Unpacking Work, Happiness and Purpose


Clint Murphy Simone Stolzoff


Clint Murphy, Simone Stolzoff

Clint Murphy  00:00

Simone, welcome to the growth guide today, I would love to dive into your book. Good enough job with you. Before we do that, can you share with the audience a little bit about yourself?

Simone Stolzoff  00:14

Yeah, thanks for having me on. So yeah, my name is Simone. I am an author, I guess I’m still sort of working my mouthfeel around that word, but had a meandering career. I’ve worked in a few different industries and advertising and in tech and in journalism and design, during my 20s, all the while trying to look for that dream job, that job that could help me self actualize. And on the other side of a decade searching, I came to a realization that maybe that dream job didn’t exist. And so my debut book is called the good enough job. That’s a kind of two things. One is an investigation into how work has come to be so central to so many people’s lives, especially in the West and developed countries. And then the second is an editorial argument about the value of diversifying our identities beyond just what we do for work. Perfect.

Clint Murphy  01:10

Perfect. So let’s dive right in with a couple of hard hitting lines from the book, I’ll share them, and then let you color it in a little. So the first two that really stood out to me early in the book where you said in the United States, how we make money is shorthand for who we are, our livelihoods have become our lives. And then you followed that up with a work guest seeks meaning from their work, similar to how a religious person seeks meaning from their faith. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it landed for you? Because those are both things we’re going to go deep on today, including what is a work guest?

Simone Stolzoff  01:52

Yes, let’s start there. So workism, or workist is a term that was originally coined by a colleague of mine named Derek Thompson at the Atlantic. And short refers to someone who treats their work similar to how a religious person might treat their god or their religion. So instead of just looking to work for a paycheck, also looking to work for a purpose, a reason for being a means of self actualization. And, you know, I think this can cut both ways. On one hand, we all hopefully are able to find meaningful work in our lives with a sense of purpose and a sense of community. And at the same time, when it becomes the sole sense of meaning, or purpose or identity in your life, it can be a risky bargain, as many people found out in the last few years, where dread laughs or furloughs are often to no reason. The workers themselves they no longer had their job. So if your work is your sole source of identity and meaning and you lose your job, the question is sort of what’s left, then the first question is about sort of how we got here, you know, how did, Americans in particular come to ascribe so much of their identities and their meaning to work and if your last name is, as Miller or Baker, you might think this is nothing new, you know, for as long as our country has existed, hard work and productivity have been associated with self worth, and are our own identities, you know, the Protestant work ethic, and capitalism are really the two strands that intertwine to form Americans DNA. But in the last 40 or so, years, a few trends have converged to make work, particularly Central, I think there are economic reasons there are political reasons or cultural reasons. For one, there’s been a huge decline in other sources of meaning and community and identity for Americans. So things like organized religion, or neighborhood and community groups, and with the decline of some of these institutions, the need for belonging and meaning and purpose remain, and so many people have turned to the place where they spend the majority of their time which is the office. So that’s one reason there are also sort of subjective cultural reasons you know, the ways in which CEOs have become celebrities and we plaster always do what you love on the walls of our co working spaces. There is this idea that you know, you are, what you do is the barriers between our personal lives and our professionalize converge on social media. Often the first question that we ask each other when we meet someone new is what do you do for work? And, you know, it wasn’t always this way. We tend to lead with our professional identities now, in the same way that the last 20 or 30 years in a way that wasn’t necessarily the case before. And then I think there’s also a number of political factors. So for example, in the United States, our health care is tied to our employment if you’re an immigrant, your ability to stay in this country is often tied to your employment. And so one of the reasons why our relationship to work seems so fraught in this country is because the consequences of losing work are so dire. And so people cling to their jobs, not just because they want to, but also in many cases, because they have to.

