Our Workaholic Culture Needs a Bit of Sun
Since as far back as the 15th Century, the world has viewed the amount of sun on your skin as a symbol of status, an expression of wealth or poverty—a determinant of whether you live a life of leisure or of incessant labor.
From an ancient perspective, a pale, sun-deprived face represented wealth. It was the face of someone confined in a dreary castle, waited on by countless servants. Such as status symbol was a pale face that some even went as far as to apply a white powder to hit the point home and allude to vast riches. On the flip side, a tanned face indicated a hard laborer of impoverished means.
This trend was so popular that it was even addressed in several late-19th Century studies.
Trends, of course, change—and this one has been no exception. At the beginning of the last century, the reverse became true, with regard to the pallor of one’s face. Then, a sun-tanned face meant something very different; it meant that one could afford a life of leisure, travel, vacation in the sun, while their pale brethren were slaving away in factories and offices at all hours of the day.
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In the late 1980s, we saw this change yet again—this time with prolific tanning salons skewing the perspective. With the advent of the tanning salon, people who were not in fact wealthy and living a life of leisure could appear to be doing so. Suddenly, everyone looked like they had just returned from a beach vacation.
A New Age- New Workaholics
Flash forward to 2017—when we’re back to the pale, even if it’s not intentional and even if no one’s skipping out to the restroom to powder their face white in an effort to appear wealthy. Today, ‘workaholism’ has robbed us of the sun.
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Working long hours is now a symbol of wealth and ambition, while those with spare time on their hands for leisure are generally more towards the bottom of the financial feeding chain. So today, we have a situation in which the wealthier work more than the poor. It might seem a logical conclusion after centuries of getting it wrong, because it suggests rewards for hard work. But, in this case, the rewards are wealth that is possibly never enjoyed.
Meanwhile, overall leisure has increased, but it’s the less-skilled with only average incomes who are taking advantage of it all. For the wealthy, leisure crosses the line into work and vice versa, to a point where one can ever tell if one is truly on vacation. The wealthy—or wealthier–it would seem, have no free time at all. They are first to the office and last to leave. They eat lunch—when they do at all—at a meeting or on the fly. They are on the phone at all times. Nothing can wait and there’s always more money to be made. It’s a glass house that could come crashing down at any time.
The Millennial generation and its predecessor–Generation X—have redefined leisure to the point that it is undergoing an existential crisis. Rich, ambitious Americans are spending a great deal more time on what they believe brings them the most fulfillment—work.
Any office job these days comes with the understanding, from the moment of the interview, that 9-5 isn’t an option anymore. Long working hours and flexibility are obligatory. These redesigned work ethics were backed up with several studies claiming that, among other things, 4 AM is the most productive hour of the day and that long lunches hinder creativity.
None of it means that those with lower incomes and still working what could arguably be considered long working hours—are lazy, by any stretch of the imagination. They are simply not workaholics. When people with lower incomes say that they are ‘busy,’ they don’t mean that they’re busy making loads of money, they mean they are busy paying the bills.
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Time For A Change
It is, in all likelihood, time for another change. Scientists and medical experts claim that working long hours and surviving on little sleep is damaging our health and productivity and could very well lead to serious illness.
Likewise, psychotherapists claim that even though workaholism is often portrayed as a virtue, it has the same high level of consequences as alcoholism or overeating. They also rule out the general opinion that rich people work long hours because they enjoy it. In the majority of cases, rich people work long hours because they are matching the behavior of similarly rich and ambitious people. It’s the sheep mentality that keeps us keeping up with the Joneses.
In Japan they call it “karoshi” and in China it is “guolaosi.” As yet, there is no word in English for working yourself to death, but we might have to come up with one soon.
As far back as 1930, famous economist John Maynard Keynes forecast that in the 21st Century, the work week would be only 15 hours and that the biggest challenge would be managing all of our leisure time and how that leisure could lend more meaning to our lives. How wrong he was—unless you’re a day trader who’s figured this all out already.
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Keynes would appreciate the ultimate day-trader lifestyle. And, if you’re also on the edge of considering a lifestyle change, we can help you. When done correctly, this is a life completely under your control. You are your own boss and the ultimate reward is leisure, because you can trade from anywhere in the world, including a fantastically sunny beach that will return some color to your pallor.
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