The culture, the people, the passion, the vivacity – the sight was surreal. A weekend in New Orleans was all it took. This past weekend brought realization of how less time should be spent fretting over economic well-being and fearful of prospects. The uncertainly of the future is enough to drive Millennials to an early grave, however this past weekend gave me a new perspective.
What a change from life in Los Angeles. Windows beckoned with jazz music, bead necklaces colored in Mardi Gras gold, purple and green flew from balconies, and locals proudly chanted the patriotic anthem of their Saints football team. It was game day against the Texas Cowboys, a Southern rival.
While in New Orleans, drinks are merrily poured and food is wonderfully fried, there’s no doubt the Downtown LA office dwellers are sat silently at computer screens finishing off a 14-hour workday. The rat race to finish off investor deals and merger acquisitions weighs on each mind. After all, the most important thing is earning more money than the next guy, isn’t it? Well…maybe not. Too often I find myself heading in this direction and it takes a conscious effort to reframe my thoughts – at the end of the day, what is life really about? Maybe the people of New Orleans have it right.
There are many ways to think about this argument, and many questions to ask. In the grand scheme of things, we have a very finite amount of time to make our mark on the world – both as individuals and as a species. From a factual standpoint, the average life span of a species on earth is a few million years. Will the human species cease to exist in a few million years, like most other animals? If so, why, and what will replace it? Or are humans so unique and different from other species, that experience from other species cannot be applied, and humans may continue to exist for a much longer time? Regardless, as we visualize our time on earth, we must appreciate the relatively miniscule time we have.
So, how will you spend most of your time? If working long hours makes you happy, then by all means go ahead. However, if you’re one of the majority who work to earn the money and time to play, there needs to be more of a balance in the current corporate world. Evident in the nonstop Los Angeles office culture, the taste of uber productivity from constant innovation only tempts us further down the path of ‘harder work equals greater reward.’ Maybe not.
The graph above is from Daniel Cook’s Rules of Productivity presentation posted on his Lostgarden blog. It shows that working 60 hours a week leads to a productivity deficit or slump—one which you’ll have to recover from. He writes:
“In a 60 hour crunch people have a vague sense that they are doing worse, but never think that they should stop crunching. They imagine that working 40 hours a week will decrease their productivity. In fact, it will let them rest and increase their productivity.
This behavior is fascinating to observe. Zombies stumble over to their desk every morning. Temper flare. Bugs pour in. Yet to turn back would be a betrayal.”
This brings up a fundamental question: where do we draw the line between productive work and overwork? Things can always be better, faster, smaller, bigger, etc… When I think back to the crowds thronged in the New Orleans streets, these people earn an honest living by day, but once the workday ends, they take the streets, let loose, and enjoy each other’s company as they cheer on their beloved Saints.
Street parties in New Orleans or office lunches in L.A. – who’s right at the end of the day? It’s a tough question to answer, but regardless there should be a balance in the short life we all have together.