Clint Murphy  05:11

Wow. So we have a lot to unpack in that one answer let’s, let’s start with a lot of our listeners may not know, the tie in to the idea of Calvinism, and the Protestant work ethic. And interestingly, religion used to be that spot where a lot of us would, would go to find our meaning and purpose. And over time that shifted, and you talk about the fact that the number of people who are identifying as religious now more than any time in history, there are more people identifying as non religious than any single religion. So the greatest religion is non religion and  so it seems that that original Protestant capitalist tie in that you talked about, where did that come from? What was it like before that? And how is that also driven some of this shift away from religion as a place where we find purpose, and even relationships and camaraderie into work is the place we do that? Yeah, so

Simone Stolzoff  06:22

Yeah, so let’s start with Calvinism. So, you know, John Calvin, Pastor, Western Europe and the late 16th century. And, you know, you take this idea of partisan Protestantism that came from Martin Luther, and he built upon it. And the basic idea was that our path and whether we’re destined for Heaven, or hell is pre ordained, only God knows that path. But there are some signs that you are part of what Calvinists called the elect, which were essentially the chosen ones. And one of those signs was your ability to work hard, and your ability to gain material wealth. And so everyone was destined to their post, you know, the cobbler to his shoes, the blacksmith, to his workshop. And one of the ways in which you could indicate both to the other earthly beings around you, and to maybe a higher power that you are destined to heaven, was by your ability to work hard. That’s where this idea of this kind of work ethic comes from. And when you think about the foundation of the United States, a lot of those same Calvinist values were integral and the way in which our country was established. Now, fast forward, you know, it’s a fairly religious country moving in to the 18th 19th 20th century is in say, like the 1950s, about four or 5% of Americans considered themselves either atheist, agnostic or not believing in anything in particular. And then this trend occurred starting about 30 or so years ago, where the number of non religious folks started to skyrocket. There’s this term that social scientists use called the nuns, which is that kind of catch all term for people that either don’t believe in God or just don’t believe in religion at all. And now, about one in three Americans is a member of this group. So we’ve seen this very stark rise in the number of people who don’t associate with religion. Now, at the same time, this is coalescing with some interesting trends in the modern workforce. So in the 1970s, for example, the average American and the average German and the average French person all work about the same number of hours. And now the average American works about 30% more than the average German. So you get these kind of two trends that are hard beginning in concert with one another. One is the increase in people who are non religious, or you can think about as the decrease in religiosity and United States. And then you can think about this flatlining, or the increase of work hours or time people spend working. And the greatest increases of working hours are found amongst some of the highest earners in the United States. So the same people who could afford to work the least are in fact working more than ever. And so part of the thing that I do in sort of the first half of the book is show how these two trends can overlap and how one may lead to another whereas you might have looked to your church to be a source of meaning or purpose in this in the world. Now a lot of white college educated Americans in particular are looking to their jobs. So that same sense of purpose and identity and meaning. 

Clint Murphy  10:03

Ouch, and you tie that to this idea of looking for that job that you love and pursuing your passion. And you were doing that for a period of time post college. But then you heard this line that I loved, which was, instead of the old cliche, do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life. What someone said to you was, I believe it was the artist Adam Kurtz, do what you love, and you’ll work super fucking hard all the time, with no separation, or anti boundaries, and also take everything extremely personally. How have you how have you seen that play out in your life, and in the people that you profiled in the book or have had conversations with in preparing for the book, like you take the examples of, and maybe we’ll wait, but will like this whole idea of vocational law, and how debilitating that can be for people who go that route? 

Simone Stolzoff  11:03

Yeah, and I think that line from Adam is really resonate, especially for people who are maybe entrepreneurs or people who derive a lot of meaning and identity through work. You know, I think one of the great gifts that you get when you are successful in the western world is more work, it’s very easy for work to completely take over your life. And so I think there’s sort of two things, there’s sort of the economic argument for the value of diversifying your identity or perhaps working a little bit less. But then there’s also just the humanist argument. I’ll start with the first and then I’ll go into the second. So the economic argument is that there aren’t always a direct relationship between the number of hours you spend working, and the quality of the work that you produce. And this is becoming increasingly true, as we shift from a more service based or manufacturing based economy into a more knowledge based economy. So if the deliverable is something like the headline for a marketing campaign, or a strategy document for an organization, there isn’t always a direct relationship between the number of hours that you put in and the quality of work that you get out. I think we can all relate to this firsthand if you’re on our 11 or 12 hour a day, or if you’ve worked, you know, seven weeks in a row without taking any time off, or if your day is just a series of meeting after meeting after meeting without the space that we need, in order for ideas to bounce off of each other and synthesize and make sense of all that you’re taking in, the quality of your work is not necessarily going to be as good. So there’s sort of like the business case, not to mention kind of burnout, and getting to a point where you’re unable to continue to produce or keep working. But the other case that I make in the book is this more sort of humanist case, I don’t think that we should work less just because it produces better work, I think we should work less because it produces better people, you know, certainly we are all more than just workers, we are parents and siblings and friends and neighbors and citizens. And if we over invest, and just one aspect of who we are, those other identities that exist within us can wither. You know, our identities are sort of like plants, they need time and attention in order to grow. And if we’re giving all of our time, and attention and energy just to our work life, we’re not going to be the well rounded people that we should aspire to.

