Author Topic: Economist 1843 article about liking to work, instead of boring LCOL jobs/life/RE  (Read 2419 times)

kato

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Interesting read.  Makes me reflect on if I will be bored in retirement and missing being engaged with easy life of paying for things like this article suggests.

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/why-do-we-work-so-hard


MayDay

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The pleasure lies partly in flow, in the process of losing oneself in a puzzle with a solution on which other people depend. The sense of purposeful immersion and exertion is the more appealing given the hands-on nature of the work: top professionals are the master craftsmen of the age, shaping high-quality, bespoke products from beginning to end. We design, fashion, smooth and improve, filing the rough edges and polishing the words, the numbers, the code or whatever is our chosen material. At the end of the day we can sit back and admire our work the completed article, the sealed deal, the functioning app in the way that artisans once did, and those earning a middling wage in the sprawling service-sector no longer do.

The fact that our jobs now follow us around is not necessarily a bad thing, either. Workers in cognitively demanding fields, thinking their way through tricky challenges, have always done so at odd hours. Academics in the midst of important research, or admen cooking up a new creative campaign, have always turned over the big questions in their heads while showering in the morning or gardening on a weekend afternoon. If more people find their brains constantly and profitably engaged, so much the better.


Those two paragraphs spoke to me.

I was home with the kids for ~7 years, some of which they were at school full time.  Keeping house (cleaning, laundry, cooking) is not fun when you have to do it on a day to day basis (at least for me).  I was like the maid. 

Working is FUN.  I use my brain.  I solve puzzles.  I fix things.  (I am an engineer, by the way).  I make a product (sort of.... I tell the operators who do the drudgery of mass production how to make the product) that I am proud of.  Yes I think about work at night an occasionally read emails, but I can also leave whenever during the day to go to my kids' school stuff.  And at my company most people work ~40 hours a week.  This has been true of every job I have had- for myself at least, if not coworkers. 

When I worked PT I was working and still doing all the drudgery.  Maybe working PT will be more fun when the kids are grown and H and I can each just take care of ourselves.  But for now, I mush prefer working FT to being home. 

Journal:  http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/mayday's-journal/350/  featuring children, chickens (new!) and other ch words.

less4success

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When the author brought up Keynes's famous projection of working hours, I assumed that the article would be a rehash of numerous similar articles I had come across in the past... but then he took the idea and flipped it on its head -- people are working more because they like to.

What's more interesting is that I can't (honestly) completely deny that contention.

How many FIRE bloggers have gone on to work even more in retirement (at least after recovering/decompressing)?

Now if only we could spread the work and rewards out more equitably...

Louis XIV

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Mostly I agree with this article. Look at MMM, after retiring from his software developer gig he went off and became a property developer, blogger, etc. His wife has been a real estate agent and now runs a soap business.

Sometimes I wonder if he'd found a less hierarchical employer or started his own niche tech company, if MMM would even exist.

farfromfire

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...
The fact that our jobs now follow us around is not necessarily a bad thing, either. Workers in cognitively demanding fields, thinking their way through tricky challenges, have always done so at odd hours. Academics in the midst of important research, or admen cooking up a new creative campaign, have always turned over the big questions in their heads while showering in the morning or gardening on a weekend afternoon. If more people find their brains constantly and profitably engaged, so much the better.[/b]
...
You need time to shower/garden/exercise/etc in order to enjoy this "shower principle". When work does actually follow you around, such as stress over deadliness, answering dumb emails at all hours of the night, etc. people get burnt out.

Dabnasty

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Two thoughts came to mind reading this article.

1) I would agree that most people need to accomplish something on a regular basis to feel satisfaction and be happy but what that something is will vary greatly between individuals. Personally I have a hard time feeling accomplished if I can't see or touch the results. Everything being digital makes that difficult but trying to work outside of the technological/digital world generally means making less money. Hence the goal of many on this forum - make enough, get out, work on what you want. If the work you want to do is also work that is well paid then good for you but the people who fit the mold he is describing are the minority. There are certainly people who live and work in this environment and get satisfaction from what they do but there are many more who are still the drones he describes as a thing of the past. He even points out that those jobs have been outsourced now...meaning someone else is doing them, they're just far away. Out of sight out of mind.

2) It was a good reminder that you can put a good spin on anything and there will often be a counterexample to your example. This guy puts a good spin on the fast paced working life while MMM puts a good spin on spending less, working less. I think both can be right as different people want different things. Of course I still find much more value in MMM's writing because it's a novel idea. I think there are far more people out there working full time, not because it brings them satisfaction but because they don't see another way.

