More Than Money
Issue #36

Money and Work

Table of Contents

“The Measure of Success”

From The Editor
Pamela Gerloff

Pamela Gerloff, Ed.D., is the editor of More Than Money Journal. Her prior publications and consulting work in schools, businesses, and nonprofits have focused on learning, growth, and change. She holds a doctorate in human development from Harvard University.

Among my happiest memories of childhood and adolescence were times I spent working. Really working. Doing chores around home. Cleaning sinks. Taking care of animals. Spending a summer evening with my family while each of us did different tasks, like cutting grass, raking leaves, washing windows" There was never a shortage of work. I enjoyed doing useful things at school, too, like scraping lunch plates in the cafeteria kitchen. It may seem strange today, but back in that place and time, kids were allowed and encouraged to work. Now we live in a culture that seems to define work as something you do mainly in order to get a tangible, monetary reward, or status in the eyes of others, or power. The common perception is that "work" is something to be avoided, something you try to get away with not doing, something that only those less fortunate or less intelligent have to do. (There is a presumption that "smart people" don't do "real" work-they just make lots of money, reaping the big profits from work done by others.)

To me, work was fulfilling, satisfying, rewarding in itself. It was also a way of connecting to home and community, a way of contributing something of value. In work, I experienced "flow"- that feeling of peaceful contentment and connection to something deeper in myself and in life. In work, I developed a sense of self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence. By working, I learned that I could do things. I learned that I was competent, that I was needed, and that it felt good to work.

This now sounds almost anachronistic in a culture that seems to hold confused and ambivalent attitudes toward work. If you don't work you're a lazy bum; yet, it's the people who make money without doing much "work" that our culture seems to most admire. John Ruskin's words-"The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets from it but what he becomes by it"-express a sentiment that many people simply don't relate to anymore. (What do you mean the reward for work is what you become by it? You work to get things: Money. Security. Influence. Comfortable surroundings. Ego gratification. Freedom.)

Recently, I told a ten-year-old boy that I used to enjoy working as a child. He replied that he wished he didn't have to do any work. None of his friends had to, and they could get everything they wanted. As we talked, it became apparent that his goal in life was to have a lot of money and not to have to work too much.

That seems to be the new American dream. Success is making lots of money. Success is not having to work. Success means doing only certain types of work (high status jobs with high pay and a high glamour quotient).

This journal issue turns all that on its head, although we didn't begin with that intention. We just wanted to explore the relationship between money and work. What we found was that many people are redefining for themselves the meaning of success-and, in the process, are examining their own relationship to money and work. People are questioning pervasive cultural assumptions about success, work, and money; they are going against cultural norms-even when they are uncertain, when they seem all alone, or when it is simply hard for them to do. Above all, people are questioning their own assumptions, thoughtfully examining the purpose and meaning of their own lives, and acting to align their money, their work, and their values.

The result of our exploration is this compendium of viewpoints about work and money, including Mark Albion discussing how to find your "right place" in your work life; Bob Kenny on learning to support his son's passion, even when it's not the same as his; Vicki Robin on why it can be hard to think of work as separate from earning money; Dov Charney demonstrating a cost-effective way to pay workers more while still being economically successful; Diana Paolitto reflecting on the choices she made to balance work and family; Molly Stranahan and Ruth Ann Harnisch on what happens when you don't have to work for money; and Juliet Schor on the dilemma our society is experiencing with so many people spending so much time working that we don't have time left to smell the flowers.

Work is so central to our lives, whether or not we work in a capacity that is formally recognized or rewarded. In humans, there seems to be an urge to give of ourselves, to challenge ourselves, and to express ourselves in some way in the world. It is an urge to become who we are and who we have the potential to be.

If, as a society, we are to realize our highest potential, I believe we will need to carefully examine the limitations we place on our growth by the way we measure success. The people in this issue are leading the way, as they guide us into dialogue about work and money, and ultimately, the meaning and measure of success.