Why grow up?

Photo by BaronBrian


Thomas Barlow thinks we should all grow up. All of us, in our twenties and thirties (and maybe more), in our insignificant search for self-fulfillment. We should stop with all this soul searching and start living. Living  the real life. And what is the real life according to Barlow in his Financial Times article titled: Tribal workers? It is not really clear. What is clear is that he does not think it will be found in working long hours or in changing jobs and looking for the self-fulfillment on the job.

Here is part of his argument:

At the heart of this disillusionment lies a new attitude towards work. The idea has grown up, in recent years, that work should not be just a means to an end a way to make money, support a family, or gain social prestige – but should provide a rich and fulfilling experience in and of itself. Jobs are no longer just jobs; they are lifestyle options. …

The notion that one can do anything is clearly liberating. But life without constraints has also proved a recipe for endless searching, endless questioning of aspirations. It has made this generation obsessed with self-development and determined, for as long as possible, to minimise personal commitments in order to maximise the options open to them. One might see this as a sign of extended adolescence.

Eventually, they will be forced to realise that living is as much about closing possibilities as it is about creating them.

While I do agree that there is a possibility that the almost infinite number of choices a well educated people in western countries have might be paralyzing due to the famous paradox of choice, I am not sure I understand why the answer could not be found in work and should be found in personal commitments.

Yes, it is true, some people take this idea to the extreme. Some people engulf themselves in their jobs and live as if this was their life. And you know what? While I cannot understand that, they might actually be happy. Not because their job is so great, but because it fits them. They are different then me and probably different than Thomas Barlow.  They enjoy different things and get a sense of fulfillment from different things. And who am I to criticize that?

However, the issue is not about quantity of work, but about whether people can actually find fulfillment in work. And to that my answer is an astounding YES. I admit, I don’t think it happens a lot. As we know, so many people are dissatisfied with their jobs. But it does happen. And some people actually wake up every morning and go to work with a big smile on their faces and a feeling that they are changing the world. And who am I (or who is Thomas Barlow) to tell them to change what they are doing?

I think the disillusionment is the one we have been living in the last two thousands of years or more, where work has been considered a punishment (go back to the story of Adam and Eve). Barlow might want us to return to the era of our parents and grandparents who worked in a factory (actual or not) and enjoyed great lifelong personal commitments. Yes, like that worked really great for ALL of them…

No. I don’t buy that. There is no one solution that works for everybody. Some people can find their fulfillment in a work environment.  Every job can potentially provide a sense of purpose for every employee. And every person has a different path and a right to look for it. Above all, I don’t think that I have to right to tell anybody to grow up… who says growing up is a good thing anyway?