The 3 Components of Job Satisfaction

Recently, a woman approached me after I finished a keynote presentation. In the speech, I had mentioned the importance of living with intention.

A Wooden Kitchen Match Striking on a Grey Slate Surface - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #7829867

Photo courtesy of ©

She got stuck on that thought and realized she had not been intentional, particularly as it related to her career.

As it turns out, she was a doctor with a very successful business. She was making more money than she had dreamed possible. She had a very busy practice. But she was deeply unsatisfied.

“If I’m honest, I think I became a doctor because my father was a doctor. It was expected. I didn’t think I had a choice,” she confessed.

Her eyes welled with tears.

“But I hate it,” she continued. “I only get to spend a few minutes with each patient. I feel like a factory worker on a conveyor belt. It’s all I can do to make myself go to work.”

She was good at what she did. Her practice was exploding. But she had lost her passion.

As I later reflected on her situation, I realized job satisfaction requires three components.

  1. You must be passionate. This is where it begins. What do you care about? What moves you? What problems do you want to solve or issues you want to address? If your heart is not in your work, you have a job but not a calling.
  2. You must be competent. Passion alone is not enough. You have to be good at what you do. Being good-enough will not give you the satisfaction you desire. You have to excel at your craft and be awesome. Mastery is the goal.
  3. You must create a market. To enjoy a successful career, people must be willing to pay you for what you do. You don’t have to get rich, but there must be a market for your product or service. Otherwise, your career is not sustainable.

If you have all three of these components, you experience satisfaction. Few things in life are more rewarding.

I envision it as three overlapping circles. (Jim Collins has a similar model in Good to Great as it applies to companies.) At the intersection of all three is true success.

3 Components of Job Satisfaction

Be wary of only having two:

  • If you have passion and competence without a market, you have a hobby. We all know people like this. Living in Nashville, I know musicians who love what they do, are accomplished on their chosen instrument, but can’t pay the bills.
  • If you have passion and a market without competence, you have failure. If you aren’t willing to put in the hours honing your craft, it will eventually catch up with you. You will struggle to get hired or simply be flushed in the next round of layoffs.
  • If you have competence and a market without passion, you have boredom. This was the doctor’s problem. On the surface she had it all. But in her heart, she was missing the one piece she needed to find satisfaction in her work.

You can get by for a time with only two of the three elements I have described. But if you want to succeed at the deepest level, you must incorporate all three.

Questions: Do you possess all three of these components? What is missing? What could you do to become more satisfied in your work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Dwayne Morris

    I’ve heard John Maxwell say, “Find something you love so much that you would gladly do it for free, then work to get good enough that others will gladly pay you for it.”

    That’s simple enough…right?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love that quote from Maxwell.

  • Susan Scott

    Your illustration is a great way to make the point. I especially like that you put boredom in the outer circle between competence and market. So many folks get into a career or business that they are good at and there is a market for, assuming that will satisfy them for the long term. It doesn’t, not without passion to fuel them. However, I must add there is a missing component: taking  personality into account. Someone may have all three circles coming together in their career or business, but they have to learn to express it in a way that is congruent with their personality – outgoing vs introspective, task focused vs people orientated, etc.  The doctor you mentioned might actually find satisfaction, not in a new career, but in moving laterally to a job where she can attend to the medical  needs of people in a more personal way. For example she might thrive as a health care advocate for the poor or elderly. In that way her competence, and passion for caring for others, as well as the need in the market, combined with her desire to get more personally involved in the lives of her patients, would make a perfect fit. It just doesn’t fit in quite as neat a diagram!

  • Lon Hetrick

    I appreciate this and thought the graphic was helpful for illustrating your point. I’d like to suggest though, that I’m pretty tired of the word “passion.” It’s an over-rated buzz word imo. What you may mean by it is “Do we like/enjoy x?” But it comes across as “You must eat/drink/breathe x.” I suspect that’s unrealistic for many personalities, and many job descriptions. Worse, I think it’s misguided because, frankly, we should be passionate about bigger things than our jobs. I think it’s enough to “enjoy” what you do for a living. But I think we should save our passion (if one’s personality can get there) for stuff that is bigger than our source of income. Lot’s of potential objects for passion come to mind.

  • Dan Erickson

    Good post, Michael.  I’ve suffered off an on with job dissatisfaction.  I’m a college instructor and sometimes it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels.  I do love my discipline of speech and communication.  I do love to share knowledge and discover new ways of teaching.  But I love writing, songwriting, and playing music more.  I can incorporate those passions into my teaching to an extent, but at a different level.  So my goal is to continue teaching while I become a better writer and financially successful, at which point I’ll probably still teach, but only part time. Your points are right on in today’s post.

    • Jim Martin

      Dan, as I read your comment, I thought about numerous conversations I’ve had with people who are trying to do something similar.  Like you, they enjoy their jobs but have other interests which they are even more passionate about.  So often the challenge seems to be how to somehow incorporate these passions into the “day job” or living out these other passions at another time.  A challenge. 

      • Dan Erickson

        Yes, Jim.  I agree.  And I do bring my passion into the classroom, especially when I teach feature writing and mass communication as I can talk about writing and promotions in those classes.  I’ve had fun with the political debates in my speech classes this quarter.  And now I’m helping to edit and write a mass communication text.  Although I prefer fiction and poetry, I’m challenged by helping the lead author change his academic writing style into a more non-fiction style for more student-friendly reading.  So incorporating the stronger passion into the workplace is a challenge, but also rewarding.

    • Ricardo Diaz

      Hi Dan,

      Have you thought about doing some freelance work like a content writer. Maybe even creating yourself a blog and getting your name out there? If you popular enough you can add some advertisement to the blog and make some income that way. All of this takes time though and there is no quick way of making it happen but its possible.

