We Are All Control Freaks—and Need to Be – Rush: Why We Thrive in the Rat Race by Todd G. Buchholz
What’s the Big Idea? You can’t and shouldn’t avoid the anxiety that comes with work and freedom.
Note:L’IDEA DI FONDO
Good luck trying to erase anxiety from your life. There is no escape route from anxiety even if one withdraws from contact with other people. Do you think hermits are happy?
Escapism cannot make us happy for a meaningful period of time.
Why do kids like to be tossed in the air or whirled overhead like the Scottish hammer throw at the Highland games? When a child is tossed or swung in the air, his heart races, his pulse quickens,
Note:CERCHIAMO IL BATTICUORE GIÀ DA BAMBINI
The toddling child is not just playing a physical game with himself—he is also re-creating himself, morphing from a crawling character into a walking character.
Unfortunately, as adults we are often discouraged from going beyond baby steps. We even talk ourselves out of taking prudent risks. Why bother studying for that GRE to get into grad school? We might flunk. Why bother asking the attractive woman out on a date?
Note:SUBENTRA LA PRUDENZA
It’s spectacularly easy to find doubters who will reinforce our fears. On the eve of launching her cosmetics company, Mary Kay Ash was sitting with her husband at the breakfast table, going through their business plans. They had saved up $5,000 and were ready to commit their entire bank account to secure a small office with a few desks and to start manufacturing sample skin creams. Suddenly, her husband grabbed his chest and slumped over. A fatal heart attack killed him. All of Mary Kay’s professional advisers told her to tear up her plans. She went forward anyway,
TWO KINDS OF ANXIETY
The first comes from recognizing all the confounding choices we have to make in life. Should I quit my job? Where should I send my kids to school? Should I file my tax return using the 1040 long form or short form? Should I return the phone call from my mother (yes!)? Kierkegaard called anxiety “the dizziness of freedom.”
Note:ANSIA DA LIBERTÀ
There is, of course, a different type of anxiety, and it is more dangerous and hurtful than the dizziness of freedom. It comes not from facing too many choices, but from seeing too few choices, a lack of freedom. This anxiety can emerge on a macro scale—for example, the Chinese government that won’t let you have a second child or move to another province.
Note:ANSIA DA SCHIAVITÙ
the anxiety of freedom is far more inviting because it gives people the potential to re-create themselves.
Note:SUPERARE LA PRIMA
THE TYRANNY OF THE TODDLER
A two-year-old understands the command, but not the rationale. She understands “cause and effect” only when she is the prime mover, or when she witnesses the catalyst. She sees that some things she likes to do elicit applause, while other acts generate a scold. This dichotomy, write Ralph Ross and Ernest van den Haag, “literally puts the fear of God into us—the
research shows we get a high from exerting control over our environment; in contrast, we plumb depths of despair when we are shackled. Toddlers enjoy deliberately dumping their applesauce onto the floor and watching us clean up… Little kids need to make things happen. It’s not enough for Mommy to push the stroller….
Note:BISOGNO DI CONTROLLO
THE SCIENCE OF CONTROL
In The Trial, Josef K., accused of an unnamed crime by an unnamed authority, suffers humiliation, and devolves into a jittery wreck, so helpless he cannot even kill himself. His last words: “Like a dog!”
Note:KAFKA E LA MANCANZA DI CONTROLLO
For Seligman’s experiment, the immediate question was this: Could he demoralize mutts? Seligman harnessed a variety of dogs and divided them into three groups. One group would receive electric shocks but have the ability to turn off the shock by pressing on a panel. The second group would feel the shocks but have no tool to stop them. For this key group, the world became a place of unknown and unpredictable danger. Shocks were inescapable. Finally, a control group received no shocks. Seligman then devised a clever apparatus to test the impact of this conditioning. He put each dog in a “shuttle box,” essentially a box with two rooms divided by a low barrier. In the first room, the dog would again receive a shock. But the dog could avoid further shocks simply by jumping over the divider. Here was the question: Would the dogs take advantage of the easy escape route? Seligman witnessed that overwhelmingly the control group jumped away from the pain. Most of the first group, which had learned how to shut off a shock, leaped to safety. Yet about two-thirds of the second group, which had been demoralized by inescapable, mysterious shocks in a prior setting, could not muster the energy, drive, intellect, or morale to climb over the barrier.
Note:GLI ELETTROSHOCK DI SELIGMAN… LEARNED HELPLESSNESS
Learned helplessness turns us into emotional wrecks by robbing us of motivation and our ability to learn.
