Driven to succeed or striving for balance: what we want from our jobs

I’m not going to talk about individuals that compete at all cost, that are narcissistic, believing themselves to be more important than others and doing what it takes to prove it.


I’m also not going to talk about individuals that struggle to compete, with self-doubt and fear-of-failure clouding their vision.

For both sides of this issue, I’ll assume workers are talented and ethical, helpful and driven. Clear-sighted and confident. That’s my level field for the discussion that looks at two sides of the work ethos question: either we are driven to be successful at big costs, or we believe that balance in life–finding a job that we love and a company that we want to support–is most important.

The drive for success defines us.

makes sense because we have been bred for success

Early in life, we learn to compete on fields, in musical halls, on tests, in the classroom, for student council and volunteer positions. We have Little League World Series. Tiger Woods. Travel teams that demand commitment from one-season sports into four seasons. The reward? Admission to the best colleges.

after college admission, internships depend on the drive to rise to the top

The competition gets amped up again as we hope to land an internship. Endless hours of networking, near-perfect grades, extra-curricular involvement, leadership positions are factored into the marketability for these coveted positions.

then it’s time to land a job

At the most competitive level jobs may include long hours, no life. But, the process of attaining goals is so ingrained it’s inside your cells, right next to the mitochondria, churning out the ATP that provides the energy to win.

Legal professions, banking, professional boxing—these are all about the few left standing, and the enormous rewards they reap.

Hey, only one person gets to raise his or her hand at the end of a wrestling match.

Balance is more important than success.

businesses across the U.S. are scrambling to improve their culture

Companies offer yoga at lunch, afternoons off, or no-holds barred customer service attract people who want more balance in life. It’s all over the internet: how to build a better workplace in five steps. Or less.

and workers are staying with companies longer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics show a trend: employees are staying longer at jobs. In 1983, the average tenure was around three and a half years. In 2014, on average, employees stayed 4.6 years.

Read more here: Employee Tenure in 2016 (BLS)

Corporate culture may create environments that don’t just attract new workers—like high pay—but keep them, through policies that enable balance after things like family come along.

Must-read article: True or False? ‘Employees Today Only Stay One or Two Years (Forbes)

besides, YOLO

It’s a weighted phrase because it’s associated with driving too fast, drinking too much, not taking responsibility—and I’m not going down that path right now. That stuff is self-evidently bad, right? What’s the point in debating it?

But there’s more to YOLO.

It’s also about living without regret.

And that concept might be driving our need for a positive corporate culture.

Psychologists tell us: After a big life-shock, many people–maybe even most people–experience big shifts in how they spend their time, in the way they appreciate life, and their general sense and pursuit of happiness. For example, when some people are diagnosed with a terminal illness they say they feel like they start living, not worrying as much about much of what had previously freaked them out.

What’s more shocking than a childhood spent in the car, racing to fields, eating granola bars in the backseat while trying to do an assignment that’s due tomorrow?

Then, graduation.

It stops (at least for some, at least temporarily).

It wasn’t terminal illness but it was pretty stressful.

Just wondering about that.

OR is the pursuit of a balanced life just more of the same? You’ve lived life pretty well and you want to continue it? What generation has seen more of the world, eaten more good food, had decent relationships with parents, accepted more races, been more tolerant of nontraditional relationships than us?


Has it pushed you toward a type of employer? If so, how? What do you think?


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