Is Money the Biggest Barrier to ESP?
I found myself at a playground this past week overhearing a conversation between a grandmother and her grown daughter. They were talking about some recent changes at the older woman's workplace - it seems that management just instituted a mandatory 4-day workweek and grandma was not sure she liked the change. She admitted that she liked the day off but was struggling with the longer days. The conversation reminded me of a couple of guys I worked with years ago who had similar sentiments when offered a compressed workweek. They both rejected the opportunity in favor of five "normal" days, preferring to see their kids each workday for longer stretches before and after work to being given a full day with them every week.
I understand the trade-offs and can't presume to know what is best for each family, but I like the 4-day workweek idea as long as people get to choose it rather than have it forced upon them. And better yet, if both parents are on the same team working towards an optimal family solution, the likelihood of success is greatly increased.
After a bit I was included in the playground conversation and offered a simple question to the grandmother: "Would you like four "normal" days along with a 20% pay cut?" Her response was short and to the point, with a bit of indignation: "No way!" Was this because she loved her job/career so much that 32 hours per week just wasn't enough, or did she feel that 32 hours was beneath her somehow, or perhaps she felt that she could not afford the pay cut (or benefits cut) involved? With her rapid dismissal, I never got to probe further. But her vibe was all about the money. Her body language shouted, "Are you crazy? Who would take a paycut?"
We begin the Money chapter in our book with a quote about ESP's requirement for flexible or reduced work hours that we hear regularly, "Gee, must be nice, but we could never afford that." It seems to me that the cultural ideal of "more is better" is alive and well despite the literature to the contrary. In the popular book, Stumbling on Happiness, author Daniel Gilbert tells us that the amount of family income at which happiness plateaus is relatively low; true poverty makes us miserable, but a family income of about $50,000 can make us as happy as one much, much larger. Once basic food, shelter, and a little extra is obtained, more money just doesn't seem to satisfy. Sure, we can all think of things we could purchase with more money than we have now - like a bigger house, more elaborate vacations, a top-ranked college education for our kids, maybe a new outfit now and again - but the truth remains. These things will not make us (or our kids) any happier. And there is no end to how relativity can trick us; a surgeon's salary looks like the answer to a nurse, a nurse's salary looks like the solution to a teacher, a teacher's salary looks like heaven to a short order cook.
I also like to look at this from the other end of the spectrum. I'm confident that a person can be miserable at any level of income. If money isn't all it's cracked up to be, maybe it's time to optimize our lives instead of expending so much energy on maximizing our income. Perhaps grandma really does need every penny, but I'm willing to bet that is not the case for many of us.
What would your ideal life look like? Can you imagine it without putting a dollar value on it? Or better yet, what would you pay for a life in which you woke each day loving what lay before you whether it be a day at work, a playdate with your child, a mountain of laundry, or dinner with friends? I'm not suggesting that we like each of these equally but instead recognize that a life with healthy doses of work/play/chores/relationships can be pretty darn nice.
Money is not a worthy god. Sometimes, the best decisions are not simply the ones that bring us the most cash.