Culture September 13th, 2018

5 Ways Zappos Helps Employees Find Their Ikigai

It wasn't messy.

There weren't any tears or angry words. In fact, the whole process took less than 15 minutes. I put my things into a box and left. Then I walked down the stairs to my new desk, unpacked my belongings and started my new job.

Yup, I broke up with my old role and found my ikigai (pronounced ick-ee-guy).

What is ikigai?

Let me give you a little backstory. On the island of Okinawa, people have longer lifespans than anywhere else in the world. In fact, per capita, there are more centenarians (people who are at least 100 years old) there than any other country. The Okinawan culture is rich in tradition, purpose, physical activity and social connectedness. The centenarians living there are known for their health, vigor and freedom from such things as Alzheimer's, arthritis and heart disease.

Why do these people live so much longer and suffer from fewer diseases than the rest of us? They have something called ikigai.

Ikigai is a Japanese word loosely translated to mean the "reason you get up in the morning." If you find it, you're pretty much guaranteed to bring more satisfaction and meaning to your life. It doesn't cost anything but time.

Zappos and ikigai

Zappos was built by people who found their ikigai. (You can even read about it in Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's tell-all "Delivering Happiness.") It has become a company in which its employees are encouraged to pursue their passions and gain knowledge through various means, including:

1. Zappos University

Everyone at Zappos has the opportunity to pursue growth and learning by registering for any ULearn class they find of interest. Most of the courses are online videos which make it convenient to take a class while you sit at your desk. All of them are designed to help employees grow, either in their current positions, or positions which interest them.

2. Shadow sessions

Say, for instance, you work in content, but you think your real passion is coding. You have the opportunity to contact a manager (aka Lead Link) on a tech team and ask if you can shadow with one of their programmers. These sessions can be long or short and give you some insight into that job and whether it's something you want to pursue.

3. Life coaching

The purpose of a life coach is to "partner with employees to uncover the path to the best version of themselves." If you don't know how to start finding your own ikigai, perhaps hooking up with a life coach is a good starting point. Here at Zappos, we have an entire team ready and willing to work with employees to reach their goals, whatever they may be.

4. Flexible work schedules

How would a flexible work schedule help me find my reason for being, you may ask? Well, let's say your passion is photographing shelter dogs. You can't do that at your current job, but you know it's what makes you happier than anything. Enter the flexible work schedule. Depending on the position, you can come to work early in the morning and leave by mid-afternoon. Or you could work four 10-hour days and have Friday off to devote solely to the shelter, or other hobbies of interest.

5. Volunteer opportunities

I include volunteering in Zappos' ikigai because of the passion that surrounds this humble act. For some, volunteering at the food shelter or the Salvation Army is more than just a time commitment that has to be honored for holiday help. It's that innate desire to do something good. And sometimes these volunteer hours turn into a regular weekend gig, which sometimes turns into full-time jobs. Jobs those people are super passionate about. Yes, we're sad to see them leave Zappos, but happy they've found their ikigai.

How to find your ikigai

Your ikigai should be meaningful to you. It's the force that drives you out of bed every day. It gives your life meaning and purpose. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook when he was 19 years old. Charles Flint founded IBM at the age of 61. So finding your ikigai isn't limited by your age.

There are only four tenets of ikigai, and they are:

What you love
What you're good at
What the world needs
What you can be paid for

Maybe you've known what you've wanted to do ever since you were in diapers. Or you may need to go through life-changing experiences, either good or bad to find your true passions. Sit down with a pen and paper and list all the things that you love, the things you're good at, things you believe in and things that you could get paid to do.

Finding your ikigai isn't tricky, but it takes work, and it's a fluid process.

Did I do all these steps to find my ikigai? Maybe in a roundabout manner. I was lucky enough to leave one department and come into another that indeed was my passion. Writing, editing and reading is something I live and breathe on a daily basis, so by writing for Zappos' blog I've found my ikigai.

Sure, it took a long time to get from Point A to Point B, but I don't regret the moments in between. I'm just grateful that Zappos has given me the opportunity to pursue my passions and to find new ones as well.


Don't stop here!
Are you looking for a change of scenery, personally and professionally?
Maybe, just maybe, Zappos is the place for you!

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