Note:ABBANDONO ALLA SORTE
In Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago , prisoners are not emotionally destroyed simply because they are shivering in frigid “reeducation” camps. The brutal weather does not do them in. They are dehumanized because they feel they cannot escape the irrational,
As Seligman did with mutts, Hiroto divided students into three groups. The first group would wear headphones through which they would hear loud, irritating noises. A button on the headphone would allow them to stop the sound. Thus, the noise was escapable. The second group wore headphones and was told they could turn off the sound. However, the experimenter lied, and the button on the headphones did nothing. Their irritation was inescapable. The third group received no noise stimulus… He sent all the students not into shuttle boxes for dogs but into rooms where they would hear a noxious, loud noise. But this time all groups had the ability to spot a lever and then push on it to turn off the sound…. Would the students push on the lever, or endure the pain? Almost all of the control group and the first group quickly grasped the task, found the lever, and escaped the noise 88 percent of the time. The second group, hobbled by their prior experience, fumbled with the lever, deployed it inconsistently, and thus suffered through the noise in about 50 percent of the instances….
Note:HIROTO. IL SELIGMAN FATTO CON GLI UOMINI
We are born helpless, quickly become control freaks as babies, and then spend our lives deciding when to relinquish power and when to take it.
Perhaps this overriding issue in our lives explains why the Alcoholics Anonymous “Serenity Prayer,” made most famous (and likely composed) by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, shows up glazed onto coffee mugs, printed on posters, and knitted into wool caps sold at church flea markets: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference.”
WATER PLANTS, SAVE LIVES
More control over our lives tends to build up confidence. Now, I am perfectly aware that overconfident people can do a lot of damage. Just look at all those financial fund managers drunk on illusions of their own talent.
Note:ECCESSI DI FIDUCIA
The effectiveness that a child experiences when he figures out how to hold a cup of milk without spilling, or how to tie his own shoes. This boosts pride, and it is a pride based on actual accomplishment,
In 1976, Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin, two intrepid psychologists, visited a 360-bed nursing home in New England called Arden House. On one of the floors, they placed houseplants in each of the rooms. Caretakers watered the plants. This was the “baseline” floor. On the fourth floor, they put the old people to work, forcing them to choose the plants, the location for the pots, and then left it to the elderly to fetch and pour water into the pots from time to time. Eighteen months later the psychologists returned, expecting to see a lot of dead rhododendrons. They tested the residents and found that though all the participants were quite frail at the start, the fourth-floor residents proved more alert and cheerful.
Note:PIANTE NELLA CASA DI RIPOSO: L’IMPEGNO CI FORTIFICA
John Cage provides experimental “chance” music, and Dali bends dreamy watches like limp body parts, but they still end up with more order than the buckets of ink they start with.
Note:L‘ORDINE SI IMPONE
So many of the critics who portray our lives as an empty rat race, in which we display the moral character of acquisitive rodents, misperceive this race. We are engaged in an effort to create value in the world, to take the stuff we see about us and reimagine it.
Note:CREAZIONE DEL VALORE
WHY DO PEOPLE WHO DON’T NEED TO WORK, WORK MORE?
Here is a simple question: If the world is a wicked rat race, why do people with so much money work so many hours? Shouldn’t they take more vacation?
Note:PERCHÈ I RICCHI LAVORANO DI PIÙ?
First, “they just want more stuff so they can show off.” But if bragging were the motivation, what is more boast-worthy than a vacation in Tuscany,
Note:LA RISPOSTA SBAGLIATA
Second, “they may be paid a lot of money as lawyers or bankers, but they are like slaves to their bosses.” But if hardworking people put in extra hours because they must kowtow to some pooh-bah, why do entrepreneurs and the self-employed work even more hours than anyone else?
Note:SCHIAVI DEL LAVORO?
Thorstein Veblen, the colorful Midwestern economist born the son of Norwegian immigrants, suggested in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) that rich people love to lounge around and hope others catch them with umbrellas in their drinks. Veblen thought the walking stick was a great advertisement, for a man with a stick in his hand, rather than a wrench, must have time on his hands.
Now, I have seen enough clips of Paris Hilton and other “celebrities” to know that rich, ninny layabouts do exist. And I will sprain my finger to flip a television channel as fast as I can to avoid seeing them. (But, my gosh, don’t Paris Hilton and her cohorts work awfully hard to get themselves looked at?) When we examine the data for high-earning people, we see far less conspicuous hours at the spa and far more hours at the office or in traffic trying to get to the office.
Note:PARIS HILTON È UN’ECCEZIONE
Though I am loath to give Paris Hilton one more pixel of attention, let me contrast her to the patriarch of the family fortune, Conrad Hilton. Like Veblen, Conrad’s folk came from Norway, but while Veblen’s folks settled in Wisconsin, Conrad’s headed south to the New Mexico Territory, where Conrad was born in 1887. A tall, lean man who always watched his weight, Conrad built a worldwide hotel brand from a small boardinghouse in a two-horse town. And he did it with hard work. That first hotel, bought in 1919 in Cisco, Texas, was in his eyes a “cross between a flophouse and goldmine.” In the 1920s he added a dozen more. Then the Great Depression hit, the hotels suddenly emptied, and the remaining guests ducked out without paying their bills. Conrad lost his fortune. But he climbed out of debt working six days a week and scanning the country and the globe for new opportunities. In 1963, Time magazine paid tribute to his work ethic: “In his 76th year, a full decade after most businessmen retire, Hilton is busy spotting the world with hotels wherever the U.S. tourist and businessman alight, girding the globe with new links in the longest hotel chain ever made.”
