Lion of the Blogosphere

Meaning from work

Rachel Feintzeig writes in a management column in the Wall Street Journal:

Faced with a cadre of young workers who say they want to make a difference in addition to a paycheck, employers are trying to inject meaning into the daily grind, connecting profit-driven endeavors to grand consequences for mankind.

In part, professionals are demanding more meaning from their careers because work simply takes up more of life than before, thanks to longer hours, competitive pressures and technological tethers of the modern job. Meanwhile, traditional sources of meaning and purpose, such as religion, have receded in many corners of the country.

I should remind you that a bias held by nearly all journalists, which crosses political lines (even David Brooks and Charles Murray seem to agree), is that the ultimate goal in life is to find self actualization from one’s career.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

Posted in Labor Markets

70 Responses

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  1. Proles don’t care for self actualization. That’s why they are the backbone of our civilization.

    JS

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • proles don’t contribute as much as smarties, especially with automation taking over prole jobs . Prole jobs can be done by anyone; not the case with smart jobs.

      grey enlightenment

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • And how is David Brooks relevant, when it comes to his work?

        JS

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Proles have common sense which most educated people lack. They’d be doing well were it not for mass immigration legal and illegal including H1B Visas. Smart jobs can also be done by anyone and educated workers are also realizing they’re replaceable. The only people with protection are those with elite credentials and government jobs.

        eradican

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Is there anyone you don’t hate? You hate the elites, you hate the NAMs, you hate the proles. Do you hate yourself too?

      Dave Pinsen

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • You left out Asians. He likes Lion and MaryK, though.

        garr

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

    • Yep. Had an uncle-in-law that drilled the saying into all four of his sons: “work to live, don’t live to work.”

      Has a more prole thing ever been uttered?

      Portlander

      February 26, 2015 at EDT am

  2. What’s wrong with taking a job because it places you in a more secure economic position, thus making your kids better off?

    Half Canadian

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Highly educated women look down on men with low status, yet financially secure careers.

      JS

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • This goes to show you how sinister and ruthless American society is, and our elites have this all figured out.

        They make the Elders of Zion with their protocols, fictional nice guys in comparison.

        JS

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Readings stories from Ivy Leagued educated women who have faced economic hardship because either they or their spouse pursued a career in a log-normally distributed career field is common these days.

        superdestroyer

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

    • there is nothing wrong with it

      grey enlightenment

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • I agree: not only is there nothing wrong with taking a job from which you expect little pleasure–and no “self-actualization,” whatever that is–it speaks well of the person who does it, in the same way it speaks well of the person who, while taking no pleasure at the prospect of fighting or killing, enlists in the armed forces out of sense of patriotic duty.

      Jonathan Silber

      February 28, 2015 at EDT am

  3. Trader Joe’s has discovered this. By fostering a vaguely progressive image, they can attract young hipsters, who then man the cash register and stock the shelves. These are people who would never dream of operating a cash register and stocking the shelves at a, barf, grocery store. Bless their hearts, they will wake up one day and realize that is exactly what they are doing.

    Dan

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Yes, I’ve noticed that cool grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and even Whole Foods have a much higher caliber of cash-register person than a regular grocery store like Safeway (which seems to hire from the bottom of the bottom of the barrel).

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • or they could just work at Safeway ironically 🙂

        shiva1008

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • The problem I’ve noticed with employees at Whole Foods is that they think they’re still people when they’re working. If some aging, tattooed hipster with plugs in his ears is stocking a shelf, he expects you to move around him or wait until he’s finished if he’s in the way of something you want to purchase. The cashiers are as slow as can be, they expect you to bag your own groceries (which I always do anyway), and they often times hold up the line by making pointless small talk even when there are five people behind you waiting to check out.

        Robert

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Trader Joes and Whole Foods in NYC are full of NAM staff!

        JS

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • @ JS

        Whole Foods usually is, but not Trader Joe’s (I imagine we probably shop at the same stores).

        Renault

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Trader Joes and Whole Foods in NYC are full of NAM staff!

