15 August, 2007

...Works Hard for...?

"I have had to check in with work more than I wanted"

This is what he tells me after having been on vacation for a week. It is Monday morning, he is in Florida (though why anyone vacations in Florida in the summer is beyond me) and he is working.

He is living the American lifestyle of long hours spent working and little to no vacation. I am not much better. Although I don't work his killer hours, I take two weeks of vacation a year and no holidays.

His life could so easily be mine.

He has created a place for himself in his office; a position in which he succeeds and can not easily be replaced. His manager has purposely understaffed and over employed her department in such a way that he is truly the only one who can do his job. Each los to the department means that much more work for everyone else - and he has no one to cover him while he is on vacation.

With a strong work ethic and an eye for high quality work, he has succeeded where another might not. He is responsive to other team members, and those who need him, nearly 24/7 - and from out of state on his vacation.

is that what we call success?


Why does he spend this time working when he could be enjoying the sand, the sun, the surrounding history, his family...?

"You know, you don't have to check in with work. You are on vacation." I tell him.

But I wonder if he could not check in? I wonder if it is possible for him to sit, for two weeks, without work?

he can make it a week - cooking. reading, and taking a little time to relax, think, contemplate... but could he truly do it for more than a week?

If he did turn off work, completely, for two weeks, would he be a success?

Were he to devote the time and energy given to work to his family and his personal life... would he be a success?

Perhaps "success" is why he devotes that time and energy to work. In our professional lives it is easier to determine "success." We receive commendation, promotions, salary adjustments, bonus... various rewards and acknowledgements for the work that we do, time we give, and a job well done. Society says we are a "success"

In our personal lives success is more difficult to achieve. It is the subjective definition that is determined by society at large and more specifically, our loved ones and ourselves.

Americans, as a whole, work too hard and too many hours. Our average work week is no longer the 40 hours we once enjoyed. While our European counterparts enjoy long vacations, a shorter work week, and a more balanced lifestyle, we aim for high productivity and a long work week...at what cost?

I appreciate his work ethic, respect his dedication to quality and dedication to a job well done. I simply wonder if it is worth it? Is the success he has achieved at work worth the time that he has dedicated to that end?

There but by the grace of God go I...

You see, my life could have been a mirror reflection of his. I could have easily been that person.

But, I have the Diva. Children truly can change our lives in ways we can't predict.


megabrooke said...

i don't think im cut out for that lifestyle of working a zillion plus hours, taking my work on vaca with me, etc. it's all about the balance too. which is sometimes so hard to find, yet... so key.

Aaron said...


When I'm on vacation, I'm on vacation. My coworkers know better than to think I'd answer the phone, much less be counted on for anything in any capacity. Second to that, I put my 40hrs in and go home. I once heard a fellow manager say the company expects us to work 50-60hrs a week.

(insert laughter here)

Willow said...

I'm one of those people who will only take a vacation, when I know that work will not be too busy. I hate to be off work, if I know that I would be needed there.

This is my first job in the REAL world, so we'll see if my thinking changes over time:)

The Exception said...

Brookem - That balance is difficult. Being a single parent has forced me to balance as I want to be a parent. But I work with many people who top 90 hours every two weeks. The works just needs to be done.

Aaron - Good for you!! I wish managers would recognize that they have happier and more effective employees when there is a good balance between personal life and work.

Willow - Around here, the "first real job" women are those that burn out the fastest. They are so excited; want to be involved with everything; feel like they are making a difference etc... their personal life doesn't exist.

Remember that there is more to life than work!

Airam said...

I think wanting to achieve the "American Dream" has given people the notion that the only way it can be attained is through hard work and long hours. But I think they got it wrong when they came up with what makes the American dream. Why is it that so many people who truly are successful and are living that dream are on anti-depressants? Why are there so many unhappy people out there?

I think that we need to really re-evaluate what makes a successful life. Work that makes you happy ... vacation time to rejuvenate ... family who you know like "the back of your hand" because they are what comes first ... and of course time for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I think having the Diva makes your life a bit more well rounded. I fear those who work 24/7 will one day look back and feel they missed out on other aspects of life...

It's difficult to know how to balance it all and in what proportions and where we should delegate our time. I'm still trying to figure it out!

The Exception said...

Airam - When I was in my 20's (wow, that was ages ago!) there was a belief that the X generation would do just that - come up with a new concept of success. The idea was that this "lazy" generation was fed up with the baby boomers and their work ethic. X was more about community, family, vacation, down time... and the were about being lazy.
Of course, it didn't work like that. X is not a lazy generation.

We do need to define success and realize that the American dream is about living and loving life - your job, your down time etc.

With everything so digital... it is hard to separate life from work/vacation from the office.

ALU - The Diva has helped me prioritize my life. I could, as many parents do, focus on my career and provide a nanny to care for her during her waking hours. That isn't what I wanted. I want to be her parent and enjoy the time I have with her.

I fear that there are people who will not see all that they have missed in throwing themselves and their time into their professions.

Michael C said...

This was perfectly written. Between health troubles and my twins, I made peace long ago with only getting so far up the career ladder. The doctor has placed me off work the remainder of the week and my and my girls are getting sooo much quality time.

This was definitely a post to keep around.

BTW, can I add your link to my blog??

The Exception said...

Michael C. - Add away!

It is nice to have quality time - and see it as quality time.

It is a challenge to watch people fly by me professionally - but I know that I don't want those hours; that life. I want the balance.

Enjoy those girls!

cathouse teri said...

This is exactly why I don't date ambitious and/or "successful" men. They really don't pay enough attention to me me me me me! :)

I define success and wealth using much different terms than most of the world.

Who is this "he" we are talking about, anyway?

The Exception said...

Teri - How do you define success?

cathouse teri said...

Success ~ hmmm... Well, I would certainly say accomplishing the understanding of true contentment.

I think if you are able to sit and say, "Yes, I love my life," then you have been successful at living.

Living is hard. It's painful. And striving after things that are temporal is basically not in the direction of success, in my mind. When you possess things in your soul that cannot be taken from you under any circumstances, then I believe you have real and true wealth.

The Exception said...

Teri - I tend to agree. For me, success, is not about money or location or position, but contentment with life, my choices, and actions.