Penny's career choice was about making a difference
"I feel like I am accomplishing much more working with high school students than I was selling XYZ to certain companies.”
By Birk Wilkison
and Brandyn Tulp
(May 15, 2009) How often today do people quit their successful jobs in order to be happy? Hardly ever, right? In today’s world, it is becoming more and more difficult to find satisfaction, because we keep trying to put a price tag on happiness. We keep searching for a definite, clear-cut, visible answer when in reality, there is no simple answer. Perhaps we should be more like Rob Penny who stopped placing so much emphasis on the face value of things and looked deeper within to find what made him happy.
For those who measure happiness by the size of a paycheck, today's economy offers little solace. Having the ability to purchase a new car every three years or being able to afford season tickets to professional sporting events are more rare in hard times. But that doesn't bother Mr. Penny. He is happy without the Cowboys tickets or the new car, or the large paycheck.
Mr. Penny teaches Introduction to Business Law at Liberty Hill High School, along with the Introduction to Media Technology courses, and BCIS. He graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Business Management, and for some time, was a successful sales representative with a largely successful company. He enjoyed playing golf with his clients on a regular basis, he had nice dinners out every once in a while, and had a pretty good looking salary.
But Mr. Penny didn’t find fulfillment in his job.
“I’m intrinsically motivated, which means I get a lot of satisfaction in the inside from certain things," he said. "Some people are very extrinsically motivated, they get satisfaction from the possessions they may have, or from results they can clearly and truly see. Whether it has anything to do with money or not, they can see a clear and final result from their efforts. I’m kind of the other way around, I don’t need to see anything physically change or happen for me to know that something has been changed. That may have something to do with my belief in God and all of that, but as far as my job went, I could sell products to the companies that I dealt with and didn’t feel like I changed society or bettered it in any way. While I may have had great interaction with my clients, and they may have been happy to see me, and I was happy to see them, the actual job itself was me selling products, and me making my numbers, and me making a company bigger and better, and stronger and richer. And that just didn’t do anything for me.”
So he quit, and decided that he would go find what really made him happy.
“I did a lot of searching. What does make me happy? Where do I find my fulfillment? And then I thought back to when I was in college. I helped in a youth ministry called Young Life, and I was working with high school students all through college. I was in the school hanging out, and going to the football games, and doing lunch, and having fun, and doing fun activities in the evening, and that’s where I was the happiest. I loved working with high school students, and in my senior year I became a substitute teacher just because I liked being in the environment," he said.
"I like teaching. I’m dorky that way," he added. "I like to read, and to learn, and to find out information, and retain and use it. And I did all that in the classroom as well as have that fun interaction with the students, and so I went back and thought ‘hey, that was the coolest time of my life, why don’t I just do this every day?’”
Mr. Penny has taught Liberty Hill students many important lessons in a variety of subjects during his three years at LHHS. More important than learning how to avoid a lawsuit and how to create stop-motion films, Mr. Penny has taught his students that happiness is a rare and priceless jewel. Once discovered, it shouldn’t be let go, or given away, or sold off to the highest bidder. He’s taught us that learning is important, but building and maintaining relationships with people is also important. He’s prepping us for the real world, and showing us how to make it a better place regardless of our career choice.
“Teaching isn’t a profession where you see the rewards right away like you would in business with a fat bonus check of some sort," he said. "The reward comes much later on. You have the opportunity to affect and change kids’ lives on a daily basis, so I don’t take that for granted.”