Clint Murphy  13:42

And you talk about in the first case study you give, what you illustrated was that the psychological research shows, if we are fully flushed out in those different sides of ourselves, we’re better at dealing with setbacks. And the more we let one area let’s call it work, overcome who we are, the less resilient we are to change. What does that look like for you? And how should the listeners be thinking about that, as it relates to their lives? 

Simone Stolzoff  14:17

Yeah, so maybe it’ll be best illustrated through an example. So imagine you are maybe new to a job, and you are really passionate about this work. And you really care about what your boss says to you the validation or lack thereof that you get from your boss, and you don’t have very much else going on in your life. Maybe you’re moving to a new city for this job. And really work is sort of at the center and everything else is in the margins. Then one day you come in and you get a bad performance review. or your boss says something critical of your work. If you don’t have these other identities that you’ve cultivated, it could very easily spill over into all other facets of your life, that can be this cloud that sort of hangs over you, especially if it’s the only way in which you are deriving self worth. But then think about if you have a broader Foundation, if you have taken the time to develop, then consider yourself as more than just a worker, you have other identities, other communities in which you play a role. Maybe that sting from your boss does not stick, or spill over as much, you can still derive self worth from the way in which you show up as a friend. Or you can still derive fulfillment from the ways that you’re contributing to your community through a volunteer project or through your kids or through your friendships or relationships, or how you show up as a family member. And so the research shows that, you know, people who have what they call more self complexity, who have developed these different sides of who they are, tend to be more resilient in the face of adversity. It also shows that people who have more self complexity tend to be more creative and innovative, because they’re able to draw inspiration from a wider source of knowledge and relationship. And so I think the upshot here is that much as an investor benefits from diversifying the stocks in their portfolio, we to benefit from being able to diversify the sources of meaning and identity in our lives. 

Clint Murphy  16:45

And the one thing you said there is, is that person who really gets their identity from their job. And in the book, you talk about certain careers that you’re willing to take less pay, because the job is a bit of a mission, I think zookeepers, librarians, nurses, teachers, you feel that the mission and the purpose of the job is sometimes great enough, that you should be willing, to some extent sacrificed. And part of the challenge, I think that’s what we call vocational law. So I’ll let you define it better if I’ve butchered it a little. But one of the challenges is, when you look back in time, and let’s talk post World War Two, a lot of the growth in America was through the middle class. And that’s who was earning the money from this capitalist machine we talked about. And slowly over time, as we told people, that the workplace is a family, and you should invest in the mission. As we did that, the percentage of the earnings that these workers were getting was going lower and lower and lower. And so the CEO pay gap, if you will, has just gone exponential throughout that timeframe. So what is it I’m wrapping a bunch of them in up there for you with we’ve got vocational law we’ve got the workplace is a family in quotation marks, and how that leads to a widening gap in earnings between the average worker and the owners or the CEOs of these companies. So how do you see that playing out in what are some alarm bells we should be thinking about when we hear them in the workplace? 

