Monday, February 25, 2019

small business ideas for men

small business ideas for men

7 Biblical Secrets to Business Success - Aish

Posted: 04 Jan 2014 12:00 AM PST

After graduating law school and practicing for two years, I launched an airline ticket business which was quickly profitable. I sold that business in 1991 and then launched Hotel Reservations Network which became I sold the balance of my interest in in 2003 and after a five year non-compete launched Recently during our weekly Friday night dinner discussion, I mentioned that is growing and profitable and reached some new milestones.

My mother asked me, "How did you know what to do at this company and the others to make them succeed? You didn't go to business school or work in a big company."

She was right. I didn't have any formal business training other than a basic course in accounting and finance. No work experience in a business. No internships. No mentors.

My answer surprised her. "I owe all of my business success to you and Dad for sending me to a Jewish Day School for 12 years. That's where I learned best guide book to running a successful business ever written – the Bible."

Here are the most important biblical principles that led to my success.

1. Do your homework.

I learned the principle of due diligence through Talmudic study. For years, I studied debates among rabbinical scholars on various topics. Nothing was taken for granted – all arguments were considered and debated. I learned to ask why and to make sure I understood the issues. Studying alone was not enough. We were paired with other students and spent much of our time discussing the issues with the classmate we were paired with before the next class. We learned to tear each other's arguments apart. We read every commentary on the topic we could find.

I approached business the same way. I did my homework. I researched the competition. I tested the market. I argued the other side. There is no shortcut for doing your homework in a business and understanding the competitive landscape. Major mistakes can often be avoided and opportunities found by speaking to experts and analysts, tearing apart business plans, doing market studies and focus groups, analyzing expenses and doing your homework – due diligence.

2. Treat your employees fairly.

One of the most difficult parts of running a business is dealing with employee issues. Employees can be demanding: raises, time off, expenses, conflicts and more. When confronted with these issues, I just thought about the principle of paying employees on time: "The wages of a worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning" (Lev 19:13). The Torah also commands us not to take advantage of your employees: "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger" (Deut, 24:14). This taught me to always treat employees equally and fairly. I applied an absolute level of fairness among all our employees when it came to pay and all other issues. Race, age, gender, religion, color – these had no bearing. It is always difficult to say no, but when you develop a reputation for fairness to your employees, they respect you more and know that they were treated properly.

3. Have the highest level of customer service.

There is a high level of customer service issues in the travel business. Flight delays, lost luggage, noisy rooms, housekeeping issues and more. There are also many that try to take advantage of the system. I employed a very simple standard for customer care: "Love your neighbor like yourself" (Lev. 19:18) – put yourself in the shoes of the customer and treat them as you want to be treated. While many companies struggle with how to handle customer service, following this standard is the best way to build a long term loyal customer base.

We all prefer to patronize businesses that are fair on returns/exchanges and that treat us well. We refer our friends there. When we launched, top customer service was a great competitive advantage in a marketplace of foreign outsourcing and cost cutting. The high level of customer service has differentiated us in the marketplace and enabled us to build a loyal customer base. Treat your customers the way you'd want to be treated.

4. Be honest with customers.

I was constantly confronted with dilemmas: How much do we disclose to customers? Do we deliver exactly what was ordered or something inferior to make a higher profit? Do we put in slightly less weight than the amount the customer believes they are paying for? Do we charge the customer more than we agreed to charge? Do we refund them less? These answers are easy when you follow the Bible's guidance: "You shall have just balances and just weights" (Lev. 19:36).

Even if your customer won't find out – don't cheat them. "Do not… put a stumbling block before the blind" (Lev. 19:14) means do not take advantage when the other party doesn't know or see what you are doing to their disadvantage. We are often confronted with situations where we can increase profits by cutting corners or otherwise take advantage of the customer in a way that they won't know about. Why not increase profits by using a cheaper material or a second hand product? Use lower cost components even though the customer believes you are using high end components. When confronted with these dilemmas, the answer is easy when following the biblical principle of not putting a stumbling block before the blind. Don't cheat your customers, even if they don't know about it.