Edit: And never forget, even if you do love your job and earn a lot that doesn't mean it's OK to spend on waste. Spend your money on living in a crazy HCOL area, that only effects you. Spend your money on toys and vacations that require resources to be mined, grown, or extracted, that effects everyone. I feel like MMM is more about not being a wasteful drag on the planet as it is early retirement.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 08:56:17 AM by Dabnasty »

Maenad

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These paragraphs struck me:

Quote
But the inadmissible truth is that the eclipsing of lifes other complications is part of the reward.

It is a cognitive and emotional relief to immerse oneself in something all-consuming while other difficulties float by. The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.

Yeah, no. Those "other difficulties" don't just float by. They build up and wait for you. Or your wife takes care of them for you while you're "crafting your masterpiece".

Quote
We cheer each other on, we share in (and quietly regret) the successes of our friends, we lose touch with people beyond our network. Spending our leisure time with other professional strivers buttresses the notion that hard work is part of the good life and that the sacrifices it entails are those that a decent person makes. This is what a class with a strong sense of identity does: it effortlessly recasts the groups distinguishing vices as virtues.

This is supposed to be a good thing??

FINate

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And I begin to understand the nature of the trouble Im having communicating to my parents precisely why what Im doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.

I find this incredibly sad. The vast majority of people work for for-profit corporations, including the author. No matter how much spin you put on your career being meaningful or having a higher purpose, at the end of the day you're a cog in a system that has a singular goal of producing profits for the owners/shareholders. That's it, nothing more. Of course the corporation is perfectly happy to feed its employees a bunch of tripe about changing the world and making a difference, yet funny how all this fades away when profits drop and it's time for RIFs - then it's all business, all about the bottom line. If your career is your main identity or purpose then you have a spiritual problem (or philosophical if spiritual is a dirty word for you) and you need to find a higher purpose, otherwise your corporate overlords are going to chew you up and spit you out.

Retirement is not about sitting around doing nothing. There are many threads on these boards about how those of us who have FIREd have busier and more fulfilling lives now that we have the freedom to choose our work rather than working to earn a paycheck. The author could continue doing the work he loves closer to family, but is prevented from doing so do to his careerism. I wonder how he'll feel about this after his parents, who seem like wonderful people, have passed and he realizes he and his children can never get that time with loved ones back? And for what, to climb the ladder?

FireHiker

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For me personally, I certainly am not striving to reach FIRE so that I can just sit around all day long (although I'd like to have a bit more downtime here and there!) and do nothing meaningful or productive. I just don't want the money to have to be a factor in what I choose to do, and the work I currently do is not something about which I am passionate. There are SO many other paths out there that I'd love to take that would provide satisfaction, challenge, a sense of accomplishment, that aren't tied to a paycheck or job title. I think that's the same for most of the folks here.

bacchi

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Quote
But my work the work we lucky few well-paid professionals do every day, as we co-operate with talented people while solving complex, interesting problems is fun.

I'm not sure whether to roll my eyes or congratulate the author.

Most people -- the vast majority -- do not solve complex, interesting, problems. It's more of the same shit. Oh, we may delude ourselves into thinking that we're going to "change the world" with our interesting problems (look at any of the numerous software startups) but really we're just working to make Travis Kalanick a billionaire.

FireHiker

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Quote
But my work the work we lucky few well-paid professionals do every day, as we co-operate with talented people while solving complex, interesting problems is fun.

I'm not sure whether to roll my eyes or congratulate the author.

Most people -- the vast majority -- do not solve complex, interesting, problems. It's more of the same shit. Oh, we may delude ourselves into thinking that we're going to "change the world" with our interesting problems (look at any of the numerous software startups) but really we're just working to make Travis Kalanick a billionaire.

No kidding! I don't mind the part of my job that is actually interesting problem solving. Sometimes it is fun. The problem of course is all the BS and busy work that makes up the rest of the job within the corporate world.

undercover

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I believe he's a little out of touch. The experience of ~90% (probably more) of modern-day employees is not one of waking up everyday fueled by excitement about what they're doing in life. They're mostly not artisans slaving away tirelessly at their passion.

