HOW WORK GOT GOOD: OVERALL, JOBS HAVE BECOME SAFER, MORE INTERESTING--AND MORE INTENSE.

Author:Diamond, Arthur M., Jr.
 
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STEVE JOBS RECRUITED Pepsi's John Sculley to Apple by asking him if he wanted to spend his life selling sugared water or if he wanted "a chance to change the world." Sculley took the chance. In all his enterprises, Jobs offered his employees the same. They were on an intense mission, where much was asked of them. The work was hard, and they were expected to care about it and devote themselves to it. But they could grow and be justly rewarded for their contributions. They were expected to question their boss, who would sometimes change his mind based on the questioning.

Some of the rewards were intangible--the "flow" of losing oneself in an important and challenging but doable activity. Other rewards were tangible. When the first Macs were shipped, Jobs took the Mac team to the parking lot, called each by name, and handed him or her a Mac with the signatures of the 46 main team members engraved inside.

Many of the higher needs that move us in pursuit of a good life are the same higher needs that move us in pursuit of agood job. The psychologist Abraham Maslow famously observed that after we satisfy physiological needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, we seek to satisfy higher needs, such as fulfillment, meaning, control, and creativity, through the choice and pursuit of challenging, meaningful projects. Too often a life of leisure does not allow sufficient satisfaction of the higher needs. It is telling that Europeans have much more leisure than Americans, but Europeans report being much less happy.

Having a challenging job where you are in control of your time is not only important for satisfying the higher needs; it also is important for satisfying the basic need for good health. One cause of constant long-term stress is boredom, which has been shown to adversely affect hormone levels and heart rates. For men, another cause of constant long-term job stress is lack of control over what projects to pursue or tasks to prioritize. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Health Psychology, men who lacked control in their work had a greater risk of death.

At first glance, it is surprising that among retirees with $1 million to $5 million in assets, 33 percent retire from one job only to then transition to working in a new one. Even among retirees with more than $5 million in assets, 29 percent continue to work. At second glance, these findings are not so surprising in a labor environment where a growing percentage of jobs are good...

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