Tuesday, September 15, 2009

(Enough) Work is good for you

How important is your work to you?

For me its really important – always has been – always will be. I think it's partly to do with my late beloved Dad’s strong work ethic and the example he set. It was drummed into me from my earliest days. Dad always said “you get nothing for nothing.” He always told me to work hard in whatever I did.

I’ve always taken work seriously and I have to say a few years ago, far too seriously and at the expense of my health.

That brings me to a really tricky discussion and
I would be fascinated to hear from you about this topic.

I began thinking about this last night when I was listening (yet again) to some of my favourite Eagles tracks and came across the Don Henley classic “New York Minute.”

The lyrics of this song always send shivers down my spine:

“Harry got up
Dressed all in black
Went down to the station
And he never came back
They found his clothing
Scattered somewhere down the track
And he won’t be down on wall street
In the morning

In a New York minute
Everything can change
In a New York minute
Things can get pretty strange
In a New York minute
Everything can change”

The song is a story of a New York City Wall Street worker who lost his way somehow and decided to end it all in front of a train.

Now I’m older I can say I agree 100% with my Dad’s philosophy. Work is good for our physical and mental health. The problem starts when work becomes too important, relative to other parts of our life.

Work gives us a sense of belonging; a sense of achievement; and it boosts our self esteem. Never under-estimate the importance of work in our total make up.

Having said all that, work should not be allowed to become such a controlling factor that it drives us to the edge of despair and sadly in some cases such as 'Harry' - over that edge.

It’s a fragile line and as Don sings those haunting words .... “In a New York minute, everything can change”

In my career I've had to re-assess my position regarding career choices on a number of occasions - we all do that. I am not for a nanosecond suggesting we shouldn’t worry about work – worrying about it keeps us performing to some degree. When worries about work turn into clinical depression we need to look for help and talk about how we feel. My great guru and life supervisor Professor George Giarchi often uses the expression “This too will pass”

Speaking from personal experience I would say George is right.


Anonymous said...

A very timely post for me today.

Blessings on your day!

Anonymous said...

Back a few years I was staggering through in a fog of chronic burnout. Loved the job and still do, but I finally accepted that you can't be all things to all people all the time.

Sometimes you have to remember to love yourself as you love your neighbour.

Yesterday my husband and I were having one of those idle 'what if we won a lottery' conversations. We decided that after some travel and some money to the children (if they wanted it but we weren't actually sure if they did) we'd pretty much do what we're doing now.

I guess we've won the lottery after all...

Lois Gory

David Wike said...

As you know Trevor, I lost my corporate job a few years back when the company went bust. I miss the camaraderie of the office and some of the excitement. I do not miss the pressure of the daily grind.

We get locked in to the idea that money equals success. We and others tend to judge our progress through the corporate world by our management grade, income and perks.

As I understand it, I am in your squad for your football team when we get to 100. My strategy is to live forever, but sometimes we get a reality check. In the last 12 months, five of my former colleagues have died. All were within a year or several of my age. Three of them died just last month.

Since I left the corporate world I’ve done a bit of consulting, training and mentoring. My income is very considerably less than it was. And guess what? We haven’t starved. I can still afford to put a decent bottle of wine on the table. OK, the mortgage is paid off and there’s a little money invested. That is the upside of forty years hard work.

What I enjoy most now is the non-paid work, much of it with schools. I tend to forget that I’m not being paid. What I enjoy is doing something useful, and hopefully doing it well. If some of those people who demand huge salaries and bonuses thought about what they really enjoy about work, perhaps they too would realise that financial status is not the ultimate prize.