Sure, there is a certain aura to writing for a prestigious economics magazine. Sure, that life would be hard to leave. Sure, they think about leaving it. But that's about it. I believe the author is trying to justify where he's at more than he's actually making a one-size-fits-all compelling argument. Regardless, he gets to write for a well-known magazine. He has everything that anyone wants in their job: autonomy, creativity, flexibility.

So if by "we", he means "a handful of people", then sure. But most people will do far better by getting out of the rat race and focusing on what they enjoy.
Every solution has a problem

dcheesi

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I think the anecdote about their friends moving to a smaller town (and back) kind of misses the point. It's easy to wind up "bored and lonely" in the first year after moving to *any* new community, large or small.

I did essentially the opposite move recently, from a smaller "city" to a real metropolis. The big city has far more attractions, nightspots, and "things to do" than my old town, yet after a few months I found myself far more bored & lonely than I was before the move. For most people it takes a while to find new friends, and without that social aspect, all of the "activities" and "attractions" start to ring hollow. Tele-working (as the anecdotal husband was doing) only adds to the problem, since you don't even have face-to-face interaction with coworkers to fill the social void.

I'm familiar with Charlottesville in particular, and I can definitively say that there's no objective reason to be "bored" there. The fact that they gave up after less than a year suggests that they just weren't prepared for the amount of time/effort needed to make a successful transition to a new and different locality.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 12:51:04 PM by dcheesi »

Gondolin

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I am talking about my life.

Everyone's got to deal with the existential dread somehow. Becoming your job is just currently one of the most popular ones.
"There cannot be two skies"

JayKay

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I believe he's a little out of touch. The experience of ~90% (probably more) of modern-day employees is not one of waking up everyday fueled by excitement about what they're doing in life. They're mostly not artisans slaving away tirelessly at their passion.

Totally agree.  But, remember, that this guy's job is being a writer, which is more creative than most jobs.  So, from his own perspective, of course all jobs are about artisans doing what they like!  LOL

Also, we've got our own biases when reading the article as FIRE-ists, so it will strike a chord if you view work as an anathema, or even just a necessary evil.

MilesTeg

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Working hard in school and life to find a career that you actually enjoy is a far better strategy to personal financial well being than relying on penny pinching activities.

Combine working to find a career you actually enjoy AND avoiding really stupid spending (e.g. fancy cars, $1000 phones, etc.) is better yet.

And frankly, it's the truth behind MMM. He didn't retire, he's a smart capable guy that worked hard and found a career he loves (financial blogging, real estate, etc.). But by his own admission he has no problem spending lots of money on the things he actually enjoys (bikes, food, houses, international travel, electric vehicles, etc.).

BFGirl

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Yeah...my FIRE goal isn't to sit around and do nothing all day.  I want to work at pursuits which I enjoy but for which society doesn't value enough to pay me a living wage.

mm1970

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Working hard in school and life to find a career that you actually enjoy is a far better strategy to personal financial well being than relying on penny pinching activities.

Combine working to find a career you actually enjoy AND avoiding really stupid spending (e.g. fancy cars, $1000 phones, etc.) is better yet.

And frankly, it's the truth behind MMM. He didn't retire, he's a smart capable guy that worked hard and found a career he loves (financial blogging, real estate, etc.). But by his own admission he has no problem spending lots of money on the things he actually enjoys (bikes, food, houses, international travel, electric vehicles, etc.).
Unless the career you enjoy doesn't pay well.

bacchi

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Working hard in school and life to find a career that you actually enjoy is a far better strategy to personal financial well being than relying on penny pinching activities.

What if penny pinching is the only way to get my dream job?

A Definite Beta Guy

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Yeah...

Quote
But that is not quite how it is. The problem is not that overworked professionals are all miserable. The problem is that they are not.
This is definitely not the case. I know a lot of people who went into Big 4 Accounting and I know a lot of corporate people who are stuck working 50,60,70 hour work weeks.
They almost all freakin' hate it.

Quote
Offices in the rich worlds capitals are packed not with drones filing paperwork or adding up numbers but with clever people working collaboratively.

Perhaps I'm a cynical MF'er, but "collaborative" to me means "you fucked up your job and I now have to figure out how to fix it."

I am a knowledge-worker, and I don't have to do too much grunt work. But the whole reason I am on a FIRE forum because I don't want to do this crap. If I wanted to do this crap, they would not have to pay me to do it.

WildJager

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Yeah...my FIRE goal isn't to sit around and do nothing all day.  I want to work at pursuits which I enjoy but for which society doesn't value enough to pay me a living wage.