5. Always act as if you are being watched.

Your customer overpays you. You receive a refund twice. You are at the cash register and are given a $100 bill instead of a $10 bill. Do you keep the funds that were mistakenly given you or do you give it back? Who will know?

The Sages say, "Know what is above you: An eye that sees" (Ethics of the Fathers, 2:1). When you realize that someone above is always watching you, the answer is easy. You act differently and work under a higher standard. You run your business and personal life honestly all the time.

6. Build a reputation for integrity and honesty.

The Talmud discusses the questions one is asked in the heavenly court at the end of one's life (Shabbat 31a). The first question asked is: Were you honest in your business dealings? This is the first question because it's the true measure of one's success in life. There is no greater temptation to cheat than is a business setting where one can earn more profits. If you can overcome this great temptation, you will reach a high level of character that others esteem. Your customers, employees and those you do business with want to patronize your business. When you are honest, your business grows. You also have the right answer in the heavenly court. As the Medrash says, "If one is honest in his business dealings and people esteem him, it is accounted to him as though he had fulfilled the whole Torah" (Mechilta B'Shalach 1).

7. Be humble: accept and encourage criticism.

"He who loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid" (Proverbs 12:1). Judaism teaches us to be humble. Pride gets in the way of success. We all make mistakes. Never think you are always right. Accept and encourage criticism, especially from your employees that understand the business better than anyone. My best ideas came from customers and employees. We read every customer and employee suggestion carefully. I see so many managers and CEOs that don't listen to their employee suggestions. This is a big mistake. By creating an environment that allows suggestions and criticism, you can greatly improve your business and allow employees and customers to feel more part of the business.

What to do once you are profitable

The Torah teaches us not only how to build a successful business, but also what to do once it is successful. The Bible teaches us to be socially responsible and not forget about those that don't have food to eat. We have a social responsibility to our communities. We are obligated to donate a portion of our profits to the needy. Encourage your employees, partners and customers to also be charitable through incentive, matching and other programs. Donate a portion of your profits to charity. Run promotions that contribute a portion of every sale to charity. Match your employee charitable giving to encourage them to be charitable. Encourage your employees to do community service. Use your business as a vehicle for community improvement. "The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself" (Proverbs 11:24).

View your work as a means, not an end. When we help others, we feel fulfilled and accomplished. When you leverage your business to improve the community around you, you wake up every day and appreciate what you have accomplished for the community. As King Solomon said, "Our work is meaningless unless it is to do good" (Ecclesiastes 3:12–13). Let's use our success to be socially responsible and we will live much more meaningful lives.

Women Running The Liquor World: Edition Five - Forbes

Posted: 24 Feb 2019 08:58 PM PST

Though the spirits industry is often characterized as one dominated by men, that isn't to say that there aren't plenty of women who are currently at the helm of some of the world's most notable liquor brands. From master distillers, brand ambassadors and owners to those at the forefront of marketing, innovation and every role in between, these women haven't let stereotypical industry "norms" hold them back. Today they are leaders in their respective fields, shaking up the world of liquor, all while proving gender is irrelevant when it comes to crafting the perfect libation.

As a part of an ongoing series, we chatted with the badass women running the liquor world to talk humble beginnings, career paths, "made it" moments, favorite cocktails and more. This is edition five of Women Running The Liquor World. For edition four, click here.

Nicole Austin, General Manager and Distiller, Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.

Nicole Austin, General Manager and Distiller, Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.

How did you get started in the spirits world?

A combination of luck, grit and perseverance led me to my first job in the industry at Kings County Distillery. When I started out, I very aggressively pursued any and every craft distiller I could find. It was very difficult to break into such a small group with rigorous resume requirements, but after more than a year of trying to get into the industry with no success, I saw a notice in the paper that the first distilling license in New York City since Prohibition had just been granted. I showed up on their very first day selling corn whiskey in public and insisted that they hire me. At the time, they weren't able to bring me on with a salary, so I accepted equity and became a partner. That was the beginning of it all!

You're a chemical engineer-turned-whiskey master. How did that happen? At what point did you realize your passion for distilling?

