Labor Day 2017: Four Work-Related Articles

Labor Day, working hard, work smart, productivity

This year, I wanted to share a few links for Labor Day. Recently, I have come across some links with a work theme. I came across one while working on my latest Famous Sayings post (#77 — Working Hard or Hardly Working). Another article led to yet another and a blog post.


“Working Hard or Hardly Working” (The Huffington Post)

In this thoughtful post, Anneli Lucia Tostar relates some anecdotes in expressing the importance of the less-celebrated professions.

One day, her friend just said a few words after she asked him how his summer internship in New York went:

We work in school. We work hard in the real world.

But those words stuck with Tostar and she began rethinking what the phrase “hard work” meant.

I have often felt like unpaid, low-paid, or generally just low-reward, internships are a bit like dry-swallowing a pill: probably still beneficial in the end but could be made much less painful through some pretty minor fixes — a spoonful of perks to make the medicine go down, if you will. Those like my friend who had opted for the corporate route this summer got experience and perhaps even job security, sure, but also seventy-hour weeks, little sleep, and hardly enough pay to compensate for the stress level …

American society rewards hard work, yes, but particularly a specific kind of hard work — one that involves institutionally validated intellect … Even human-interest stories on 60 Minutes primarily focus on individuals who have ‘overcome the odds’ to become successful intellectuals despite cards stacked against them (e.g. growing up in a gang-ridden neighborhood/any African country/an orphan). The Rwandan rocket scientist is a much more palatable story to the American public than the Rwandan taxi driver.

Normally in the United States, we hold up corporate jobs while denigrating and ignoring jobs that might not pay as much or require skills one might need to go to college to learn. Many of those “lesser” professions are important to our everyday lives and people who do those jobs make it possible for people to go to college in the first place.


“In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers” (The New York Times)

Silicon Valley prides itself on “thinking different.” So maybe it makes sense that just as a lot of industries have begun paying more attention to work-life balance, Silicon Valley is taking the opposite approach — and branding workaholism as a desirable lifestyle choice. An entire cottage industry has sprung up there, selling an internet-centric prosperity gospel that says that there is no higher calling than to start your own company, and that to succeed you must be willing to give up everything.

Dan Lyonsaug bemoans the rising culture of workaholism, especially in Silicon Valley. Among the tech community are entrepreneurs who are pushing themselves and workers to “hustle” and give up a lot of their free time in order to make more money. But this type of lifestyle is unhealthy and ultimately less productive than “hustlers” think it is.

While some people think the “hustle” lifestyle is about commitment and showing team spirit, others think it may really be about exploitation. One person who agrees with the latter is David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of Basecamp. He said that many founders are being exploited by venture capitalists. Venture capitalists make their money by investing in many companies to hedge their bets and pushing founders to put all their energy into making profits.


“‘I rarely get to see my kids’ — Apple is getting roasted over this ad for its new TV show about making apps.” (Business Insider)

There’s a new show called Planet of the Apps, which is essentially Apple’s answer to Shark Tank. On this show, app makers compete to win funding from Lightspeed Ventures, a venture capital firm which was the first to invest in Snapchat.

On Friday, June 9, 2017, Apple ran a promo for its new show on Twitter, to bad reviews. The show itself premiered that same week and it received a tepid response, but the promo itself drew the most ire.

Andrew Kemendo was featured on a promo image for the show. The promo was pulled (from Twitter) after an uproar because the text read:

I rarely see my kids. That’s the risk you have to take.

working hard, startups, Labor Day

The tweet itself read, “For the ultimate reward, he’ll put everything on the line.”

The tweet was ultimately taken down because of the response. Among those who decried the promo were Jason Fried, the co-founder and CEO of Basecamp.


“Trickle-down workaholism in startups” (Signal v. Noise)

In this blog post, David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), the co-founding and CTO of Basecamp continues “ranting with a fervor against the extractive logic of many a venture capitalist.” This time, he calls out two particular venture capitalists, Keith Rabois and Mark Suster, who were commented on a Twitter thread. Their view of how entrepreneurs should work was on full display.

If you want to understand why so many startups become infected with unhealthy work habits, or outright workaholism, a good place to start your examination is in the attitudes of their venture capital investors.

Hansson says workaholism is unhealthy and unfortunately, it trickles down. Usually, venture capitalists put pressure on entrepreneurs, who might then put that pressure on lower-level employees. Ultimately, the lower someone is on the hierarchy, the less they will reap the benefits for their hard work.

He says people can be productive with capped hours, like the 40 or less mandated at his company, Basecamp.

In addition, Hansson shares some data about athletes and famous writers, like Charles Dickens. I didn’t know LeBron James got by with 12 hours of sleep each night!


The Themes of the Above Articles

These articles have a few important themes. With that in mind, I will say: Sleep is important and so is recognition.

Get your sleep and find a work-life balance. You will be better off for it.

Also, let’s appreciate the people who do the less publicized, yet important work. For example, a bus driver might not have a glamorous job, but it’s an important one. So is that of a plumber and a construction worker, and … you get the point.

For those who celebrate Labor Day, I hope you had a good one.


Works Cited

DHH. “Trickle-down workaholism in startups.” Signal v. Noise. 30 May 2017. Weblog. Retrieved 4 Sept 2017. <https://m.signalvnoise.com/trickle-down-workaholism-in-startups-a90ceac76426>.

Heath, Alex. “‘I rarely get to see my kids’ — Apple is getting roasted over this ad for its new TV show about making apps.” Business Insider. 9 June 2017. Web. <http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-planet-of-the-apps-ad-developer-rarely-saw-his-kids-2017-6>.

Lyonsaug, Dan. “In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers.” The New York Times. 31 Aug 2017. Web. Retrieved 4 Sept 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/opinion/sunday/silicon-valley-work-life-balance-.html>.

Tostar, Anneli Lucia. “Working Hard or Hardly Working?” The Huffington Post. 27 Oct 2014. Updated 27 Dec 2014. Weblog. Retrieved 4. Sept 2017. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anneli-lucia-tostar/working-hard-or-hardly-wo_1_b_6054014.html>.

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