Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#11 on the Top Ten List of Life Thieves – Your Job/Profession/Business

If you read the introductory article on the Top 15 Life Thieves I listed, you'll notice I have not necessarily been taking them in the original order. That's because it's only my opinion as to the order they are in. Each life thief will impact each person differently. The important point is to examine each of these thieves and realize what role it may be playing in stealing the essence of your precious life and time.

#11 Your Job, Profession or Business

According to a 2013 Gallup poll of workers, from a huge sampling, 70% of U.S. workers hate their jobs. That percentage hasn't varied very much over the years. So, what's the deal? As one person put it, and I'm paraphrasing, it's called work for a reason. If it was supposed to be enjoyable or fun it would be called fun.

To look at this from a more organic perspective, let's go back to the days of the hunting and gathering bands. The work of the day was survival at the most basic level. Those primitive people needed food, so their work was hunting for it and gathering it so the band could eat. They were a nomadic people. They traveled with the seasons following the migrating wildlife, but everyplace they went required some kind of shelter. It might have been a cave (thus, the term caveman) or they built shelters out of available materials or used animal skins they carried with them from place to place. Once again, constructing these shelters over and over was their work. Whatever garments they wore for individual protection from the elements, again, was part of their work. I'm sure you have this picture in your mind.

Let's move forward in time. In our modern society, after the agricultural revolution and particularly after the industrial revolution, “work” changed dramatically. Businesses were created, trades and professions emerged. Gradually, agriculture including raising livestock for food, dairy products and growing crops became commercial ventures. Certain people ran these ventures and often hired others to “work” for them. The food and products created were then sent to markets where it ended up in the stores of merchants. Every individual didn't have to hunt or gather their own food any longer. They simply went to the store.

Through this evolving process and with the advancements in technology more and more products and services became available. These products and services required people to produce them or provide the services. Some required specialized training and education. Others didn't require any special skills. Now there were business owners, workers and those workers required management and supervision, so managers and supervisors entered the chain. Some fields didn't necessarily require a lot of workers or managers, but the owners required higher degrees of education to provide and perform their services. They became known a professionals. As the professionals evolved, they required specially trained assistants, who became another form of employee.

All of a sudden, here we are in this modern world of WORK!

I don't believe the early hunter/gatherers enjoyed their work anymore than modern people do today. The major difference is that, except for a few exceptions, working conditions for most workers in our modern technological age beats the hell out of work in those primitive times.

Yet, all that being said, 70% of people in today's technologically advanced world, still are self-described as hating their work or jobs. Is it true of professionals and business owners, too? It appears that a similar discontent exists among the majority of business owners (of which most professionals may be or at least are partners in). But, for different reasons than the employee/worker. And how about the professionals? Sadly, they too are discontent to the point where many are leaving the medical, legal, accounting and other professions.

So, What's Up?

Work is work, right? We should be happy we have work, shouldn't we? Besides as I noted earlier, if work is supposed to be fun it wouldn't be called work, it would be called fun. So, here's my next question. Is work stealing your priceless life and time from you?

I've done this exercise before in other articles. Do you live to work or do you work to live? Is everything in your life centralized around your job, profession or business? If you work to live, indeed it is.

Let's look at an average working life. I'm going to use the age 20 as the commencement of the average adult work life. I'm going to use the age 68 as the conclusion of the average adult work life. This allows for some people who will attend college for four or more years or some other specialized training and others who don't. At the other end of the spectrum it allows for some people who may “retire” at or around 65 and for others who may work on into their 70's or beyond (the older the less workers are still in the workforce). So, we're going to call the average work life approximately 48 years.

Let's consider the average work week to be 45 hours. That accounts for those who may have a second part-time job and those who work overtime – normal time being defined as 40 hours per week. I'm also going to allow for 1.5 weeks off as vacation time. Some people don't get or take vacations. Others may get two to four weeks. Here's the deal, on average, an individual is going to spend 2,424 weeks at work or some 109,080 hours of his or her life at the job.

But, that's not all. Let's add some dedicated time for commuting. We'll consider 5.25 round trip commutes per week allowing for some who may have to work a sixth day for whatever reason. And, I'm going to consider the average commuting time to be one hour round trip to allow again for some people who may commute shorter times and those in large urban areas who may end up commuting an hour to two hours each way each day. That adds another 12,726 hours to your work commitment. And we might as add on an additional 9,545 hours for the half hour to one hour you're allowed for lunch, but you can't go home to spend that time enjoyably.

