The Good Enough Job

Reclaiming Life from Work

Delving Into the Importance of Satisfaction Beyond Work

In the 1930s, acclaimed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2030, our work week would be a breezy 15 hours, leaving copious amounts of time for leisure – the ultimate mark of affluence.
Ironically, we now willingly trade this precious leisure for more work. Our work hours are at an all-time high – particularly in the case of Americans. On an average, Americans clock in three hours more each week than their counterparts in Japan, known for their grueling work culture, six hours more than the French, and a whopping eight hours more than the Germans.
In essence, we’ve transitioned from perceiving work as a necessary evil that funds our life to seeing it as a mission to find meaning and purpose. Let’s label it accurately: workism. But here’s the rub: work brings home the bacon. So, how do we strive for meaningful work without letting it consume us?
This is where the concept of a “good enough job” comes into play. Drawing parallels with the “good enough parenting” theory, which urges parents not to view minor, unavoidable parenting mishaps as personal failures, it posits that a job doesn’t need to – and shouldn’t – be your entire universe. Otherwise, the inevitable result is burnout and a spiral of mental health issues.
This Summary of Simone Stolzoff’s ‘Embracing the Good Enough Job’ unravels four real-life revelations, from the realm of Michelin-starred kitchens to the corridors of tech giants, that will empower you to take your life back from work and prioritize what’s truly significant.

The Path to Burnout Is Paved with Misplaced Self-Worth

Dhivya Singh, an Indian-American chef, is all too familiar with the snares of burnout and self-worth.
In her stint as a culinary intern at The Restaurant, Dhivya found promise in her role of devising innovative dairy-free dishes. Her flair resulted in emotionally charged customer accolades and a successful business proposition to the eatery’s head chef, Stephen Fischer. Thus, Prameer, a line of dairy-free products, co-owned by Divya and Fischer, came into being.
With Fischer’s guidance, Divya quickly became a celebrated figure, even earning a spot on the coveted Forbes 30 Under 30 list. But as the business grew, the environment became fraught with investor disagreements, hiring clashes, and a final argument over a new product line, which eventually saw Dhivya step away from Prameer’s operations.
However, instead of crumbling under Fischer’s negative reactions to her decision, Dhivya decided to take a break. She spent six weeks in Thailand, reconnecting with her hobbies and indulging in outdoor and cooking activities. This journey was instrumental in her mental health management.
Upon her return to the culinary world, Dhivya faced another jolt: Fischer had diminished her 50 percent ownership in Prameer. A protracted legal battle followed, and once Dhivya regained her shares, she bid farewell to Prameer once and for all.
Nowadays, Dhivya enjoys a fulfilling life in a communal household in Portland and operates a thriving food enterprise, while also finding time for her passions. Her journey taught her the importance of setting boundaries, acknowledging her worth, and striking a balance between work and personal life.
So, when you’re caught in the tumult of a difficult situation, don’t hesitate to step back and reevaluate your priorities. If Dhivya hadn’t chosen to hit the pause button on her high-stress career, she might not be relishing the contented life she does today.

Fostering Connections: An Antidote to Work-Centrism

Work can be both gratifying and draining – particularly in the absence of other communal supports. Just ask social scientist and Baptist Pastor, Ryan Burge.
When Ryan delved into the 2018 General Social Survey data, he made an intriguing discovery: the growing populace of the “nones” – individuals devoid of religious affiliation, surpassing Evangelicals and Catholics. This finding mirrored his personal experiences with a dwindling church attendance.
Interestingly, people are still yearning for the camaraderie, purpose, and identity formerly furnished by religious institutions. But now, the office has become their sanctuary. Ryan attributes this shift to three phenomena.
Firstly, the internet has nurtured communities of skepticism, challenging religious upbringing. Platforms such as the Atheism subreddit provide a haven for those questioning their faith, a respite from the usual spiral of silence.
Secondly, the fusion of Christianity with political conservatism has polarized the religious community, pushing liberals away. This shift is evidenced by the change from a 55 percent Democratic majority in 1972 to a 62 percent Republican majority among white weekly churchgoers by 2021.
Lastly, the rising social isolation among millennials is notable. With community participation dwindling, work is filling the void, becoming their principal source of purpose. However, there are detrimental implications. As Ryan’s analysis revealed, when work becomes a religion, other important life aspects can fall by the wayside.
The solution? You need not be religious. But taking a leaf out of religion’s playbook can be enlightening. Religious traditions often center on a fundamental question: What gives our lives meaning? In a world increasingly turning its back on religion, work has become the substitute for finding those answers.
But remember, the essence of life extends beyond your paycheck and long hours spent in the office. You could join a band, start a bowling league, or host potluck dinners with friends. By broadening your sources of fulfillment beyond work, you can take control of your life, becoming resilient against changes in your career or the market.

