Three minute read
In my first few months writing in this space, the terms micro post or micro poem or other such seemingly made-up descriptions have appeared in my social media feeds.
By being brief, hopefully my intended point will be made, while also enticing you to check out another a post or two. After all, everyone likes a short read!
A Seemingly Normal Book
Wandering somewhat aimlessly in London during a visit about ten years ago, I stumbled upon the London School of Economics bookstore. For some reason, it seemed like a good place to stop and look around. Maybe it was just a respite from the sun. It was certainly NOT due to some deeply hidden love of economics. Plus, it is a world-renowned school for those in that field. “Why not?”, I thought.
How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson caught my eye. In the book, Hodgkinson discusses this fast paced world we live in and how it actually hurts businesses. My favorite quote: “Work expands to fit the time provided.” In other words, you will complete what NEEDS to be finished in whatever amount of time you have to complete it. As innocuous as that seems, that one sentence changed my perspective on the nature of work.
A New Mindset
As a musician, I had always prided myself on the amount of time spent practicing. During the first ten years as a trumpeter, my self-image as a musician was tied to a number—the number of minutes or hours playing my instrument. Then a particularly efficient teacher made me realize that the way we practice is much more important than practice time. However, I still put in too many hours in relation to my musical results.
Armed with my new quote, I started to look around. It became apparent that people were simply doing too much work without equivalent rewards. It became a bit of a mission to convince friends and co-workers to work less and enjoy life more. You actually become more productive when leading that type of life. Fortunately, this concept is recently more prevalent on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. But do people follow the advice? Not in my experience. People are working longer and longer for less pay with less enjoyment.
One of the main points of How To Be Idle is that other cultures spend time enjoying each other’s company even during the work day, yet they still produce great results. Two and three hour work lunches with only thirty minutes of actual work, while still producing fantastic outcomes are described. Himself a Brit, Hodgkinson goes on to tell how his fellow British people need to slow down, eschew coffee culture, enjoy the pub, take a nap, and just sit and think. All of this is great advice that we would each love to take. How amazing our lives would be!
It then dawned on me that Americans make the British look like dawdlers with our ridiculously unsustainable “work ethic.” Meanwhile, we wonder why there is an epidemic of anxiety and depression here. Having given the book to a friend, I wandered into a chain bookstore a few years ago to find a replacement. I headed straight to the economics section. The book wasn’t there. Before leaving, I consulted an employee. Without a word, she searched her computer, nodded her head, and physically led me to the book.
With our deep-rooted American mindset that “hard work always pays off,” there it was. How To Be Idle was filed in the one place that made sense to Americans—-the “Humor” section.
In My Unexpected Life, I will share stories, thoughts, and simple ideas to entertain and maybe even inspire others to engage with new food, travel, and more…no matter how big or small those experiences may be.
Even if my writings do not produce the desired result—please enjoy the blog!
Nice, brief article Kevin! I agree with this idea so much. It seems like the American 40 hour work week is so unnecessary and that most people could get the same amount of work done in 20 or 30 hours. It does seem that other countries (especially European countries) take more time to enjoy life.
I love this article! The short and sweet factor really entertained me. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading and I am glad you enjoyed it!
Very much enjoyed this article and it spoke to me. Efficiency is key. Thanks!