The Third Path…

I found the following quote from Scott Adam’s blog a bit depressing:

Let’s say you have a typical life and try to live it in the healthiest way. You might allocate your 24-hour weekday this way:

Sleep: 8 hours
Exercise: 1 hour
Work: 8 hours
Eating: 2 hours (leisurely)
Hygiene: 1 hour
Travel: 1 (Commute, errands)

That leaves you three hours for family time, sex, shopping, food preparation, chores, household repair, volunteering in the school, and so on. If you have a dentist appointment, or your talkative relative calls, or American Idol has a two-hour special, you’re tapped out.

In other words, in 5 out of 7 days in a week you spend over 88% of the time doing things you must do, and only 12% of the time doing things you actually want to do. This pattern is how you will spend 70% of your working days. Note that Scott cleverly allocates those precious 3 hours to social endeavors (such as family time, and sex) and necessary chores (shopping, personal errands, etc..). What about the so called “me time”? This schedule does not necessarily include the time for verging out in front of the TV, reading a good book, playing video games, writing a blog, catching up on your backed up RSS feeds (although most people do that at work these days), responding to emails and hacking away on that personal project of yours. If you are planning to do any, or all of that something else is got to give.

Scott claims that there are two ways to subvert this evil cycle, and neither one of them is very good. You either slowly kill yourself by not sleeping and/or exercising, or you take a pay cut and work less hours. For a while now I have been doing option #1, accruing an impressive sleep debt over the years. But I do believe there is a third path.

A wise man once told me that if you find a job you love, you will never have to work again. In fact I think he was channeling Confucius, but never mind that. I think this the key to the third path.

The problem naturally is finding a job that is both rewarding, exciting, challenging, interesting and fulfilling. If you wake up on a Monday morning and you actually don’t mind going to work that much, you have probably found that job. If you feel passionate about what you do and you take a great deal of satisfaction in your work, you are probably already there. If you get to tie in your hobbies, and your personal interest into your professional career you are threading the third path. If you get paid to contribute to your favorite open source project, or to nurse your personal pet project to life under protectorate of your company you are a lucky guy.

I think the third path is all about balance. It’s about taking that 8 hours of daily boredom and turning it into 8 hours of “fun”. It might sound silly, but I believe it is not impossible. And there are companies out there which seem to grok this concept. For example Google, which actually allows it’s developers to allocate portion of their work time to personal side projects. Of course I’m sure that no job is perfect, and that even working at Google has a dark side. I think that environment is just a part of the equation. The other important part is your attitude towards work.

Some people may find fulfillment and happiness wile launching some awesome startup based on some crazy idea they came up with. Others may find it working at a big, progressive company such as Google. Yet another may find personal fulfillment and serenity as a ditch digger.

Naturally, you still only get only 3 hours of personal time on a weekday. That part of equation doesn’t change. What changes is the setup:

Sleep: 8 hours
Exercise: 1 hour
Pursuing your dreams, achieving your goals and having fun: 8 hours
Eating: 2 hours (leisurely)
Hygiene: 1 hour
Travel: 1 (Commute, errands)

How does that look to you? Would you still say your life is slowly trickling through your fingers? Would you burn out as quickly? When you put things this way, the 3 hours of free time are merely just an icing on the cake. Easier said than done – I know. But I guess part of it is probably making choices, taking risks, and not settling for a job that merely “pays the bills”.

So how about you? Which path did you pick? Did you find that dream job yet? Are you looking? Or perhaps you had it and lost it? Share in the comments. :)

[tags]scott adams, work, third path, the third path, google[/tags]

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9 Responses to The Third Path…

  1. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Hmm.. can I take the third path with a side order of “slowly kill yourself through lack of sleep and exercise”?

    Path #3 sounds good, but the exercise part… meh, and I never seem to actually need as much sleep as its said you need. I prefer to sleep a lot, but if I need to I can function pretty good at least.

    In any case, haven’t gotten to the point of being on any career path yet. Will try and do something worthwhile when I get there.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Yeah, I get nowhere near the proscribed 8 hours of sleep on an average weekday and I also do not do much in the exercise department. I also have no children or pets so I do get more than my 3 ours here.

    But that’s because I’m 27 and my body can still take a lot of abuse. I suppose that when I’m pushing 50 this will be a bit of a different story. :P

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  3. astine UNITED STATES Konqueror Linux says:

    Yes, basically that is the secret: finding a way to monatize whatever you enjoy doing. This isn’t always possible though. I suspect that there are acouple of other options as well. Earning so much that tou only have to work a few hours a day (which, by the way, is what Adams does,) is one. Or, if you don’t make so much, are lucky enough to have a desk job with an Internet connection, you could just slack and get other stuff done while at work. Depending on how much you do this, some companies dont even frown on it.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    You know, personally I think slacking off at work should be tolerated to a certain degree. I mean, as long as people are meeting deadlines I see no harm in it.

    Especially with software developers it is hard to distinguish slacking off from on-the-job research. For example if you are reading a technology blog, or participating in a technical discussion on a message board or a mailing list about a topic relevant to your work is that slacking off?

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  5. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    bah, faulty list:

    1 hour exercise every day? Not everyone does this. Most people I know who do 1 hour every day enjoy doing so.

