Today we start a new CareerBliss series, reviewing hot new "Must-Read" books on achieving happiness at work and in your career. Today’s book is ‘Thank God It’s Wednesday’ by Mark D. Langford – the business professional’s guide to realizing purpose, passion and life/ work balance.
Do You Live to Work, or Work To Live?
"Three days after his thirty-sixth birthday, Stephan walked into his office after spending the entire weekend answering emails from his boss. He arrived already feeling tired from a restless night of worry over a 'must-win' business proposal that he would have to send out by close-of-business. Stephan logged onto his company email and watched with dread as the computer screen displayed nineteen new emails - all marked 'urgent' - since he had last checked-in before going to bed the previous evening. He glanced at the clock on his paper-strewn desk - it was only 7:34am. It was going to be a long day."
If this sounds a lot like your typical start to the morning, you're not alone. Chronic overwork, combined with the creeping demands of our 24/7 lifestyle, the intrusion of the nagging smartphone, in addition to the increasing demands placed on us by society to do more, work harder, and be more, means that our free time is now shrinking at an alarming rate. We all work longer and harder than ever before, with no end in sight and very little increase in happiness to show for all our efforts.
A century ago, economists and scientists alike predicted that we'd all be leading a life of leisure by now, with a three-day workweek and ample free time as machines did all the work for us. What happened to that dream, and is it possible that as a society, we are heading down the wrong track?
Achieving Work-Life Balance: A Modern Fairy Tale?
Achieving and maintaining work-life balance is all the rage these days, but when the ink has dried on all the articles that have been written about it, is it actually achievable, or are we all chasing a fiction – a spiritual and practical impossibility invented by the media to keep us all neatly confined to our hamster-wheels, running the never-ending rat race that gets nobody rich but our bosses?
In his motivational book, “Thank God it’s Wednesday,” career consultant, author and motivational speaker Mark D. Langford argues that achieving this seemingly impossible dream is, in fact possible – but not without sacrifice. After suffering a near-death experience, he came to realize that his own purpose in life was to help others escape from what he calls Work Sickness. He describes his own personal circumstances that brought about the revelation that life didn’t have to be all about work.
“From the outside, it looked like I had it all – a successful career, a beautiful family, a nice home and tropical vacations. Yet something was missing. It felt like I was following someone else’s script for success. I believed money could buy freedom, but the more I earned, the less free I felt. My soul yearned for something money couldn’t buy and yet I feared losing what I already had.”
Continues Langford, “I was stuck. I bounced from job to job, always hoping that the next position would be “the one.” I took jobs because of the title, increased wages, and the prestige, but never because I was passionate about them.”
Langford was just starting to sense that he may be on the wrong track, when calamity hit. While living and working in a high-powered job in Switzerland, he contracted the superbug MRSA (penicillin-resistant staph). After a dozen very painful surgeries and weeks lying immobilized in a foreign Intensive Care Unit, he had an experience that changed him forever.
Whilst bed-bound and in extreme pain, he was visited by what he describes as ‘a presence.’ This presence communicated with him and he was able to ask it a number of questions, including, "Why are we here?"
While unsure of what, exactly, this presence was, Langford describes achieving a sudden clarity regarding his own purpose in the world. “Whether I experienced a divine vision or a pain-induced hallucination didn’t really matter. This… entity revealed to me that we all possess an “inner genius,” or a combination of genealogy, aptitudes, experiences and perspective, that serves as a unique gift we can bring to the world.”
This experience profoundly moved Langford, and inspired him to uncover and develop his own unique talent, which is, he realized, "to tap into the power of human potential," and help others live and work in greater alignment to their own fundamental beliefs. Says he, “throughout my 25-year career, I learned an awful lot about how to be happy (and unhappy) at work. Ultimately, I came to realize that happiness is a by-product of living true to purpose and values."
Langford's goal in life is to help disillusioned, chronically overworked or simply burned out workers re-ignite the passion in their lives, helping them to better align their life and career goals in a way that makes them feel excited to be alive again.