So, the total number of hours during a 48 year working career for an average person totals 131,351 hours of life. The total number of hours an individual has during that 48 year span is 419,328 hours. Let's reduce that by 131,351 hours, leaving 287,977 hours. But, let's say on average, you're lucky enough to get 6.5 hours of sleep per night. That reduces the 287,977 hours to 174,409 hours. Let's further reduce that number by the number of hours dedicated to shopping, household chores including laundry and meal preparation, maintenance including lawn mowing, repairs, auto repairs and necessary child rearing responsibilities. I've adjusted this number to allow for those who may be renting and those who have not had children or the children have left the nest and figuring some people are married and some are single. So, I'm going to call this number two hours per day or another 34,944 hours. That reduces your time to live life to its fullest to 139,465 hours over the 48 hours adult work life.

So, you have just slightly more than the number of hours committed to work to live life to its fullest. But remember, out of the 24 hours per day of the typical five day work week, between the work commitment, the necessary sleep and the daily “to do” lists you are only left with approximately 4 1/3 hours to live it up.

Gee! I wonder if there is a reason people are discontented with their lives, especially as it relates to their jobs, professions or businesses? Any thoughts on this?


I met a neurosurgeon about 15 years ago. He left his practice in Charlottesville, Virginia where he was attached to the University of Virginia Medical School because he didn't have a life and he wanted to spend time with his young family. He moved to Winchester, Virginia and joined a practice there. His life changed so much when he moved to Winchester that he had to take his cute little daughters on rounds with him at the hospital to spend time with them. He hadn't improved a thing.

In my own case, I decided to pursue an entrepreneurial career so I could have control of my life and provide quality products and services to a broad variety of clients. I had many very good job offers, but I told people I was just too lazy to commit to working 9-5, five days a week when I could work for myself. Instead, I worked, on average, about 14 hours a day with commuting to my business, very often six and seven days a week and going years without taking any vacation time. What was even worse, I was full of guilt if I wasn't at my business before my employees (including the ones who had the ability and authority to open up and close) and if I left before they did. And perish the thought of me staying home if I felt under the weather. Even though I owned the business, I felt “obligated” to work when everyone else was working. And worse yet, because the business of running the business took so much of my time, effort and energy, I ended up hiring other people to do the very jobs I loved and got in the business for in the first place. So, I didn't enjoy or much like my job or business.

I can't recount all the people I know, including a nurse friend who worked as a school nurse in a Washington, DC suburb for most of her career. She finally retired at the first opportunity because she couldn't handle seeing the child abuse issues anymore that she had dealt with for years. The stress and emotional discomfort she experienced in that job took a lot of her life out of her.

There are so many stories we all know of. I could go on forever. Perhaps, you are one of those stories. Unfortunately, we didn't know what we didn't know. As kids we couldn't wait to shed the “shackles” we felt our parents had on us. We couldn't wait for the freedom of adulthood. We saw our fathers and, in some cases, our mothers go off to work at whatever job they had and come home each night. We didn't comprehend their weariness or fatigue at the end of their work days.

Our parents went to their job, professional office or business and came home with money. That's what we saw. Those of us who were fortunate (and I do consider it fortunate) enough to have newspaper routes and part-time jobs in high school and college got a glimpse of the future. We were a little better prepared for the harsh reality of adult “freedom.”

The first reality sets in when most of us didn't find our “dream job” awaiting us at some fantastic salary. Hey! Here I am world, raring to go. Of course, even if we do find what we feel is a dream job, it doesn't take long to discover that it's still a job and it's not there for our pleasure, rather for the business owners, stockholders, higher ranked supervisors and managers, all of whom we were there to make look great in the eyes of their supervisors.

We are disillusioned and disappointed. But, we also now realize we are “responsible” for ourselves. Holy crap! Mom and Dad aren't going to feed, house, clothe and entertain me any more, let alone kiss our boo-boos or wipe our noses and take us to the doctor.

Jobs, Professions and Businesses Steal Our Lives

Why weren't we warned about this? Why are we protected from the realities of life? When I was in college, and I worked all the way through college and even ran a business part-time, I had a pretty good idea of what was ahead. That was one of the reasons, as I said earlier, I chose the entrepreneurial route. I thought I'd beat the system. That's also why I never dated women who were not college students. If they were working full-time jobs in the real world, I had a pretty good idea of what their lives were like and I wasn't ready to face that head on.

But, what can we do different. How can we live to work and have our work wrap into our lives on our terms as opposed to have to wrap our lives around a nearly 50 year, half century, commitment to the job? How can we live everyday on our own terms for our own reasons and simply find work or be involved in a profession or create a business that fits INTO our lifestyle, rather than control and dictate our lifestyle.

We can! People do it all the time. They look at the “life suck” (the new terminology) work can and will be if they conform to the traditional life path. They reject it. The question is, beyond what your basic needs are and a few realistic wants, how important is money, really?

