Letter to the Editor: I Always Suspected This May Not Be a Good Way to Live

Hi Robert,

I’m a long-time fan of your blog. Your content is a breath of fresh air on an Internet plagued with work worship, life coaches, productivity tips and the “power lunch” mentality. I started reading your book yesterday and it’s difficult to stop. Your writing style is a brain massage.

Let me tell you a little about myself: I’m Brazilian, male, 33 years old, and have what every parent here raises a child to get: a public-sector job. The admission exam for this type of job is very, very hard, demanding years of single-minded preparation. Once you pass it, your job entails massive boredom, senseless tasks and good pay, normally for life.

I always suspected this may not be a good way to live, even before setting foot in an office. After twelve years of living this life my soul was in an advanced state of corrosion. The paycheck never brought the lasting happiness that everybody said it would. The material goods it made possible did not motivate me any longer.

The turning point was when I needed a haircut one day. To get a haircut I needed to program my schedule one week in advance to carve out twenty minutes for it. Enough! I was a slave on gold chains. This must not go on.

On this journey through open plan offices and noisy coffee machines, I always made sure to save my money, knowing full well that I would not be able to bear the 37 years of mandatory work for retirement. Last November I made a deal with management to take one day off per week (Wednesday) with the matching 20% reduction in pay. I had made very few decisions in my life as intelligent as this one.

With this improvement in my life came a change in perception about the value of work. I started living in a more leisurely way. I barely noticed the 20% pay cut but it was difficult not to notice a holiday every week.

A year later here I am: new hobbies, new interests, and far more content than ever before. Hell! I’m making wood sculptures when twelve months ago I didn’t even know how to draw! In the workplace I’m a tech guy (the one with a spreadsheet for everything) and art apparently shouldn’t be attempted by people like me! Yet here I am, having a blast at cutting wood, not typing numbers on a computer. Imagine how many people have too hidden talents that will never see daylight because a job sucks away all the energy.

In the centuries to come we’re going to look to today’s offices and feel the same as when we look for Industrial Revolution factories. How could we do that to people?

I’m grateful for you being a voice against the madness of work and so-called productivity. I realized I’m not alone and very happy to realize this relatively early on life.

I attached some images of the sculptures. It takes hours and hours to make one, but who’s counting?

Best regards,
F

About

Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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