I got the opportunity to have a little interview with Daniel Wong, who wrote The Happy Student, a book I got a chance to read and review early this summer. Daniel Wong wrote The Happy Student his final year at Duke University in an effort to share his philosophical values with students. His ultimate goal? That every student and, eventually, everyone can reach a state of happiness and self-defined success.
Enough with my ramblings. Let’s move onto the interview!
1. Tell me about yourself.
I graduated from Duke University last year. I currently live and work in Singapore. I spent two years in the military and currently hold the rank of First Lieutenant. And I love reading and playing basketball!
2. Why and when did you start writing The Happy Student?
I started writing The Happy Student after my junior year of college. At that point, I felt like I had made a lot of discoveries about the true purpose of education, which I wanted to share with students. I wanted to encourage students to run their own race, instead of the race that other people want them to run.
3. Was there anyone in particular who inspired you in the writing process of The Happy Student?
No one in particular. I realized that I’d been asking myself how I should climb the ladder faster in my academics, but I’d neglected to ask myself, “Is the ladder leaning against the right wall?” It was this realization that compelled me to share my journey with other students.
4. You stress a certain philosophy to recharge the student’s motivation in college. Can you explain this philosophy?
At the heart of it, it’s about running your own race and deciding that it’s not what you achieve that matters at the end of the day. What really matters is who you’ve become.
5. You discussed in your book how you practiced the steps to being a happy student in your own life at Duke University. Have there been times when you struggled with your commitment to this path?
Yes, I’ve definitely struggled. There are so many voices telling you what career you should pursue, what classes you should take, what activities you should get involved in… that’s why I’ve discovered that deciding to run your own race isn’t a once-off decision. It’s a daily decision.
6. Did you ever encounter writer’s block when finishing The Happy Student while you were completing your final year at Duke?
On many occasions! The best way I’ve found to overcome writer’s block is to schedule time to write, and just write. It doesn’t matter if the writing isn’t perfect—there’s always time to edit later. The important thing is just to sit down and get the work done.
7. What is the biggest takeaway you want your readers to have with this book?
That education is a journey of discovery and exploration. It’s not mainly about your grades. With the right attitude and tools, you really can be a happy student of—and for—life.
8. You’ve been out of college for a little while now. What are you doing now, as a college graduate?
I currently have a full-time job as a project engineer. At the same time, I work as an education excellence coach and speaker. I help students to find both happiness and success in their student life and beyond.
9. Do you have any plans for what you want to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
My personal mission as an education excellence coach and speaker is to empower others with the mindset and methods to lead a meaningful and marvelous life. I’m currently building a “Happy” series of books that aims to do just that. I also conduct The Happy Student workshops, and I aim to bring it global.
10. Any last words you want to leave for the CampusRiot audience?
Happiness is a choice, so choose wisely. And remember that a great life is made up of many great days and many great decisions.