It was pretty early in my career that I looked up and realized I didn't want a traditional chemical engineering job. Like all good ideas, my next move came to me in a bar. My friend and beverage director, Jeff Galli, was pouring me some whiskies and talking excitedly about how they had been distilled. That was my "aha!" moment. I realized that distilling and making whiskey was literally what I went to school for! My infatuation was instant. It felt obvious to me right away that whiskey was the closest an engineer could come to making art and that was what I had always aspired to do.

How have you been able to break down barriers and stereotypes in an industry that's historically dominated by men?

While there are certainly stereotypes that the spirits industry is dominated by men, when I got started the craft spirits industry I was so new that it wasn't dominated by anyone at all! I was the Master Blender of Kings County Distillery because I was making the whisky. I was the first President of the New York State Distillers Guild because I was a founder. I was on the first Board of Directors of the American Craft Spirits Association because I helped create it.  That's a legacy I'm proud of and it has everything to do with being an ambitious, young, assertive, brash leader who happened to be female.

Talk about your "made it" moment, has there been one?

I haven't had my 'I made it, I can relax now' moment, but there have been a few great achievements that felt tangible when my hard work was recognized. One, in fact, just happened a few days ago while attending the American Craft Spirits Association convention. I was crowned "Queen of the Good Guy Distillers," which is an informal cohort of distillers that help each other out. They're my "family of choice" so this recognition really touched my heart!

Looking back further, one of my first "made it moments" was when one of my whiskies was featured on Martha Stewart's holiday gift list. It not only helped our whiskey selling out by mid-December, but it also happened to be the first time my family recognized my 'hobby' was actually a real thing. My mother was so proud that I think she carried around copies of the magazine in her purse until April.

Also, The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act passing in 2017 was a legacy moment for me. We had been working on this for years, and like all legislative efforts, it felt like it might never happen. When Senator Portman added it as an amendment to the tax bill, it represented the first time in U.S. history where Americans reduced taxes on spirits. Because of that bill, distilleries all around the U.S. were able to create and survive. That was the moment that I knew I could stop making whisky tomorrow and still have left a lasting impact on the industry I care about so much.

Favorite cocktail and why?

I like to keep it simple with cocktails. You can find me sipping on The Lowball, which is made with George Dickel No. 12, a dash of bitters, topped with club soda and served on the rocks in an old fashioned glass.

Amanda Turnbull, Partner and Executive Vice President, Legacy MarketingLegacy Marketing

Amanda Turnbull, Partner and Executive Vice President, Legacy Marketing

How did you get your start in the spirits world?

In 1999 I was doing marketing for Gatorade and NASCAR when my company was hired to produce Scotch-tasting dinners for Chivas Regal, a brand I loved. We only had the budget for one full-time staffer, but I was so eager to get into spirits, I volunteered to assist on my own time, setting out glassware and tasting mats and pouring Scotch. This eventually led to me taking over the entire program. For the first few years I was still setting out glassware, tasting mats and pouring Scotch. But I was actually getting paid to do it, a dream come true!

For the past 18 years you've been in charge of leading, growing and managing all national marketing initiatives for Pernod Ricard USA, what are some of the major things that have evolved in the industry in terms of the way liquor is marketed since you started out?

Early on, we saw an opportunity to market whiskey to women. That wasn't happening at the time. Our competitors focused only on affluent, professional males for brown spirits. Every bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey networking dinner was targeting men. We knew there was an equal number of affluent, professional women who wanted to network, who didn't want to be left out of meetings that took place on golf courses with a Scotch and a cigar in hand. We also knew our whiskey brands, particularly Jameson, Chivas and The Glenlivet, were very approachable for women. We knew we could create delicious cocktails that would appeal to both genders and we knew we could create memorable events and experiences that would resonate with men and women.

Now there are Women in Whiskey societies; more and more Scotches are tailoring campaigns to females. And brands are not just targeting women with Cosmos and fruity cocktails. Women drink shots, women like their whiskey neat too. Forward-thinking brands have recognized this and evolved their marketing approach to include women across the spirits category.

You and your team work to creatively promote and launch premium spirits brands — do you find that particular challenges arise because it's such a male-dominated industry? How do you work around them?