How to Uncover Your True Value
In his book, Langford reveals many useful mental tools you can use to uncover your own purposes and values, and he explains how to apply them to your own life and career, with the end-goal of changing gears in your life so that you work to live, not the other way around.
Says Langford, “Today, instead of embracing and living our true purpose, many of us do what we think others expect of us. Infected by fear of job security, too many of us work without full engagement and real passion. Out of fear of not having enough, far too many of us live lives in pursuit of status and wealth. We are working more, playing less and neglecting our very reason for existence - to experience the joy of life."
This condition, which Langford calls Work Sickness, he postulates is responsible for many of the ills and ailments we experience as society as a whole. From individual heath issues such as stress, insomnia and depression, to the disruption of family life and the fragmentation of society into 'Brave New World'- style castes, with ever-higher walls dividing the obscenely super-wealthy from the struggling middle and lower classes, it seems that at it's root, work and money both play an equal part in the slow but steady erosion of our grasp of the true value of life.
Time On Vs Time Off in the U.S.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individual productivity (measured per worker) in America has massively increased to almost 400% of what it was in 1950. This figure should allow us to rest and enjoy the money we have earned after just 11 hours of work each week, and still have the exact same standard of living as a worker in the 1950's.
Yet as we all know, this is not the case, although it could be argued that our standard of living is four times higher than it was 65 years ago. In the words of Al Gore, "The accumulation of material goods is at an all-time high, but so is the number of people who feel an emptiness in their lives."
Consider these latest statistics, quoted in Langford's book:
- In the U.S., 85.8% of males and 66.5% of females work over 40 hours a week.
- In every country surveyed except Canada, Japan and the U.S., workers get at least 20 paid vacation days anually.
- The U.S. averages just 13 paid vacation days a year, while in France and Finland, employers get 30 days - a whole paid month off work.
- The U.S. is the only country without a national paid parental leave benefit. The average across the rest of the world is 12+ weeks of paid leave upon giving birth. In Europe, it's even higher, averaging out at 20 weeks paid leave for new mothers - that's 5 fully-paid months off work to recover from the birth, and to bond with your newborn.
The irony of the above statistics is that there is no reasonable reason for all this drudgery. Giving your workers time to rest will not kill a company unless your office is built on quicksand.
In this land of near-universal education and prosperity, how did we allow ourselves to into this work-pressured state in the first place, and where did all this fear and job-insecurity come from?
Living in Fear of Scarcity: the New Norm?
The U.S. may be one of the richest countries in the world, but in most cases, the wealth stays near the top of the food chain. For lower and middle class workers, the increasing cost of living has unfortunately not been matched by an increase in modern wages, which have been stagnant since the 1980's.
Add into the equation unavoidable governmental demands in the form of increased taxes, laws compelling us to buy automobile and health insurance, a shrinking Social Security fund that necessitates we maintain individual 401k and life insurance funds, and medical bills ballooning out of all proportion with the rest of the world, and you'll see how the U.S. - one of the richest countries in existance, a true land of plenty - has created an artificial atmosphere of fear to keep us behind our desks long after every other worker in the world has gone home for the night.
And the focus of this fear is scarcity.
Advertising companies know that the fear of scarcity is a prime motivator in directing human behavior. For instance, if you were out shopping, which store would you rather go into: a store with full shelves but no shoppers inside, or a store with half-full shelves, packed with people and a line going out the door, and a big sign hung in the window saying "Going Out Of Business! Everything Must Go!"
In the second case, there is no concrete promise of cheaper goods, but the fact that the store is full of people and the shelves are emptying quickly makes you feel like you're missing out if you walk on by. Very often stores simply move their Sales rack to the front of the store and hang a big SALE! sign up to entice people in. Once people are in the store, they will often buy items they don't need just because "they were on sale."
