By Jack D. Deal
By chance, I met an acquaintance I had not seen for some time. We had always had lively discussions when we spoke and we both were between appointments so we struck up a conversation. We updated each other on recent successes and failure--and since we'd both gone to Harvard, touched briefly on the old alma mater.
After the pleasantries were past, we then entered into the 'important' things--the things that mattered most. He spoke of a friend that had gotten out of the 'rat race' for several months. At that point, a company offered his friend a 'big six-figure contract' and she accepted the offer that 'could not be refused.' I was impressed with the salary and we joked about what kind of weekly paycheck she would get.
We were both envious. On a whim, perhaps a whim based on envy, I asked the simple question, 'yes, but is she happy?'
My friend became silent. No, he finally answered. She was definitely not happy. She had left her type of work because it was not satisfying and because at 70 plus hours a week she had no personal life. She had hoped at some point to remarry but was feeling like she was married to her job and no suitor could break up the family. The big salary did not make her happy. If it were not for the money, she would quit and do what she really wanted to do. But she could not do that and remained miserable.
We ended our conversation slapping each other on the back and saying how lucky we were to be doing what we were interested in. We agreed to talk soon but we both knew our busy schedules would not make that possible any time soon. Our conversation had lasted a half-hour; yet, this conversation is one that I have replayed in my mind many times since then. Yes, but are we happy? The analytical among us would press for a definition of happy. And probably that would make a good article. But somehow the question kept coming back and back.
As I look in the workplace I don't see too many happy people. I see owners that hate their industry, employees and customers. I see employees that show up for work only to get a paycheck. They whine and complain and nothing is ever good. I see managers that snap at employees as if they were unruly children. Why do people stay in positions they do not like? Why don't more people do what they want?
The question is an intriguing one. Most of my interest has been generated by the concept that the happy worker is a more productive worker. Make the worker happy and you make production soar. On a simplistic level this is true.
But it goes beyond the simplistic. The question begs us to look into the depths of our existence. This look is different for each of us so we cannot assume that what works for others would work for us. There are no formulas or templates. And even if there were we should not trust them.
A friend many years back told me that we all want to have meaningful lives. Maybe a meaningful life is the key to happiness. Maybe not. For me, I want to die having no regrets. But what works for me may not work for you.
Many of us become obsessed with the pursuit of happiness--the United States was based on the premise that we all have the freedom to pursue happiness. But this is one search you have to find for yourself. Since we spend much of our waking lives at work I would strongly suggest you ask this question at work.
Yes, but are they happy?
Jack D. Deal is owner of the Deal Consulting Group, providing business knowledge services to meet the challenges of the New Economy. 831-457-8806 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Related articles may be found at http://www.dealconsulting.com
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