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Home > Blog > Big Bucks Vs. Balance
Out of Our Minds
Thursday, September 23, 2004 4:51 PM
Big Bucks Vs. Balance
Anita Sharpe on Creativity

Can you make a lot of money and have a life?

I was struck by a passage in Fast Company magazine's October cover story on achieving balance: 'you can't have both a big paycheck and reasonable hours. The laws of economics won't allow it. If we want time with our families, time to give back to our communities, time to stay slim, we're going to have to accept a pay cut -- and even then, we'll have to work darned hard.'

While I agree with the thrust of the story (work/life balance is a myth), I see the financial piece differently. You don't have to work like a pack mule to earn big money.

From here on out, the biggest rewards will go to creators, not managers. You

don't have to look past the Forbes 400 to know this has long been the case when it comes to vast wealth (think J.K. Rowling, Oprah, Spielberg, etc.) \n\nI'm not suggesting that we should all write novels and direct movies. But we can borrow a page from theplaybooks of people who do those things: what they provide the world is so intrinsically individual and creative, it can't be duplicated by cheap overseas labor or newly minted MBAs.\n\nWe have already seen that the computer does a great job duplicating the human brain; nothing yet has been created that can mimic the human heart and soul, which are at the core of creativity.\n\nMy prediction: the wealthiest workers going forward are those who do the best job bringing their hearts and souls to their vocations.\n\n


anita - 9/25/2004 10:10:45 PM
Fabulous post, Evelyn. Everyone should read it. Here's a sample:

'It's not simply time. Why can one person go away for three days and come back renewed and fill up a notebook on their return to overflowing with new ideas to start tackling and another person takes off for two weeks and returns nicely tanned but certainly not brimming with any new ideas and as stressed-out as ever on that first Monday back. Hmmm....What's the difference? Ponder that for a bit.'

Evelyn Rodriguez - 9/25/2004 9:31:16 PM
I wrote a post Tuesday entitled '80 Hours Weeks Are Bunk' about this FC story as well as I strongly disagreed with the same premise around what Ricardo Semler terms 'butt-on-chair time' correlating with productivity. Throwing excess bodies, man-hours or money at most problems quite often yields inelegant solutions that require yet more effort and money to sustain them.

I totally agree with Kevin - I'm most creatively productive when I look like I'm goofing off, not 'thinking' or being 'idle.'

Here's the post:
Erick Blackwelder - 9/25/2004 3:15:33 PM
I own three companines.

I work less now than when I owned just one.

And I make a ton more money.

There are three ways to get paid:
1. Trade time for money (salary).
2. Trade results for money (commission).
3. Trade other people's time and results for money (owner).

I like being an owner.
Pam - 9/25/2004 10:17:37 AM
Many years back, I started to resent giving my best time of the day (mornings) to an employer, who rarely used the best of my talents. So I decided to work for myself, and even though it's not always, easy, I love it. Freedom to choose how and when one will work is worth more than a big salary (which often equates to a lower hourly rate of pay as a previous poster noted).
Jory Des Jardins - 9/24/2004 4:02:59 PM

Great point! I think workload in large part depends on how we TRAIN our employers. Yes, that's right, TRAIN. I once worked in a 15-hour-day culture. A new SVP was hired, coming in at 9am every day, leaving at 5, working hard when she was there and not apologizing when she left. No questions were asked by the CEO. And she was certainly paid well for her time.

We used to say, back when I was a poor editorial assistant, that we wouldn't work more unless we were paid more (more than the 12 hours a day we were working, that is). The fact is, we DO have the freedom to work less in the workplace--but do we give ourselves that freedom? There's such fear that if we break the pattern we will lose our place in line. Consider whether you even want to be in that line. What's at the end of it?
Kevin - 9/24/2004 10:11:18 AM
The other piece of this argument is that we seem to equate hours worked with productivity gained. Sorry, but I just don't believe that's often the case. When I was at the Wall Street Journal, I had people who worked 50, 60, 70 hours a week, churning it out and, frankly, rarely having an interesting thought. How could they? They were always in motion, physically and spiritually. I found that the most interesting stories were usually created by the reporters who paused long enough to let their intellectual curiosity shine (as I told them: the best stories come from the best questions). The result: Stories with a perspective that no other reporter was thinking of.

We've created a work environment that is afraid to be seen as idle, but that's where the cool stuff is often happening in the intellectual economy.
Todd - 9/24/2004 9:05:47 AM
70 hours/week at $70,000 is $19.23/hour.
40 hours/week at $50,000 is $24.03/hour.

So apparently if you work more hours, you're saying that your time is worth less (I know that it says more than that, but for the sake of this argument). As Jeffrey said, sometimes you have to step back and decide if that new Escalade and three car garage is really worth not having time to enjoy them!
Jeffrey - 9/24/2004 6:15:51 AM
Big depends on your appetite, and if you have reasonable expectations for consumption of consumer goods and the like, you can work modest hours and feel quite financially secure. But that means living in the not so big house and making other choices that I'm afraid too many Americans at least see as counter to their definition of success. In some respects, isn't our entire economy dependent upon people binging on more and more so they must keep working more and more in order to pay for it. Maybe we need to right-size that appetite just as restaurants need to right-size their portions to help reduce obesity.
Rosa Say - 9/23/2004 10:59:57 PM
Managers can -and should- be creators too. As you say, if they bring 'their hearts and souls to their vocations' and manage others with good intent, they will be the best creators imaginable: those who enlarge the asset of human capital and individual self-worth.
anita - 9/23/2004 6:09:05 PM

Thanks for the link. Lots of great stuff in that piece.

I particularly like this: 'While creativity takes hard work, the work goes more smoothly if you take it lightly. Humor greases the wheels of creativity. When you're joking around, you're freer to consider any possibility--after all, you're only kidding. Having fun helps you disarm the inner censor that all too quickly condemns your ideas as ludicrous.'

Laurel Delaney - 9/23/2004 5:59:30 PM
Hi Anita -- you might enjoy this fascinating piece on creativity that was just published in Psychology Today:

The Art of Creativity

Your fan,
Jeremy - 9/23/2004 5:43:07 PM
Ignore the extremes of the fabulously wealthy (.00001% of population) and the poor (sadly, representing a much higher proportion, but not climbing the corporate ladder), and you're left with the people in the middle -- probably the people you're aiming the magazine at.

We're seeing that in fact there are ways to work less, but the vast majority of us are going to also be making financial sacrifices and not keeping up with the Joneses if we want more time to do what we want outside of work. That fact can not be glossed over by the fact that some people have become rich from their ideas (and probably working their butts off, too).

Going part-time and telecommuting signal a stepping off of the ladder in most corporate cultures. It's an implicit decision to focus on other priorities. The ones making $70,000+ at the companies I've seen are working 70 hours a week. The ones workign 40 hours probably top out around $50,000 and almost nobody works less. The lifestyle goal should be to massage that ratio for more money and less work...but try telling that to your average employer.


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