Simone Stolzoff  18:38

Yeah, so if there was just one chart to explain the American economy, it would be the chart of time versus productivity and wages. And for the majority of the 20th century, productivity and wages grew in lockstep with one another. And then in the mid 19 century, there, the mid 1970s, there was this Great Rift, where productivity continued to increase due to technological innovation and better ways of working. And yet wages began to stagnate. And the question is why? And, you know, I think the simple answer, you know, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots here is that the ownership class started consolidating wealth. And that meant decreasing their costs. And one of the biggest costs is impact the labor force. And so if managers or CEOs or owners weren’t going to pay workers more, they had to find other reasons for workers to come to work to continue to show up and be productive. There’s this quote that I have in the book from the head of the New York Stock Exchange in the 1970s, who said something like if my monetary compensation is going to stay the same, then we have to find these other forms of compensation in order to learn workers to the workplace. So the result of that is you get this sort of work as meaning them movement that is propped up both by the business self help literature that begins around that time. But it’s like, what color is your parachute, but also the rhetoric of companies that say, Here, come and join our company, we will treat you well, we will be loyal to you, we will maybe feed you or throw concerts. You know, there’s ideals of 20th century corporations like Kodak, and IBM, this sort of all encompassing precursors to the Silicon Valley campuses. And then, you know, it’ll be worth it for you, even as CEO pay is going up. While the average worker pay is flatline, and then you get this idea of vocational art, which you brought up. And it’s essentially the idea that in certain lines of work, particularly mission driven, or creative fields, the idea is that the privilege to do that type of creative or mission driven work should be seen as a form of compensation in and of itself. So you can think about fields like nursing and teaching, as you mentioned, that are kind of care oriented fields, you can think about fields like you know, the screenwriters in Hollywood is a great recent example of a field where, you know, you get to be creative and think all day, this isn’t a job, this is a passion, you should be grateful just to be here, there’s a line of people out the door, who would happily take your job. And the problem with that rhetoric, the problem with this idea of thinking as the certain fields or the certain jobs as righteous is that it can cover up a lot of the injustice that exists in these different professions. We saw this during the pandemic, when we taught nurses and teachers that they were doing essential work, but rarely compensated them in a way that was commensurate with the severity of the work that they were doing. And so, you know, this labor of love ethic has really bloomed in the past 20 years or so. And now and kind of the last three or so years, we’re starting to see a push back, we’re starting to see workers see their work as when it is an economic contract. And certainly it can be a lot more than that. But the movement towards unions and labor organizing, I think there’s a push back against a lot of the prevailing separate labor of love ethic that was popular and a few decades before. 

Clint Murphy  22:44

And for the people who don’t know, what was the rate of unionization or the average population that was unionized, let’s say in the 1960s, and 70s. And what is the rate of unionization today in society?

Simone Stolzoff  22:59

Yeah, so it’s sort of the peak in the 20th century of unionization, and about one in three Americans was part of a union. And today, that number is about one in 10. And there’s this interesting moment right now, as a Labour Party, that I’m obviously tracking these things. They’re the opinion that Americans have towards unions is reaching sort of a multi decade high, about 70% of Americans these days are pro Union, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into people actually being part of unions. And so without the sort of collectively collective bargaining apparatus that an organized labor force provides, workers simply have less of a say. And that’s why some of these things like inordinate CEO pay, or a lack of protection or job security or fair compensation persists.

Clint Murphy  23:55

And so when you think of unionization, and you think of that, decades long High was 70%, approving of unions, do you have a vision that we will see an increase in unionization? When we see people trying to unionize certain areas, certain branches of let’s say, Amazon or Starbucks? Do you see over time enough people saying wait a second, these owners or this owner class has so abused their power that we the people need to take it back and unionization is one of the ways that we’re going to do that?

Simone Stolzoff  24:35

I do, you know, and I think that culture is often a precursor to change. And we’re seeing a lot more coverage of unions. We’re seeing a lot more favoritism. We’re seeing a lot more media about union growth, and I think it is this sort of 21st century workforce, waking up to an old idea, which is that, you know, if workers don’t have Money, their strength comes from organizing their strength comes from numbers. You know, certainly it was organized labor that got us things like the five day workweek and the nine to five work day. And, you know, all the sort of labor winds of the 20th century are the result of organized labor. And now we’re seeing it in industries that haven’t traditionally been unionized to like attack where it’s not just about working conditions, but it’s also trying to have a say in the direction of different companies and trying to make sure that workers voice is represented and the values that companies espouse. 

Clint Murphy  25:41

Yeah, I found that example about the unionization. In your book very interesting. In that one of the things they were looking for, was the ability to have a voice in the direction of the company. Is that an area you see growing? And do you see a bit of power in the people making these decisions versus the select few? 

Simone Stolzoff  26:08

Yeah, definitely, you know, I think you might look at a workforce like the workforce of Google, or the workforce of a place like open AI, and say, you know, these are well paid tech workers, their software engineers and designers and product people, they don’t necessarily need a union to advocate for better wages. And while that might be true, it’s important to note that wages is not the only thing that a union can advocate for. You know, I think we saw this firsthand. Even a few weeks ago with that ouster of Sam Altman, the workers banding together and declaring that they want Sam back in at CO is a labor story. It’s an example of workers using their collective voice in order to make change. And especially when you think of a generation defining technology like AI that has huge implications, both potential upside and downside risks, I think it’s important that the power and the decision making is not concentrated in the hands of a select few. And that’s the other side of union voice that I think we could all benefit from is if you are working for a company where the strategic decisions are going to impact your life and your livelihood, you deserve to have a say in the choices that these companies are making. 

