Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Working on Work

Lately I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the soft side of money management rather than the nuts and bolts of keeping a budget or the basic principals of modern portfolio management. I have identified several job search paths.

1)Do what you love the money will follow: No guarantee of that happening – good luck. If you succeed, some do, you might appear on the Oprah network when you publish your book. I might even buy a copy.

2) Split the Difference: Find the least objectionable path that will provide you and your family with an acceptable lifestyle – I tried this. It works but it will leave you with regrets.

3) Cold reality: Look at who is actually hiring and what they are offering. Then follow the money. – This is the only path in some nations. In America, you can do better.

4) Look for an opportunity to serve others: The logic is that we will be paid if we provide a valuable service to others. Look for opportunities to serve more people or provide a more valuable service. – This has promise. However, the marketplace gets to choose the value of the service you provide. Maybe $20,000,000 a year for a premiere left handed major league pitcher; somewhat less for schoolteacher.

5) Follow your energy: As you work in school or in a paid position, notice when you lose track of time; notice where your energy naturally flows. Look for a job that will pay you to lose track of time. – The more time I spend exploring this idea the better I like it. Particularly when combined with #4 on the list.

Those of us who have studied psychology, sociology, or management theory have learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. The original model had five levels, starting with physiological (food, water, air), then safety, love and belonging (friendship, family, intimacy), esteem (self esteem, respect, confidence), and finally self actualization (morality, creativity, freedom). Only this morning I learned that Abraham Maslow proposed a larger pyramid, one with eight levels, before his death in 1970. In spite of various criticisms offered by philosophers and psychologists, this model of human needs has weathered the test of time.

Chip Conley, the founder of the Joie de Vivre chain of boutique hotels, applied Maslow’s Hierarchy to the workplace. His simplified pyramid has three levels.

1)Money: Hey? If it isn’t paying you enough money to provide for your basic needs (not wants) you need to be looking for a better job. Conley equates money, with the first level of employment satisfaction he calls, a job.

2) Recognition: The satisfaction that you derive from mastery, self respect, the respect of others, and self confidence is what separates a job from what Conley terms, a career. Once you have satisfied your family’s needs and at least some of their wants, look for a path that will allow you to look back with satisfaction on the body of work you have produced in a lifetime.

3) Meaning: Can you ultimately find a path that is moral, creative, one that brings beauty into your life and into the world? Congratulations. You have something more than a career. You have found your calling. You have found freedom, because you have lost track of your small self in the joy that is your life.

I think Conley’s three level pyramid can generate some pretty good questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your spouse and friends.

Will this idea provide us with enough money to live? If the answer is no, either start over or lower your standard of living.

Will I be proud to tell others what I do for a living because it brings me satisfaction and happiness? Running a payday loan company might be a very profitable business, but I want no part of it.

At the end of my life will I have joy or regrets because I made myself a better person and the world a better place?

Tough questions; it is hard to think deeply when caught up in a world that isn’t going to stop until you find your answers.

To paraphrase General Corman from Apocalypse Now: Things get confused out there. Power, ideals, morality, and practical necessity. But out there in the marketplace we will face temptation. Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

Keep walking towards the light.

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