘lost’ at that time because I didn’t have a clear purpose, but a career. I had a great job at a top university and had had some good impacts on research and also industry. The reason why I felt ‘lost’ was that I was looking for larger impacts; whatever I can do to influence people or mankind. Steve Jobs used to call this: “making a dent in the universe“. I had ‘scratched’ the universe, but not yet able to make a ‘dent’.

I thought I should work harder, do more projects and then I will be able to impact the world. That’s my purpose.

No, it’s not.

I could still work harder, do more influential projects and influence the industry but that’s not entirely my calling. I was a bit lost but I still loved my job.

Last June on my way to China, I stopped over Hong Kong for 6 hours and had an afternoon tea at the arrival hall of Hong Kong Airport. Since most of my students work with airlines or airports, it’s common that I meet some of them at airports when I travel. ^_< Over the afternoon tea, we chatted on their works, happiness and frustrations, of course. As a professor and a coach, I offered them some advises and perhaps, comfort.

After I told my wife upon return that I had a great time meeting my students overseas, then my wife told me something interesting: “If you teach or coach a student well, then they will go on and influence their kids, friends and colleagues. Through this, you have a great impact on other people’s lives.

Yes, that’s my purpose. (I have to proudly admit that I have a great wife who always tells me something interesting!)

My purpose is not to become a great or celebrity professor. My purpose is to bring knowledge to people so all together we could make a dent in the universe in the future. It will take time and I know I need to be patient. After working for 16 years, I see that now I have a great network, full of great people, former students, colleagues and friends. We are gradually having impacts on the industry and society.

Since last March, I have started coaching my research team about human performance, work-life balance and tips to remain happy (amid tough research challenges!). I also provided workshops (and lost money by doing it). By end of 2017, I quickly got a thank-you email from a student, telling me that my short 30-mins talk on human brain and performance was the best lecture she had ever had in the whole university degree. I read her email with a big smile on my face. I knew I just made a ‘dent’ on someone’s life and I’m pretty sure she will go on and make a dent on other people’s life and perhaps the universe.

The reward of finding my purpose is more than money. I found the meaning of life and happiness and that’s beyond description. Life is precious, so I don’t want to waste it.

(NB: this blog is dedicated to that girl who sent me the thank-you email and made my day. Also to my wife! Go on and change the world, girls!)

Dr. C. Richard Wu @

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3 thoughts on “Career with a purpose

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  1. Ah Dr Wu
    Another great story aided by the obvious wisdom of your wife.
    Enjoy your writings .
    Thanks Lucky Phil

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