I hardly had began reading the WSJ article, when I saw the blog posts from Nandu and Vidya. And went “what am I going to say about something 3 people have talked about”. And here it goes:
I think we all are smart enough to understand that this momentum cannot be continued forever. Sooner or later, exhaustion will kill individuals, but the system will continue to derive its energy from newer people.
1) The timeline perspective — I hardly believe it could have been true that our parents and people of the 50s and 60s would have had a balanced-life. Even if they did, they probably did not know it and certainly was not an effect of careful planning. This is akin to the classic Vajpayee-Clinton joke of wireless communication. I think people of the 50s-60s worked harder than we ever will, finding every opportunity to bring an extra loaf of bread. Lets not forget that until very recently, we had 6.5 day weeks.
2) The cultural perspective — I really think this has a lot to do with culture. Some countries react to giving up work-life balance better than others. Try making a British, American, Indian, Japanese and an Arab work during a time they are not required to.
3) The economic perspective — I think a lot of this also has to do with the economic priorities. Like Buffett said about stock markets, the world is driven by “fear and greed”. The eco-system of the new economy — namely investors, share-holders, managers — has to make more money and quick money. They will do anything legal to accomplish this and this pressure will directly translate into promises to the customer and expectations from the employee.
4) The individual perspective — Do you think there is nobody enjoying life — one sip at a time? Absolutely, there are. There are 3 sub-types of these types of people.
Type A: People who positioned themself accordingly by virtue of education or wealth or privileges. This represents a small % of population, so let me not even talk about it
Type B: People who are incapable/given up
Type C: People who chose the “slower” path in favor of family and life
Look around you, you will surely be ahead of Type B and Type C people you at one time considered peers. In a dog-eat-dog world, individual efforts to adopt “slower life” will only result in individual failures.
I think the solution for “slowing down” can neither be a result, nor can it be triggered by individual actions, whether the individual is 1 or 100. This has to be systematically driven. Ironically, the people who devise and implement these systems have no reason to do so, because they are paid by the same investors and managers they pay you and me.
If you agree with everything above, read on.
I think the trick is to treat a high-stress career like a project with a definite goal and definite timeline and definite exit criteria. (This should not a new concept for many of us, especially the bankers)
Achieve your goals, get out and have a life.
All the best!
If you have managed to read all the way up to here, please leave comments on what you think