It's interesting because the sales force, liquor distributors and bar owners we work with are almost all male, yet my team and my spirits clients are increasingly female. While there are certainly still some 'old school' sales attitudes and tactics, things have changed quite a bit in the last decade. This business is largely about relationships, trust and respect. Women must be confident, strong, and never afraid to share their ideas, passion or voice. I believe our male counterparts appreciate and respect what women bring to the industry today. We're seeing more and more female leaders in our business — from the bar to the boardroom.

What advice would you give yourself when you first started out?

Work with people you like and brands you truly love, because when you're in the spirits industry it's not a 9-5 desk job. It will inform what you do with your nightlife, your social life, your meals and entertainment. Think big, be bold, trust your instincts and focus on experiences. Traditional advertising will soon become irrelevant, but unique experiences will always resonate. There's no commercial or billboard as powerful as a one-on-one engagement or a recommendation from a trusted peer or a bartender you know.

Talk about your "made it" moment, has there been one?

A big spirits program of ours won "The Grand Ex" [best experiential marketing campaign of the year] and multiple industry awards. Being on the agency side, you tend to defer to your clients for things like accepting awards or making speeches. Our main client at the time was a strong male I'd worked with for a long time and respected tremendously. He was never one to shy away from the spotlight and I say that with love. When they announced our name, I waited for him to go up to the podium, but he gestured for me to take the stage and accept the award on our behalf. The 'made it' moment here wasn't winning the big award, it was the moment when a very senior male in the industry, and a client no less, acknowledged that my contributions — and particularly those of my mostly female team— were what got us there.

Favorite cocktail and why?

Jameson & Club Soda with a lime—refreshing, delicious, and perfect for every occasion. I enjoy it so much I named my firstborn son "John Jameson," after the whiskey. True story!

Camille Ralph Vidal, Global Ambassador, St-GermainSt. Germain

Camille Ralph Vidal, Global Ambassador, St-Germain

How did you get your start in the spirits world?

I've worked in hospitality pretty much my entire life. I started with pouring glasses of wine and pints of beer over my dad's theater bar when I was young. I then worked in bars and restaurants during University, but it wasn't until I moved to Australia 10 years ago when I officially started working in cocktail bars that made it all click together.

Growing up in an artistic family, I was always looking for ways to express my inner creativity and the day I started experimenting with different flavor profiles and ingredients, I knew that creating cocktails was something I truly felt passionate about. It brought together everything I loved  hosting and true hospitality with beautifully crafted cocktails made with thoughtful and quality ingredients. It sparked something in me and I still love it to this day. I have the utmost respect for the service industry, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

What would people find most surprising about your role as Madame St-Germain?

I guess, for people, it was hard to understand the nature of my role sometimes. I often hear, 'wait do you travel around the world to drink cocktails?!' Of course, there is way more to it. I have always seen being a global ambassador as an opportunity to help grow and support the industry, especially bartenders. I've learned so much working for St-Germain for nearly 8 years, and it's been an incredible journey thus far.

What's the inspiration behind your upcoming book, How to Spritz French Fluently?

My inspiration was to share the French aperitif culture with readers, which is often focused on spending time with loved ones, having interesting conversations and sharing stories over easy to drink cocktails like the Spritz. The Spritz category has really evolved throughout the years, and I wanted to share a curated collection of creative, inspiring, and of course delicious French Spritz recipes including St-Germain elderflower liqueur.

Created by some of the world's top bartenders, the featured recipes are perfect for readers to recreate and enjoy at home with their family and friends. Often referred to as the bartender's butter, St-Germain is extremely versatile and can be used to elevate and enhance a variety of cocktails.

One of your goals is to redefine the bartending industry by incorporating health and wellness within the community. Why is this important to you?

Working in the hospitality industry for most of my life, and as a true advocate of the community, I've seen how challenging and grueling it can be, and how often people come and go; it's hard to find balance in such a fast-paced industry.

It's always been a goal for me to help make progress and improvement in this industry. Supporting women in hospitality has always been a big focus for me. And after a few years working in the industry and traveling the world, health and wellness have become part of my daily lifestyle and a personal passion. I am hoping to help this industry become a healthier, happier and more sustainable one.

