Should you act your wage?

“Nobody works, nobody gives a damn.”

These were the words of Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, the nonagenarian (yup, “ninety year old”) criticized today’s workers and their risk-taking capabilities. Marcus questioned the broader implications this laissez faire attitude had for capitalism.

So, shhhhh, let’s not tell him about this redditor:

If that’s too much to read, here’s the tl;dr:

  • 32 year old
  • No spouse or kids
  • Works 5 hours a week
  • Earns 20-30k per year
  • Loves playing Warcraft

Is this redditor a genius? Or wasting their life away?

The ambition crisis

Now our Warcraft redditor might be an outlier, but Marcus’ rage was directed at some familiar targets.

The great resignation.

Quiet quitting.

Refusing to come back to the office.

And a new meme I just learned about, Acting Your Wage. The 1 minute video promises to:

Teach you how to not overextend yourself for a job that doesn’t care about you or pay you enough.

(This video has been viewed 3 million times. You can’t make this sh** up.)

A recent Wall Street Journal titled, Your Coworkers Are Less Ambitious; Bosses Adjust to the New Order detailed this new paradigm.

There are the associates at Nixon Peabody LLP who “have started saying no to working weekends.”

The digital events company ZED that moved engineering and marketing roles to Canada and India, where “it’s easier to find talent who will go above and beyond.”

And of course the mutiny of the exhausted Goldman investment bankers, who prompted the company to “hire additional bankers and more strictly enforce boundaries around working hours.”

The data confirms that this change in attitude is more than a collection of grumpy anecdotes (emphasis mine).

In a November survey of more than 3,000 workers and managers by software firm Qualtrics, 36% said their overall career ambitions had waned over the past three years, compared with 22% who said their ambition had increased. Nearly 40% said work had become less important to them in the past three years, while 25% said it had grown more important, according to researchers at Qualtrics, which provides software to businesses to evaluate customer and employee experiences. 

And unsurprisingly, the changing perspectives are happening over generational lines.

The underlying variables at play have been well-documented. There’s the resetting of priorities from the pandemic. The freedom afforded by hybrid work. The “end” of a roaring bull market for homes and financial assets that caused widening inequality. A shift away from materialism.

But I suspect that the “ambition crisis” is much more personal. To me, it’s a question of how we (i.e. humans) build up our self-worth, self-love and self-acceptance.

We all know someone (or we are that someone) who believes:

“If I am very rich, I’ll be loved. And then I’ll love myself.”

But that feels icky, so we pivot it to:

“If I am very successful, I’ll be loved. And then I’ll love myself.”

But even that feels narcissistic, which leads to yet another pivot:

“If I a make an impact, I’ll be loved. And then I’ll love myself.”

But as I detailed in my essay does maximizing impact lead to misery, what we’re looking for is a “spiritual nutrient” that prevents us from feeling “empty, depressed, weak, irritable or brain-foggy.”

I doubt that spiritual nutrient is ambition.

Yet I think identifying that “spiritual nutrient” is a life’s work.

It transcends and encompasses work, impact, service, love and wisdom.

It’s the spiritual nutrient that enables us to feel “healthy, energetic, wholesome, content.”

It’s the spiritual nutrient that makes us feel alive.

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