Bingo.  I'm a pilot who loves to fly, but whether your flying in the military like I am or hauling iron for the airliners, the higher paid positions become quite tedious.  It's the rag tag small flying that doesn't pay shit that's a blast.  Or even the smaller humanitarian bush flying that pays nothing.  Being able to work on endeavors simply because they're emotionally rewarding is what I can't wait to pursue. 

Xlar

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Quote
And I begin to understand the nature of the trouble Im having communicating to my parents precisely why what Im doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.

I find this incredibly sad. The vast majority of people work for for-profit corporations, including the author. No matter how much spin you put on your career being meaningful or having a higher purpose, at the end of the day you're a cog in a system that has a singular goal of producing profits for the owners/shareholders. That's it, nothing more. Of course the corporation is perfectly happy to feed its employees a bunch of tripe about changing the world and making a difference, yet funny how all this fades away when profits drop and it's time for RIFs - then it's all business, all about the bottom line. If your career is your main identity or purpose then you have a spiritual problem (or philosophical if spiritual is a dirty word for you) and you need to find a higher purpose, otherwise your corporate overlords are going to chew you up and spit you out.

Retirement is not about sitting around doing nothing. There are many threads on these boards about how those of us who have FIREd have busier and more fulfilling lives now that we have the freedom to choose our work rather than working to earn a paycheck. The author could continue doing the work he loves closer to family, but is prevented from doing so do to his careerism. I wonder how he'll feel about this after his parents, who seem like wonderful people, have passed and he realizes he and his children can never get that time with loved ones back? And for what, to climb the ladder?
Quote
I am talking about my life.

Everyone's got to deal with the existential dread somehow. Becoming your job is just currently one of the most popular ones.

I second these quotes. There is more to life than work and it's incredibly sad that all of the author's self worth comes from their identity as a journalist. Burying yourself in work and ignoring all of the other problems in life isn't a solution, it's denial!

GuitarStv

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The pleasure lies partly in flow, in the process of losing oneself in a puzzle with a solution on which other people depend. The sense of purposeful immersion and exertion is the more appealing given the hands-on nature of the work: top professionals are the master craftsmen of the age, shaping high-quality, bespoke products from beginning to end. We design, fashion, smooth and improve, filing the rough edges and polishing the words, the numbers, the code or whatever is our chosen material. At the end of the day we can sit back and admire our work the completed article, the sealed deal, the functioning app in the way that artisans once did, and those earning a middling wage in the sprawling service-sector no longer do.

The fact that our jobs now follow us around is not necessarily a bad thing, either. Workers in cognitively demanding fields, thinking their way through tricky challenges, have always done so at odd hours. Academics in the midst of important research, or admen cooking up a new creative campaign, have always turned over the big questions in their heads while showering in the morning or gardening on a weekend afternoon. If more people find their brains constantly and profitably engaged, so much the better.


Those two paragraphs spoke to me.

I was home with the kids for ~7 years, some of which they were at school full time.  Keeping house (cleaning, laundry, cooking) is not fun when you have to do it on a day to day basis (at least for me).  I was like the maid. 

Working is FUN.  I use my brain.  I solve puzzles.  I fix things.  (I am an engineer, by the way).  I make a product (sort of.... I tell the operators who do the drudgery of mass production how to make the product) that I am proud of.  Yes I think about work at night an occasionally read emails, but I can also leave whenever during the day to go to my kids' school stuff.  And at my company most people work ~40 hours a week.  This has been true of every job I have had- for myself at least, if not coworkers. 

When I worked PT I was working and still doing all the drudgery.  Maybe working PT will be more fun when the kids are grown and H and I can each just take care of ourselves.  But for now, I mush prefer working FT to being home.

See . . . I have a different take.  I'm a software engineer.  When I was laid off for several months I had the chance to spend some time learning and focusing on some of the algorithmic stuff and some of the more esoteric software stuff that I never had time to do at work or when I was in school.  I wrote a computer game (something that I'd always wanted to try).  I had time to catch up on my reading, to cook meals every day for the family, to go on bike rides every day, to write down and record some musical ideas I'd been kicking around, to learn some more music theory, taking the time to search out and listen to some new music, etc.

Sure, cleaning the house isn't great fun - but that's just a tiny fraction of the time available to you. . . and it's something you've got to do when you're working anyway.  If you're not using your brain and having fun when you're not working, why not?