It was dark, I was awake but still trying to sleep. I woke up before the Morning Wake Up followed by “Reveille reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.” It didn’t matter if I had slept or not I was still tired.
The room was lit by small red lights, it smelled musty like mold, ass and fuel oil. Everyone was moving around at the same time and grumbling. I was on the bottom rack, which mean’t that I had to wait for the two guys above me to get up. I had to keep my curtain closed because if I didn’t, I would see a sight that for me would be let us say unpleasant. I actually had an old magazine picture of Marilyn Monroe on my rack. She was not of my generation but neither was the Navy. It was old in this place but new at the same time.
My days and nights were long ,in the vastness of the gray walls of the box I felt trapped in (ship), time was only bound and unbound by the blow of a whistle. In other words, work was 24 hours a day every day and rest(sleep) was in two hour increments except on Sundays. We knew it was Sunday because someone told us. That was the life of a Damage Controlman or other engineering type. These seemingly endless days will stay with me forever, I never expected them to follow me into my civilian life.
It is that moment when the main character in a body of work makes a critical discovery. I had this moment not long ago when I saw the garage door open up. As it slowly crept up, I saw the shadow of a small figure coming towards me. It was Sammy, my youngest son “Daddy.. daddy, you’re home.. you’re home!!”
The walls aren’t haze gray but I am underway. I am underway because I am bounded by my own box. It is work…. and it begins at the 42nd hour. It was not long ago that I had a dream of having a house to call my own. It was my goal to have my own place and have the ability to raise my kids in a safer place than the Bronx. Working hard isn’t the problem. It is all the sacrifice and loss that is the problem. It is my goal to create as much stability for my wife and children as I can. If I can do that, and I can help others along the way, I would pay the price of lost time. When the garage opens and I am coming from work or a work related trip, it isn’t long before the boys are running out of the garage or down hall of the house to greet me. It is the best! For that moment in time, I am a rock star and I love the hugs and kisses. I know I am working hard for them and it brings me to tears to see them have what they need and maybe a little more.
The 42nd Hour
My work day is pretty normal, at least I think it is normal. I wake up early morning, get all the morning business taken care of, check my emails , texts and any other messages and get myself into my car. I plug in whatever audio book I am in the middle of and head out to work. I may take a call or two on the way to my client site and on arrival on-site find myself in a meeting or three. Most of my day is answering questions that are mostly random and/or I am in meetings. I would say that I am productive from my perspective for a very short time in the day. The day may fly by but it is still a long day, I get back home and my wife who is a full time mom and student gets us all ready for baseball practice, homework or other activities. We get to sit down and eat together sometime around the 6 o’clock hour but all the while my smart phone goes off or emails are popping in. I look up at her sometimes and she just gives me that look which tells me she is disappointed but understanding at the same time. My kids know that “Daddy has to worK” almost always. In terms of hours logged, I would say that they don’t exactly line up. I am almost always on. When I do take time off, it feels like I am missing something and/or I am going to be overwhelmed if I don’t keep up. It sort of reminds me of the old Lucy episode when she is working at a chocolate factory.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI It isn’t long before you miss something and all feels like it is lost.
This introduces the concept of the 72 hour work week. HBR wrote an article about this recently http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/welcome-to-the-72-hour-work-we/ in context this is more about Executives, Managers and Supervisors. I am addressing what happens for the rest of us after the 42 hour.
What happens after 42?
I could be into hour 40 by my 3rd work day. After work and after some home life, there is work. As a consultant, I have to read, write, and study related concepts, keep my network fresh and up to date and report on all aspects of what I am doing for my business leadership and for my clients. These reports will look different and feel different to my various stakeholders. I will have to be a cheerleader, and a rock for some of my team mates and to others I will ask for help and have my own tears for people who may understand how I feel. In a lot of the work I do, it is a foreign language, it isn’t like I can talk to my family about it and it seems that the more I learn, the more I have to read to either find ways to be conversant in my area of work or find ways to teach what I am learning. All of this takes me time. I have seen and heard the horror stories from others as well. I had a manager who fell asleep in his car driving home late at night and almost got killed in a tunnel. I have known people who work from their hospital beds and of course those of us work have worked from Disney World (GUILTY).
After the 42 hour the work seems to become more productive because you are not in some unproductive meeting or dealing with a line of people physically demanding your time. It is also where all of my business ideas and entrepreneurial work takes place. I have developed more business opportunities at home after 8:00PM than in the office at 10:00AM by far. Sometimes my team-mate Wendy would come to my house and bring her family while we work on ideas, even on Sunday after she goes to Church.
No Tears But I Wonder..
I recently met with some colleagues whom I consider friends. I asked “What does the end mean, when I say, begin with the end in mind?” Jay didn’t hesitate and said “happiness.” It is what a lot of us want, after all, as I said in the beginning here, it would make me happy to find and maintain stability. Long gone are the days when you get a job and you work 9-5 for one company until the end of your career. That being said, companies today seem to expect 60+ hour work weeks. Even when you make great business strides they look our efforts as a tragic necessity. With my leadership, I started using the term “after the 42nd hour” in order to differentiate when I am working on after hour but seemingly mandated areas of work.
I am not alone, I have asked others about their work lives. Organizations are demanding more and giving back less to their employees because employees have fear that if they don’t sacrifice their blood and all of their time that they are disposable and of less value than others who are willing to do more. Of course you have outliers who just don’t seem to give a shit and work their 42.5 hours but in the end they are viewed as less than stellar performers.