The faltering economy: Calacanis has it wrong when it comes to work

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 4, 2008, 12:02 AM | comments: 0

I have a real love-hate thing with Jason Calacanis. His solution to our woes is that we all work more. For what, I don't even know. Sometimes I think he's a smart guy with the right view on the world, other times I think he's someone who got lucky in the right place at the right time. This is one of those times I think he's got it wrong.

I think that we can agree that over-consumption across socioeconomic lines contributed to the financial mess our country is in. The jerk across the street in the neighboring McMansion driving a Hummer and buying his trophy wife a Coach bag is a disgusting display of excess and vanity, and I know this because my neighborhood might be new, but it isn't high end. But what Calacanis doesn't understand is that not everyone is an ADD-prone entrepreneur who gets off on working most of the day, every day. I don't know anyone personally who lives around Silicon Valley, but I suspect most people who are like that in the rest of the world over-work to support their over-consumption in the first place. The two are related. My neighbor is not like Calacanis.

Remember, the US is the country that sucks at taking vacations. So what is the reason we work at the expense of our non-work lives? Obviously it's the consumption addiction. People work more hoping to make more to feed the need.

My suggestion is that we need to work smarter, not more. Balance your life with work, play and family. Make sure the work component is rational and supports a rational lifestyle. Calacanis is wrong about Google. When we're in a grind to deliver a feature or make just one more sales call or whatever, we're using finite time resources that could otherwise be used to solve problems or create opportunities in novel ways. Innovation doesn't happen when you're in a constant grind.

Have I taken work home or stayed late when something was on fire? Yeah, of course I have. I understand that particularly in technology jobs, sometimes you just gotta put in the time. But in my last job in particular (the last long-term one), the one recurring theme about those instances was that we would figure out how to prevent them next time. We worked smarter, not more, and that's sustainable execution in business.

Calacanis points to a collective "sloth" and then starts waving the flag and talking about how awesome we are. Well, which is it? The truth lies somewhere in the middle. I know librarians having to sell their cars to cover health care costs for their kids and professionals being cut to part time. Work more is about the most asinine thing I can think of when unemployment nears 8%, as it is here in Ohio.

Massive changes in consumer behavior have already begun. Savings are suddenly up and consumer spending is getting kicked in the nuts right now. Go to the mall tomorrow and see how uncharacteristically non-crowded it is for December. I think people are doing the right things, and doing what they've got to do. Not all of us can be dotcom millionaires and pontificate about what we should be doing. We can grit our teeth and try to get through it the best we can, not by working more, but by working smarter.

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