      • Dan Erickson

        Ricardo, I do have a blog that supports my first book “A Train Called Forgiveness.”  I post posts about writing and poetry there.  It’s at  I spent a lot of time last summer trying to build an audience.  I haven’t gained a large following yet and haven’t tried advertising.  I’m mixed about how heavy I want to push the blog.  I’m a single dad and only have so much time, too.  For now, I continue to write posts three or four times per week.  

  • Ephillips413

    I’ve lived in the state of Boredom for a long time. I am competent and have a market, but no passion. This has followed me through my last few jobs. Being burnt a couple times early in my career has caused me to cling to security. Unfortunately, this has led to a very successful, unfulfilling career. Any suggestions?

    • Ed

      Are you expecting to much from your daily work? Sometimes it’s not the actual work that is fulfilling – it’s what we’re accomplishing through it.  Is your success allowing you to provide for someone else that otherwise would be struggling?  Are you able to touch lives and change them, perhaps with a timely word or intervention? I think of a worker who runs a machine making the Epi-Pens: probably a boring monotonous job, but each and every one of those pens that rolls out of the machine has the potential to save a life.

      You mentioned “being burnt a couple times” and “my last few jobs”.  Can you forgive?  Nothing will put out the fires of passion like a big cold block of hurt and pain carried for a long time.

      • Eric

        Ed, thanks for your reply. My last couple of jobs have been with larger Fortune 100/500 companies. I moved towards larger companies looking for stability due to instability and lack of opportunities that I experienced as a contractor and with smaller employers. I’ve found success and some stability, but I’ve lost passion along the way.

        I don’t think I’m holding ill-will towards any of my past employers. But, I am pretty hard on myself about decisions along the way.

  • Tony Chung

    I am fortunate to have the passion, competence, and market for the things I am doing for paid and volunteer work. I’ve been inspired to create more music and I’d love to network with others who share the same direction.

    Shameless self promotion here:

    • Jim Martin

      Good for you, Tony!  How fortunate.

  • Paul Jolicoeur

    Getting paid for what you love to do is possible and should be take more seriously by students as the graduate from High School and head out into college or university. I have seen many people choose an education with the only thing on their mind is their income.

  • Christopher Nitkin

    What a great article, thank you! As a physician in training, my market comes to me and while interviewing for neonatology fellowship, I really came to discover what drives me and what I’m interested in… but building competence will mean life-long learning and it’s really the centerpiece of where I am right now – would it be under-achieving to say I don’t want failure? ;-)

  • Yosra85

    it`s a greet post, really you have a good analyze. Thanks you.

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  • Dr. Jason Cabler

    I’m fortunate that I get to do two things that I love: Being a dentist, and being a personal finance author, blogger, and speaker.  Although the dentistry is my career, I hope to take the other from a hobby stage to the level of a career as well.  

    I’ll continue to build my following just like I’ve built my practice and eventually all the circles will meet in the middle!

  • Lisa Colón DeLay

    These 3 components make a lot of sense….

    It seems like the doctor could still use her competence and market components, but work in a manner that would give her passion in the joy of helping others.What happened to her? Did she quit/change careers?

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, she started her own family practice where she could take as long as she wanted with each patient. She didn’t have the corporate pressure to see more and more patients. She is now very happy.

  • Fernando Almeida

    Thank you for the insightful article. I find the three circles particularly helpful and practical also from a teaching perspective.

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  • Ciaccioj

    There is a fourth. I had all three but still felt empty and changed jobs (not careers). My company was willing to pay, but didn’t value the service from a long term perspective. I left to an employer who values the service provided and am much happier.

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  • Trevauhn Grant

    What is a good way to find out where you fit into the current market? It feels as though I have to sorta throw a bait out and see who bites. Then depending on the kinda fish you come across, then you can focus in. Is this a viable frame of thought.

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  • corydoiron

    Thanks for another great post! 

  • Buster Coster

    I have a lot of one, some of the other and lacking in a third.

    Better get my skates on.

  • John Gallagher

    Great stuff.  Love the visual.  All three components are critical. 

  • Adam Robinson, MBA

    Excellent post Michael. We are in the process of hiring a new salesperson and we have passed over a couple who weren’t passionate about helping others succeed. I want people with passion on our team, particularly those who are passionate about helping small businesses succeed through great marketing. Keep up the great work.

  • Conor

    Simple Venn diagram, but powerful insight.

  • Moyo Mamora

    This has helped answer some of my questions. Thanks! I’ll make sure passion, competence and market ring in my head in all I do.

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    As always, a brilliant and informative post. The passion circle is full and as a new author the other two are growing. I would struggle to work on anything that I’m not passionate about. Thanks.

  • Joe Wickman

    Thanks for making apparent the focus of my next area of focus for development!

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  • Tom Tonkin

    Mr Hyatt, I agree with your assessment and far be it from to me doubt your views, however (I guess that is a clue that I have a little issue), the great Jon Wooden on leadership shares this aspect of passion – “I never yelled at my players much. That would have been artificial stimulation, which doesn’t last very long. I think it’s like love and passion. Passion won’t last as long as love. When you are dependent on passion, you need more and more of it to make it work. It’s the same with yelling. I am suggesting that I see passion as one of those emotions that requires stimulation all the time and at the same time suing the word ‘love’ (the English language does a poor job with ‘love’) is also not the right term, but it does conjure up stability and depth. At any given time, I may not feel like going to work, however, I love what I do. I trust this may spark some discussion. Thank you for all you do. Blessing, Tom