Going to Extremes
The message of the article "Extreme Jobs " (April) seems to be that hard workers should adopt the feminist mantra of work-life balance: Make time for relationships, find a hobby. Most great accomplishments have been the result of people whose drive made them work long hours, and who were more than willing to sacrifice relationships so they could create something to benefit society. I daresay that if everyone followed the article's advice, we'd lack everything from penicillin to television, computers to movies, refrigeration to airplanes. Extreme-job holders should not be denigrated as out of balance. They should be extolled as heroes.
Reading "Extreme Jobs" gave me deja vu. My former jobs — as an executive at high-profile tech companies — were similarly extreme. The extensive travel and being tethered 24-7 to high-speed access at home, and wireless "crackberries" elsewhere, made life indistinguishable from work. This stress-filled, caffeine-fueled existence is like jumping out of an airplane with your hair on fire. What a rush!
I must disagree, however, with a premise of your article: "If you like what you're doing, there's no physical risk." Though I loved my job and thrived on the challenges and that addictive stress-induced adrenaline rush, it still nearly killed me. I almost died from heart disease because of my high-tech, always-on, road-warrior lifestyle.
Letting an extreme job swallow up my life nearly cost my family and me the ultimate price, so every day we're grateful for the opportunity to share our story to help others avoid what we've been through. Life is too precious to work yourself to death in an extreme job. Take back control of that job and take care of you. If you don't, who will?
Mellanie True Hills
Our true legacy is our loved ones, not our awards and bank balances. Without our families, nothing else matters. Nothing.
Thousand Oaks, California
Readers like me look to your magazine for innovative, exciting business trends, not boring tales of lifestyles of the overworked. If you're really going to write about these personal choices, why didn't you look outside of big cities for examples and to married couples with kids? Why didn't you interview the friends John Bishop claims he alienated, or the family members whose gatherings he'd boycotted? Someone goes for a run after a long workweek? Big deal. A couple sees each other only a few nights a month? Whoopee. For every career choice, there are serious sacrifices and consequences. That's what your readers need to learn about, not another sordid tale of a busy New York bond trader (yawn . . .) whose life is instantly cured by a piano lesson. Tsk, tsk, Fast Company.
Susan D. Strayer
When I first picked up "Extreme Jobs," I thought this would be yet another piece about those who sacrifice their families for their jobs. I was pleased to read the balance you illustrated in this story. I have an "extreme" slant in me, but I have two children and a wife who need me as much as I need them. Being able to grow my business is one part of my life. But for parents, the most important part of life should be to raise great children — teaching them to swim or ride a bike, and building their character. Should extreme-job holders hire a nanny to do this? I don't think so.
Montclair, New Jersey
I loved "Extreme Jobs." I used to work in consulting myself and remember all too well my share of 70- and 80-hour workweeks. One hallmark of my time in that part of corporate life was that so many of those hours at the office, or on planes to meet clients in far-flung cities, were spent essentially spinning our wheels, in planning meetings, brainstorming sessions, etc. I wonder how much of the time that people spend in extreme jobs is spent like that.
The Paradox of Extreme Performance
I thoroughly enjoyed Jena McGregor's article "The Performance Paradox" (April); it ties in nicely with "Extreme Jobs." When accomplishment drives us, the need to exceed past performance is a dangerous prerequisite to ongoing fulfillment and a sense of happiness. This self-imposed escalating performance bar tends to be a toxic mix when paired with a perfectionist's inability to accept even a superior performance level. It's like my father used to say: "The more you do, the more they expect, and the less they appreciate." If not kept in check, the need to exceed spirals out of control. The sad irony is that performance declines with the burden, and you become a prisoner of your inability to perform. Quantity doesn't equal quality.
Robert G. Cook
Professing Feelings About Design
Thank you for "The Business of Design" (April). I'm currently in a master's program for design management, and it's essentially a degree that encompasses all the things that we should know, according to your article. As my 22 classmates and I are about to graduate, we're very excited to know that we're at the start of something great.
New York, New York
For years, people like Roger Martin have said that corporations need to encourage employees to do the things that those with a designer's mind-set do: Be more creative, take chances, and seize the initiative in tackling business problems. In my experience, most companies place low value on these abilities. I agree with your article in theory but am doubtful from a practical standpoint.
Stacy E. Burrell
Subservient Chicken Not Crispy Enough
Crispin Porter + Bogusky is without a doubt a great creative shop ("Ruling the Roost," April). Unfortunately, your article spoke directly to "creating" from incredible ideas, but lacked insight on the agency's salesmanship success. That's what those of us in the ad industry often struggle with. Is CP+B just blessed with great clients who are willing to take their brands to a new and different level, or does the agency really know how to sell its ideas better than the rest?
I was disappointed that "Ruling the Roost" wasn't the kind of well-researched, compellingly written piece that I've come to expect as an eight-year loyal fan and customer of yours. You hardly scratched the surface of Crispin Porter's supposed differentiation of strategy-infused creativity and didn't really get into the guts of how it does things differently from any other respected ad agency. And what possessed you to deck out Alex Bogusky in a shirt with a collar two sizes too large for him? I suspect this isn't the way he normally dresses for work and found your images contributed little to the article.
One Nation, Under a Groove
I'm a free agent ("Sweet [In]security," April), and although I don't have huge financial security, that was never an objective. Not having ulcers was. The latitude I have vastly surpasses that of some of my colleagues with "more security." Free agency isn't for everybody, never will be, and is absolutely not a panacea. It's an option. What Daniel H. Pink did was publicize that it's okay to really look inside and follow your own course.
Dennis K. Benson
The Case for Optimism
Shoshana Zuboff's April column was excellent ("The Case for Optimism"). I read it and immediately made copies to distribute to a very specific group of colleagues at Dunkin' Brands. Thanks for providing inspiration!
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A version of this article appeared in the June 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.