Monday, May 3, 2010

Nuggets You Probably Won't See

I find myself needing to turn to ever more right-leaning publications to find articles that make sense to me. Either that means I'm getting awfully conservative (I don't believe I am) or the "mainstream" media is getting so leftist that their positions defy reason or empiricism.

Here are two articles in Forbes magazine that make eminent sense to me that would never appear in the "mainstream" media--e.g., the New York Times, CNN.

The Great College Hoax, includes, for example, this statement: ""There are a lot of aspects of selling education that are tinged with consumer fraud," (UCLA law professor Richard) Sander says."

Gender Bias Bunk by Christina Hoff Sommers. Here's a quote:
Over the past decade the National Science Foundation has funneled $135 million into a "gender bias" program called Advance. Its stated purpose: to advance women in science. In practice it does little to help women, but its potential to inflict lasting damage on fields that drive the American economy--engineering, physics and computer technology--is enormous...The Gender Equity project sponsors workshops aimed at transforming American laboratory culture. According to Valian, the compulsive work habits, single-minded dedication and "intense desire for achievement" that typify elite scientists not only marginalize women but also compromise good science. She says, "If we continue to emphasize and reward always being on the job, we will never find out whether leading a balanced life leads to equally good or better scientific work."
A world where women (and resocialized men) earn Nobel Prizes on flextime has no basis in reality. But the Advance program is not about reality nor a reality we should aspire to...if our priority is to cure cancer, solve our energy problems, etc. Instead of pathologizing them as "workaholics," we should honor the people who work 70 hours a week in hopes of creating a breakthrough. We certainly should not be subjecting aspiring scientists to a re-education program that brainwashes them into the absurd belief that everyone, even world-class scientists would be better off if they only worked modest work hours.


Anonymous said...

I'm starting to wonder if we should really praise/honor high achievers so much.

If working non-stop makes you happy and/or fulfilled good for you, but that's what should be praised: figuring out who you are and embracing it.

By elevating high achievers to godlike status, you create a culture where people who aren't naturally built "workaholics" will lie, cheat and steal to receive those accolades. Just a thought.

Marty Nemko said...

Interesting thought, Anonymous. I believe one size doesn't fit all. I believe we should encourage average people to have work-life balance and much-above-average people to work long and hard.

ALP said...

What you said Marty...

Some jobs require more than 100% commitment and devotion and as such mean that a 'balanced' life is out of the question - thanks for pointing out that reality. The statement that the high achieving lifestyle marginalizes women has got to be the most asinine thing I have read in a while. The creeping "feminization" of our culture is very disturbing...and I say this as a woman!

Mama T said...

As a woman scientist who's known a few Nobel winners and a lot of workaholic jerks, let me say that the Nobel winners in general did have some work life balance. Maybe they were workaholics early in their careers, but by mid to late career, the ones I knew made time for other pursuits that they enjoyed - writing, gardening, birding, films, music. I believe that creative thinkers need some relaxed time to just let the mind wander.

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, Mama T, as we get older, we need to take more breaks. But as you probably know, nearly all great discoveries (all major discoveries in math, for example) occurred before the age of 30. Certainly, more than 95% of major discoveries were made before age 50. To tell ASPIRING women scientists that they don't need to work long hours is, ironically, going to decrease their likelihood of being successful.

Anonymous said...

I emailed you last December, after reading your “Long Term Vision” post where you wrote:

“I'm tired of trying to fit in. I am a misfit: too intense, too goal-oriented rather than relationship-oriented, and I too often anger people. Except for brief, kind conversations--especially those in which I can solve someone's problem--I'm probably best off doing solo activities.”

I emailed to tell you what a relief it was to read this because, at 29, I didn’t know that “goal-oriented” versus “relationship-oriented” was a choice I could finally settle with. I am firmly part of the former camp and have spent all of my 20s trying to become the latter (so that people aren’t always angry with me).

I am writing again, in light of your most recent post:

“Instead of pathologizing them as "workaholics," we should honor the people who work 70 hours a week in hopes of creating a breakthrough. We certainly should not be subjecting aspiring scientists to a re-education program brainwashing them into the absurd belief that everyone, even world-class scientists would be better off if they only worked modest work hours.”

I get “diagnosed” as a workaholic all the time, where friends like to tell me that I need to lighten up, “make time for fun” and socialize more. But putting your two posts together, it occurred to me that working often and hard is not a problem (or my problem) at all, but simply a characteristic of being very naturally goal-oriented. By definition, I’m attracted to my work sooner and far more easily than I am to people. Having work to keep me busy for 70-hours a week is a dream come true.

Since my social/dating life is sufficiently active, according to my needs (however simple), I am not interested in changing this characteristic.

My question: What is your advice on communicating this? When I am invited to social gatherings, I begrudgingly agree to go because I can only offer excuses for so long. Delivering an honest answer – that I’m moderately anti-social and totally introverted, that I don’t often crave the company of others, and that I’d rather be working – makes people angry.


Marty Nemko said...

Most Recent Anonymous,

With quiet pride, say that you enjoy that you can be productive for 70 hours a week, and that you get all the recreation you need in fewer hours. If pressed you might say, "I believe I do more good if I spend hours 40 through 70 working than if I were hanging out with friends, watching TV, shopping, or even playing Monopoly with my kids, if and when I have them."

It takes courage to say such things but the sooner you start trying to be courageous, the sooner it will become second nature.

Jeffrie said...

I wrote the following comment responding to a post Marty wrote some time ago, about living true to your values:

"It's a hard choice to make, but a person facing this question needs to decide what is more important. They have to decide over and over again if their values are more important or if the people in their lives are more important. Sometimes the people will win. Slings and arrows can only be suffered for so long.

"For most, the question is never raised. Most people are not types prone to rocking the boat. They also are often surrounded (protected? cushioned?) by like-minded people.

"If I had such people in my life that I cared about, I would like to think that I'd encourage them to continue being true to their values, even if I disagreed with them. So often we only support our loved ones when we agree or if their cause is a popular one. Sometimes it's worth it to support them even in disagreement. You may be one of only a handful in their corner, and your support might be needed and appreciated more than ever."

To Anonymous (May 4, 12:04pm): if you were my friend or family member, I'd encourage you to keep working if that's what made you happy. It sounds like you have already achieved the "balanced life" mentioned in the second article. That it's balanced differently than some others would prefer is something that may bother others, but it should not bother you.

Perhaps in the near future, your friends will understand and appreciate the way you naturally are, as you have done.

As you continue to affirm this, it might be difficult for the people who did not previously know you as, as you put it, "moderately anti-social and totally introverted." (As an introverted loner myself, I get it.) Some of those people who can't accept this about you may leave your life. It could hurt if they do, but you will be better off in the long run because you won't have to pretend for them anymore. And it will make room for a few special people who appreciate you as you are now.

Anonymous said...

I had to chuckle when I read this post....

There you are, stuck in the Bay Area, where you're called a workaholic if you show up 10 minutes early...

And here I am, trapped in DC, where you're called a slacker if you put in less than 60 hours a week...

Too bad we can't trade places and live out our lives among kindred spirits!

Frustrated Fed said...

I am also "trapped" in DC, and I agree with the previous poster. The only exception is working for the federal government. It's pretty much 40 hour work weeks. In some agencies, you may show up for 40 hours, but only work half the time.


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