        That’s an NYC thing, and you see it at Starbucks too. The whole labor market is shifted to the right in NYC. National chain retail jobs pay enough to attract ambitious outer borough NAMs, but not enough to attract most ambitious As and Ws who live in NYC. The hipster who might work in a Starbucks in NJ might work at Joe or Blue Bottle or something in NYC.

        Dave Pinsen

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • The Traitor Joes by GaySea (Chelsea) has quite a number of NAM registers.

        JS

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • The image definitely plays a part, but Whole Foods also pays better and has much better benefits than the typical supermarket. Ukrops is (or at least they used to be) like that too, although without the “hip” image. They paid better, had benefits, and were closed on Sundays so their workforce tended to be made up of relatively competent white mothers.

        Perez HBD

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • That WF in Orange, NJ is full of africans working there. Go there on a Sunday after church, plenty of fancied up negroes dun buying foodz affa da sermons’ bout Jebus…

        Fazool

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

    • Terrific observation. Whole Foods is the same.

      roseate spoonbill

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Whole Foods is consistently rated as a very good employer and the company advertises this heavily.

        chairman

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Never mind my previous comment, I’m thinking of another more high scale grocery chain that also starts with a W.

        chairman

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • It’s no different that the other status worship, Ivy Leagues, pricey zipcodes, Manhattan real estate..etc.

      I could bet you that NAMs would boast to their friends that they work at a Walgreens Pharmacy in Manhattan, rather than a chain branch located in some sh*t neighborhood in Brooklyn, or worse, Staten Island, where they complain about the Guido racists who hate them.

      JS

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Bet not. They don’t take pride in serving people of a higher socio-economic status, lol. Are you crazy? They do it because it pays more.

        anon

        February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Yes, you’re correct. However, blacks in particular, are bi-polar when it comes to Whites. They resent the “man”, but depend on him at all costs. Most blacks would want to be around Whites, if they had the means.

        JS

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

      • Blacks dislike the social problems of the ghetto, but they prefer to be around other black people. This was true even at the University of Pennyslvania where most black students on the meal plan ate their meals at a particular area of a particular cafeteria.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

      • That makes them bi-polar and they need Whites to bail them out whenever they call for it.

        JS

        February 26, 2015 at EDT pm

    • The CEO of Whole Foods is actually a crunchy conservative/libertarian, but there’s nothing vague about what he’s doing. He is specifically running a business according to his values (one of which is treating employees decently), and that attracts people with similar values. Good for him, and them.

      This, though, deserves a bit of unpacking:

      These are people who would never dream of operating a cash register and stocking the shelves at a, barf, grocery store. Bless their hearts, they will wake up one day and realize that is exactly what they are doing

      I worked in a grocery store when I was in high school, when the field was still unionized. I made close to minimum wage, but there were a lot of blue collar guys who made a real living working there, with solid benefits. One of the managers I worked with was an Italian guy from a blue collar family saving up money for dental school.

      I don’t think anyone who works at Whole Foods or Trader Joes today is deluded though. A few of the more ambitious and talented ones will get six figure careers managing their own stores, and the rest are getting a better work environment than they would get working elsewhere with their same background and skills.

      Dave Pinsen

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • I know two women who work at Trader Joes. They’re both visual artists, and apparently allowed to work their magic on the store’s windows. One of these two women is also an electronic music artist who makes some really noisy, dark stuff. Funny because this must rub up against Trader Joe’s aesthetic sumthin’ fierce, yet she manages not to be overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance, somehow.

      Dain

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • This used to be the case back before download music with record stores. Staffed by college grads who didn’t want to get real jobs.

      Curles

      February 26, 2015 at EDT am

      • Indie store employees back in the day had the worst attitudes, but they really did know something about music that the people working in Barnes & Noble’s lame music section didn’t. The worst thing to be was a know-nothing looking for Michael Bolton at some cool hipster record shop.

