For upper-middle class men, notes sociologist Michèle Lamont, ambition and a strong work ethic are "doubly sacred. . . as signals of both moral and socioeconomic purity. Elite men's jobs revolve around the work devotion schema, which communicates that high-level professionals should "demonstrate commitment by making work the central focus of their lives" and "manifest singular 'devotion to work,' unencumbered with family responsibilities," to quote sociologist Mary Blair-Loy. ... How do the elite signal to each other how important they are? "I am slammed" is a socially acceptable way of saying "I am important." Fifty years ago, Americans signaled class by displaying their leisure: think banker's hours (9 to 3). Today, the elite — journalist Chrystia Freeland calls them "the working rich" — display their extreme schedules.Think about the professionals you know who are in that elite stratosphere. (I know you, reader, are not one. Because, if you were, you would not have the time to read this post. Elementary, my dear Watson!) They are uber-busy, right? Awfully packed schedules. Always on the go. You will be lucky if you can get five minutes of their undivided attention.
We have turned the very idea of being rich upside down: we used to think that being rich meant that you had all the time in the world because you didn't have to work at all. Now, it turns out that being rich means to boast that you have no time at all.
And, there is an unending rush, a long line, to join that elite club.
What's the deal?
It's not productivity. It's not innovation. It's identity. If you've lived a life where holidays are a nuisance, where you've missed your favorite uncle's funeral and your children's childhoods, in a culture that conflates manly heroism with long hours, it's going to take more than a few regressions to convince you it wasn't really necessary, after all, for your work to devour you.It's identity. I work, therefore I am. I work incredibly long hours, therefore I am. I am tempted to believe that it is not merely the money that motivates this extreme work schedule, but it is very much the identity. Like the character that George Clooney played in Up in the Air.
I doubt that Max Weber would have ever imagined such an extreme version of the Protestant Ethic. These rich are, ironically, not in the leisure class anymore!
I have a different version of identity: the good ol' I think, therefore I am.
In this identify, work is a 24x7 commitment. Thinking is a lot of work. Sometimes I wish I didn't think. I worry that I overthink. I even wonder whether I am thinking in my sleep.
But, despite that intense 24x7 schedule, my calendar is always wide open. Ask my neighbor who jokes all the time that he has never seen me at work. You want to meet with me? Say when, and pay for my plane ticket and I can be there. It is not any BFD, to use Joe Biden's language!
I don't get paid for the 24x7 thinking work that I do.
Well, not in dollars.
I get paid a lot in so many other ways. For one, I get to interact with you, dear reader. Did you already know that you are a reward for my thinking? Yes, without you, I will be infinitely poorer and I don't want to slide into that poverty.
There are plenty of payments that I receive, every single day. Earlier today, on my way to the physical therapy appointment (now, that is an expense item, not a reward!) I flashed the hazard lights to warn the cars behind and came to a stop.
To collect a payment; this one:
Yes, it is an annual payment I receive for the long hours I work thinking.
And you thought I don't work long hours and that I earn pittance. Now you know.