Posts tagged " work "

When Enough is Not Enough

May 8th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 55 comments

I invested a day last week advising the executive team of a Nashville-based business with branches in several southern states.  My job was to help them resolve several challenges caused by their rapid growth.  One question we explored concerned whether the company had grown enough and should henceforth do nothing but aim to maintain its current annual revenue level. 

Several of the executives expressed satisfaction with what they had achieved over the past few years, both in the business as well as in their personal lives.  They felt content and although they were fairly young men and women, they saw their hard-work-years as having ended.  They now saw themselves as treading water rather than trying to win any races.  “We don’t need any more money,” they told me.

During the same week, I received a letter from an individual whom I had been advising regarding his career.  One paragraph read:

“I am fascinated by how you teach people to learn to love the work they should do.  But how do I know what is the work that I should do?  Is it the work that would pay me the most?  If so, that doesn’t really work for me as I am definitely NOT money-motivated, (although my wife thinks I should be).  I don’t need to make more money, I just want to do meaningful work.  If all I was supposed to do in this world was make a lot of money (to have what to give away-not a bad thing), why did I waste so much of my adult life in education?”

It was another of those not uncommon instances of synchronicity. In one week I was asked the same question twice; once by an executive team and once by an unrelated individual.  The question:  Is it okay for someone to make much less than he could provided he is content with what he has? 

At first glance, you might think that all the people involved are indeed exemplary.  After all, money just isn’t that important to them.  They exhibit a contentment with life and are willing to step off the financial treadmill.  Surely they ought to be applauded?

A very difficult task now falls to your rabbi.  I must try to explain to you why they are wrong, just as I had to explain it to them last week. 

As the Shabbat ends each Saturday night, by the flickering light of the Havdalah candle Jews sing this verse signalling the start of a new week of work.

When you eat of the labor of your hands, you will be happy
and all will be well with you.
(Psalms 128:2)

In this verse, King David reiterates the value of work, the same purpose for which God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:15)

Nowhere in Scripture is found any implication that we ought to work only until we have enough.  Neither is there any acknowledgement of the unhealthy practice of retirement which is really only another way of saying, “I’ll work only until have enough”.

I know this feels a bit awkward because we’ve been raised to believe the virtue of contentment.  “He who is contented is rich,” is only one of hundreds of proverbs and idioms all praising the person who says, “I have enough”. 

However, to have enough is not why we work.  That would be an incredibly selfish approach to work.  We work because God created us to serve other people and our work is how we do it.  For this reason, the Lord’s language, Hebrew uses the same word—OVeD—for worship as well as for doing our daily labor. 

We shall worship  the Lord
נעבד את ה…
(Joshua 24:15)

Six days you shall work
ששת ימים תעבד
(Exodus 20:9)

In the same way that there is no “enough” to our worship of God, there is also no “enough” to our daily work.  We don’t work for money; we work to serve others; our customers, clients, or associates.  The money follows almost automatically and confirms that we have really served.  There is no point at which I have cared for God’s other children enough.  It is a lifetime mission. 

Although it flies in the face of popular thinking, there is no virtue is thinking one has enough money.  One should certainly be happy with whatever one currently has, but never content.  The difference is that happiness does not kill ambition; contentment does. 

Obviously, God does not want us to sacrifice our lives, our faith, our families and our friendships to make more money.  However, as long as we work with integrity, in the specific time allotted for our daily work and with the energy dedicated to that purpose, the more we can make usually shows the more effectively we are serving God’s other children. It would be wrong to try to limit that.

Hebrew possesses a word a word for satisfied (SoVaH – שבע) which is as close as the language comes to contentment. The important point is that SoVaH is never used in the context of money and mostly appears in connection with food.

And you shall eat and be satisfied (SoVaH) and bless the Lord your God..;
(Deuteronomy 8:10) 

The good that one can do with money is proportional to how much is available. There is an old joke about the beggar accustomed to getting a dollar from one of his ‘regulars’ who passed by each day.  On one occasion the passerby dropped a quarter into the beggar’s cap.  “Hoy!” called the hobo. “Why only a quarter today?”

