Career Advice To Help You Find A Job You Love: Interview with Penelope Trunk |

Career Advice To Help You Find A Job You Love: Interview with Penelope Trunk

Today’s interview is all about career advice and helping you to find a job you love. The interview is with Penelope Trunk. Author of Brazen Careerist and the recently released New American Dream. Penelope is a terrific blogger over at

*The call quality isn’t perfect as you’ll see (Penelope was on a cell phone deep in the American farmlands ;). The content and advice more than makes up for that. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Good news! It looks like the percentage of our happiness controlled by genes isn’t 75% after all. It’s more like 50% and may be even lower…”we might be able to voluntarily change some of our genetic expression, meaning genes are no longer destiny.” Thanks to Lisa Sansom for this.

  • Where does the “75% of our happiness” is genetic come from? I really want to read the research study that showed that, because that’s a vastly different finding than anything I’ve ever heard before…

    • Hi Lisa – Penelope can answer this in more detail though I believe the reference is from research done at the Harvard Happiness Lab and the Happiness Foundation at UC San Diego. There is some other research that supports part of this on the Economist here:

      • The Economist link you posted says “In “Genes, Economics and Happiness”, a working paper from the University of Zurich’s Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, they conclude that about a third of the variation in people’s happiness is heritable.” – which is more like 33%, not 75%. And the basis of Lyubomirsky’s book is that about 50% is heritable, with 10% being life circumstances, leaving about 40% in our control.

        See the quote on Lyubomirsky’s page: “Beginning with a short diagnostic quiz that helps you to first quantify and then to understand what she describes as your “happiness set point,” Lyubomirsky reveals that this set point determines just 50 percent of happiness while a mere 10 percent can be attributed to differences in life circumstances or situations. This leaves a startling, and startlingly underdeveloped, 40 percent of our capacity for happiness within our power to change.”

        I still don’t see the 75% anywhere.

        • Lisa – great follow up. You may want to contact Penelope for more details.

          • Thanks Michael.

            Here’s what I wrote to her:

            Thank you for your kind and quick response Penelope. I know you’re busy and I do appreciate it. You must have a different version of the book than I do. The preface in my version (paperback) of Lyubomirsky’s book says “… Because 40 percent is that part of our happiness that is in our power to change through how we act and how we think…”
            I can find no mention of 75% of happiness being genetic in the foreword.
            In Chapter 1 (page 20-21 in my copy), it says:”The lower right slice of the pie shows that an astounding 50 percent of the difference among people’s happiness levels can be accounted for by their genetically determined set points. This discovery comes from the growing research done with identical and fraternal twins that suggests that each of us is born with a particular happiness set poit that originates from our biological mother or father or both, a baseline or potential for happiness to which we are bound to return, even after major setbacks or triumphs. This means that if with a magic wand, we could turn [one hundred people] into genetic ‘clones’ (or identical twins) of one another, theystill would differ in their happiness levels, but those differences would be reduced by 50 percent.”
            There is a footnote in there to the original research by Lykken and Tellgen (1996).
            I know that this notion of a genetic “set point” is contentious, and Lybomirsky’s book and research still doesn’t show that the set point is 75%. Rather, it speaks to 50% as a genetic set point. And this is without getting into epigenetics and science is starting to show that we might be able to voluntarily change some of our genetic expression, meaning genes are no longer destiny (which is really exciting!!) If you should find another source, and should happen to think of me, I’d love to see it.
            Thank you kindly,

            Here’s what she wrote back:

            Ok. Then thats the number. I remembered it wrong.

          • Lisa – thanks for the update. While we can’t update the audio I’ll put a note in the post with the 50% figure.

    • Penelope

      The research is all over the place, but its laud out really nicely by a pschologist at UCSD in the preface to the book The How of Happiness.


  • Peter Perrone

    What is the name of the career interest test Penelope makes reference to in the call?

    • Penelope

      Myers Briggs