Money always has a finite value. You can buy a gumball for 25 cents, (they used to be a penny). You can buy a $1.00 value menu hamburger for $1.00. You can buy three pairs of socks for $12.00 (those prices have gone up too). So, your needs are to find a way to generate the revenue to buy the gumball, the hamburger or the socks. It's also wise and prudent to put a little extra aside for those “just in case” moments that come along in everyone's life.

Now, estimate how much value each second, minute and hour of your life are worth. Remember, you can replace the money, the gumball, the hamburger and the socks. But, no matter how much money you have whether tens of dollars or billions of dollars, you still can't buy, rent, borrow, have transplanted or even steal another second, minute or hour. They are priceless and irreplaceable.

We need to reverse our thinking. What do I want from this precious gift of life I've been given and how much of my priceless time am I willing to trade or sacrifice to earn enough finite money to buy the gumball, hamburger or socks? How can I include some kind of work, profession or business into the lifestyle I choose to have rather than have some job, profession or business dictate what kind of lifestyle it will grant me.

Most people will continue to have their lives stolen by jobs, professions and businesses. They have the same choices as you and me. They just may not realize it. Even if you didn't before, you do now. Stop letting this life thief steal your most priceless commodity. Choose to live free.

Now, share this with other people so they can make informed choices about their lives. Share your stories and thoughts by submitting comments on the blog or posting on the Facebook Fan page or on Google +. Be a part of this discussion and share insights that may help others.  


Anonymous said...

Excellent perspective Ed, to reverse thinking first determine what you want from life and then figure out work that will help you achieve it.

I like to think of work as service or providing a product that others need and appreciate you providing. My example is the West in the 19th century America when a dry goods store opens in a sparsely, but growing area. How the residents rejoice not to take their wagons once a month on a long trek to stock up. By contrast, working in the tobacco industry is conscience destroying as a person progressively lies to himself about the great harm he is abetting; or the guilt he cannot rid himself of.

Does the work we do provide genuine benefit to others? Then it is more likely to be fulfilling and enjoyable. Eve and I just saw the movie, The War Room (caveat for those secularists among you: it’s a Christian produced move). In it the husband elected, after his highly paid and travel intensive pharmaceutical sales job ended, to take employment with the community center overseeing one of its youth programs – at half pay. He and his wife made the decision to align work with a lifestyle more worthy of their values. A recipe for what work ought to be.

Ed Helvey said...

Good points, Richard,

I had a friend, now departed (your brother, Art, knew him, too), who was a lifelong salesman. I think his father was also a salesman, if I remember correctly. At any rate, Alan would tell people when he was doing sales training seminars that "sell" was a "four-letter word." But, he liked to use a different four letter word for what he did for his work - his word was "Help." That goes along with what you said.

Thanks for the movie tip. I'll have to keep my eyes open for it.


Camilla said...

It's really too bad that your work never left you happy and fulfilled but I do know many people who love their jobs. I used to go in a few hours early and was happy as a clam. I miss it actually.

Ed Helvey said...

Actually, Camilla --

I've had a fantastic professional career. While I didn't love a couple of my businesses, mainly because I chose to make them complicated, those businesses only consumed about 30% of my career. Some people are "slow learners" and I had some lessons to learn about business and myself. About 70% of my career I kept things much simpler.

I worked from home for about 80% of my career. I got be with my son almost 100% of the time as he grew up during his first 18 years of life. He traveled with me all over the country whenever I could take him with me. My first wife was involved in the business and we, of course, traveled together a lot of the time, as well.

If anyone would have predicted, when I was starting college, what I would ultimately end up doing and achieving during my lifetime, I would have been sure they were on an LSD trip or something. I have no serious regrets. The parts of my business life that weren't particularly enjoyable and fulfilling were limited to a relatively few years and I consider them part of the dues and "real life MBA" I had to earn through OJT.

It wasn't until the last, roughly, ten years that I finally overcame my "Great Depression" era work ethic thinking. People of my age bracket "inherited" that from our parents who grew up during the Great Depression.


Anonymous said...

There are times when being subjected to a miserable work environment and job you dislike is needed for growth.

Ed, you pointed out the value of what you learned from poor decisions. My mother would tell me to heed her experience so you don’t have to learn the hard way. Well, turns out some things must learned through unpleasant and even bitter experience. Provided the lessons are learned, don’t we all look back and see the benefit of and are grateful for such difficulties?

I remember in my 20s working in a grey iron factory. I’d say a coal mine is the only environment worse. I asked God why he kept me here? (I would try every six months to get a different job without success.) He showed me that I had never learned the discipline of hard work. Well, after 18 months I did learn what it meant to be a “schwer arbeiter” (hard worker). And without me doing anything I was then offered different employment. Nice!