    8 hours sleep? Not for me, I’m a 7-hour dude, less than that and I have problems, but admittedly that’s just anecdotal.

    His real problem is a lack of doubling up. If you must exercise every day, why not ride to work? Why should eating not be considered recreation time? My housemates love their food and enjoy every part of the process.

    Why isn’t eating doubled up elsewhere? In the morning I eat during my commute (because I’m a potbellied lazy bastard) and in the evening I don’t ‘sit down’ to eat – I do something else while doing it. While eating I socialise, watch telly, play video games, read stuff, just about everything but have sex and do tax returns. I’m also a little stunned that he spends two hours a day eating without including food prep in that time.

    Again, hygiene taking an hour? Sure, it doesn’t take minutes, but unless you’re high maintenance, it shouldn’t take an hour (or even close to it) every day.

    Sure, the point of the argument is really “you spend a lot of your waking hours at work so do something you love”, but that list isn’t the right way to go about it. I think the right way is to simply say “you spend a lot of your waking hours at work so do something you love” and hope that a large slice of the population loves working in call centres.

    I recently chased a friend out of this company because he had a 1.5 hour commute each way. I pointed out that that was 3 hours of every day he was in traffic, and that taking a closer job he would free up 2 hours each day. Turns out to be a good move – he’s no less happy doing his new job, but only has a 1 hour return commute (so gets 2 hours back per day) and is on 50% more pay.

    In my own attitude towards work I used to work about 1.5-2 hours overtime every day. There was work to be done and it needed doing. I then realised I was on a shit wage, wasn’t being paid, and if there’s work that needs doing, it means that someone should be willing to pay for it – after all, work doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I have a hell of a lot more personal free time since that little epiphany, and as noted above, I am a lazy bastard :) I will still occasionally work overtime if I personally feel a project deserves it, but I won’t if the reason is just ‘there is a lot of work to do’. If management needs that done, they can hire more staff, not take my life without remuneration.

    Unless you’re a workaholic oddball, you work to live not live to work, and how you work should reflect that.

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  6. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    wasn’t being paid => wasn’t being paid overtime

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  7. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    No offense intended but the whole work as “pursueing your dreams” thing kinda rankles me. It sounds a little too much like self help garbage. Like, you can find a job you enjoy, but if you genuinely get excited and have romantic longings for the next board meeting, are you still a truly stable person? Or are you in denial?

    This might be fine for top notch product designers like the folks at apple or honda, but for most of us the reality is that work is a grind and pretending it’s anything is else is just being delusional. Let’s face reality: The bulk of jobs in the service economy are administratory, or just plain boring. To get a job you get hyped about, you need to have at least a degree or masters or whatever in that subject, and need to have a genuine passion for it, and lets not forget, passions wear off, too.

    Is it really wise for anyone at all to actively encourage moving up a career path as “pursueing their dreams”, or to dress it up as anything other than moving up in the spluttering engine of information age capitalism? What if that persons job is to, to paraphrase Coupland here, go sell roadside corn? Is it really healthy in the long run to build so many hopes and efforts and faith into a company, only to find that you’ve been laid off in favour of some backward rural shit in india who can speak only the bare mininum of english necessary to answer the phone, instead of remaining indifferent to it and doing it only as a life necessity? The suicide rate amongst people who lost their jobs would double.

    To me, this Third Path is a massively false economy. First off, you can’t enjoy something you don’t enjoy, no matter how much you want to. Secondly, by putting so much of your happiness (Assuming you manage to do so) into the workplace, parodoxically, you become unhappier being subject to economic tides, corrupt and idiotic management, idiotic coworkers, the social conventions of a workplace and the suffocating coorporate atmosphere that comes with it.

    Inshort, this is an insanely bad idea because it actively encourages people to place their emotional welfare into the hands of companies and organisations which simply don’t care.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @vacri – I agree, the list is not applicable to everyone. Still, it is good enough to use as a template for my generalization and everyone can adjust it for their particular lifestyle.

    @Mack – I actually didn’t mean it this way. For example, I work as a Sysadmin/Software developer and there are parts of my job that I really enjoy. I really get a kick out of solving difficult problems, and building software that works and makes people’s lives easier. It’s intellectually stimulating, and I’m learning new things. When I’m in the zone, hacking away the time flies and I don’t even know where that 8 hours went at the end of the day.

    Then there are days when I have to do shit that I hate, or interact with people that I don’t particularly care for. There are days where I just can’t wait to get out of the office and go home. But that’s just how it goes.

    My point is that if you absolutely hate what you are doing, you are really just wasting a lot of time grinding to earn a buck. The point is to actually like what you do – perhaps not your current job, but rather your profession.

    Also, I do have a MS in Computer Science and I am genuinely passionate about technology. So I wouldn’t really want to take a job that would prevent me from doing technology related stuff even if it paid better. I’ve done that in the past, and I didn’t enjoy it.

    I do not recommend putting all your love, ambition and etc into your career at a single company. Don’t love the company – love what you are doing for the company – and if they lay you off, you can go and do similar thing for another one and be just as happy. I guess that’s my point.

    The third path is not really about “living for your work” – it’s about spending the 8 hours of your average weekday in a way that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself in the head.

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  9. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    That would mean picking up a dilbert book of interesting ways to fuck with the office and remain non-productive, and increase workplace happiness through coworker pranks

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