August 22nd, 2015

Maybe when you combine economic incentives, authority figures, and deep-seated psychological needs, you produce a cocktail that is simply too intoxicating to overcome. – Sarah Green Carmichael, attempting to explain chronic over-work

By Ron Nakamoto

I went fishing yesterday with a group of wealth managers. Yesterday, the U.S. stock market as measured by the major stock indexes dropped over 3%. I noticed that there was a distinct difference in reactions to the stock market’s fall between those wealth managers who weren’t going to allow themselves to feel anxious about circumstances beyond their control and those who couldn’t control their own anxieties and worries over the market and especially what their clients might do. It was the difference between being present, enjoying the experience of being outdoors in nature, or not. It was also the difference between enjoying life or being anxious and preoccupied.

I know that some of these wealth managers will return to their offices on Monday nervous about talking to their anxious clients who are concerned about their money. These wealth managers will undoubtedly put in long hours attempting to persuade their clients and themselves that things will be o.k. in the long run. Once the anxieties of the moment subside, they’ll continue to put in long hours at the urging of company management attempting to persuade others to become clients. I know that clients’, companies’, and wealth managers’ personal expectations are high. Every stakeholder wants to make more money…and not lose money.

To me, this mentality and way of being is an endless loop of time and effort, fear and greed, surrounding more money. It seems sad but predictable that money and investments are driven largely by the emotions of fear and greed, with fear being the predominant current emotion. This follows several recent years of optimism and greed in the marketplace. Devoting personally detrimental amounts of time and energy to the earning and management of more money to me shifts the focus from money as a resource to money as an end in itself.

It seems to me that during times like these, those who focus on what truly matters more to them than money – in my experience it’s health, family, friends, faith, wisdom, and a sense that I’m making a positive contribution in the world – can continue to make progress towards a life of happiness, fulfillment, and meaning. Conversely, the path of overwork, stress, and focus on money as its own end seems to be, as the Harvard Business Review article below indicates, a prescription for poor health, unhappiness, and lack of productivity.

(Thank you to Peter Buyze for pointing out the HBR article).

The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies
The high cost of overwork.

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