Clint Murphy  27:38

That’s a beautiful way to put it anything you mentioned in there that people may not see or think about you were talking about the tech companies and in some of these perks or bonuses that they offer, but what you share in the book is it’s never done without a rigorous amount of analysis, for example, how much work has to be done, and the earnings that are generated from it by providing that free dinner when you get to seven o’clock, or by providing that free, Uber home, if you work to nine o’clock. We often think that the owners who are providing that aren’t necessarily doing it in a in a completely Machiavellian way. But the example in your book was someone who ran these numbers for companies to say, well, what is the return on providing that snack? Or what is the return on providing that car ride? What does that look like for the average young worker? Who doesn’t realize what they’re up against?

Simone Stolzoff  28:42

Yeah, you know, I don’t think it’s a roomful of executives sort of twiddling their thumbs and saying, you know, how can we take advantage of our workers to the most degree and you know, if we have a ping pong table, and if we offer dinner, will they stay working longer in an  evil away. But I do think that it’s ultimately a business decision. And I think one of the risks especially for young workers, who might move to a new place and get sort of enraptured in the mystique of some of these tech campuses that become kind of your go to gym and your go to dinner spot and where you make all of your friends is ultimately it is serving the company. And it’s important to be clear headed about this. You know, I think a lot of workers in the past few years you worked for, you know, the Googles and the Twitter’s and the metas of the world, found this out firsthand, when with the shift from in person to remote work, you were forced to actually confront the type of work that you were doing every day and I talked to many tech workers for the book who said things like, you know, I looked myself in the mirror and I asked do I want to spend the rest of my life doing, you know, Software as a Service b2b sales and the answer was no. So in one way Some of these products can be used to sort of mask the actual mission and purpose of these companies, and other ways that they just become all consuming. And they crowd out other aspects of your life. And so you know, there’s nothing wrong with, you know, having a drink at work or staying for dinner. But if it becomes a trend, that means that you’re not having dinner with your family, or with your friends, or you’re not investing in the local community around where you live. And then it becomes this perpetuating cycle where you know, all you do is work and spend your time working. And so you don’t know how to spend your time when you’re not working. And so you work more and the cycle continues. And I think, you know, young workers are waking up to this fact a little bit, you know, in the early aughts, in the 2010s, there was this sort of Silicon Valley ethos that was so desirable, and you wanted to go work for the company that allowed you to do laundry and get your hair cut on campus. And now I think a lot of workers have a much more balanced view, which is, you know, I want a place where I can show up, I can do great work, by the end of the day, I can go home. And I think that’s a much healthier perspective to take when it comes to work through our lives.

Clint Murphy  31:19

Well, it reminds me of you’re right about the line that’s written on the wall at the Slack head office, which is work hard and go home. What does that look like for you in? What does that look like for the people that embody that style?

Simone Stolzoff  31:34

Yeah, I worked in corporate environments, both in journalism and tack, before I became a full time author. And I think one of the things that I realized is, once I started working for myself, I had this assumption that it was the company that I worked for, or it was the manager that was pushing me to work long hours, or to, you know, open the laptop up on the weekends. And then I started working for myself, and I realized, wait a second, you know, I am the worst manager that I’ve ever had, you know, it was me that was pushing myself to keep working even when I wasn’t being productive, or to not have good boundaries between them. And I was on and off the clock. And so it’s been this very conscious effort of how do I make it more clear, so that I’m not continually in this state of half work, sort of like a shark with one eye open with one eye on Slack or my email. And, you know, I think they’re similar to the very first, you know, point that we were making their sort of work benefits and non work benefits from having clear boundaries between when you are and you aren’t working, the work benefit is that by allowing yourself to completely unplug to recharge, you can return to work with clear eyes with well rested thoughts with an idea of, okay, I’m here to work. And I have a clear purpose, as opposed to constantly multitasking and never quite getting enough, done. And then there are also benefits to our life outside of work, you know, whether you’re a parent or just a friend, or someone who wants to cultivate different hobbies or interests, you know, one of the benefits of say, going for a run or going to a yoga class is that these are activities that kind of structurally prevent you from working while you’re doing that. And by doing that, it allows you to really be present and derive meaning from these other sources of your life besides just the workplace. And so that’s one of kind of the fears they have of modern knowledge workers, that it’s incredibly leaky, you know, when we all carry around an office, in our pocket there, it’s harder to delineate between when you are and when you’re not working. And so we have to do a lot of that work around setting boundaries ourselves.

