NYC might be the most career-driven place in the world. If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere, right? You can’t really escape it, and after 3.5 years of night school, I have fallen victim to it as well. The pollution here is one part exhaust, two parts ambition and over-achieving drive.
Which leads me to an op-ed in the NY Times that asks a great question. Mentioning Sandra Bullock reaching the height of her profession while almost simultaneously being dealt a personal devastation…”would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?”
David Brooks goes on to say that if you had to stop and think (and I’m paraphrasing here)…you’re a few fries short of a Happy Meal. And I, of course, agree with him. I’m sure you do as well. But quickly let’s see how much we are all lying to ourselves.
Just last night, I was talking to a friend about money. Or.. the lack of it. We talked about how much is enough – we want to pay our rent, keep the lights on, have little stress. We want to take care of our childrens’ college tuition, participate fully in our hobbies, and discover great vacation destinations. I guess the term would be “comfortable.” We know that it doesn’t end well for lottery winners. If I’ve learned anything in these past few weeks…it’s that money doesn’t buy happiness. It just buys more stuff.
So in his column, Brooks asks us about our levels of success, how much we correlate our career success to our happiness. Studies show that “marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy….most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives.” But even knowing this, people choose to pursue their careers, at the expense of their relationships.
Pressure in the workplace is high, but pressure to compete with your friends is often higher. I’m a firm believer in getting paid what you’re worth and having goals, hence my return to the Seventh Ring of Hell, also known as Fordham’s MBA program. We all want success and, ultimately to do the best we can with what we have been given. There’s no shame in that. What’s hard to read is that “people are happy in their 20’s, dip in middle age and then, on average, hit peak happiness just after retirement at age 65.” We live a life of postponement.
The fault lies with how far we change our character, alter our souls, destroy the good around us… simply so we can earn a higher bonus than the guy sitting next to us. The deferment of life, the “I’ll quit this job when I’m 40 and I have enough money to then do what I really want.” How’s that been working out for you?
The idea of putting all of this day-to-day routine before love, letting the idea of “success” ruin a relationship, placing the value of a paycheck before the value of love and trust…we’re hell-bent on destroying something beautiful.
To quote the ethereal Tyler Durden “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f***ing khakis.” Perhaps the best line in a movie of all time. Go ahead and argue with me.