Posts Tagged ‘work’

Ready to Die? Just Retire

July 20, 2010

Our culture has tried to convince us we deserve to be able to retire – to remove ourselves from this thing called work.  But is that a privilege or a curse?  Research continues to mount showing those who retire at age 55 have double the risk of dying before reaching 65 as compared to those who work beyond age 60.

In The Prophet, poet and philosopher Kahil Gibran says this about work:  “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.  For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.”

Don’t become a stranger unto the seasons.  Don’t step off the platform of meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling work.  Gibran continues:  “And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret…..Work is love made visible.”

I know you don’t want to stop expressing love to those around you.

I’m planning for my retirement party and my funeral to be on the same day.

Stop Working – Get more done!

March 30, 2010

Yes, I know the obvious disconnect in this title.  We all believe that if we just work more, we’ll get more done.  But I’ve found that’s not necessarily true.  My best productivity comes from having a mix of work and regular breaks.

Where are you and what are you doing when you get your best ideas?  Over the last twenty years I’ve asked this of hundreds of clients and friends.  The most frequent answers are “when I was in the shower,” “when I was walking on the beach,” “when I was reading a book,” “when I was on the treadmill,” or “when I was relaxing in the bathtub.”  Seldom does anyone claim to get their best ideas when they are fully immersed in their work.

What happens when you lay down to rest, when you put on some great music, or when you take a walk in the woods on a beautiful fall day?  Most people find their breakthrough ideas when they are relaxed and doing something unconnected with their daily work.  When Leonardo Da Vinci was working on The Last Supper, he would spend days painting from dawn until dusk; then without warning, he would take a break for a day or two.  The duke who contracted his services was not amused, preferring that Leonardo would “never lay down his brush.”  But Leonardo persuaded him that “the greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.”

Look for small breaks in your daily routine.  Don’t think you can work non-stop for 50 weeks and then do all your relaxing in a two-week vacation.  Don’t think that the only productive thing you can do in a 10-minute break is to answer 5 more emails or squeeze in one more report.  I heard recently that the average businessperson now experiences 170 interactions per day (phone calls, emails, face-to-face conversations) and has a backlog of 200 to 300 hours of uncompleted work.   But sometimes the best thing to do with 10 minutes is to watch a hummingbird or to water your plants.

Here are things I often do in 5-10 minutes:

  • Fill my bird feeders
  • Walk down our long lane to get the mail
  • Read an article in one of my favorite magazines
  • Relax with a cup of tea and muffin
  • Play a game of Quiddler with Joanne

Here are some 1-hour breaks I enjoy:

  • Meeting with the Eagles Group on Wednesday morning
  • A massage from 4-5:00 on Friday afternoons
  • Weeding on of our many flowerbeds
  • Meeting a friend for lunch

Don’t let the unending list of work to be done keep you from your own version of these healthy and necessary insertions of relaxation and creativity.  You might be surprised at the increase in your overall productivity.

This is Holy Week.  I’ve heard from several friends who are going to “unplug” from email, FaceBook and Twitter for this entire week.  Could you unplug from some of your normal activities and feel more productive?

Here’s a fun 24-hour clock that deducts each activity as you list the time required.  See you day evaporate with nothing but work and other responsibilities – if you don’t plan in your own relaxation and creative rests.

24-hr Time Clock

Ouch – but it’s worth it?

March 19, 2010

Thousands of guys get vasectomies in March.  Guess why?  Is it because they are suddenly feeling responsible as heads of families?  Or because they are going to focus on adoption rather than fathering more children of their own?

Actually the increase is because the guys want to be able to sit on the couch and watch the March Madness basketball games.

Across the country, urologists like Dr. Stephen Jones of the Cleveland Clinic find that the number of scheduled vasectomies tends to jump by 50 percent the week that the tournament begins.

Here’s a really blatant audio ad for the 24 prime seats at an Oregon urologist’s office.  Snip City

Isn’t there an easier way to get a few days off work to watch the basketball finals?  Couldn’t you come up with something more creative than this?  And what are you going to do next year?  Get a reversal or just go for another body part?  Let’s see – the tonsils and appendix should be good for two more years.  Then those questionable knees might need some work – oh and the gall bladder’s been acting up.

Or you could create your own work like these folks and structure your work schedule any way you want it.

Making a Living…or

March 16, 2010

How many times have you heard someone say about their work – “Well, at least I’m making a living.” Maybe it would be more accurate to say “I’m making a dying.” The work they describe is unfulfilling, boring, and stressful.  They dread going in on Monday morning – and every other morning.  Often they are embarrassed about their work and admit readily they are doing nothing meaningful; only extracting a paycheck in exchange for their time.