Langford has this to say about the manufactured fear of scarcity, which he pinpoints as being the modern-day scapegoat for our often-crippling addiction to the workplace:
"Our corporate workforce has grown increasingly apathetic, as decisions made from a feeling of lack (that there is not enough for everyone) supplant those made from a sense of abundance (that there is enough for everyone)." This feeling, he argues, creates strict and overly inflexible HR policies and work rules, designed to keep people in their place - behind a desk, hard at work - when in reality there is only a certain amount of productivity you can squeeze out of the average warm body before he or she burns out.
When More is Not Always Better
The irony, of course, is that we are living in an age of incredible riches, compared to the world our forebears and ancestors grew up in. Scarcity no longer means not having enough to eat; scarcity for most people now means that you can't afford the latest iPhone, and have to 'suffer' the social embarrassment of owning a model one or two years old.
The modern world is filled with new and shiny material goods that the media and peer pressure encourage us to buy. Many of our modern 'necessities' would have been considered unimaginable luxuries just one or two generations ago. And yet people who by our modern standards we would label as being poor, still manage to scrape together enough to buy one or more of these items, because of the intense social stigma now heaped upon those who cannot afford goods such as a flat-screen TV or a Smartphone.
And for those of us who already have all those items, there is always one step higher on the ladder left to take: a better car, a bigger home, a more prestigious school for the kids or a new RV. As shopping overtakes sports as the most common 'free time' pastime in America, we are ironically driven back to work, to work harder, to earn more, to buy more, which leaves us deeper in debt. And so the whole cycle of overwork and overspending begins again.
How do you find the willpower to exit this vicious circle, and reclaim control over your life? The first step is to find your own personal passion.
Finding Your Own Personal Passion
Says Langford, "Passion is purpose expressed." How wonderful it would be, if everybody got to live out their lives in pursuit of whatever they wished, that money and the fear of lack of money did not cause people to stagnate and their spirit to rot in meaningless jobs that inspire nothing in them but a sense of weariness and drudgery, devoting their weekends to a frenzy of spending that only lands them back at their desks on Monday, working harder to compensate.
Mark Langford's book aims to help us shake up our lives and more closely align them with the lives we lead in our dreams, by questioning the mechanisms by which we live, namely, working for someone else to earn a paycheck. At its core, Langford’s book is about how to transform work into play and life into an adventure. It provides plenty of exercises and thought-adventures, to help the readers define what they most want out of their life, and help them achieve it.
Here is an excerpt we particularly enjoyed from the chapter "Living Your Life On Purpose." Grab a pad of paper and a pen, and make the first positive change in your life by identifying your passions and what you truly enjoy, rather than what you get paid to do.
1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects etc).
2. What were your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?
3. What activities make you lose track of time?
4. What makes you feel great about yourself?
5. What inspires you the most? What qualities inspire you, in each person?
6. What are you naturally good at?
7. What do people typically ask you for help with?
8. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
"Thank God It's Wednesday" was written for business professional who feel like they have too much job and not enough life. It was written for those who feel overwhelmed, incessantly tired and unsatisfied, no matter how much they earn and how hard they work. It contains strategies to identify your career calling, and free up more time and space for your personal passions. The book provides a great new way to realize your professional purpose while maintaining your work/ life balance.
In closing, Langford quotes Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, Inc.,
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's thinking drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
About Mark D. Langford
In 2004, in full health and at the pinnacle of his life and career, Mark contracted a very serious, penicillin resistant (MRSA) infection from a routine arthroscopy. After a dozen surgeries and forty-one days of lying immobilized in a hospital bed, Mark experienced a life-changing encounter with what he can only describe as the “Divine.” He communed with a presence that revealed to him that his life purpose is to help and heal others. From this epiphany, Mark developed an intense interest in spirituality and spent the next 10 years studying and working with spiritual leaders. Interest turned to inspiration when Mark realized that he could do the most good by mentoring business professionals using his 25-years of successful corporate and entrepreneurial experience, Harvard MBA and coaching training. He decided to transition out of the corporate world and founded C-Synergy, LLC to help both people to get clear on their purpose and calling, to develop manageable action plans and to connect and operate from their inner wisdom.
Learn more about Mark and his book at: http://tgiw.com/