The Great Reset Button on Humanity Gets Hit Again.
I felt like a complete failure. The 2001 dot-com bust made me question everything I believed to be true. In just one year, I was laid off, the twin towers fell on 9/11, and my dad was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer.
I was hit by waves of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). And with each moment of loss and grief, I realized that the money/title/status weren’t that important to me anymore.
I began asking myself, "What would I do if I didn't fear failure?" and "What would I do if money didn't matter?" These questions led me on a journey to discover my true values and purpose, so I can be authentic to the core of who I am. That journey included co-founding Delivering Happiness (DH) with the late Tony Hsieh, a consultancy that applies the science of happiness to impact workplace culture and profits in positive ways.
Ten years later, DH was at its height of growth. We were one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies and saw the impact we were making on workplace culture at a global scale. But in 2020, almost 20 years after the first wave of VUCA, the Great Reset button on humanity was hit again.
Again, existential questions bubbled up, but this time it wasn’t about the tech world in Silicon Valley, or feelings of safety in America. The whole world was asking the same questions, at the same time. After an unprecedented year of a pandemic, recession, social unrest, and in my personal sphere, Tony's tragic passing, we contemplated: What's really most important? How can I ensure every waking moment is meaningful? How do I ensure I'm living this every day?
After decades of doing this work, it once again was obvious to me that grounding ourselves — in our purpose and values — provides the resilience we need to adapt, survive, and thrive in an exponentially changing world.
Over 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021 (in the US alone) because they finally began answering those existential questions and rediscovered personal values that they weren't willing to give up. With more burnout than ever, the Great Resignation — or Great Awakening (depending on how you choose to see it) — is a call to rethink how we design our businesses to enrich lives for all, not just the few. The awakening is about being grounded with authenticity so that we can grow more greenhouses as we nurture our own.
The future of work is here, and it’s human. Let's not let these months of VUCA and reflection go to waste. As leaders, we're all the wiser to bring resilience to our work/lives, encourage everyone to show up as their most authentic selves, and embed happiness and humanity into our workplaces.
From the tragedies, losses, and conflict we all experienced at a global level, it also allowed us to connect at a deeper, more empathetic place. It was a reminder to be human because we're all fighting some form of an internal battle, whether it's mental, financial, emotional, relational, or physical. It was a casting call for true community — to be kinder and more real with ourselves and each other — knowing the shifts we make today will stay, regardless of how many times the reset button may get hit again.
Jenn Lim is the CEO of Delivering Happiness (DH), a company she and Tony Hsieh (the late CEO of Zappos.com) cofounded to create happier company cultures for a more profitable and sustainable approach to business. Jenn is the author of BEYOND HAPPINESS: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose and People for Growth and Impact (Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, October 2021).