“I’m having a tough week in my business” answered the man. 

The panhandler’s response:

“Just because you’re having a bad week, I have to have one too?”

Just because you decide that you have enough money, do all those who depend upon you and those who might benefit from you also have to say enough? 

To the individual I was counseling, I added the observation that his marriage might well benefit from his increasing his revenue.  To the company I added that not only was it the right thing to grow the company (within the limits of managerial capability) and find ways to serve even more customers but there was also a strategic reason to continue growth.  In the real world, whether you’re looking at a beautiful flower or a profitable business, the same thing is true.  It is either growing or dying. Staying the same is not an option.

If you would appreciate more insights into work through the medium of the Hebrew language, now, when it is on sale, is a good time to get Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language. There is even an entire chapter entitled AVoDaH – work. Pair it with Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Bible-based Introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet and give your children a head start. These very popular books will both satisfy and spur you to want more. 

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Too Ill to Work?

March 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 37 comments

I just completed the audio version of Business Secrets From The Bible. In one word the content was wonderful. The book spoke to me.

My dilemma is unique. Because of serious life threatening physical challenges and learning issues it is difficult to work a so called regular job. 

I need and want more money and I sincerely desire to serve my fellow man and in that mix I can honestly say that retirement is not an option. What you say about retirement in the book is true. It’s detrimental to a man’s mental, physical and spiritual life. 

I need and want help in this area. In other words I want to get back to work now. 

Do you have any suggestions? It’s fine with me if you have tough words so please don’t sugar coat reality. 

Sincerely,

Larry A. G.

Dear Larry,

First, thank you for your kind words about our book Business Secrets from the Bible: 40 Success Strategies for Financial Abundance.

The most challenging aspect of writing answers to people who “Ask The Rabbi” is to make sure that we are responding only from a place of love and empathy.  Nonetheless, our duty frequently includes telling truths that can hurt, as truth often does.   Not only does ancient Jewish wisdom prohibit us from administering painful words with arrogance and indifference but in such circumstances,  the Help we receive from Heaven would undoubtedly be withheld.  You can see that even had you not invited us to tell you the tough truth without sugarcoating we would have done so once we were certain that we were writing with compassion and a spirit of wanting you to be uplifted.  By the time you get to the end of our words, we hope you’ll agree that we have provided you with the escalator by means of which you can lift yourself. 

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I’m in an awful work situation

October 31st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

I work within a team in a government organization directly managing 8 people on a project. Within the immediate team there is a man who is accountable for the whole project.

I have recently noted that this man I speak about has  exhibited a lot of narcissistic traits—tells lies and denies it later, undermines my authority to the contractor, will not speak to me but decides to sends emails warranting a reaction (which I must confess I have fallen victim to). He has also frequently insulted me by questioning my competence and is now verbally abusing other team members.

I have raised this with senior management who have all taken a ‘sit-on-the-fence’ attitude because they don’t want to deal with the situation. I have asked to see HR. When I finally got a chance after this was arranged, HR did not even read the email copies I took as evidence. She said, “These are normal things that happen in a team”. I used to work for a major private company  and this behaviour from the man would not be tolerated and he would have been dismissed.

I work 12-hr shifts (mostly doing this man’s job as well as mine) whilst he sits there doing nothing. I really want to leave, just for my sanity. Yet people say God may be using this to train you and also since you are a Christian you may be the one to get him saved.

I don’t believe you can change a narcissist. What do I do?

Abena

Dear Abena,

It sounds like you’re in a terrible work situation. In our experience, government is much slower to remove ineffective employees than the private sector.

You aren’t asking us whether leaving is a good career move but rather whether you have an obligation to stay as a Christian in order to help your superior. If there is a theological dimension, we can’t comment on that, but here is our take.

Firstly, we think that, in general, it’s a good idea to leave psychological diagnoses to those trained in that area. It’s very easy to for all of us to find that annoying people in our orbits are narcissists, obsessive-compulsive, neurotic and bearers of a host of other syndromes. Whether this man has a personality disorder or not isn’t the issue. What matters is that you are miserable at work and putting in unreasonable hours. You tried working within the system and it didn’t work. Perhaps there are things you can do or maybe you’ve exhausted your options; that wasn’t your question to us.