        Dain

        February 26, 2015 at EDT pm

  4. I recently saw an ad for a food delivery job (but via some cool new app) wherein the company asked applicants to describe “what makes them awesome.” Made me chuckle.

    Dain

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Corporations trying to be “cool” is kinda like your dad trying to be cool…

      shiva1008

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

  5. David Brooks still an interesting columnist, even if he tacks left sometimes

    grey enlightenment

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Basically saying, those who don’t have the ‘smarts’ and can’t afford to ‘self-actualize’ are simply doomed, right?

      toos is god

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

  6. Most people have neither the IQ nor ambition to have self-actualizing careers.

    Lion of the Judah-sphere

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

  7. A feeling you get when you have your coffee and donut after you saw your children wake up and smile beats any self-actualization from any job, by high margin.

    MyTwoCents

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Typical cop prole.

      jjbees

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • It’s sad when people have so little in life that they seek self-actualization in what they do for a living. Don’t get me wrong, some jobs are better than others. But self actualization in career is a piss poor substitute for family. If it came down to it I could be happy working as a janitor. But a life without family is a waste. Even if you’re finding a cure for cancer or saving the mountain gorillas from extinction or competing to be the world’s greatest pool player … that’s great. But only a fool would sacrifice family life to do it.

      destructure

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • The new bobo belief is that families are a plus factor, but the primary life goal should be to have a self-actualizing job. (Explains the low bobo birth rate.)

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

  8. Back to the topic: Money and self actualization, never the twain shall meet. Old news, but relevant.

    http://www.marketplace.org/topics/your-money/work-america/plumbers-it%E2%80%99s-all-about-sweet-smell-money

    Even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, a billionaire who knows a few things about making money, told listeners to his weekly radio show last spring that working as a plumber makes more financial sense for some students than attending an elite, four-year college: “Being a plumber, actually for the average person, probably would be a better deal, because you don’t spend four years spending $40, 50 thousand tuition, and no income,” he said.

    JS

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • That’s a word for aspiring people who don’t have the background to put themselves in toos.

      Especially for the hordes of useless middle – to – poor high-scoring Asian-Americans who just clog up the spots from more deserving people.

      toos is god

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Tools.
        u smoking crack or something? Asians are not clogging up spots from anyone. They get where they want to get usually on merits. Its been proven many times that AS benefits NAM’s not asians.

        wt

        February 26, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Well, the plumbing article is right on the money. Being visiospatially challenged, I self-actualized through doing a trade and still do. Every time I try to do a more perfect job – it’s fun, physically demanding and pays OK. Given a chance to start over again I would work in a trade for a few years and do an engineering degree. I really don’t care for privilege, value transference, class or status. Value creation is a meaningful real job for a man not the stuff that Maddoff was doing. Lucky is a man who can have a real job today in America, because there aren’t as many real as there used to be. So the kids are right looking for meaning at work. Funny thing is that after preaching these values all my own kids have jobs that they don’t care for but all are earning a few times more than me. I guess they don’t make people like they used to anymore. You just can bring up kids with these values any more. On the other hand is is it really bad that my 25 year old never studied past high school, wheels and deals from morning to night and is pretty rich already? She ain’t harming nobody, right? From the time she was a teenager she kept saying that education is stupid. Go figure? Money talks.

      Yakov

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • How much an hour?

        John

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

      • John, what are you referring to?

        Yakov

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

  9. traditional sources of meaning and purpose

    this betrays a lack of understanding of human nature and history.

    only 8000 years ago few if any farmed. the meaning and purpose to hunting and gathering was feeding yourself. there was no intermediary. there was no money.

    the market economy and the specialization of labor and post scarcity are alienation. they don’t cause alienation. they are alienation. that is, the work one does is of very little or no value to you. it only has use value via the market. the market mediates production and consumption, whereas for most of human history there was no intermediary.

    even under manorialism the peasants largely fed themselves. they depended on the black smith and there was a little trade, but in general one consumed what he produced.