Steve Felix said...

in 1985, the year of "Live Aid" i had a heart scare. for a few weeks i though that i had had a mild heart attack. but fortunately, i sought out a second opinion and learned that i had a virus instead. during the weeks i was home, i found a book that has changed my life, "Type A Behavior and Your Heart." it describes the Type A characteristics and the risks. it gives those who want to a choice, a rehabilitation program, although Type A behavior is a disease, if you are a Type A, you always are one...it's your choice if you want to manage it or not (most Type A's don't think there's anything wrong with being Type A and so the suggestion of rehabilitation is pretty much wasted on them). but i took it seriously and made changes in my work and my personal behavior immediately. i got my priorities straight. now don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that i started sluffing off at work; to the contrary but it was the way i worked that made the difference-it was less stressful and i found that i got more accomplished than when i was multi-tasking, doing everything fast, etc. now this is not an easy thing as we live in an increasingly more robust Type A world which is trying to suck us into it's whirlpool so my daily goal is still to not get sucked in and it requires great awareness and discipline (i'm not perfect at it and never will be but i am doing a pretty good job of it if i do say so myself). now, i, like you trevor, am older now than i once was (duh) and perhaps with age comes some wisdom. but i was only 37 when i discovered meyer friedman's book and i feel fortunate that i did. for anyone who feels they are Type A and that the risks of that behavior are real, i recommend picking up the book and reading about yourself, the time urgency (living your life by a stopwatch instead of a calendar), free-floating hostility, etc. and deciding if that's who you want to be. if you ask my children, they will tell you that they have seen a positive change in me since that time and that, to me, is the measure of my success with my self-improvement program. i also have experienced success in my career. so it seems like i've been able to find that balance. but it takes work, my friend. after all, as ringo once sang, "it don't come easy."

take care.

Trevor Gay said...

levittmike - just looked at your Blog - congratulations - great stuff.

I'm glad the posting on Simplicity Blog made a few connections with you. Yours is a good story and a great illustration - if any more is needed - about getting our priorities right.

I hope you are recovering well from your heart attack and good luck with your continuing rehab.

Thank you Mike - your Blog is added to my favourites and as a fellow Christian - God Bless you Sir!

Trevor Gay said...


"I guess we've won the lottery after all..."

I love that - you are so right - the greatest joy is often right where we are now and the grass is often as green in our current place.

Trevor Gay said...

David - WOW - five former colleagues have died in the last 12 months - that is heavy stuff. Promise me you will keep up your training for the over 100 year olds five a side football team!

I am like you - unpaid work gives me as much pleasure as any paid role during my entire working life.

In the final judgment status is not measured in terms of possessions, money and titles despite that being the currency of the corporate rat race lifestyle.

Trevor Gay said...

Steve- profound advice once again my friend. This posting has given me so much material to reflect upon.

It seems we are all saying the same thing - look after yourself!


JOHN O'LEARY said...

Trevor, maybe Henley was making a different - or additional - point: when your life is about producing profit - especially under high risk - to the neglect of value you're headed for trouble. I think Henley's always had a love/hate relationship to life in the fast lane. Maybe it's time for him to write "Hotel Wall Street." Or maybe he did.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that analysis John and like you I suspect Don was also making a point about obscene profits which has always been a big issue for him as a Democrat supporter (I see on Wikipedia by the way The Washington Post found that since 1978, Henley has donated over $680,000 to political candidates). Henley is of course also very well known for his environmental campaigning and never afraid to say it from the heart whatever the issue politically.

BTW John for your research on your upcoming book I also found this on Wiki:

“Henley is not always an idealist. In a March 2001 interview on Charlie Rose, he stated that "rock bands work best as a benevolent dictatorship," with the principal songwriters in a band (in the case of the Eagles, "me and Glenn Frey") being the ones that will likely hold the power.”

Scott Peters said...


Excellent post. I have learned how to balance work, family, and fun in the past couple of years. I, much like you, placed too much value on what I meant to an organization and the people within. I've seen an organization turn its back on me along with several employees. While this may have damaged my sense of self-worth within a corporate setting, the realities of my experience allowed me a great opportunity at a better friend, person, and family man.

The corporate world is largely responsible for contributing to a health decline that I experienced in my mid-30's. I don't blame anybody but myself for how I handled my career and commitment to corporate goals and ideals...I was way too invested. At the end of the day though, much of the superficial rank and file make tons of money aspirations didn't amount to much. The after affects of the health decline remain with me today, as a symbol to never go back to such commitment and disappointment and maintain focus on the importance of life.

I have no regrets and I'm glad I learned such an important lesson at an early age.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Scott good to hear from you.

Your experience mirrors mine to some degree.

I felt after 35 year in a corporate health care career that the time was right to get out and do my own thing and have never regretted it for one second.