Clint Murphy  33:57

Well, that brings you to the idea in the title of the book, the good enough job. And so you got that idea from the 1950s concept of the good enough parents, which seemed to somewhat contrast that all too common helicopter parent, we see who were or tiger parent who’s trying to make the perfect kid and scheduling every second of their day. So what prompted the concept of the good enough job into you? What is the good enough look like?

Simone Stolzoff  34:34

Yeah, you know, it’s a good question. I think, you know, in the title, it sort of is an allusion to two things one is this theory of good enough parenting that I can explain in a second and the other is as a contrast to kind of the dream job. And you know, I want to be clear on when it’s not you know, I don’t think you look at the title of the bucket, the good enough job, reclaiming life from work, and think that it’s this like slacker manifesto or it This excuse to kind of check out and just sit on your couch all day. And it’s not that I think the ethos of the buck is much closer to what we were just talking about of, you know, the hours that you’re at work, be at work, try and do great work, try and find meaningful work. And when you’re not at work, leave where it is, you know that the idea of the good enough parent came from this pediatrician and psychoanalyst named Donald Winnicott. And when he caught with observing in England, where he was from this growing idolization, of parenting, where parents wanted to be the perfect parent and shield their kid from experiencing any sort of negative emotion or harm, and then when the kid inevitably felt frustrated, or sad or angry, the parent took it extremely personally. And so when a cop proposed an alternative, and he caught it, you know, good enough parenting. And the idea was that by taking this approach that valued sufficiency, as opposed to perfection, both the kid and the parent would benefit, the child would learn how to self soothe, and take care of some of their own problems, and the parent wouldn’t get lost in their children’s emotions. So obviously, I’m making kind of a direct parallel to the working world. And our jobs, you know, like a crying toddler are not things that we can always control. And so maybe an approach that values sufficiency, as opposed to perfection, will actually allow us to have a healthier relationship to work. This isn’t to say, to settle or to not look for work that you find personally meaningful or to not align your interests and your passions with how you make money. I think that is all well and good. But the important part here is that we’re starting with our vision of a life well lived, and thinking about how our jobs and our careers can support that vision, as opposed to what is so often the status quo these days, the other way around, where the job is at the center, and everything else is outside. 

Clint Murphy  37:06

Yes, and one of the challenges we have with that is, for a lot of us, we always think that the change is right around the corner, when I get to this step, I can slow down when I’m making this much money, I can relax when I get this title, it’s going to change you call that the if then trap. And what I’d love to share is the research that Michael Norton did at the Harvard Business School. And then we could dive into that as sort of a last question that in the book was this idea that in a study of more than 200 millionaires, he asked them two simple questions. How are you on a scale of one to 10? And how much money would you need to get to get to attend? And regardless of how much they had, whether it was a million 2,000,005 or more, most of the respondents said, they’d be happier when they had two to three times as much money is they had? What’s that telling us?