My mission is also to bridge the gap between food and drink + wellness, offering a more Healthy Hedonist lifestyle. Just living day-to-day isn't enough; I want people to "Drink Well, Eat Well, Live Well and Be Well" as we say at La Maison Wellness, the online home of wellness I've recently launched.

Talk about your "made it" moment, has there been one?

There have been many moments in my career when I felt vibrantly alive and deeply grateful to be where I am. From building a team of ambassadors around the world and having the incredible opportunity to mentor them; to launching books; inspiring women around the world; supporting and helping to grow amazing bartenders; and to, of course, winning Best International Ambassador during the Tales of the Cocktail 2017 Spirited Awards in New Orleans – I am truly in awe of everything I've learned over the years from some of the most remarkable people I've met around the world.

These days, though, more than the "made it" moment, I try to focus on 'knowing it's good when it's good'. A dear friend of mine told me this one day and I found it very powerful. We often focus so much on reaching high goals, we forget to celebrate the steps of our journey. St-Germain is all about savoring the moment and enjoying the company you have, so I take this mantra to heart.

Favorite cocktail and why?

There is a cocktail for every moment, it would be hard for me to say what's my favorite as I believe it depends on the time of the day, the season, the place, the mood, the vibe... But I would say, these days I'm more of a light and refreshing low abv (low alcoholic) kind of drinker. A beautiful and simple Spritz such as the St- Germain Spritz, vermouth on the rocks, a well-made glass of wine or even a beautifully- crafted non-alcoholic cocktail. A healthy hedonist celebrating life and mindful drinking.

Kaitlyn Callaluca Skloss, Co-Founder, Frontier Spirits CompanyFrontier Spirits Company

Kaitlyn Callaluca Skloss, Co-Founder, Frontier Spirits Company

How did you get started in the tequila world, is it something you've always enjoyed drinking?

Yes, I absolutely love smooth tequilas! My lifelong passion for travel introduced me to the world of fine tequila in Mexico years ago, but it wasn't until I met the man of my dreams that I found myself living the life of a true "Tequila Connoisseur." I often joke about my title, "CMO," it's Chief Margarita Officer around here! Seriously though, being an entrepreneur is more than just a job, or even a career, it truly is a lifestyle choice for the both of us. We're a husband and wife team and we build our lives around our passions, our family, and of course, tradition.

Do you see the way people drink tequila evolving?

Without a doubt! For years people thought of tequila as the bad memories they had from college; cheap sugary swill and unbearable hangovers, but times have changed. A number of high-quality tequilas are finally on the market and when you find a 100% Blue Weber Agave tequila with Pura Vida's flavor profile, you'll know why the tequila category is the fastest growing spirit in the entire industry. Whether you love mixing cocktails or prefer the simple pleasure of a perfect A̭├▒ejo, it's not your college yearbook tequila anymore.

What are the challenges of being a CMO of a smaller craft brand?

Marketing a small, batch craft brand is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. Going head to head with the big boys and earning your place among the finest tequilas gave us a devoted following, and building on that base is a challenge we tackle every single day. Educating people was the first hurdle, getting them to understand how delicious and versatile top-shelf tequila really takes some doing, but the wave of enthusiasm for batch craft, fine spirits means a new set of challenges for Pura Vida. Now we're finding untapped markets and new consumers who've yet to experience the wonders of truly premium blue agave tequila.

Talk about your "made-it" moment, has there been one?

I wouldn't say there was a "made it" moment, per se, but I've certainly had those moments where I felt the rush of steering the ship of an award-winning international success story. And then again, I've also felt the sting and frustration of things not going to plan, but I believe in myself and my team, and we know we have a winning recipe. Each day we take steps to achieve our next goal, and our mindset here is there is no end to what we do. We'll continue to make the best tequila you've ever tasted and as long as we do that we know it's a job well done. I just have to get more people to give it a taste, the tequila will do the rest!

What's your favorite cocktail and why?

