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Finding True Workplace Happiness: The 70% Rule

| July 7, 2014 | 18 Comments

The 70% Rule

A little more than three years ago I graduated from college, ready to kick off my career with a job lined up starting one week later. Taking my first official step into the oft-talked about “real world” I had so many thoughts about what it would be like. I couldn’t wait to put my marketing degree to use and spend all my time solving strategic problems for brands.

Entering work at an agency, I envisioned days filled with brainstorms, whiteboards, pitches, creative meetings, and 4 PM keg-tapping.

I wanted it all, and I was ready for it all.

I soon learned that everything I had envisioned was a fantasy. Sure, I was involved in brainstorms, pitches, creative meetings, and sometimes on Fridays we would crack open a beer to close the day, but it was overshadowed by preparing contracts, proofreading website copy, creating PowerPoint presentations (oh Powerpoint, how I loathe thee), filling out project documents, compiling reports, and status calls–my God the status calls.

About 6 months in, I realized something: I was really happy.

I had to do a lot of bogus work, but at the end of the day I was still going home saying that I loved my job.

Meanwhile, I had friends and professional connections at other companies living it up with their kegs, ping-pong tables, Mario Kart, creative meetings where you can write in marker on the walls, and crazy client outings. They had the life I was hoping for, but they were going home saying their job was fun, but overall just okay.

Right around that 6 month mark I was working late one night, drafting a bear of a contract. I didn’t finish until midnight, and had to be back at the office by 7:00 the next morning if I wanted enough hours to get everything else done. When I did hit the pillow that night I felt good. It struck me that at no point during that contract drafting that I so sorely despised did I say to myself, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?!”

I didn’t have that glamorous agency life I envisioned in college, and I was doing more work that annoyed me than not. Yet I was still smiling, and the people I knew who did have the glamorous agency life and were doing all the fun work were not.

WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH ME? Was I addicted to labor? Did I enjoy deprivation and failing to see my visions come to fruition?

It wasn’t any of these things. There was something else in play that put the smile on my face. something I like to call The 70% Rule.

I went into my new job thinking that I’d always be doing cool stuff 100% of the time. That was not the case, and it’s never the case. The functional parts of our job that we glamourize–the things that we love doing–we don’t get to do 100% of the time. In fact, we don’t even get to do them 50% of the time. The truth is we likely never exceed 30%. There are always administrative tasks that need to get done, paperwork that needs to be filled out, and ‘stuff’ that gets put on our plate that takes up about 70% of our work.

So with only 30% of our ideal functional job, and 70% consumed by everything else, there needs to be something that provides balance to make us happy at work.

That balance comes from two things:

1) Do you enjoy who you work with?

2) Do you receive the respect you feel you deserve?

If you don’t like your coworkers, it’s real tough to be happy when you spend at least 40 hours a week with those people.

Respect shows its face in many forms:

  • Do you understand your role within the company and how you impact its success?

  • Is there a clear path for career growth and opportunity to achieve it?

  • Do your team members look out for you?

  • Is your boss your champion within the company, and does he/she foster your growth?

  • Are you being compensated appropriately?

  • Are you being challenged?

  • Are you allowed to voice your opinion and share ideas?

  • Are there people within the company you can trust, and who can trust you?

  • Are you allowed to be yourself?

  • Is your work valued by others?

  • Do you receive praise for a job well done, and is that praise acknowledged publicly?

  • Can you be yourself without worrying if that’s a problem?

  • Do you feel like you are part of something?

  • Do you get appropriate HR benefits and time off?

I find it interesting now when people tell me their company is great because they have a Ms. Pac-Man Coffee Table in their break room. When I hear that I know I won’t be surprised if I see them looking for a new job in a year.

The video games, never-ending beer supply, and table tennis  are all temporary distractions, and oftentimes they mask a lack of respect. Getting to Level 5 in an arcade game during your break only goes so far before you get frustrated that you are making $10,000 less than what you want and have no idea if you’ll get promoted at your next review

Enjoying your coworkers and being respected are what truly matter to a person. It’s why I was happy to work on a contract at midnight, email it to the client, and still write, “hey–I know it’s super late, but I can review this with you if you have 15 minutes free right now.”

With only 30% of your ideal functional job, your remaining 70% of extra work has to be packaged with liking your coworkers, and receiving the respect you feel you deserve.

I want to know–where do you stand on The 70% Rule? Leave a comment or email me at and write:

1. The work you enjoy

2. The work you put up with

3. The respect you are or aren’t getting



Always evolving and never changing, Rajiv Nathan uses his experiences to inspire others. He is the Co-Founder of Idea Lemon, helping people figure life out by discovering their inner awesome to create powerful personal brands. He is also a public speaker, rapper, pun-maker, and lifelong fan of WWE.

