Not Loving Your Day Job? The 3 Keys to Side Hustle Satisfaction

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Even though they say money can’t buy happiness, we all want to earn more, right?

Money is a HUGE motivator at work and at home, but it might surprise you that according to author and speaker Dan Pink in his bestselling book Drive, compensation isn’t the only — or even the main — key to worker happiness.

Instead, the trifecta of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose forms the base of a fulfilling career, no matter your field.

These three factors are internal, rather than external, motivators, and promise deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction than monetary incentives can.

The acronym I use to remember them is AMP — because when you’ve got all 3, you’re probably feeling pretty AMPed!

And the best part is, when you get AMPed, you naturally get happy.

Let’s go.


According to Drive, autonomy is “the desire to direct our own lives.”

From infancy, humans are imbued with a sense of individualism and a desire to explore the world around them; this intrinsic sense of control over oneself and one’s actions extends to the working world.

People want the ability to make their own decisions and have the freedom to direct their own work and learning.

Autonomy can be reflected by businesses that allow their workers to set their own schedules, free from micromanagement and rigid structure.

In my work at Ford, I enjoyed a certain level of autonomy; perhaps more than most other entry-level positions. I had a company car and could decide my own schedule and arrange my own travel.

Naturally I still had to work to achieve the goals of the division and the company, but I had a fair amount of freedom in how I got that done.

Of course I love to be able to decide what to work on every day when I wake up now, but it’s the biggest catch-22 of self-employment. You can steer your own ship, and it’s awesome — but there’s also no one else to tell you where or how to steer, and it can be a challenge. (One reason why a mastermind can be so valuable.)

How can autonomy work inside a bigger corporation?

How about this example from a recent flight I took on Southwest.

Our flight attendant clearly LOVED his job.

He was cracking jokes the entire time, and even though he was legally required to go over the safety requirements of the plane, he had the autonomy to do it his way.


Pink states in Drive that mastery is “the urge to get better and better at something that matters.”

Note that both parts are equally important; the drive for improvement AND doing “something that matters.” It might be easy to master some menial task, but you may not feel “mastery” if you don’t feel you’re adding some unique skill to it.

I struggled with this at Ford. I was passable at my job but I wasn’t amazing.

One thing that was cool about was that no two days were alike and I was constantly learning, meeting new people, and getting better, but something was still missing.

I certainly wanted to be awesome at work because why would I want anything less? But while my peers were already “masters” or building mastery quickly, I remained relatively stagnant.

It was frustrating, and it was probably compounded by the fact that I didn’t have any “ownership” over what tasks I was supposed to achieve.

It was stuff like, “Last year the dealers in your zone sold batteries to 2% of the cars they serviced. We think it should be 5%.”

Seems a little arbitrary, right?

At least now when I’m chasing down my own goals, I get to pick the numbers.

Employers can best incorporate a sense of mastery by encouraging learning, growth, and tackling new challenges and responsibilities.

But if that’s not going to happen at the 9-5, I propose finding a side hustle that lets you pursue mastery on your own terms.

Blogging is a great example for me. Each week I get to try and improve my writing and share some hopefully useful and interesting stuff with you.

Getting better at something that matters.

Check and check.


Purpose, as defined by Pink, is “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

This is the strongest of all intrinsic motivators, as a deep conviction will drive workers to go above and beyond when fulfilling their tasks, and is the key to lasting satisfaction with one’s work.

And this is also where the wheels fell off of my job at Ford.

Pun intended.

No matter how much corporate Kool-Aid I drank, I had a hard time convincing myself of the greater purpose of my role.

And I don’t mean that in the selling-cars-to-people-who-don’t-need-them sort of way. Business is business. I have no problem with that.

But I mean it more in the sense like, if I don’t show up today, will it make any meaningful impact to the bottom line of any of my customers or even the company?

Not even a blip on the radar.

To me, that was purpose. I wanted to see the direct impact of my efforts on the bottom line (and my paycheck), and it wasn’t happening.

Thankfully I found a side hustle that scratched that itch, and I’m confident you can too.

Purpose doesn’t have to be about saving the whales or feeding the hungry (though it certainly can be).

Purpose can simply be about helping people; and a side hustle is a perfect way to do that.

The Science of Motivation TED Talk

YouTube video

Your Turn

Take a look at your day job.

Do you have Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose?

Are you AMPed?

If your 9-5 isn’t doing it for you, consider these factors and find a side hustle that will!

You’ll be more satisfied with life and excited to get up each day.

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

11 thoughts on “Not Loving Your Day Job? The 3 Keys to Side Hustle Satisfaction”

  1. Great article.

    That’s the problem with my job. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either. If I hated it, I’d either leave or end up getting myself fired somehow. But if I loved it, I’d be way more engaged with what I do, but I don’t. That’s the scary power of ‘meh’, I guess.


