If 2018 had a theme, it’d be “Exploring My Enough.” Meaning, how much work is enough? How much money is enough?
Instead of defaulting to working “full-time” – 40+ hours per week, Monday – Friday, 9-5(ish) – what if I worked however much or little I wanted to? Needed to? What if I deliberately worked less? Earned less? And spent that newfound time doing that which I’m supposedly working toward some day: new experiences, learning, travel, creative but possibly unprofitable pursuits, spending slow and precious time with family and friends, and generally, enjoying being a healthy person in the world.
Or like Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York would say: exploring that which is “nourishing in the moment.”
My friend Becca referred to this deliberate working part-time as “an act of defiance.” It defies what’s normal and accepted. It also asks challenging questions of me, the worker: Am I lazy by choosing to work less? Selfish? Am I shirking my contribution to society? If everyone chose to work less, what would that mean for GDP or unemployment or other productivity statistics? And if those metrics cease to matter, how would we measure a nation’s / individual’s / society’s success? In challenging how much we work, we challenge everything.
Of course, plenty of people are choosing to work part-time these days. Less as an act of defiance and more to take back their time. A survey by Salary.com showed that when given a choice, 39% of employees would choose time off instead of an equivalent pay boost. In my work facilitating career change, what’s most gratifying isn’t when someone quits their job – it’s when they negotiate down to 3 or 4 days a week. They’re taking back their time. But when you’re bleeding your soul full-time for a single company, it can feel foreign to imagine anything but working full-time. You don’t realize you’re in a cage until you’ve stepped outside it.
Plus, enough is complex. There’s present enough vs. futureenough – enough now vs enough for the future. And what does enough mean when you also strive for personal, professional, and spiritual growth? Growth requires work and a perpetual hunger. To know yourself and your world more deeply is a bottomless well. There’s no destination. You’ll never get enough.
And then there’s the future. There are plenty of theories and hypotheses, but a universal question remains: when robots take over most activities we consider the annoying and unpleasant side of work – the stuff we don’t want to do – what will we do? Maybe the future of work looks more like living a playful, creative and enjoyable life.
I’m still exploring what that enough is for me. To be honest, I’ve been exploring my enough since 2012. But over the next few months, I’m stress testing my enough. I’m starting to work more and earn more. More time on growth. Less time simply enjoying being a human in the world.
Like everything in life, I’ll view it as an experiment. This blog and newsletter has always been about learning in public, or as Maria Popova of Brainpickings says “a documentation of my own becoming.” So I’ll continue to share my thoughts and experiences as we go. And hope it’s useful to you in your own journey in living, working & traveling deliberately.