Note:CONRAD HILTON, LA REGOLA
When I was doing research for a book on legendary CEOs, I was stunned to learn how bold, fearless, and energetic entrepreneurs like Akio Morita from Sony and Estée Lauder were.
This phenomenon is not limited to the phenomenally rich. Wide-ranging surveys show that highly paid people do put in more hours than just about anyone else. Are they tricked into putting in more hours? Unlikely, since the hardest-working people seem to be the ones with the most education.
Note:REGOLA: PIÙ ISTRUITI PIÙ LAVORATORI
When I was teaching economics to Harvard undergraduates, I would occasionally bring up the “backward bending supply curve.” This was a fancy graph that basically conjectured that if you paid people too much, they would cut back their hours. Obviously, having reached their financial goals, they would substitute leisure for work. In reality, few people cut back on their hours when they get a raise.
Note:EFFETTO REDDITO NULLO SUL LAVORO
So, why do rich people keep working? Why do smart, highly paid people work more hours? Why do the self-employed work more than anyone else? Get ready for this answer: Work makes us happier, more eager to wake up the next morning. Those frontal cortexes of ours like us to move forward.
Note:TESI: IL LAVORO CI RENDE FELICI
Why do the wealthy and the self-employed work the most? Because they can! Because they have the control and power to put in more hours. Moreover, they clearly see a connection between working harder and achieving the psychological glow that comes with success. They want to be proud of themselves more than they want to be surrounded by fawning waiters at the beach club. Self-employed people are 29 percent more likely to work over forty-four hours a week than the average, and 63 percent more likely than those who work at nonprofit foundations.
PEOPLE LIKE THEIR JOBS, EVEN IF THEY DO GRIPE
In fact, most people really like their jobs. A random sample of over twenty-seven thousand Americans between 1972 and 2006 showed that 86 percent were satisfied with their jobs, with nearly half describing themselves as very satisfied.
If the social critics are right and we are in a vicious rat race, shackled to a quick-spinning hedonic treadmill, wouldn’t you think that knowing someone’s income would help you predict his happiness level? After all, those who slip in income would slide off the treadmill as their “superiors” go shopping at Saks. But here’s the truth: Personal control predicts happiness much better than income. Someone who earns peanuts at the zoo, but decides when to feed the elephants and when to take his own break, may be happier than (a) the emeritus executive who still gets a fat paycheck though no one listens to him anymore, or (b) the harried dentist who has to ask his office manager when he can slip out to the bathroom.
Note:REDDITO CNTROLLO FELICITÁ
GO WITH THE FLOW—TO WORK
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed the concept of “flow,” a state of mind that arises when we are completely entranced, enthralled, and absorbed by an activity. Time flies when you are a potter and love the whirl of the wheel, or when you are Dizzy Gillespie lost in a bebop riff.
Do you ever wonder why Norman Mailer always looked like he was scowling? Writers, musicians, and artists, who would seem to score high on a flow scale, tend to be more prone to depression. Extroverts are happier. Showing up for work and bumping into coworkers in the restroom and around the coffeepot points us toward happiness. Entrepreneurs are happiest when they begin bringing other people into their venture, and sharing their enthusiasm. In contrast, flow in front of a lonely typewriter is not a recipe for happiness,
Note:ESTROVERSI BISOGNO DI OSTENTARE/CONDIVIDERE
WORK HELPS US RE-CREATE OURSELVES AND CREATE TOMORROW
Greed and envy do not explain the extra hours of work, despite the Edenist screeds. A different psychological/neurological drive is playing out: Work rides the waves of chemicals we discussed in the previous chapter. Work charges up our brains with dopamine when we start anticipating a new success.
Note:LAVORO E DOPAMINA
Daniel Gilbert has cleverly noted that we get no kick from watching a recording of Monday Night Football on Tuesday, even if we did not know who won: “Because the fact that the game has already been played precludes the possibility that our cheering will somehow penetrate the television, travel through the cable system, find its way to the stadium, and influence the trajectory of the ball as it hurtles toward the goalposts!” We want the freedom to control
We want to feel good about our success. We want to deserve our pleasure. Guilty pleasures are reserved for Godiva chocolate. People who do not feel responsible for their own success feel sadder 25 percent of the time. That’s why lottery winners usually lose their giddy smiles pretty quickly.
Bill Gates did not have a vision of dollar bills stacked up to the moon and back. He had this vision: I can see a computer on every desk. Steve Jobs imagined an iPhone in every hand.