By Amanda Morrall (email)
1) The meaning of work
Once every so often, I read something that makes me want to jump to my feet and give the author a rousing hand of applause. Today, it's economist Umair Haque who blogs for the Harvard Business Review. For a thought provoking piece on the meaning of work and our dysfunctional obsession with growth, profits and GDP at the expense of personal well-being and happiness, I could give this man a hug.
Instead of the usual tiresome line of questioning and pontification about how we're going to grow or print our way out of the current mess that unfettered capitalism has created, he ponders the meaning of it all and man's purpose here on earth.
He asks "maybe the real depression we've got to contend with isn't merely one of how much economic output we're generating but what we're putting out there, and why. Call it a depression of human potential, a tale of human significance being willfully squandered on (for example, this).
Rather than blame it all on the system, government, bankers or x,y,z, Haque suggests we need to ask ourselves as individuals how and where we can make a difference, in particular through our work. He elaborates on this in his blog (so I encourage you to read it) but throws out three questions to ask yourself with respect to your work.
1) Does it pass the test of time? 2) Does is stand the test of excellence? 3) Does it stand the test of you?
Being human is never easy. But that's the point. Perhaps as an unintended consequence of our relentless quest for more, bigger, faster, cheaper, now, we've comfortably acceded to something akin to a minor-league contempt for the richness and grandeur of life unquenchably meaningfully well lived. Hence, call this post my tiny statement of rebellion. Hex me with all the bland management jargon in the world, zap me with all the perfect theories and models you like, but I'll never, ever accept the idea that triviality, mediocrity, and futility are appropriate goals for any human being, much less our grand, splintering systems of human organization.
We're all built differently — but none of us is here to not make a difference. So what are your three questions for getting lethally serious about doing stuff that matters?
More on happiness and work in this Guardian piece as well.
2) Overcoming fear
One of the greatest impediments to success has to be fear. Most of us are terrified of the unknown so much so that we stay in bad relationships, miserable jobs and unhappy situations for years on end. I can't say I have ever been brave enough to quit a job without having something else lined up first, but here's one man's tale of triumph over fear and a leap into the unknown.
Lucky for him, he had the security of a wife with a full-time job. Still, I'm a believer in leaps of faith. (Eds. It's much easier when you don't have any debt)
3) The marriage myth
Statistics tell me I'd be much better off financially if I was married. Actually, I beg to differ. For me marriage proved a financial liability.
That's because the ex and I were financially incompatible. I don't doubt a lot of people are better off financially as a unit but that's certainly not the case for everyone. Here's a few horror stories that dispel the myth of the happy marriage.
4) Diamonds are DeBeer's best friend not yours
I'm not a big one on bling, or the real stuff for the matter.
Can a man's love really be measured by the size and cost of the sparkler when they pop the question? We've been conned into believing that by slick marketers employed by DeBeer's and the like.
Personally, I'd be far more impressed by the guy who decided to donate three-months of his salary (or whatever the arbitrary profit-making prescribed ratio is) to a more productive cause, like saving endangered animals or buying orphaned children shoes or school books.
This piece by a sex/money/health blogger of a dubious name lays bare just how manipulated consumers have been by the diamond industry and how worthless they become when they're no longer wanted or required.
5) Whatever works
As a new dog owner, I've been learning all manner of interesting things about pet ownership. One of the things that surprised me a bit was that you need to be cruel (well more like tough and damn assertive) to be kind -- in order to earn their respect.
It's the polar opposite from how I believe relationships ought to be negotiated so I've been forced to find my inner witch with wee Mazzy.
Oddly, this behaviour seems to work on a personal finance level as well. One of the big names out there, Ramit Sethi, has hit pay dirt with this ball-busting and abusive approach towards people looking for financial salvation. I don't get it, but whatever works I suppose.
If you need a good butt kicking today, check out this blog roasting information addicts. I hate to admit it but surly Sethi is right. If all you do is consume information without every changing your behaviour you're just spinning your wheels, although he'd undoubtedly phrase that in a more abusive way.
Here's a snippet.
I have no interest in information addicts. They use phrases like, “This site jumped the shark! Why don’t you write about investing any more?” When I calmly reply, “Have you read my book?” they say, “No…I should definitely do that….”
When I hear morons like this, I retreat to my happy place, a dream-like state where I am sitting on a behavioral-change throne, dismissively waving off losers and whiners with one hand, while holding a gold scepter in the other. Naturally, I am being fanned with bald-eagle-feathered wands waved by bikini-clad women.