Have you ever wondered what you would do if money was not an issue? Let’s say that all your financial problems are taken care of. Your kids go to a good school, food is on the table and you even have sufficient money left to buy things you want and can go on the occasional holiday. What would you do with your (precious) time?
Ok let me rephrase the question. If you would look at your average workweek. How many of those hours were productive? How many of those were just you browsing the internet, checking LinkedIn or other social networking sites? Got a number in your head?
When I look at my average workweek, I do my most productive hours late in the day. When most of my colleagues have signed off / gone home and I have the place to myself. I often empty my inbox and do a solid 2 hours of writing various proposals and project documents. If I’d add this all up, then I would have to say – on average – I only produce “real work” for 12-16 hours a week.
After and whilst reading Rutger Bregman’s book Utopia for Realists, the above questions kept coming back to me. Am I being productive? Should or could I be doing something else? What is my dream for a better world and how would I like to contribute to it?
In his book Bregman talks about how small changes can make a huge impact not only on your own life but also to society as a whole. One of the examples he gives is parental leave for both mother and father. Studies have shown that this creates better bonds with the child. Giving breastmilk improves the baby’s IQ and will help with its development. Better development means a child is less likely to become an addict or commit crime. They also seem to be more resilient towards mental problems. As a whole this means less expenses for society to keep children healthy and happy as they mature and become part of our workforce.
Another example he gives is that the best way to stop poverty isn’t giving food, clothes or education. No, it is simply to give money. The studies he mentions calculated that for every dollar you give to someone poor, it saves up to 3 dollars due to the reduction in social services like shelters, healthcare costs or having homeless people in jail just to keep them off the streets.
And this brings us to the main point he makes in his book and the reason this book has gotten so much attention. What if you would just give people money. Don’t discriminate for young or old, rich or poor, just give everyone a set amount of money each month and let each individual decide how to spend it. Don’t have strict oversight but provide those that need it with coaching and guidance on how best to use the money to get a more fulfilled life. When you are in financial problems, you are not capable of thinking ahead, on saving a little on the side for a rainy day or how best to invest in yourself or others so they can thrive. This makes sense, since if you are short on money, you are basically trying to survive day to day. There is no room to think about the future. So if you want to help people, money is the answer.
We as a society have to turn the hierarchy upside down, no longer should people in suits (with bullshit jobs) make the most money, but those that give us the most value should be rewarded, like garbagemen and nurses. As the current pandemic has shown us all, value does not come from the lawyers and the bankers, but from the store clerks, the pharmacist, the medical personnel and the teachers.
So this brings me back to the question I posed at the beginning of this post. What would you do if given the possibility to pursue whatever it was that you wanted to pursue.
As I’ve grown older and more experienced, this question is a recurring theme almost every year, especially when the year ends. Me and my spouse always take a “New Year Walk” the first of January and discuss how the previous year has been. What have we achieved? Are we still happy with how things are going and what should change?
If I look at myself, now again at year’s end, I like what I have achieved on a professional level. Sure I can still take a next step in my career, perhaps becoming a management consultant or a manager myself, but would that make me happy? When I recently discussed this with people close to me I could sum up my perfect future job / workweek as:
- 1 or 2 days per week teaching. Preferably at a university level helping students make their next step towards paying jobs or high school kids who are struggling to find out what their passion is and what they should pursue as a career.
- 1 or 2 days per week doing (light) consulting work. This is a simple way to help organizations who have difficulties achieving project goals, but also a nice way to stay up-to-date.
- And the rest of my time? I would love to write books and make my own (mobile) games.
That last one might sound odd if you know me, but recently I have started writing down all my ideas and thoughts on what stories I would like to tell and how some of those stories could translate to games. During the pandemic I stumbled upon this quote by Stan Lee and it pretty much sums up why I believe I should be telling my stories.
I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.Stan Lee
For now this future I have in my mind still seems far away, since I still have bills to pay and a Universal Basic Income here in the Netherlands isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.