No More Sacrifices?
Sacrifices are about giving something up for the sake of gaining something. Some of us sacrifice our health, for example, to wake up every morning at 5 am, drive two hours to our jobs, so we can put food on the table and pay our bills.
What if we no longer had to make any sacrifices? Maybe we are waking up to the reality that sacrifices are simply a thing of the past that don’t need to come with us?
The Great Questioning that sprouted in 2022 is manifesting in our evolving relationship with life and work today. The Wall Street Journal, for example, reports that workers are less ambitious today than three years ago. And employers are “scrambling” to meet productivity goals.
It seems that many of us no longer want to work on weekends, holidays or overtime. And we don’t want to go above and beyond what is expected to advance in the collapsing business machine.
It’s so interesting that Robert M. Pirsig, in the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, tells this story, “People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question. Because the structure demands that it be that way.
There’s no villain, no “mean guy” who wants them to live meaningless lives. It’s just that the structure, the system demands it. And no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.”
And what is emerging is that we cannot lead with structure anymore or expect someone else to change the systems for us. When we become the leaders of our own lives, everything changes, especially when we begin to make discerning meaningful choices about everything.
Questioning allows us to open avenues and path to creating the future of work—without anyone outside ourselves instructing us about how it should pan out.
It is life changing when we get to choose how to work and create systems that are meaningful and support us. We choose when we rest and pause no longer bound by concepts like PTO (Paid Time Off).
What we will see over the next five years is more of us creating healthy language around having balance and meaning in our lives. Not having acronyms like PTO regulating when we get “time off” and when we don’t. What if there is simply life to experience and to do so, we need balance? Why? Because we are not machines. And we no longer see our life’s goal to be productive and efficient cogs.
We no longer want to “bust our butts” to be productive and get new unnatural growth targets every new fiscal year. Enriching shareholders and executives has been making many of us sick as we stay in meaningless stories that deplete us.
I remember being asked by a very senior executive at Cisco if I felt like I was part of the “Cisco family.” I shared that if tomorrow we would not meet our goals, I would be told: “thank you for creating so much here but we need to let you go.”
Managing by heartless spreadsheets and metrics create inhumane systems. And the irony is that we can’t blame AI or anyone outside ourselves for creating these manmade structures. I did play a foundational role for the company and got to experiment on the edge with brilliant people. But at the end of the day, the furniture in the office was an asset and I was a liability on a financial spreadsheet.
So, with more of us questioning, we imagine and experiment. Frontline employees have had enough and so have many managers. The perks are no longer as important as living healthy, meaningful lives where we get to create something meaningful. We don’t want to work for companies that poison the Earth or treat people poorly. And we are choosing not to work ourselves to death in the name of advancement.
It’s Up to Us
This is why our opportunity is to do our inner work and see what’s possible for ourselves. This is why the work of Michael Strong is so important to help young people navigate what’s possible for them; outside the cookie cutter education systems. And bring dialogue to young people as a healthy technology to tap into their curiosity and imagination.
Suicide rates among young people are soaring right now, especially among young men. It’s up to us to get to the root and introduce foundational changes. Our young people are ready to share. But are we ready to truly listen and engage in meaningful dialogue?
Isn’t it time to involve our youth in the creation of the future of work instead of instructing them on what it looks like?
When we have imagination, curiosity and courage guiding us, we get out of the way and clear the path to our greatest opportunities. Our lives depend on stepping out of the old stories, taking a meaningful breath and asking ourselves, what matters to me at this very moment.
It’s not like we have lost ambition as the WSJ claims. It is that we want to create meaning and spend precious time with our kids, our elders and the unknown.
Maybe a life well-lived is possible? Where we are headed is an exchange of value and for many of us, an experience economy is on the horizon.
Letting go means making space for our wildest creations.