When Work is God…

I have this friend who buys a lot of really cool toys. Bicycles, motorcycles, table saws, band saws. Expensive stuff. I mean, he buys the expensive ones within each class. However, he never has time to go out and play with his toys. Moreover, he also does not have time to maintain the physical condition required to truly enjoy the toys he buys. My friend is wrestling with this issue.

This article from the Reuter’s news service (I haven’t seen it picked up by the media at large) states that Americans work more but ‘seem to accomplish’ less. This article on Wikipedia indicates that Americans work more than their European and Australian counterparts. Lastly, the issue of balancing life with work came up in an instant message conversation with a good friend of mine.

This issue of balance of life and work was one of the primary issues that my wife and I were struggling with when we decided to leave the corporate world. We understood that starting a small business might well require more work than corporate America but at least we’d be doing it together and closer to home. At least we’d be making our own choices as compared to having our choices dictated to us by corporate leadership.

For most of my life cross-cultural communication and inter-cultural exchange has been a core part of my work. I’ve lived in Japan and I’ve worked closely with Japanese and Europeans. It always made me smile when American managers discovered that they could not make foreign staff work on a weekend, through a holiday, or cut short a vacation in order to meet some business deadline. On one occasion I had a co-worker ask me if it was really true that Japanese workers would be locked out of their building over the New Year’s holiday. New Year’s in Japan is generally a three to four day holiday with some companies closing down for a week. Americans are often completely nonplussed at the notion that they cannot simply demand more hours from their salaried employees. Likewise, European employees are often viewed by their American counterparts as not dedicated, not a team player, not hard workers.

In the eighties and nineties American society almost prided itself on its thorough materialistic values. The American Dream was no longer to own a house with a picket fence. The American Dream was to have all the latest and best of everything. It seems that American society has taken the next logical step. If life is about having stuff then life must be about making money. If life is about making money then life must be earning a salary.

Is the value of life really determined by some bottom line? Is life really about how much we make? Or is it really about the title? Probably not. It seems we’ve finally figured out that titles are really meaningless, in and of themselves. Maybe life is about the products that we’ve worked on. What is the value of life? What is it that we live for and how long do we have to wait to get it? Is retirement what life is all about? Do I really have to wait until I’m 60 or 65 to start enjoying life?

[posted with ecto]

Today’s run stats:

  • 4 miles in 39:34
  • Pulse one minute after finish: 144
  • Pulse five minutes after finish: 120

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