Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, by Daniel Wong

I’ve sent two sons to college now, and we’ve found that it can be a challenging adjustment, even when your children are high-achieving students. Daniel Wong, author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, found that academic achievement didn’t automatically lead to happiness in college. It was only when he adopted the five-step program outlined in his book that he was able to find fulfillment, both personally and academically. Please read the Preface from The Happy Student below, and then enter to win a copy of The Happy Student for you or someone you know.


I started writing this book after my third year of college. Initially it felt pretty weird telling my close friends that I was trying to get a book published. Most responses I got went something like “What credentials do you have? Who wants to read something written by someone who hasn’t even graduated from college yet? Maybe you should wait a few years before you try to get the book published.”

Those remarks were discouraging, but I decided (in naïve self-confidence, not bitter defiance) that they were somewhat irrelevant. This is a book written by a student for students. I don’t have a PhD in psychology or education, and neither do I have any experience as a teacher. The five-step program I’ve developed, which will help you become a happy and fulfilled student, wasn’t born out of hours spent analyzing data and running experiments. Rather, it was born out of sixteen years of schooling and relentless questioning as to what the true purpose of education is.

During my career as a student, I achieved a lot of academic success -- although I’m sure that some of you readers out there have achieved much greater success than me. I graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a double major in mechanical engineering and economics (and a GPA of 3.98 on a 4.0 scale), was inducted into three academic honor societies in college, didn’t get a grade lower than an A- throughout high school and college, and was the salutatorian of my high school (out of a graduating class of 850 students).

Yet these achievements, in and of themselves, didn’t bring me happiness. I accomplished what most students dream of, but for most of my academic career it only led to a greater feeling of insecurity and emptiness. I was acing every test and exam, but I felt like I was failing life. My accomplishments made me wonder, “Surely there’s more to life than getting A’s and trying to get a good job?” I now realize that academics are important, but that they aren’t everything. Good grades really don’t lead to happiness. In fact, being obsessed about grades leads to unhappiness.

The Happy Student is the story of how I discovered real meaning in the pursuit of academic success, and how every student can, too. It’s a story that will resonate in the hearts of every college student and every future-minded high school student.

I’ll admit that happiness itself is a vague concept. Is it a temporary emotion? Or is it something more than that, something you can experience at a deeper level even when you don’t feel particularly cheery? In this book, I’m going to use the latter definition and talk about happiness in relation to your academics. At the same time, I’ve realized that focusing solely on your academics isn’t the key to academic fulfillment. A holistic attitude is vital if you want to become a happy student, and happiness must be investigated in the context of a balanced approach toward education and life. The subject matter of this book reflects an understanding of this reality. Because of the complexity of this reality, I’ll admit that the title, The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, captures the heart of the book but doesn’t fully describe the wide-ranging content.

Interestingly, when I was doing research on what similar books are on the market, I discovered that every book that aims to motivate students academically focuses on extrinsic measures: new classroom management techniques, innovative systems of rewards and punishments, novel approaches to incentivize learning. (Not surprisingly, most books related to education are about helping students get more A’s, regardless of whether they feel fulfilled.)

In other words, most authors assume that students are intrinsically unmotivated -- and that there’s nothing you can do to change that. I don’t believe this to be true. To become intrinsically motivated, students must come to a deep realization of the joy of learning and the beauty of education. They must become purpose-driven rather than performance-driven. They must ask the “why” questions before they ask the “how” questions. They must learn how to climb the ladder more effectively, but only after they’ve made sure the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

I invite you to join me on this journey of asking those all-important “why” questions. This is a challenging process that lays the foundation of your happiness as a student, but it’s not for the fainthearted. Happiness isn’t just something you feel; it’s something you work for. I trust that you’re ready to get down to business.

Publication Information

ISBN-10: 161448127X
ISBN-13: 978-1614481270
Publication date: March 2012
Price: $16.95 US
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing


Three lucky winners will receive a copy of the book, The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, by Daniel Wong. Open to residents of the U.S. only. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EDT on Thursday, July 5, 2012.

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DISCLAIMER: I received no compensation or products for this post.


  1. I learned that Daniel Wong graduated summa cum laude from Duke University.

  2. Daniel Wong describes the five key steps you need to take in order to become a happy, fulfilled, and successful student. Daniel scored straight A’s all through college and received numerous academic honors and awards, but he didn’t find fulfillment in his achievements until he discovered the five steps. Daniel draws on his personal journey—

  3. I can buy the book on Amazon and it's got a lot of good reviews on his website

    s2s2 at comcast dot net

  4. like that it brings self confidence and you can love to learn again

  5. I learned that Daniel Wong graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Economics.

  6. i learned that this book has a lot of good reviews!

  7. Daniel is passionate about education and has given talks to students about topics such as goal-setting, time management, college life skills, and developing a personal vision for your life.

  8. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Something I liked after reading Daniel's foreword is that being overly obsessed with maintaining good grades can lead to unhappiness, which is true in most part. Although you have all the good grades you want, it doesn't mean that you'll be happy and know exactly what you want in life.

  9. he likes to write about education career and personal development

  10. I learned that Daniel Wong went to Duke University on a FULL academic scholarship. Wow!

  11. I liked that Daniel became passionate about school. I used to get straight A's in high school then I just kind of gave up because it began to seem pointless.... I wish I'd found this book before I was at my last class for my Bachelor's degree - but now that I know about it I'll be able to read it before I start my Master's program in a few years!

  12. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Ginger b.
    Timelyone at hotmail dot com

    I learned its a must read for teaches.

  13. I like that it is "purpose driven, not performance driven" (Corey Olomon)(CoreyOlomon at gmail dot com)

  14. i enjoyed reading the testimonials
    susansmoaks at gmail dot com

  15. Getting straight A's does not mean gaining fullfillment.

    tridingermckee at gmail dot com

  16. I learned that Daniel Wong graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Economics. This would be awesome for my daughter.

    theresa j

  17. I learned that this book is on Amazon
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