Easy, the original Mexican Margarita, made with only the amazing Pura Vida tequila, of course! A little Naranja, the orange liqueur that gives it that authentic Mexican flavor, a twist or two of fresh lime, and some agave nectar to taste, yum, so good! It's a classic that never goes out of style.  The only other favorite I would mention is my low-calorie alternative to my beloved margarita, we call it the "T&T "– Tequila and Topo Chico.  Topo Chico is Mexican mineral water and we mix fresh lime and lemon wedges with Topo Chico and Pura Vida Reposado, it's unbelievably refreshing, so tasty, and next to no calories!

Know a badass woman in the spirits industry? Or better yet, are you one? Send an email to with a bio for a chance to be featured in the next edition of Women Running The Liquor World.

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable - The Atlantic

Posted: 24 Feb 2019 03:00 AM PST

In his 1930 essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren," the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour workweek in the 21st century, creating the equivalent of a five-day weekend. "For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem," Keynes wrote, "how to occupy the leisure."

This became a popular view. In a 1957 article in The New York Times, the writer Erik Barnouw predicted that, as work became easier, our identity would be defined by our hobbies, or our family life. "The increasingly automatic nature of many jobs, coupled with the shortening work week [leads] an increasing number of workers to look not to work but to leisure for satisfaction, meaning, expression," he wrote.

These post-work predictions weren't entirely wrong. By some counts, Americans work much less than they used to. The average work year has shrunk by more than 200 hours. But those figures don't tell the whole story. Rich, college-educated people—especially men—work more than they did many decades ago. They are reared from their teenage years to make their passion their career and, if they don't have a calling, told not to yield until they find one.

The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.

1.             THE GOSPEL OF WORK

The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms. Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions competing for congregants.

What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one's identity and life's purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.

Homo industrious is not new to the American landscape. The American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.

No large country in the world as productive as the United States averages more hours of work a year. And the gap between the U.S. and other countries is growing. Between 1950 and 2012, annual hours worked per employee fell by about 40 percent in Germany and the Netherlands—but by only 10 percent in the United States. Americans "work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get less in unemployment, disability, and retirement benefits, and retire later, than people in comparably rich societies," wrote Samuel P. Huntington in his 2005 book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity.

One group has led the widening of the workist gap: rich men.

In 1980, the highest-earning men actually worked fewer hours per week than middle-class and low-income men, according to a survey by the Minneapolis Fed. But that's changed. By 2005, the richest 10 percent of married men had the longest average workweek. In that same time, college-educated men reduced their leisure time more than any other group. Today, it is fair to say that elite American men have transformed themselves into the world's premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similarly rich countries.

This shift defies economic logic—and economic history. The rich have always worked less than the poor, because they could afford to. The landed gentry of preindustrial Europe dined, danced, and gossiped, while serfs toiled without end. In the early 20th century, rich Americans used their ample downtime to buy weekly movie tickets and dabble in sports. Today's rich American men can afford vastly more downtime. But they have used their wealth to buy the strangest of prizes: more work!

Perhaps long hours are part of an arms race for status and income among the moneyed elite. Or maybe the logic here isn't economic at all. It's emotional—even spiritual. The best-educated and highest-earning Americans, who can have whatever they want, have chosen the office for the same reason that devout Christians attend church on Sundays: It's where they feel most themselves. "For many of today's rich there is no such thing as 'leisure'; in the classic sense—work is their play," the economist Robert Frank wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "Building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun."

Workism may have started with rich men, but the ethos is spreading—across gender and age. In a 2018 paper on elite universities, researchers found that for women, the most important benefit of attending a selective college isn't higher wages, but more hours at the office. In other words, our elite institutions are minting coed workists. What's more, in a recent Pew Research report on the epidemic of youth anxiety, 95 percent of teens said "having a job or career they enjoy" would be "extremely or very important" to them as an adult. This ranked higher than any other priority, including "helping other people who are in need" (81 percent) or getting married (47 percent). Finding meaning at work beats family and kindness as the top ambition of today's young people.

Even as Americans worship workism, its leaders consecrate it from the marble daises of Congress and enshrine it in law. Most advanced countries give new parents paid leave; but the United States guarantees no such thing. Many advanced countries ease the burden of parenthood with national policies; but U.S. public spending on child care and early education is near the bottom of international rankings. In most advanced countries, citizens are guaranteed access to health care by their government; but the majority of insured Americans get health care through—where else?—their workplace. Automation and AI may soon threaten the labor force, but America's welfare system has become more work-based in the past 20 years. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which replaced much of the existing welfare system with programs that made benefits contingent on the recipient's employment.

