Sunday, August 25, 2013

Working To Death

I've asked a few times before: "When did the American Dream become debt slavery?"

Recently, I heard of an investment intern who literally worked himself to death. And that kind of even should leave most of us asking "Is it worth it?"

Return of Kings blogger "Western Cancer" (why can't people just use their own names? Anonymity is bullshit!) explores this briefly, and relates experiences from people he knew in college with dreams of power and money. He summarizes:
Whenever I pried I never got a straight answer as to why these people were willing to give up the wealth of their youth for the riches of the future. The girl never wanted to be a lawyer because she respected the law. The guy never wanted to be a doctor because he loved humanity and wanted to help all he could. They just wanted status and a salary.

That sounds about right.

Medicine and law are two fields that require an enormous commitment during your youth if you want the money and the power. I've never figured out what the benefit is to working 120 hours a week as an associate, or a medical intern forced to go days without sleep while working shifts. The only adequate explanation I've come across for this is "Well, the old guys had to go through it. We can't just let the young people coast, can we?"

Right, so does working 120 hours a week make you a better lawyer or going days without sleep make you a better doctor? If so, I'd love to hear how.  Whenever I go long periods without sleep, it usually makes me worse at what I do. Whenever I work excessive hours, it likewise makes me worse at what I do.

When I was younger, it might have been easier to sell me on the "work long hours and you too can have lots of money and power". As I approach 40, I don't get the point anymore. Work is what I do so I can do the things I want to do. It's not what I do so at some point in the future, maybe I'll be able to enjoy something.

I get that sometimes you have to make short term sacrifices for a long term payoff, but young people, if your chosen career is going to require you to make a ton of sacrifices for no other reason than "everybody else had to!", you should probably rethink it. Don't get too far in life before you find yourself asking "What's the point?"

The only way to change that kind of game is to not play it. Don't go into medicine. Don't go into law. Don't go into investment banking. As the old f*cks start dying off, then come back and say "I'll do it, but I'm going home at the end of a reasonable workday. I won't just shuffle papers for 10 years in the hopes of a payoff later. I won't go days without sleep as an intern. You figure it out if you want me in your career field."

Seriously, what is the point to that kind of money and power? I would much rather spend my time at backyard parties like one I went to last night than at some kind of high society cocktail party.
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