A Simple Framework for Maximizing Happiness at Work

I’m a curious person with a wide range of interests. I’m interested in computer programming, writing, personal development, and business. I’m also interested in a few other fields that I haven’t mentioned.

A question that often arises in my mind is this: how should I manage these different interests?

I recently found an answer by reading a summary of The Da Vinci Curse. The goal of the book is to help those who have many interests but can’t determine which ones to focus on. It includes a framework to help them manage their interests and the corresponding opportunities.

The framework—called the BCG matrix—was originally created by Boston Consulting Group to help companies allocate their resources, but the book adapted it to individuals as well.

The framework classifies your activities into four groups based on their financial and fulfillment potential:

  • Dogs: activities that can give you neither wealth nor fulfillment.
  • Cows: activities that can give you wealth but not fulfillment.
  • Question Marks: activities that can give you fulfillment but not wealth.
  • Stars: activities that can give you both wealth and fulfillment.

Let’s take a look at what you should do with each of them. Here are the recommended actions:

  • Eliminate Dogs. Activities in this category are the worst ones because they give you nothing. So obviously you must eliminate them.
  • Prioritize Stars. Activities in this category are the best ones because they give you both wealth and fulfillment. So you should invest most of your resources here.
  • Eliminate Cows. This might be surprising, but the book recommends you to eliminate them. They may give you money, but if they are not fulfilling, then they aren’t worth spending your time on.
    I know this is not easy to do, especially if you need the money from these activities. My recommendation is to not eliminate them right away. Instead, I recommend you to first build a side project out of your Star activities. Then, when the side project becomes mature, you can eliminate the Cows.
  • Nurture Question Marks. This recommendation is also a bit surprising to me. It means that you shouldn’t neglect certain interests just because they aren’t profitable. Instead, you should still develop them while looking for ways to make them profitable.

I like this framework. In my opinion, it’s a good framework for maximizing your happiness at work. If your goal is just maximizing your income, however, it’s not optimal since it recommends that Cows should be eliminated.

The BCG Matrix framework helps me classify my interests. Since I’m already interested in these things, there are only two possible categories for them: Question Marks or Stars.

I’m lucky because I have two Stars: blogging and app development. I started this blog as a side project because I’m passionate about it, but it has also allowed me to quit my day job. I also love developing apps, and it has given me some income as well.

What’s eye opening for me is the book’s suggestion on Question Marks. Don’t eliminate them. Instead, keep working on them while looking for ways to make them profitable.

This suggestion makes me think again about game development. Game development is something I’m passionate about that I have put on the shelf because it’s not profitable. I loved making games in my high school and college years. And—after not making games for years—I built and released an iPhone game in 2014. It wasn’t profitable though, so I no longer make games.

I’m now thinking about it again. Maybe I should do game development just for fun while looking for ways to make it profitable.

What about you? Have you found your Stars? What about your Question Marks? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Mabuza Siboniso
    Mabuza Siboniso

    Thank you so much for your email I grow gradually from one level of understanding to another.

  2. Thank you for this framework, Donald! Being very busy with my job I find it almost impossible to think about “side projects” however I’d love to – I have some of them in my mind. I think it’s my planning system which keeps me maximise my happiness during my working hours )) My last attainment was this paper planner: http://kck.st/2dLmsIU. Hope it’ll work for me!

  3. This is a cool way of dividing up your attention.

    I think you can even take it a step further and apply it to maximize your productivity as well.
    For example, for your blogging efforts you might realize that your email list is actually a dog and social media is a star or something.

    Thanks for writing this up.

  4. Thanks a lot, Donald. You are great! Keep it up.

  5. thank u sir Donald. You are really impacting in our lives. Your posts have been a handy tool for alleviating intellectual poverty explosion in our contemporary society, thus panel beating men into becoming the best they ever loved to be. thank u sir.

  6. I really enjoy your blogs.keep expanding your dreams.thank you

  7. Donald, Great take on the BCG growth matrix. Thank you for writing this review. I am very familiar with the matrix but never thought about applying to ones’s personal growth. Very good framework to adapt from a company to a person!

    • Thanks, Niraj! The book’s author is creative in applying the framework to individuals. I guess there are other business frameworks that can be applied to individuals as well.

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