    Robert Gabriel Mugabe

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • That’s something I wonder about when watching Vikings. They go raiding and steal some candlesticks or whatever from an English monastery. Where do they pawn that stuff when they get home? What do they do with the money? How much trade was there in medieval scandinavia?

      Dave Pinsen

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Melt it down into lingots.

        Sagi Is My Guru

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

    • Even a blind school finds a nut occasionally. I agree. The meaning of employment is ultimately to fulfill ones basic needs. No more and no less. If one seeks “self actualization” they should do it through other means.

      Self actualization through career reminds me of buying whole life insurance. It’s expensive life insurance and a bad investment. If you want life insurance then by term. If you want to invest then buy stocks/index funds, etc. Similarly, if you need to earn a living then earn it. If you want to self-actualize then do it outside of work.

      destructure

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

      • Destructure, OT but I was recently looking at term life insurance policies and I was shocked at the payouts a relatively small monthly payment could get. A 30 year plan for a relarively healthy 30 year old could make your wife a millionaire for about a hundred a month should you keel over. That was a surprise to me.

        Sagi Is My Guru

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

      • dang typos — “school” should be “squirrel”.

        Insurance is like buying a lottery ticket. If enough people buy tickets for $1 then the jackpot could be very large for the winners. Only in this case the winners are dead and the cost of the ticket is based on your risk of dying. Remember that the purpose of insurance isn’t to make you rich, It’s to protect you from catastrophic loss. You never want to over insure because you’re paying for that protection and the rates are in the insurance company’s favor. In order to determine how much you need it’s important to understand what you’re protecting or replacing. With respect to home insurance it’s to replace your home in case of a fire. With respect to life insurance, it’s to replace future earnings of a deceased spouse. You don’t have to insure for the full value of lost earnings. If your wife is young and pretty and self supporting there’s no need to insure at all. But if she’s 40 and fat with 6 kids then she’ll need some help.

        destructure

        February 26, 2015 at EDT pm

  10. Finding self actualization in something as base as a career is an amusing conceit of modernity. A poster here (I cannot who at the moment) once pointed out that such fixation on career would be seen as remarkably low class in Classical Rome or Greece (where activities like doing battle and philosophizing were suitable for the higher classes – a nobler time).

    That even the once patrician toos et al. have bought into self actualization through work shows how déclassé rules the day in a fallen age.

    Sanjuro

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Nietzsche wrote a short piece called “The Greek State” in which he stated (not verbatim), “Even if it is true that the Classical world died of the effects of slavery, it is just as true that the modern world will die of the effects of the lack of slavery”. When you read him with an eye for it, there is a lot about labor in Nietzsche. Were one so inclined, one could construct an entire counter-Marxian view of labor and the “labor question” through Nietzsche’s writings. I think Nietzsche would be entirely in favor of robots eliminating the need for proles. His primary question would be whether those who own the robots are worthy of enjoying the fruits of these advances.

      Because, when the robots take our jobs, the most important survival skill will be the ability to enjoy leisure without either dying of boredom or self-destroying through overindulgence. We will have to become again what Nietzsche considered “noble”. And since the “slaves” in this construct will be machines, we don’t have to worry about them revolting, as long as we are careful in how we program them. I’m with Elon Musk in worrying that we won’t, but it’s out of my hands because I don’t have the skillset to program them.

      Also, just a little addendum to your comment about Greece and Rome. The Romans also thought farming was a noble way to spend time, as long as it was your own farm and you weren’t forced to work it. Virgil wrote in the Georgics that work was a gift from the gods to man, to enable us to exercise our faculties.

      BS Inc.

      February 26, 2015 at EDT am

      • What will we do with the black population, who are neither intellectually capable of self actualizing nor having the high future time orientation to engage in it, meanwhile, automation renders these low level humans as obsolete?

        JS

        February 26, 2015 at EDT am

    • that was JS iirc inter alia.

      but in order to get to the top it helps and is sometimes necessary to love what it takes to get there.

      not everyone is so lucky. work is self-actualizing much more often for those at the top than it is for the rest, so the idea that everyone should be so lucky is promoted.