  2. Nice post Nick, and I kinda feel that I have all those to some extent. Am I AMPED about it? Well, not quite, but I’m making progress.

    I love Dan Pink’s work, but I do tend to think there is something of an oversimplification in many of these ‘what drives us’ books. Passion, yearning to add value to the world, helping others, ‘making a difference’.

    Sure, I think there are some incredible people, doing incredible things, quite unselfishly, with a vision and passion for leaving a legacy etc. They have huge amounts of drive to succeed, but I think there are even more people who either:

    – Have no idea what they want to do with their lives.
    -Have multiple interests and will never find ‘the thing’.
    – If pressed, would admit that they just want to create an incredible income to live an awesome lifestyle.

    On point 3, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but no-one wants to really admit such a selfish goal. We all want to ‘add value’, ‘help others’, be philanthropic.

    That said, chasing the money usually leads to misery and failure, it’s just not a driver enough to do shitty work that tears at your soul. I feel that we do need to seek something other than ‘cash in the bank’ if we are to succeed.

    But what of ‘greater purpose’? Some may just want to provide a better life for their close family, to help the kids as they grow up. That IS a greater purpose, but it’s certainly not ‘ending war and feeding the starving’.

    So, after all that, I do concur with Dan Pink’s message, to some extent, but I think it is a path we need to follow, a goal to aspire to, because we don’t all have clear focus on our purpose, or what our lives should mean, what our work should achieve.

    It’s hard,I find it a struggle every day, but I guess anything worth having is never going to be easy, nor should it be.

    Sorry about the ramble :-)


    • Great insights!

      “-Have multiple interests and will never find ‘the thing’.
      –If pressed, would admit that they just want to create an incredible income to live an awesome lifestyle.”

      I can certainly relate to those 2 points. In fact, just finished reading The ONE Thing and still am not sure what my ONE Thing is. The broad idea of helping people earn money outside of their day job is an idea, but may still be too vague.

      And maybe not so much about an “incredible” level of income, but I’m with you on the lifestyle part. The problem is the only way I’ve found to reach that “selfish” goal is to an equal and opposite selfless goal of helping others. It’s kind of like what MJ Demarco says in Millionaire Fastlane: if you want to make a LOT of money, you have to help a LOT of people … or help a select few people a WHOLE LOT.

  3. Looks like I will be adding Drive to my reading list.

    I think those three things are exactly what I am searching for. I think my vision of success is a balance of all those.

    I went to college and got a degree in something that I thought would give me purpose, I followed the beaten path and stuck with a career in something that I believed would give me purpose. After 7 years of following this path all that purpose has accomplished me is being locked in an office for 8 hours a day for potentially then next 37 years of my life. Buh bye drive, buy bye autonomy. I am stuck in a system.

    I am sure from the outside many would say I am successful, but I struggle to see it through their eyes.

    I’ve tried to start a few different business which have unfortunately failed, but what drove me in each of those endeavors was the other two factors. Autonomy and mastery.

    Currently I am working on building a SEO consulting business. I am not even close to be successful yet, but I think when I do reach that point I will hopefully be at a collision point of autonomy, mastery and purpose. I think I am more clear at this point in life about what I want. Getting there is the hard part, and trying to have the patience to not give up, and follow through is what I am working on the most now.

  4. At first when I saw you quoting Pink, I thought “I’ve never heard those lyrics in her music before, what am I missing?”

    But then I reread the first paragraph and realized I was an idiot haha

    I never knew what my one thing was. Still don’t. It certainly wasn’t my job though. Early on I signed up to change the world, and became disenchanted when that never happened.

    Where I’m at now, I don’t feel any compelling urge to make more money. We have enough. It’s cool and all if our blog generates a few bucks, but it’s a ton of fun to write and connect with people. Even in that environment, it seems AMP applies

    • Haha love it! Would love to share your early retirement story on the podcast sometime if you’re up for it! I always joke that I “retired” at 25 but it’s been anything but the margaritas on the beach lifestyle I naively envisioned :)

  5. I really enjoyed reading Drive last summer, nice to see you featuring it in a post, Nick!

    I wholeheartedly agree that compensation isn’t the only (or the main) key to my happiness, and that the motivating factors are internal.

    I guess you could say I’m partially AMPed.

    Autonomy is the one I’ve put into practice most and get to live on a daily basis. My personalty & temperament make this one a must.

    As far as Mastery is concerned, I do have the urge to get better and better at whatever I’m working on, but whether or not it’s something that matters is a toss up..

    Purpose is the one that I struggle with though. I seem to catch glimpses of it from time to time, and I’m open to the possibility of finding it in the future. Think it’s one of those things you’ll know when you see it.

    Overall I’m satisfied with where I am and where I’m headed, while still being Driven enough to keep improving.


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