Brent Dunn sat in a business ethics class as a philosophy major, knowing that if his wife wasn’t in the class with him, there was no way he would be there. His professor gave him an assignment to write about his calling in life. While most people in the class already knew what they wanted to do, Dunn thought deeply about the prompt.
He wanted to attend law school and become a corporate attorney, but the assignment wasn’t asking him for his career path; it was asking him for his life’s calling. After much thought, he wrote a paper about being “the actualizer of potential fun.” He wanted to take normal things and make them fun for others. His professor gave him an A- for “missing” his true calling in life: according to the professor, Dunn’s calling was to teach. The feedback from his professor changed the course of his life forever.
Dunn’s goal to find joy and fun in life began when he was a missionary. He remembers when President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was part of the Quorum of the Twelve then, gave a talk at the Missionary Training Center. He asked the missionaries a question that really impacted Dunn.
“Are you having fun?” Hinckley said. “Because if not, you aren’t doing it right.”
The idea that he could have fun while doing something hard was very intriguing to Dunn.
“I really took that to heart,” Dunn said. “Life should be fun, even though it’s hard.”
He carried that attitude with him as he served his mission in Finland and brought it back with him to BYU.
Life only got harder and more fun for him when Dunn got married in his second year of college. He then began studying for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). After six months of intense studying, he started scoring very well on his practice exams and was asked to teach the LSAT prep class at BYU.
Dunn has since started his own test preparation company and tries to find joy in all he does. He describes joy as progress, whether that be in our own lives or seeing it in the lives of others. That is one of the reasons that he really loves his job.
“It’s a cool job that boils down to joy — that is, either experiencing or seeing others experience progress,” Dunn said.
The LSAT is a great way to measure progress because most leave the class scoring much higher on the test than they did upon arrival. Seeing the scores improve is great, but Dunn enjoys getting to know the people.
“It’s a good chance to learn their stories,” he said. “As you get to know someone, you really root for them and you really want them to succeed.”
This personal connection he makes with his students is something they really respect about him. Jordan Byers, a former student of Brent’s who will start law school at BYU in the fall, recognized how important the students were to Dunn.
“I realized how much he actually cared about us, not just as students but as people,” Byers said. “It was really clear that he cared about us as people and not just how we did on the LSAT.”
That relationship with Dunn helped Byers stay confident and calm throughout the process, be successful on the test and raise his score nearly 20 points.
After months of study and hard work, Byers said the most important thing he learned from the class had nothing to do with the LSAT.
“I learned to go out of my way to help people,” Byers said. “Brent probably would have had a really promising legal career, but he can really help a lot of people this way.”
Sydney Walker, a BYU student who just completed Dunn’s class, had a similar experience. She has learned so much about the test but is more thankful for Dunn’s influence on her life.
“He’s been a cool mentor to have because of his optimism for life in general,” Walker said. “It’s an infectious energy he has to go out and try new things. I want to adopt more of that outlook because he’s such a happy person.”
Walker has found a new confidence in her life thanks to the example of Dunn.
“I feel like I can do hard things,” she said. “I think it’s easy to get intimidated by things that are new or different, but I feel like you can be successful regardless if it’s scary at first.”
This is why Dunn enjoys teaching so much: he loves helping improve test scores but also hopes his students learn about life. He wants students to find joy in hard things, like the LSAT.
“You can find joy in just about anything you do,” Dunn said. “Joy doesn’t just mean giddiness; it can come through hard stuff.”
Dunn looks back on that assignment in his business ethics class as an important moment in his life. He realizes now that his professor was right: he was meant to be a teacher. But at the same time, he feels like he can be the “actualizer of potential fun” as he helps his students have fun during one of the most stressful times of their lives.
Dunn also helps his children find joy in seemingly mundane activities. Dunn’s children are home schooled, and if they work hard during the week they are rewarded with standardized tests on Fridays. Standardized tests aren’t normally seen as a reward, but Dunn believes that your attitude can make anything a reward.
“What you see as a reward is what you decide to see as a reward,” Dunn said. “Whether it’s a reward or punishment is whether you see it as one.”
The Dunn family enjoys having fun together through tests, biking, trying new food and other outdoor activities.
Dunn truly loves his job and is thankful for the path that has led him to it.
“I feel really blessed to get to do what I do,” he said. “I just would have ended up a different person with a different career, and I’m happy with where I am.”