Why we must work, even if we don’t have to

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks

 

So, maybe it’s starting to happen that not everyone “needs” to work in order for all of our basic needs to be accounted for.

If you are given enough money to live, would you still work?

A study in 2013 on the effect of basic income on the poor and unemployed in Uganda found that work hours increased by 17% and earnings by 38%. So that’s one data point.

I think that in the short term, there’s a chance that many people might not work. At least for a little while. But I don’t think that over the long term that would hold. Do you?

In praise of work

I believe that work is one of the strongest pillars to a fulfilling and satisfying life. Something that allows us to give of ourselves, as opposed to just taking.

The best work is done because of the pleasure and satisfaction of accomplishment. To start the day not having done something, and to end the day having done something, something you can point to and say “I did that!“, there is very little that compares to that feeling.

Now, work doesn’t necessary mean being in a factory or flying a cubicle. Work could mean raising a child, assisting in your community, helping people you know. I believe connection is the other pillar to a fulfilling and satisfying life.

Work without connection can be satisfying (and vice versa), but work with connection is the best possible outcome.

This is why we pay so much lip service to “making a difference” and “making the world a better place”. We are looking for our work, albeit on a grand scale. We want to accomplish something. We want to matter. We want in some way for there to be something changed because we were here to make it happen.

Now granted, there’s a good chance that we might work less if we didn’t need to work full-time. But how is that a problem? We already know that the standard expected number of hours worked per week is arbitrary. Why not make our own rules on what feels right, if we are able to?

Retirement drives people crazy

I believe this is why people who retire after working their whole lives find the endeavor initially thrilling, but eventually unsatisfying. Not having to worry about how to support yourself is the key benefit here for retirement (which is why I can be so focused on it here), but once you’ve achieved that, there are still many many hours left in the day. A life of leisure to me doesn’t actually seem all that enticing. After a while, what do you want to do?

You see this in young people such as musicians and athletes who come into more money than they know what to do with. Look at the prevalence of substance abuse and self-destructive behavior. Look at the 27 Club. This is what happens when you don’t “need” to work, but you don’t have the perspicacity to know what you do need.

This is why actor Ryan Gosling famously took a job at a deli after he became famous.

“The problem with Hollywood, he goes on, is that nobody works. ‘They have meals. They go to Pilates. But it’s not enough. So they do drugs. If everybody had a pile of rocks in their backyard and spent every day moving them from one side of the yard to the other, it would be a much happier place.'”

I sort of disagree, in that the best work isn’t done for work’s sake, otherwise we really would just spend every day moving rocks from one side of the backyard to the other

It’s not that we do work for work’s sake. It’s for our own.

But enough about me. Would you work if you didn’t have to? What would you do?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on March 31, 2016