How to Balance Happiness With a Paycheck? Use the Spoke Of Leadership & Life

Jacob Morgan
3 min readMay 22, 2024


This post first appeared for premium subscribers of Great Leadership on Substack and was published on May 5, 2023. If you want to get access to exclusive articles like this one and weekly 5 min leadership tips, then make sure to become a premium subscriber and get all of my best content and latest thinking delivered to your inbox. Learn more and sign up here. Premium subscribers get content like this every week.

I recently had a conversation with Niren Chaudhary the current Chairman and former CEO of Panera Brands, Inc. He is responsible for over 130,000 employees. It’s a tough but rewarding job. Niren has also had to overcome seemingly impossible challenges, the greatest of which was the loss of two of his daughters.

We had a long conversation about business and life and one of the things I asked him was how we can balance feeling fulfilled and happy with the reality of life that we need a paycheck. He shared a crucial life and leadership lesson with me that I want to share with you. In his own words:

I don’t think life is just unidimensional, that it is only about work, that I am who I am, because of how I show up at work eight hours a day. It’s a multi dimensional wheel of life where if you were to imagine that each spoke of that wheel is a role that we play. So I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m a colleague, I’m a coach, I’m a student, I’m a sportsman, I’m a musician, I’m a reader. I’m a learner. I’m a spiritual learner, I’m a community, servant, etc. So I have these many, many spokes. And my life will be fulfilled, and well lived if I have progression on all of these spokes, and becoming a better father, a better coach, a better student, you know, a better athlete, a better musician. If you’re seeking fulfillment across all these dimensions, you’ll have a well balanced life. If you don’t and your only self of self-identity is work, then if something happens to you at work then you will have a disproportionate reaction to it and crumble.

I really took this to heart and while Niren told me he does this on a monthly basis or so, I started doing it each night before I go to bed. I sit and think through my day and go over the different spokes in my head. Maybe I didn’t get a speaking gig I was hoping for but I spent some time with my kids, perhaps I didn’t get any writing done but I had lunch with my dad and brother. Thinking through my day in this type of spoke model has really helped me put things into context and perspective.

The doodle above gives you an idea of what that looks like. I don’t actually draw this out each evening but if it’s helpful for you then you can.

Think about all of the different roles you play in your life and also at work and ask yourself where you have fallen short and why but also where you have excelled and felt proud. This is a powerful exercise for all leaders, current and aspiring to practice to get clarity and insight.

As Niren shared with me, even if you do excel in a certain spoke, ask yourself what you can do to take things to the next level.

Get access to more content like this by becoming a premium subscriber on Substack where each week you will get these types of articles delivered to your inbox along with other content.



Jacob Morgan

4x Best-Selling Author, Speaker, & Futurist. Founder of Exploring Leadership, Employee Experience, & The Future of Work