FORTY-HOUR WORK WEEK: Western economies, particularly that of the United States, have been built in a very calculated manner on gratification, addiction, and unnecessary spending. We spend to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to fix problems, to elevate our status, and to alleviate boredom.
Can you imagine what would happen if all of America stopped buying so much unnecessary fluff that doesn’t add a lot of lasting value to our lives?
WHITE V. BLUE COLLAR: My perhaps naïve hope is that when I tell students I’m not only an academic, but a “survival” jobholder, I’ll make a dent in the artificial, inaccurate division society places between blue-collar work and “intelligent” work. We expect our teachers to teach us, not our servers, although in the current economy, these might be the same people.
Arlington, VA: 56% Metro Renters & 44% Laptops and Lattes. We’re affluent, well-educated singles or partner couples, who hold professions in business, finance, legal, computer, or entertainment. Young, mobile, or still in school, we live along or with a roommate in rented apartments. Long hours and hard work don’t deter us. Most of our income goes to rent, fashions, and latest technology. We live close to our jobs, so we can either walk or take a cab. We practice yoga, go skiing, and attend Pilates.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY: Asians, particularly Chinese, are concentrated here. Nearly half are foreign born and 1/3 don’t speak English. Long commutes are the way of life. Spending is careful; we’re not brand loyal and use coupons when we can. Dancing, casino gambling, eating out at our favorite restaurants consume our leisure time.
Income distribution in Arlington, VA. (ESRI)
West & East Germany: Those in West Germany have greater disposable income, lower rates of unemployment, more young people, more foreigners, and more trash. East Germans have more childcare, bigger farms, and higher flu vaccination rates.
German statistical office. Visualization: Gene Thorp, WAPO.
Because you realize that the more you spread the breadth of your experience across the globe, the thinner and more meaningless it becomes. You realize that there’s something to be said to limiting oneself, not just geographically, but also emotionally. That there’s a certain depth of experience and meaning that can only be achieved when one picks a single piece of creation and says, “This is it. This is where I belong.”
The self is highly adaptable to its external environment, and ironically, the more you change your external environment, the more you lose track of who you actually are, because there’s nothing solid to compare yourself against. With frequent travel, so many variables in your life are changing that it’s hard to isolate a control variable and see the effect everything else has on it. You are in a constant state of upheaval.
Because uncertainty breeds skepticism, it breeds openness, and it breeds non-judgment. Because uncertainty helps you to grow and evolve.
Castillo de San Felipe in Cartagena, Colombia (Christine Lai)
WHY DON’T AMERICANS TAKE VACATION? Many people chasing the American Dream are working long hours and skipping vacation to reach it. Most employees strongly believe, compared with people in other countries, that hard work pays off in success. Americans who work over 40 hours a week are more happy than those who work less – so are they happy being overworked? Europeans, on the other hand, are different – they seem to value leisure time more, and accordingly those who work over 40 hours are less happy than those working less.
EXTRAVAGANT V. ORDINARY HAPPINESS: Extraordinary experiences bring great joy throughout life. No surprise there. But the older people got, the more happiness ordinary experiences delivered. In fact, the happiness-making potential of everyday pursuits eventually grows equal to that of ones that are rarer.
Extraordinary v. ordinary happiness (Robert Neubecker, NYTIMES)
EMAILS ON HOLIDAY MODE: At Daimler, the German automaker, employees can set their corporate email to “holiday mode” when they are on vacation. Anyone who emails them gets an auto-reply saying the employee isn’t in, and offering contact details for an alternate, on-call staff person. Then poof, the incoming email is deleted — so that employees don’t have to return to inboxes engorged with digital missives in their absence.
Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have adopted policies that limit work-related email to some employees on evenings and weekends. If this can happen in precision-mad, high-productivity Germany, could it happen in the United States?
White-collar cubicle dwellers spend 28% of their workweek slogging through email. They check their messages 74 times a day, on average. 38% check work email “routinely” at dinner peeking at the phone under the table
ARE YOU LUCKY: Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. The harder you look, the less you see. The more anxious you are, the less likely you notice the unexpected. The more tense you are, the less likely you will be able to take advantage of unexpected ‘luck’ – therefore the more unlucky you are.
Lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss (Lucinda Schreiber, NPR)
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS: Many of us have information aversion or the ostrich effect. In other words, we would rather not know if we have a serious or terminal illness if we have been scared by the consequences. The worse the consequences, the more likely people are to avoid testing. Scaring people more about the implications may scare them away from getting tested.