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Overwork and the illusion of a "high-paying" job

This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong.

I recently read a short article in The New Yorker titled The Cult of Overwork. In it, James Surowiecki writes:

"For decades, junior bankers and Wall Street firms had an unspoken pact: in exchange for reasonably high-paying jobs and a shot at obscene wealth, young analysts agreed to work fifteen hours a day, and forgo anything resembling a normal life."

Reading that, I had a thought. If you're working 75 hours a week, is your job really "high-paying"?

Let's say you have:

a) 40-hour a week job that pays $100,000 a year, and;

b) 75-hour a week job that pays $100,000 a year.

Obviously, a) is the better deal. And if you break it down by the hour, without holidays, a) pays $48/hour and b) pays $25/hour.

Suddenly, that high-paying job seems pretty average-paying.

Last year, I earned a high income. Part of my goal for this year is to earn as much money as I did last year, and, if I work 80 hours a week, I could probably make that happen. Since my lay off, I'm fortunate that things are looking up, and I now have work options, one of them being: work twice as much and make a lot of money.

But last year, my high income wasn't based on 80 hours a week; it was based on 40 to 50. I'm not saying it's a bad idea to work twice as much and earn a lot of money. It's an appealing option. But if my time has any value, I just wouldn't truly be accomplishing my goal with that option.

In mulling this over, I had an unsettling thought: I don't want to simply earn a lot of money; I want to be a high-earner. To me, earning six-figures and working 80 hours a week does not a high-earner make. It just means, essentially, you're working two jobs.

For me, this thought was unsettling because the poor kid in me is screaming: Who the #*%! do you think you are? You should be so lucky to work 80 hours a week for that kind of money!

At my core, I can't help but to agree. But part my agreeing is that I feel guilty for thinking there's more out there for me. I don't want to be entitled, after all. Plus, I'm a workaholic anyway; it's only natural for me bend to the "cult of overwork."

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