It was five years ago but seems like yesterday. I never want to return to that corporate setting where we were implicitly and sometimes explicitly encouraged to chase promotion.

Status is far too important in that world. It took me a long time to realise that and my health was damaged too. Again I agree with you that it was my own fault – I could - and with hindsight - should have got out earlier.

Working for myself has liberated me and I know from our exchanges you are far more fulfilled now you are out of that corporate rat race.

The maintenance of self-esteem is hugely important when corporate life kicks you in the teeth – my saving grace was that I always kept belief in myself and that was a key factor in coming up smiling.

Thanks again Scott.

Marilyn Jess said...

Hi Trevor and Simplicity mates,

As some of you may know I left corporate life in September, 2008 to launch my entrepreneur chapter. Don't miss the office one bit.

Work is an essential part of my life, and I consider it my life's mission to learn what my true gifts are, and share them to help others toward their own success. As a coach, I work toward balance, and help my clients do the same.

Work is just one spoke on life's balance wheel. Finding what fulfills you, and pays the bills is a struggle I see many grappling with.

BTW, I am on the Buffett retirement plan. You read that right, Warren Buffett. He doesn't believe in retirement, neither do I. Staying fit is the key!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Marilyn – you make a very important point about the need to pay bills. I struggle with that too. As David said earlier I guess we adjust our expectations to make sure we can pay the bills. Some of the benefits of employment in the corporate world are paid holidays and paid sickness and neither of those apply in the world of self employment so they have to be factored in when looking at the bottom line.

Having said all that I am like you Marylyn – I never want to return to that world. I have got so used to being my own boss that it would now frustrate the hell out of me to return to that rat race where control is too often taken from the individual in things that I am now free to control for myself.

Great comments as always and good luck in your new chapter – you are clearly comfortable with your decision –congratulations!

As regards retirement – I don’t know the meaning of the world. Proff George Giarchi is now approaching 80 and still working – So as a mere ‘teenager’ of 57 years I see no reason to stop working for a couple more decades!

And of course I still want more volunteers for my over 100 year olds five a side football team!

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Trevor, Henley's remark ("rock bands work best as a benevolent dictatorship") is as self-serving as it is arrogant. It IS true that songwriters in a band earn more than non-songwriters and in some cases they are able to assert control of the direction of the band. But nearly all the great bands (e.g. Beatles, Who, Grateful Dead) made their decisions based on consensus, with everyone having an equal say. I suspect even the Eagles operated that way in their heyday.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John - the early Eagles were very much a consensus team of friends to the extent they did not even have written agreements in place about band name/ownership/royalties/profits and this only became a problem when there was the famous bust up with Don Felder.

Having said that, from what I've read its pretty clear Frey and Henley were very much 'in charge' with Glen Frey overall the leader.

I agree Don has a certain arrogance and he comes across as a very dour, outspoken and irreverent person - But needless to say John I still love him!

Whats your take on that?

JOHN O'LEARY said...

I think the most interesting aspect of the Eagles as a "team" is the extent of internal turmoil they generated. Now that I'm reading up on it I think I'll include the Eagles as a prime example of "capitalizing on conflict" in my book. The other examples I'm citing - among the top tier rock bands - are the Who and Fleetwood Mac. But of course every great band - from the Beatles to Green Day - has had to manage that to some degree.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John – I’m looking forward to the book – when is it going to be on the shelves?

The coming together of huge egos must be an amazingly creative yet volatile time. I guess when the Eagles were young guns all the stuff about contracts, policies, procedures and governance were words that never entered their heads … just like most of us as youngsters. WOW – those were the days aye John?

I remember Henley and Don Felder being quoted as saying everything was done through handshakes and trust between buddies in those early days.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Trevor, I just came across Don Felder's assertion that the Eagles made an agreement in the beginning to always conduct themselves as a democracy, with each band member having a vote, and that Frey & Henley changed the rules in 1992 - which was the basis for Felder's ongoing dispute with them. (I just ordered Felder's book, which you tipped me off to a while ago. Thanks.) Re my own book, I will probably give away the beta version this winter to anyone who agrees to give me feedback, which I will incorporate into the final version next year.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for the update on the book John and you know I'm sure that I, for one, would love to give you feedback Sir!