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My Ambitious Husband

June 28th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

My husband has a great deal of ambition and works long hours. I know that he is doing this for our future but I feel like we have no life to speak of at present. How do I deal with these feelings?

Karma

Dear Karma,

Without knowing you, your husband or more details, this is one of those questions where we can do no more than raise discussion points and questions.

First, we’d like to make a few general comments. You and your husband are both fortunate. In today’s day and age, many males have been emasculated leaving them with neither ambition nor persistence. It is wonderful that you are married to a man who wants to provide well for his family.

At the same time, cultural propaganda teaches women that everything that goes wrong is the fault of men. Unlike you, those women would not ask how to deal with their own feelings but instead they would immediately castigate their husbands.

The first step is for each of you to appreciate how you are both contributing to your marriage. Your husband is taking his role seriously and you are wise enough to recognize that what you see as his relentless focus on work could crack the foundation of your relationship. Getting on the same page now can yield immense results.

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How much loyalty do I owe my boss?

March 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Thank you for your valuable insight into how the world really works. It has proven true time and again in my life as you would expect. 

I have been offered a position with a competing company in my industry that pays more and offers a benefit package. In addition my new partner is a harder worker then my current one and also better connected in my city. 

I was hired in my previous position being told that eventually I would be approached like this and would I have the integrity to stay with the company I am currently employed at.

Do I owe my current employer a debt of loyalty since they gave me the position I currently have?

Thanks,

Gregg

Answer: 

Dear Gregg,

Thank you for affirming the value of our teachings in terms of how the world REALLY works!  We love hearing that readers enjoy our work but when people tell us that they found our teachings not merely interesting or enjoyable but actually useful, the fireworks go off for us.

Congratulations on the job offer. It’s always nice to receive validation that your work is recognized. Your letter raises a number of very interesting issues but omits some of the information we’d need to answer your question definitely. Nonetheless, we’ll try to be useful to you.

It isn’t clear to us if your present boss asked you to commit  not to accept an offer from this specific company or to make a general commitment of loyalty. It’s also not clear to us what your response was at the time you were hired.
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Am I depriving someone of a job

January 4th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

Question:

I read an article in the newspaper which mentioned that older workers need to retire at 55 so that young people can get jobs. Am I depriving youngsters from getting jobs?

Siti

Answer: 

Dear Siti,

The short and simple answer is NO. The article you read ignores the fact that God created each and every one of us as unique individuals with unique contributions to make to society. Your job is to continue working and adding value to the life of others.

God didn’t put Adam in The Garden to work it only until a younger person who needed a job came along. A growing garden means jobs for all who wish to work. What is more, it is a common fallacy to think that a person with years of experience behind him can be replaced by a young first-time-job-seeker. Not true.

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Work So You Can Work

December 6th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

You do it.  I do it.  We all do it. We find ways to avoid doing those tasks in our lives that will really make a difference.  They might be unpleasant, hard, boring, perhaps even frightening.  Often, they are the very ones we have to identify and tackle.

There’s the aspiring sales professional who does almost everything except the one task that will make most difference in his life—completing his quota of calls every single day.

There are the parents whose toddler is getting out of control.  The time is overdue to introduce him to the wonderful world of discipline.  They’ve let things go for a bit too long and now every attempt to introduce boundaries and insist on appropriate behavior is met with tantrums.  The parents focus on good nutrition and creative play times—anything in fact, in order to avoid doing the one great task that will make the most difference in their lives and that of their child.

There’s the student who dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall. She needs to sit down, play the same piece repeatedly, and start the cycle again with a more difficult piece.

The Lord’s language has a word for an activity which might be staggeringly difficult to confront but which also might be the single most important assignment for any given moment of our lives.

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I Want to Switch Jobs

November 22nd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

Question:

I enjoyed your book Thou Shall Prosper. I am looking for any suggestions regarding the frustrations I am having with getting a job. My degree is in engineering and I have worked several jobs as both a sales engineer and technical support person. I don’t like engineering! My family coaxed me to do engineering. 