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Category: Entrepreneurship

  • nancyrbennett

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    Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  • Michael Luchies

    Very good article! Have a great and happy day working everyone!

  • Rajiv Nathan

    Thanks Michael! How is the 70% at your work?

  • ilovemarketing

    This article popped in my inbox at just the right time. I got the “job of my dreams” in April and have since been bogged down by details, budgets, and limited resources. However, I work with brilliant and hard-working people who I respect and who respect me. I have a lot of hope and trust in my company and, at the end of the day, it is very rewarding work. Even if I’m only doing my favorite part of the job 30% of the time.

    As a sort of post-note, I’ll prove your point even more. Right after college, I got a job at a certain magical theme park where I got to dress up, hug children, and take pictures. Who wouldn’t love that? Me! Because there were a ton of us and, ultimately, I didn’t feel I had the respect I deserved.

    Great article. Thanks for your insight!

  • Rajiv Nathan

    Thanks for the comment! It’s funny how ‘job of my dreams’ can come with so many things you never expected. At the end of the day, we all have to do work that just plain sucks, but if you have that respect then you don’t feel like it sucks so much.

    Great to hear you have a job you love!

    Are you on twitter? Would like to follow. I’m @rajnation

  • Liz Flores

    Hey Raj! Great article. You are definitely helping me get through my day!
    1. Work I enjoy is implementations, and knowing I am helping sign a huge deal.
    2. Work I put up with is endless emails! And SO MANY FORMS that take over a month to complete.
    3. I definitely work with some great people who really show me a lot of respect in that if they are out of the office, they give me control of the project and let me learn, even if its by making some mistakes. They foster trust and those are the projects I get done very quickly. Now we have the other side that just sees a young 20 something and they think I dont know anything so they give no responsibility to others.

  • @lastcallusa

    Sure thing! I’ll look you up.

  • Rajiv Nathan

    Thanks for sharing Liz. One trick you might want to try out that worked well for me a couple years ago was offering to do peoples’ “dirty work”.

    (with my boss’s approval) I sent an email to my team and basically asked them, is there something I can help you with? Would it help your day if you got a little dirty work off your plate? Maybe it’s making a case study, preparing a campaign report, etc., anything that you don’t have time for and could use some help with, just let me know. I’ll take one dirty work request via email per day, and please include details X, Y, and Z in your request.

    It really helped my team see that I was reliable and trustworthy, and overall a team player.

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  • rozellajbrook

    Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising,
    last week I bought themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month
    and-in excess of, 10/k last-month . it’s realy the easiest-work I have ever
    done . I started this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in
    at least $78 per-hour . why not look here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

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  • intouchcrm

    Hi Rajiv, great post! Really does put things into perspective: what you put in, what you get out, what you imagined, what you actually get. I couldn’t help but put myself in your shoes and it is great that you feel so happy and content with your job and your company. It is very important that people take the time to think about those things. I am a firm believer that ‘happy employees’ = ‘happy customers’. Keep up the good work!

  • Jonathan Clift

    A lot of this is very true and a very interesting read. I work for myself, usually based from home so I like to think I get to do all the things I want to do 100% of the time!

    The reality is that I have to get the balance right in order to be successful. I absolutely love brainstorming and crafting solutions with my clients but I’m not much of a fan of putting together contracts and proposals. So I accept that to get to all the good stuff, I have to get some of the less interesting stuff done first.

    Thinking of this 70% concept is a great reminder that you have to get some of the less interesting stuff done but thats OK because eventually you’ll be back on the cool stuff again.

  • Julie Dawn Harris

    These are the things that came out of my mind after I read the article:
    1. Its always about being contented and happy with your job.
    2. The devotion and eagerness for your work is very much important to be able to reach your goals and be a productive one.
    3. Being comfortable with your job is another factor. Find a job that suits your skills and capabilities.
    4. As always, ‘LEARN HOW TO LOVE YOUR JOB’ and embrace everything in it.

  • Rajiv Nathan

    Thanks for sharing your takeaways Julie. To summarize it all, it’s about being in a place where you have a desire, and are encouraged by others, to maximize your impact and exceed your potential.

  • Rajiv Nathan

    Definitely Jonathan. Even in starting our own businesses, every single second can’t be the most exciting thing ever. But to really enjoy ourselves, we need to understand why we’re putting up with the annoying work.

  • Rajiv Nathan

    Thanks! And you are absolutely right. If you have a workforce that goes to work each day knowing that they are committed to the company goals and will do everything to evangelize it, happy customers will result.

  • Sandra Crowe

    It’s really true that when you are working and you’re happy doing it, you can work very well because you enjoy everything. The more happy you work the less pressure you feel :)