Simone Stolzoff  38:06

Yeah, I know, I think you got a laugh of it. Because it’s relatable, right? You know, you can all think about the ways in which you very easily habituate to whatever situation you’re in, it’s very hard to recognize that what you have today might be what you wanted to have one, two or five years ago. So yeah, this this idea of the kind of hedonic treadmill, it’s this idea that we will always acclimate to whatever situation that we’re in and return to kind of fixed setpoint. And when you make more money, you start comparing yourself to a group of peers that are also making more money, and it’s harder for you to be content or satisfied with what you have. The second is this idea of like, if then the gain or when thinking where you put these targets out in front of you and say, when I get promoted, or when my net worth is X amount of dollars, or when I find the love of my life, then I will be happy, then I will be fulfilled. And the problem is a few fold. One is as you reach those different milestones, you tend to just push the goalposts further away and you know, have another if then statement that becomes contingent on your last achievement. And the second is that wherever you go, there you are, you’re still the same person. And so I am back with the story of this guy named Kay he who was this kind of prototypical type A overachiever, maybe similar to a lot of the listeners of the show where he was ambitious. And from a young age, she knew that he wanted to go to a top college and so he made good grades and got into an Ivy League school. And then when he got to college, he said, Okay, I want to make as much money as I possibly can. And the options then are, you know, banking or consulting or I could be a lawyer, I could be a doctor, and he chose banking, he chose to go work on Wall Street. And he joins BlackRock, which is at the time, the largest asset management firm in the world. And he rises to the ranks and becomes one of the youngest ever managing directors at BlackRock, you know, he’s making over a million dollars a year before the time, he turns 30, he owns his first New York City, apartment, and he’s just on this treadmill. He’s, he’s running and he’s running, and he’s running, and he’s running. And then he is preparing to go to a friend, his wedding. And he realized that a chunk of his hair has fallen out due to stress related alopecia. And, you know, there was this wake up call for him that was sure he was very on paper successful. But what was the cost of all of this is of the success. And to that he was playing a game that he didn’t actually want to win, you know, he made it to the top of the hill that he was climbing, and recognize that the view from that perch wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. And so the realization there is, you know, when you are solely living your life based on extrinsic motivation, based on what the market values are, what the world values are the most prestigious sounding job or the highest potential salary, it’s very easily to lose sight of what you intrinsically value what you value yourself. So that’s one end of the spectrum, I think there’s also risk on the other end of the spectrum. And so if you think about someone who is just making decisions based on what they value, without considering what the world values are, without considering what the market values, you can find yourself in a position where if, for example, you’re assuming a lot of debt to go to graduate school, to pursue a degree that might not actually lead to stable job prospects on the other end, or you go all in to pursue your art. But you’re so preoccupied with how you’re going to make rent, that you can’t focus on the actual art that you hope to create. And so I think my takeaway from learning about cam some of the research behind this stuff is we have to think about both, we have to think about what the world values in one hand, and what we ourselves value on the other hand, and try and find work at their intersection. Because if you’re solely making decisions based on what floats your boat without considering what the world values, or if you’re solely making decisions, based on what the world values without tapping into what you yourself care about, you can be left high and dry.

Clint Murphy  43:07

I mean, to some extent, it’s looking for that Japanese Ikigai concept of what am I good at? What do I love doing? What does the world need? What can I get paid for, and where we find that intersection, I don’t want to say you know, you’re going to be doing what you love, so you won’t be working, but you will likely enjoy it more. And as you said earlier, playing a game that you want to win.

Simone Stolzoff  43:30

I just gonna say my only build on that is that knowing that some of that can come some of that fulfillment can come from your work life. And some of that fulfillment can come from your life outside of us. You know, you can still be ambitious about things other than things that you can get paid for. And I think that’s really important to keep in mind is that, you know, as you think about what contributes to life, well live, like sure, you know, some of those exercises like ikigai can be really important to help you find sort of that intersection, but also thinking more expansively about ways that you might be able to find meaning or identity or purpose in a way that no boss or manager or economic downturn can ever take away from you. 

Clint Murphy  44:18

And that jumped out early in the book for me when you mentioned the line that the poet I may have the pronunciation wrong, and you correct me on this Annis Mojane? Yeah, okay. And what they said to you was, work will always be work. Some people work doing what they love, other people work so they can do what they love, when they’re not working. Neither is more noble.

Simone Stolzoff  44:43

Yeah, I think, you know, that’s sort of issue you couldn’t encapsulate the wisdom in the bucket. One phrase it would be that and I think we live in a culture in a society that loves to revere people whose work and identity neatly aligned and And yet, you know, the majority of people don’t work to self actualize. They work to survive. And I think that’s important to keep in mind too. And so yes, you know, some people have the privilege of being able to do work that they love. And some people do work that affords them to be able to do what they love when they’re not working. 

Clint Murphy  45:20

Yeah, it’s a beautiful way to look at it. And I’m gonna flip the script, a little fire, some rapid fire questions on you to wrap it up. So the first one what, what one book, have you read that had the most impact on your life?

Simone Stolzoff  45:34

There’s many ways to answer this question. I think one book that I read recently that has really stuck with me is this book called dedicated by this guy named Pete Davis. And it’s a book about commitment. I think the subtitle is something like, you know, commitment and an age of infinite options. And I think it’s a really profound book for our age, because we do live in this time where the amount of options, whether it’s the amount of people that you can date, the amount of jobs that you can do, or the amount of places that you can live have never been more visible. And yet, if you are always in kind of infinite browsing mode, and you know, that canonical example of being on Netflix and spending all night sort of trying to figure out what to watch and then turning off the TV, it doesn’t allow you to get the benefits that come from really squaring your hips and committing to something. So you know, that’s a book, those whose mission and whose message has really stuck with me since I read it.