The religion of work isn't just a cultist feature of America's elite. It's also the law.

Here's a fair question: Is there anything wrong with hard, even obsessive, work?

Humankind has not yet invented itself out of labor. Machine intelligence isn't ready to run the world's factories, or care for the sick. In every advanced economy, most prime-age people who can work do—and in poorer countries, the average workweek is even longer than in the United States. Without work, including nonsalaried labor like raising a child, most people tend to feel miserable. Some evidence suggests that long-term unemployment is even more wrenching than losing a loved one, since the absence of an engaging distraction removes the very thing that tends to provide solace to mourners in the first place.

There is nothing wrong with work, when work must be done. And there is no question that an elite obsession with meaningful work will produce a handful of winners who hit the workist lottery: busy, rich, and deeply fulfilled. But a culture that funnels its dreams of self-actualization into salaried jobs is setting itself up for collective anxiety, mass disappointment, and inevitable burnout.

In the past century, the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings—from necessity to status to meaning. In an agrarian or early-manufacturing economy, where tens of millions of people perform similar routinized tasks, there are no delusions about the higher purpose of, say, planting corn or screwing bolts: It's just a job.

The rise of the professional class and corporate bureaucracies in the early 20th century created the modern journey of a career, a narrative arc bending toward a set of precious initials: VP, SVP, CEO. The upshot is that for today's workists, anything short of finding one's vocational soul mate means a wasted life.

"We've created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work," says Oren Cass, the author of the book The Once and Future Worker. "We tell young people that their work should be their passion. 'Don't give up until you find a job that you love!' we say. 'You should be changing the world!' we tell them. That is the message in commencement addresses, in pop culture, and frankly, in media, including The Atlantic."

But our desks were never meant to be our altars. The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. It's hard to self-actualize on the job if you're a cashier—one of the most common occupations in the U.S.—and even the best white-collar roles have long periods of stasis, boredom, or busywork. This mismatch between expectations and reality is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery, and it might explain why rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S. are "substantially higher" than they were in the 1980s, according to a 2014 study.

One of the benefits of being an observant Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian is that these God-fearing worshippers put their faith in an intangible and unfalsifiable force of goodness. But work is tangible, and success is often falsified. To make either the centerpiece of one's life is to place one's esteem in the mercurial hands of the market. To be a workist is to worship a god with firing power.


The Millennial generation—born in the past two decades of the 20th century—came of age in the roaring 1990s, when workism coursed through the veins of American society. On the West Coast, the modern tech sector emerged, minting millionaires who combined utopian dreams with a do-what-you-love ethos. On the East Coast, President Clinton grabbed the neoliberal baton from Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and signed laws that made work the nucleus of welfare policy.

As Anne Helen Petersen wrote in a viral essay on "Millennial burnout" for BuzzFeed News—building on ideas Malcolm Harris addressed in his book, Kids These Days—Millennials were honed in these decades into machines of self-optimization. They passed through a childhood of extracurricular overachievement and checked every box of the success sequence, only to have the economy blow up their dreams.

While it's inadvisable to paint 85 million people with the same brush, it's fair to say that American Millennials have been collectively defined by two external traumas. The first is student debt. Millennials are the most educated generation ever, a distinction that should have made them rich and secure. But rising educational attainment has come at a steep price. Since 2007, outstanding student debt has grown by almost $1 trillion, roughly tripling in just 12 years. And since the economy cratered in 2008, average wages for young graduates have stagnated—making it even harder to pay off loans.

The second external trauma of the Millennial generation has been the disturbance of social media, which has amplified the pressure to craft an image of success—for oneself, for one's friends and colleagues, and even for one's parents. But literally visualizing career success can be difficult in a services and information economy. Blue-collar jobs produce tangible products, like coal, steel rods, and houses. The output of white-collar work—algorithms, consulting projects, programmatic advertising campaigns—is more shapeless and often quite invisible. It's not glib to say that the whiter the collar, the more invisible the product.