Does that sound like “making a living?” I don’t think so.  They may brush it off as just something we all do; that work is never going to be purposeful and enjoyable.  They may pretend it doesn’t really matter.  But then I hear painful phrases like, “I feel like my soul is being sucked out of me,” or “I feel like a prostitute – in exchange for my life I’m getting a paycheck.”

If you’re caught up in the typical American view of work you may say you’re making a living when in truth something inside you is being killed each day.  Every day, millions of people rush to get to jobs they don’t love and yet those people defend their choices as responsible, practical, and realistic. How can it be responsible to live the biggest part of our lives devoid of meaning, joy, and purpose?

“Making a Living” implies that you are releasing those skills and talents that make you fully alive.  Doing work where the time just flies by – work that you would want to do even if you were not paid for it.  Work that is meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful and profitable.

In a recent issue of Rick Warren’s ministry newsletter, the author of The Purpose Driven Life was talking about this idea of meaningful work. Rick referenced this verse from Ecclesiastes 10:15 (Today’s English Version):  “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.” How do you like that? Have you been worn out at work lately? Did you know that you’ve just been put in the category of being “too stupid to find your way home?”

Well, maybe that’s a little harsher than it was intended to be and you’ll find softer language in other Bible translations, but I like the message. Don’t be so busy trying to “make a living” that you’re too busy to make a life.

And I don’t even have space here to describe what most people are doing to themselves when they think they’re “making a killing.”

No time? Try this

January 7, 2010

According to SUCCESS magazine – the average American worker spends 46 minutes a day commuting to and from work.  That’s 199 hours – 25 eight-hour days, each year.  Find a way to work from home and you just found 1 full extra month a year. 

What could you do with a full uninterrupted month?  Write that book, fish, travel, take a course, build your back-yard deck or immerse in reflection at a monastery.

I just want security and great pay

May 2, 2009

I’m reviewing tons of coaching requests today – trying to catch up and make the appropriate referrals.  In the information profiles I saw things like this:

I have been a professional interior designer for 29 years, since I got out of college.  ….. There are NO, repeat NO interior design opportunities in Miami, Florida…… Interior design is a luxury.  It is the first thing to go in a market like this.

And this:

I work as a waiter/bartender with uncertain and varying hours. I make minimum wage plus tips. I grabbed the first job I could get because of the economic conditions in our area. I do this job to keep the lights on and food on the coffee table, nothing more.

So I took a break for lunch.  First I stopped at the post office.  In leaving I said to the guy behind the counter, “Have a great day.”  He replied, “I would but I have to stay here.”  My next stop was Home Depot.  When I got to the check-out I cheerfully asked the gentleman there, “How’s your day going?”  He responded quickly, “It’ll be great in about 4 hours.”

How can any of these people expect to be at their best?  To be seen as making a valuable contribution to those organizations?  Yet I also see that the guy who took the job to keep the lights on, nothing more, saying:  “I want to see my hard work pay off quickly and get me promoted/noticed in weeks or months, not years. I like to see results right away.”

Now I’m going to go jump in my Mercedes for a little spin.  I think I’ll even put the top down because I deserve the best it can offer.  If it fires right up and gives me a thrilling ride, then I may decide to put a little gas in the tank – but not before.  It’s the American way.

Past humiliation — but stuck in sameness

December 17, 2008

This gentleman has been taking a 90-minute train ride into New York each day, where he walks the streets wearing this sandwich board sign.  It reads, “Almost homeless; looking for employment.  Very experienced operations and administration manager.”


He says he’s beyond the point of being humiliated – he just needs a job.  He says, “When you’re out of work and you face having nothing – I mean, having no income – pride doesn’t mean anything.  I have to take care of my family.”  His resume includes 36 years in the toy industry before being laid off in February of this year.

I know this is an all too common situation for lots of people right now.  Hey, I’m an old farm kid.  If the cow is old and has stopped giving milk, standing there begging for more milk is probably not a good solution.  I’d be out looking for something new to quench my thirst.  Predictions are that by 2010 only 50% of the American workforce will be “employees.”  The rest will be contingency workers, independent contractors, temps, freelance workers, consultants, entrepreneurs, electronic immigrants – and lots of other interesting descriptions that are showing up every day.  Rather than trying to force the sameness of the old work models, lead the way into the new ways of working and making income.

When my Dad was 88 years old, he was driving his own van, hauling Amish people to places they wanted to go.  He charged $2.00 a mile and often drove 500 miles a day, providing them with a valuable service and enjoying the time spent visiting. 