Clint Murphy  46:38

I want to check that out. Now, what’s something you’re reading right now that you enjoy? 

Simone Stolzoff  46:43

Hmm, I am reading two books. One is a memoir by the poet named Maggie Smith, and it’s called you can make this place beautiful. And it’s a memoir that is about her divorce and sort of the way in which her marriage broke down. But it’s told in this really beautiful way where there’s a lot of whitespace. And there are chapters that are just, you know, two paragraphs long, and chapters that are 20 pages long. And it’s just one of those books where the prose, the writing itself, just really jumps off the page. And then the second is same as ever, Morgan household’s new book, The Psychology of money, and yeah, it’s great. I like this sort of model of the kind of internet blogger turned author. And it’s also novel in its approach, and that it’s, you know, 25 or so chapters. And each one is the short vignette that has one message about some wisdom that will withstand the test of time, something that will always be true, from history that you can use to ground yourself as we face an uncertain future.

Clint Murphy  47:47

Wonderful. That’s definitely a must read. What’s one thing that you spent under $1,000 on in the last year that you’ve thought to yourself, damn, I wish I’d bought this sooner?

Simone Stolzoff  47:59

Well, you know, I’m sitting here at my desk and looking at this little, little man, sticky notes. No, it’s like, it’s kind of like a fidget toy. I used to be like, very skeptical. You know, my wife is a former elementary school teacher. And so it’s had to deal with a lot of nine year olds that have their puppets in different toys that they’re playing with during class. But I am such a fan. And I was sort of skeptical on the way in which like playing with something in your hand can actually get you to focus or be more present. But as someone who you know, has a racing mind, and often a restless knee as well, having just this little thing to play with at my desk, this has been a game changer, especially in those zoom meetings that could have been emails.

Clint Murphy  48:43

Yeah, I always have like a pin lit or something in my hand that I’m just fidgeting with. So I absolutely love that concept. And it is a final question because the shows about growth and learning and change, what’s one mindset shift or habit or behavior that you’ve changed that’s had an oversized impact on your life? 

Simone Stolzoff  49:05

Well, I can tell you a little bit about what I’m working on now. And it’s sort of related to that, which is my next book is about how to get better at dealing with what we don’t know. And I think the mindset shift for me was, I think I spent a lot of my youth trying to control my future, you know, trying to control my own destiny and do things where I could either optimize for optionality or optimize for trying to find the best or trying to predict the exact outcome of where I wanted to be and five years. And I think one of the biggest shifts that I’ve made recently is accepting that anything that happens in the future is uncertain by definition, and the sort of illusion of control we have over the future can cause more pain. And then it causes realistic benefit. And so paring this idea of, you know, still striving towards growth and improvement, with the acceptance that ultimately the future is uncertain, has felt like an incredible kind of weight lifted off my shoulder, and a level of just acceptance that, you know, we can try our best we can have intentions, but ultimately, we’re not entitled to any particular outcomes or the results. 

Clint Murphy  50:29

It sounds wonderful and scary, all at the same time. 

Simone Stolzoff  50:33

Yeah, I mean, that’s why we claim for control, right? Because exact future is scary. And some psychological reassurance along the way. 

Clint Murphy  50:44

Absolutely, so we went pretty wide and deep. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you want to make sure we get across to the listener today?

Simone Stolzoff  50:51

No, I mean, I really appreciated these questions. And, you know, I think the, the book has been interesting, you know, it’s been out for a few months now. And there are a few demographics that it has really resonated with that I assumed it would resonate with. One is people who are trying to figure out their next step, or trying to figure out kind of right size, the relationship to work or maybe considering a career pivot. And the two demographics that I really didn’t expect that team to reach out to me a lot. I’ve gotten a lot from the recent retirees, so people who are going from this place of sort of like work Centricity to a next chapter, and recent college grads who are sort of trying to figure out what they want from their career and trying to be an intentional about right sizing workplace in their lives. So you know, it’s the holidays and if there are any of people in those demographics in your life, maybe they would appreciate the back end if anyone wants to learn more everything you need to know is that thegoodenoughjob.com 

Clint Murphy  51:54

Well, that was the last question. Where do they find you? So the good enough job.com is where you want them to go. Perfect. I love it. Thank you for joining me on the podcast today.

Simone Stolzoff  52:03

Thanks for having me on Clint. Cheers.

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