Since the physical world leaves few traces of achievement, today's workers turn to social media to make manifest their accomplishments. Many of them spend hours crafting a separate reality of stress-free smiles, postcard vistas, and Edison-lightbulbed working spaces. "The social media feed [is] evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself," Petersen writes.

Among Millennial workers, it seems, overwork and "burnout" are outwardly celebrated (even if, one suspects, they're inwardly mourned). In a recent New York Times essay, "Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?," the reporter Erin Griffith pays a visit to the co-working space WeWork, where the pillows urge Do what you love, and the neon signs implore workers to hustle harder. These dicta resonate with young workers. As several studies show, Millennials are meaning junkies at work. "Like all employees," one Gallup survey concluded, "millennials care about their income. But for this generation, a job is about more than a paycheck, it's about a purpose."

The problem with this gospel—Your dream job is out there, so never stop hustling—is that it's a blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion. Long hours don't make anybody more productive or creative; they make people stressed, tired and bitter. But the overwork myths survive "because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elite techies," Griffith writes.

There is something slyly dystopian about an economic system that has convinced the most indebted generation in American history to put "purpose over paycheck." Indeed, if you were designing a Black Mirror labor force that encouraged overwork without higher wages, what might you do? Perhaps you'd persuade educated young people that income comes second; that no job is just a job; and that the only real reward from work is the ineffable glow of purpose. It is a diabolical game that creates a prize so tantalizing yet rare that almost nobody wins, but everybody feels obligated to play forever.

3.             TIME FOR HAPPINESS

This is the right time for a confession. I am the very thing that I am criticizing.

I am devoted to my job. I feel most myself when I am fulfilled by my work—including the work of writing an essay about work. My sense of identity is so bound up in my job, my sense of accomplishment, and my feeling of productivity that bouts of writer's block can send me into an existential funk that can spill over into every part of my life. And I know enough writers, tech workers, marketers, artists, and entrepreneurs to know that my affliction is common, especially within a certain tranche of the white-collar workforce.

Some workists, moreover, seem deeply fulfilled. These happy few tend to be intrinsically motivated; they don't need to share daily evidence of their accomplishments. But maintaining the purity of internal motivations is harder in a world where social media and mass media are so adamant about externalizing all markers of success. There's Forbes' list of this, and Fortune's list of that; and every Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn profile is conspicuously marked with the metrics of accomplishment—followers, friends, viewers, retweets—that inject all communication with the features of competition. It may be getting harder each year for purely motivated and sincerely happy workers to opt out of the tournament of labor swirling around them.

Workism offers a perilous trade-off. On the one hand, Americans' high regard for hard work may be responsible for its special place in world history and its reputation as the global capital of start-up success. A culture that worships the pursuit of extreme success will likely produce some of it. But extreme success is a falsifiable god, which rejects the vast majority of its worshippers. Our jobs were never meant to shoulder the burdens of a faith, and they are buckling under the weight. A staggering 87 percent of employees are not engaged at their job, according to Gallup. That number is rising by the year.

One solution to this epidemic of disengagement would be to make work less awful. But maybe the better prescription is to make work less central.

This can start with public policy. There is new enthusiasm for universal policies—like universal basic income, parental leave, subsidized child care, and a child allowance—which would make long working hours less necessary for all Americans. These changes alone might not be enough to reduce Americans' devotion to work for work's sake, since it's the rich who are most devoted. But they would spare the vast majority of the public from the pathological workaholism that grips today's elites, and perhaps create a bottom-up movement to displace work as the centerpiece of the secular American identity.

On a deeper level, Americans have forgotten an old-fashioned goal of working: It's about buying free time. The vast majority of workers are happier when they spend more hours with family, friends, and partners, according to research conducted by Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. In one study, she concluded that the happiest young workers were those who said around the time of their college graduation that they preferred careers that gave them time away from the office to focus on their relationships and their hobbies.

How quaint that sounds. But it's the same perspective that inspired the economist John Maynard Keynes to predict in 1930 that Americans would eventually have five-day weekends, rather than five-day weeks. It is the belief—the faith, even—that work is not life's product, but its currency. What we choose to buy with it is the ultimate project of living.

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