I have also owned two businesses in landscape design and supply. Both of which I sold. I recently tried two technical sales support positions and I did not enjoy either one. I enjoy customer support but no longer enjoy the technical side. Any suggestions?

Cori Z.

Answer: 

Dear Cori,

We had to laugh reading your question because, it could have been written by me! (Rabbi Daniel, not Susan) I also went into engineering after being encouraged to do so by my family. I guess they hoped there might be a redeeming economic value to the mischievous and disruptive contraptions I engineered that got me thrown out of several schools.

While I do have an aptitude for engineering, I was miserable working in that field because I was working with things rather than with people.

I had also started and sold a business, in my case a boat-building company. In other words, I feel your pain.

Then I went into sales. And I loved it! Every encounter was another opportunity to get to know another person.  Winning a customer was just another way of helping another human.

It sounds that, like me, you prefer working with people to working with things.  Like me, you have probably also discovered that once you have learned how to sell and are comfortable doing so, it is relatively easy to change what you are selling or for whom you are selling it.

(Both of us again)  Any company should be interested in someone who walks through the door and announces, “I will bring in more sales revenue for less than it will cost you to hire me.”  If you are good at sales, a commission based income is better than a salary. While you may need to start out with much less than you hope to earn, increasing your income is in your own hands.

The important thing is to sell a product or service in which you truly believe and that you are passionate about. We are not saying you should seek only fields for which you have enthusiasm and passion.  We are saying find the right people and product to work with or for and then devote yourself to developing passion for what you are selling.

In this area, we don’t know a better teacher than our dear, departed friend, the late Zig Ziglar, who work is carried on so ably by his son, Tom. Buy their training resources and absorb them into your very bloodstream.

If you are working for a company, you should make sure that you agree with the company’s core values and are confident the relationship will be one of integrity. For us, we began sharing ancient Jewish wisdom, first with Jews who had not been exposed to it and later with Christians who had lost that part of their heritage. That has been our passion for many years now.

We hope you can follow a similar path by finding the intersection of a need that your fellow human beings have and your passion to cater to that need. As a bonus, please be assured that understanding how the physical world works through the lens of engineering will really be useful in other areas of your life.

Finally, we want to suggest gently that for the young person you sound like, the six positions you have already worked at is a few too many. (Unless we’re wrong and you are describing a sixty year career!) Please, commit yourself soon to a job and don’t even consider quitting until you’ve been successful at it. We think that by that time, you will be enjoying it immensely.

Wishing you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

I’m Burnt Out

October 13th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Question:

After a few years of over-working and ignoring the warning signs, I may have reached a “burnout” stage. What used to be easy at work is now difficult; the drive I used to have feels like it has been sapped; and I have noticed a negative change in my attitude. 

Does ancient Jewish wisdom provide any useful information for recovering from “burnout” and metaphorically get back in the saddle?

Justin A.

Answer:

Dear Justin,

Congratulations on recognizing that ignoring your warning signs resulted in a small problem growing into a larger one. We hope that your words serve as a warning to others not to turn a blind eye to warning signs. (Then there are those people who magnify a bad stretch and put flashing red lights on normal feelings—the opposite of what you did which leads to a different but equally serious problem.)

Imagine if you had physical symptoms that suggested that you were pre-diabetic. At that point, certain lifestyle changes might keep the symptoms from worsening and a full-fledged case developing. However, once your health was severely compromised, it would be much harder to fix.

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What Fool Am I?

September 1st, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

The caller to the radio show made a logical, coherent argument. The host had been extolling the virtue of work, and she countered his words by explaining that he was actually a fool. After all, he got up early every morning to prepare for his show, spent time driving in traffic to the radio station, and then spent a few hours delivering entertaining value so that people would want to listen to his show and companies would want to advertise on it. The next day he repeated his actions, earning a measly few weeks of vacation time each year.

In contrast, she said, she got up whenever she wanted to and, unless she felt like it, did nothing more strenuous than moving to her couch, watching TV, and smoking pot. Taxes taken from his salary, she opined, allowed her to take it easy. She challenged him, “Which of them was making a more intelligent choice?”

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