If you are out of work – don’t wait on a paycheck.  It may never come.  What is it that you can do that fulfills a need someone else has?

Don’t be one of the “Hodo Zoho”

November 4, 2008

Here’s a new phenomenon we are seeing in Japan.  Young professionals are turning down “promotions” because they want a life in addition to their work.  Civil service workers are choosing not to take career-advancing exams and thousands of IT workers are looking to switch to less demanding positions.  The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (once the goal of many elite workers) now says only 14% of the eligible employees took high level exams for management positions in 2007 – down from 40% thirty years ago. 

The “hodo-hodo zohu” translates roughly to the “so-so folks.”  Before you jump to conclusions about this new “slacker generation” please remember there is another term that has been very popular in Japan in the last 20 years as they have gained business and economic prominence.  That term is “karoshi” and it means “death from overwork.”  There have been cases of 30 and 40-yr olds who have died at their desks after weeks and months of 14 hour days, seven days a week in their attempts to climb the corporate and financial ladder.

So where’s the balance here?  If you turn down a promotion you will be seen as a “slacker” and similar to the “hodo-hodo zohu.”  If you work 70 hours a week you may be risking “karoshi.” 

We all have 168 hours a week – no more, no less.  If you sleep 8 hours a night and work 70 hours a week you are left with 42 hours – or 6 hours a day.  That has to cover your investment of time in your physical, social, parenting and marital, spiritual and personal development areas.  If you are the “average” American you are also watching 2.6 hours of TV every day.  That drops the time down to 3.4 hours for all those important life areas. 

I trust it’s clear there won’t be much success in any of those areas with that little time invested.   Don’t compromise the success you want physically, spiritually, in your marriage and your family by having it dry up from lack of attention. 

Okay – what are you if you have it all together — you’re already standing out from the crowd?  My Japanese is pretty weak so let’s just go with:  “Urfulealive”

My life sucks and it’s Adam’s fault

July 7, 2008

I get lots and lots of questions and comments each week.  And yes, I try to write in ways that prompt your thinking – and challenge some old traditional beliefs that may not actually be true.  We frequently establish our beliefs because of tradition and repetition – even if they are not true.

One self-defeating belief I see repeatedly is that I can remove responsibility for my miserable life by blaming Adam.  That God punished Adam by making him work.  Thus work for me now is a curse – a bitter pill – something to be endured but not enjoyed.  Here’s a crystal clear description from a reader this week:

I am a 48 yr.-old career changer who has fallen flat on his face financially after leaving my first career as a CAD operator to pursue my passion of teaching Bible.  I’ve invested too much into getting a master’s degree to turn back, so I feel like vocationally I’m back at square one, just starting out.  I’ve come to see that seeking after our “dream job” more often than not leads to disappointment and despair–especially as we age and feel we are running out of time.  We should rather learn to recognize the value in what we are already doing, and find our contentment in being good at it.  Remember, work is part of the curse incurred by Adam’s sin–we are not promised fulfillment in it.  God blesses each of us as He sees fit–some with great marriages, for instance, others with good health, and still others with rewarding careers.  Though we make our plans, ultimately it is He who directs our steps and determines our path.

Okay, so why try?  We are cursed because of Adam’s sin.  God doesn’t promise us fulfillment in our work.  Some enjoy it, some don’t.  It’s all a matter of chance.  Suck it up and accept your lot in life.

If I believed that I would close the doors of my business tomorrow.  Everything I teach and speak about promotes that work is a gift from God.  We have the privilege of integrating our God-given calling into fulfilling, purposeful and profitable work.  If you’re not experiencing that kind of work, don’t blame God.  We are not little robots that God delights in seeing miserable.  I believe it grieves Him to see us put up with work that does nothing but extract a paycheck.  Seeking after our “dream job” does not lead to “disappointment and despair” unless we were wishing and dreaming rather than creating a clear plan.

In Genesis 1 we read that God placed man in the garden to “tend and keep it.”  This was before any sin.  In Isaiah 65 we are told that in heaven we will have work assignments and will “fully enjoy the work of our hands.”  The Bible is full teachings regarding the benefits of work that matters.  Settling for less than enjoyable work is a cop-out; not a mature acceptance of some imagined punishment.

Still Hate Mondays?

June 8, 2008

I don’t often include just a link to a video.  But someone sent me this hilarious little video that gives a visual message about the way some people still feel about going to work on Monday mornings.  It’s only 43 seconds long so won’t eat up your day.  It may just give you a humorous jolt to modify you own work plan and join the growing ranks of the No More Mondays crowd.