Early Roots of Work-Centrism

In 1999, a determined sophomore named Megan Greenwell kickstarted her journalism career by investigating modern-day slavery for her school newspaper. Her journey led her to prestigious media outlets and ultimately the editor in chief role at Deadspin.
However, alongside Megan’s soaring career came escalating stress levels. Despite her noteworthy work at esteemed publications such as GOOD, ESPN, and New York, Megan grappled with intensifying burnout. Eventually, she decided to step down from her interim editor in chief role at Wired.
But Megan’s burnout wasn’t simply a result of overwork. It was a manifestation of the societal norm equating self-worth with productivity. When her professional life became synonymous with her identity, stepping back from her career felt like losing herself.
Sound familiar? Megan’s experience isn’t unique. Psychologist Janna Koretz has encountered numerous high achievers struggling after ticking off their career goals. According to her, the issue stems from a culture that views work as an unending race and personal time as a negligible sideline.
In response to work-centrism, Koretz recommends creating “time sanctuaries,” personal moments to explore your identity outside of work. However, the challenge persists. The drive of high achievers can convert hobbies into just another job. Therefore, injecting unstructured play into your life is crucial. This allows curiosity and wonder to flourish without the pressure of productivity.
Megan found this concept transformative. Despite her incredible professional journey, she wrestled with feelings of impostor syndrome. During her sabbatical, her identity crisis worsened, unmasking the deep-seated tension between the desire for productivity and the need for relaxation.
Megan continued to grapple with her workaholic tendencies throughout her sabbatical. While she admits her inclination towards work is a complex blend of enjoyment, financial concerns, and fear of instability, she acknowledges the desire for more beyond work.
Megan’s story highlights that work-centrism often takes root early, shaping our identity and sense of self-worth. Balancing work and life isn’t just about managing our careers – it’s about understanding who we are outside the confines of the office.
Finally, it’s essential to separate your life from your corporate “family.” Let’s delve into why in the concluding section.

Rethinking the Workplace Family Myth

Does your team feel so close-knit that you could call it a family? That was the case for Taylor Moore at Kickstarter.
This vibrant startup took pride in its distinctive culture, placing core values above profitability. Taylor and his peers drew strength from their common purpose: supporting artists and creatives. The office wasn’t just a workplace; it was a haven. But this haven turned into a battlefield when the company’s actions contradicted its cherished principles.
The flashpoint came in 2018 with a satirical graphic novel titled “Always Punch Nazis”. Initially greenlit by Kickstarter’s Trust and Safety team, it was abruptly pulled down due to right-wing media backlash, causing internal turbulence. It seemed like Kickstarter was bowing to external noise instead of standing firm on its values. The tipping point was the firing of Justine Lai, an employee who had questioned the company’s decision. This sparked a call for unionization, a step towards reclaiming the “heart and soul” of Kickstarter.
Taylor and his colleague Clarissa Redwine took the lead in this union initiative. Motivated by their passion for the company and its ethos, they aimed to rebalance power and preserve the Kickstarter spirit. However, their actions were met with cold dismissal. They were ousted, leading them to lodge unfair labor claims against the company they once admired.
Essentially, while an office that feels like home can be comforting, it’s imperative to set some boundaries. Remember, even the friendliest workplace is still a business. When it comes down to it, the financial bottom line often holds sway.
Ultimately, your job is just one slice of life, not the entire pie. Let’s shake off the seductive allure of corporate mottos that preach otherwise. Acknowledging that your company isn’t your true family allows you to realign your focus and priorities. This doesn’t mean taking your job lightly – it means establishing boundaries and seeking satisfaction beyond job titles and KPIs.
So, rekindle the hobbies you’ve neglected, spend quality time with loved ones, and cultivate friendships outside work. There’s no better moment than the present to relish personal joy and fulfillment.

Conclusions

Work is work – it doesn’t need to dictate your identity or overshadow your life.
Whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur, understand that your career is only a segment of your life’s narrative. Flip those pages, and write a tale that includes the things that genuinely hold significance for you.
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