Do You Live to Work, Or Work to Live?

Do you ever wonder why we work like we work? Why working time lasts those eight hours and why takes the best part of the day? Who made it this way? And why? It all started with industrial revolution in early 19th century which culminated into real nightmare for most of workers, especially in large factories, where long working hours were mandatory and kept people outside their homes all day long. The working day was 10 to 16 hours, six days a week and not only for adults. Use of children was cheap and preferable. Deaths and illnesses from exhaustion were common and it was cruel and inhuman. Eventually, the nightmare spread from workers toward capitalists as well, in form of rise of social movement with Robert Owen's famous slogan "Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest".


Well, today, almost two centuries later, we now live, more or less, in Owen's vision, work around eight hours per day and enjoy our lives during the work or after. Or both. Nobody today dies from the job. Well, not due to poor working conditions, anyways. Perhaps some of us are in danger from the death by boredom in some rainy days in the office, but, and again more or less, today we are in control of our professional careers. On the other end, if you ask me, even this eight hours are sometimes too long. Many times. They say that with age comes the wisdom, but also comes a certain dosage of laziness, especially in second part of the working hours. After 20 years of continuous work in my professional career, eight hours now seem too long. I passed that period in my life with idealistic thoughts and glimpses to the world as it is waiting for me to make the difference. If you are in your forties, there are other variables that must be included in private and professional life. Middle age crisis for example. Not enough challenges like before. Too much routine in both lives. Too competitive environment, to say the least, wherever you look. Generation gaps. Following faster ways of living. And you don't have to be in forties anymore to feel the difference or experience injustice.

Perhaps it is time again for another Robert Owen to appear and try to get shorten this eight hours to six or less. Or to try and modify the working habits and move everything possible to freelancing and outsourcing. To ban offices in those businesses that still insist on using them in old fashion ways, although the entire job can be done today from kitchen table and home wifi. Before, when I was teenager and later when I was trying to make first step in my professional career, they used to say that major changes will come in 21st century. New millennium will change everything. Well, the 14th year now in new spectacular century is about to expire in few months and I can't notice anything majorly different. More or less. But still, the major question from the old times is still there. Do you live to work or you work to live?


It would be unfair if I continue with this story without answering it first. And to be honest, from the beginning and my first employment, I always worked to live. For me, family and home was, is and it will always be the number one. No exceptions. No matter how important was the project I was involved in. But to be completely honest, if I used a scale from minus ten to ten, where -10 means full commitment to the job, while +10 is the finest family time, I would not score the biggest number too often. I don't think I score it easily even today. It is impossible. Sometimes, if comes into my life challenged and pure, the job can suck me in for days. Months even. But always let me go. So my number is within wide scale from -5 to the very high of 9 with more positive then negative values. Ten only sometimes. And I want to keep it that way. If I looked to all my half-a-dozen companies I were working with in my former professional life, the cruel truth is, with couple of exceptions, that I didn't stay in touch with my former co-workers. We all moved along. Simply put, while our intelligence and educations defies us completely, our curriculum vitae is nothing more than a document only worthwhile during searching for a new job. Nobody cares what is written inside while you are having steady job. Only in between two of them.

But enough with work, let's see the other side of the medal. The story I wanted to tell in the first place and maybe unconsciously, I started with too long introduction. What actually inspired me for today's story is Tony Parsons - British journalist and novel author. About month ago, after I read three Harlan Coben's thrillers in a row and two of James Patterson's Alex Cross series during the summer, I felt that I needed a break from tension and crime stories. But I can't really swallow those light readings with love stories in foreground so I went into search for something different - hoping to find a story based on ordinary life, family affairs or one of those with "true story" written on main covers. Tony Parsons, with his "Man and Boy" trilogy, gave me exactly what I wanted. And more.


If you didn't read it already, I recommend it warmly. It is about typical family of the early 21st century, filled with both, pain and love, surrounded by tough life in one large city in which work and mortgage can destroy your life in a split of a second. Harry Silver, in main role, shows us everything what might strike one modern family in one fast-forward world and where, no matter how he tries to maintain normal family life, this proves to be not entirely possible with all the mistakes and distractions from the job. It is also about conflicts between generations and what connects them. About shallowness of business life. Friendships. This is the story that will force your eyes to let go a tear of two too often but also it will put a smile on your face every now and again as well.

I stumbled to the "Man and Boy" within Serbian Laguna - my favorite online bookshop, in their editor selection called "Laguna gems" or something like that, and after I reached second cover I felt hunger for more stories like this one. So I browsed bookshop's online store again, secretly hoping for a sequel, and searched the author's page. To my surprise I found two more novels in the trilogy and also short news about author visiting our town in the tour of promoting his latest book. To cut the story short, I ordered remaining novels, read them in record time and yesterday Viktor and I grabbed the first book and went to the signing event to meet Tony in person. I knew that a person who was able to write Harry's adventures, couldn't be much different than his main character, especially after I read somewhere that his personal life story has many connecting points with the novel itself. As it turned out, Tony Parsons was one great guy with nothing but the smile on his face despite the endless line of people waiting for the autographs. He was especially nice with Viktor and shared the fact that his middle name is also Victor, named after his father, so I can't resist not to share the photo of two Viktors below. After the event, my son and I went to McDonald's for a happy meal and to sort out our impressions and later first thing he said to his mother when we came home was: "It was the best day!". I couldn't agree more.

Tony Victor Parsons & Viktor

Anyway, to resume the main story and in conclusion, my life outside work, in its current stage, is one huge place and full of wonders and challenges. No matter if I just read a book, watch a movie, do dishes, participate social occasion, play a game, travel or enjoy precious family time, it is always far ahead of the most enjoyable project at work for which I, in the end, receive a paycheck. This always makes me feel that "work has this strange effect of zooming things larger than they really are".** Money is one great thing we can't live without, but sometimes, if not always, it manages to spoil the very essence for the work it is paid for. In the latest years when I ask myself why I worked so hard on a project that gave me pleasurable time while it lasted, I always answer with "Oh yes, for the money'. And it wasn't my first thought when I asked myself the same question twenty years ago...

Image refs:
http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/5-things-every-son-needs-to-hear-from-his-dad.html
https://vomitingdiamonds.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/boredom-at-the-office/

Refs:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution
* http://connections.msn.com/articles/detail/256476535
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/05/typical-work-day-length/
** http://www.thehighcalling.org/work/work-life-balance
http://financecareers.about.com/od/careermanagement/a/LiveToWork.htm