      Robert Gabriel Mugabe

      February 26, 2015 at EDT pm

  11. I wonder if an intelligent business idea would be to take the “hippie SWPL crunchy” brand and inject that into the prole/skilled trades and market a trade business (HVAC, plumbing, electrical work, mechanic) in a palatable fashion for SWPLs.

    For example: I could be the most environmentally friendly welder or HVAC company in my city. Might be an idea… Trader Joes HVAC.

    Thoughts, Lion?

    Robert Rhodes

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Has been tried, Robert. I don’t think it makes a difference. Focus on your skills, not the fluff. There is no such thing as a more environmentally friendly welder or HVAC mechanic. Where did you get this idea?
      Wait? What do you mean by ‘market’? Do you mean to attract these sissies to work in trades?

      Yakov

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • If you do HVAC or welding you still have to use the same tools and metals as everyone else, unless you’re planning to go to Africa or Canada and mine them yourself.

      Plus, all the Hipsters would plaster you with a zillion probing, doubting questions in an attempt to fathom the true Eco-friendliness of your work to their liking, so that you’d never be able to actually finish a gig at the job site.

      Camlost

      February 26, 2015 at EDT am

  12. Those White hipsters aren’t working at Whole Foods for any charitable reasons:

    1. Whole foods pays much better than comparable jobs in other grocery stores, sometimes a lot better depending on the region. It’s like this ANYWHERE you go – if you see whites doing jobs that blacks normally do, it’s often because that job pays better. Chick-fil-a usually has majority white staff for that reason.
    2. I don’t know the details but I’m pretty sure that all whole foods workers get some sort of benefits plan, and whole foods can afford it partly because they have better workers that make them run efficiently with less staff.
    3. Whole foods doesn’t locate in the ghetto, although they are sometimes found on the fringes of gentrifying areas. Before Whole foods decides to build a store you can bet that they do a very, very detailed demographic and income analysis and they surely are NOT looking at proximity and density of blacks as their main attraction to an area for a potential franchise location.

    Camlost

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

  13. David Brooks and Charles Murray are full of sh*t. David Brooks, because he’s another fake moral grandstanding liberal, disguised as a conservative, who has a cushy privileged SWPL career, and Charles Murray, who basically derided that poor fellow out in San Diego, who collects food stamps, while surfing and playing guitar in a rock band.

    JS

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

  14. I once had an idea to start a blog explaining why every job was ultimately meaningless. It’s an open-ended enough assertion that you could make a pretty good argument this is the case for just about every profession.

    It’s interesting how they focus on meaning as the source of self-actualization but I honestly don’t think you need to help other people or change the world for your job to be fun and self-actualizing. Sort of like your idea to pay people to play World of Warcraft. If you’re given engaging tasks at the right challenge level with sufficient variety, is it really that big a deal whether it benefits society or not?

    Of course, I agree that the article also raises the bigger question of whether work should be such a major source of meaning in one’s life.

    Jokah Macpherson

    February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Psychologically, most people benefit from being in a state of “flow,” where one loses oneself in what one is doing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29 It doesn’t have to be particularly beneficial to mankind, but ideally it should not be harmful. I see tech work as being mostly neutral. Being occupied with constructive work also keeps one from slipping into more torporous states of being. While it might seem like not having to do anything is “livin the life,” humans are generally pretty lousy at predicting what will bring them happiness. Eg no one in their right mind would want to have kids, but people get a lot of happiness from them, or so they say.

      shiva1008

      February 25, 2015 at EDT pm

    • “Of course, I agree that the article also raises the bigger question of whether work should be such a major source of meaning in one’s life.”

      This is what I don’t buy about the “self-actualization” stuff. The term seems to refer to either creativity or “helping”, or some combination of the two. You might argue that a person whose main creative or “helping” efforts occur outside of their career is likely to be a more well-rounded person than someone who has attained that much sought-after confluence of career and personal interests.

      Beetsbeets

      February 26, 2015 at EDT am


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