The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Hacking employment, improving work, professional development
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Scott 2
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The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Scott 2 »

I've been reading The Hacking of the American Mind:

https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-American ... 1101982586

The author examines science behind happiness vs. pleasure, contrasting the impact of serotonin vs. dopamine. He then offers guidance on integrating his findings into life. Essentially four legs - belong to a community, contribute somehow, take care of yourself, and cook real food.

The section on contributing via work stood out to me. My last job ticked every single box in his bad list. It was a house of cards, propped up by extensive coping strategies. Covid-19 induced distancing knocked those out. Everything toppled shortly after. Probably for the best.

The good list - I'm not sure I've ever had a job like that. Maybe tiny glimpses at rare points in time, but nothing close to the full set of positive qualities. I've never looked for them. I always thought of work as a thing to suffer through, while maximizing income. It's interesting to think about his good list. Finding a way to contribute like that - maybe I'd like it. Maybe I need it.

Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing:

Bad Jobs
There are jobs that make you feel good about yourself, and others that destroy your self esteem. If your job or your boss:

1. Disconnects you from your values - for instance, pitting the bottom line against the quality of work
2. Takes you for granted
3. Requires pointless or redundant work
4. Treats people unfairly
5. Overrides your better judgement
6. Isolates or marginalizes people
7. Puts people in harms way - physically or emotionally

Then you have a job that will generate significant unhappiness.
Good Jobs
But if you are one of the lucky ones, you experience your job as:

1. Self transcendent - that is, it matters more to others than it does to you
2. Poignant - challenging at difficult times
3. Episodic - with peak experiences that vary
4. Reflective - you can see the role the completed work product will have on society
5. Personal - that you are proud to have performed it

Then you have a job that can provide both life satisfaction and contentment. Note that both sets of job characteristics that impact your mental health are exclusive of salary.

ertyu
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by ertyu »

A therapist or GP with a private practice?

But yeah, most of my jobs have also been bad by the above definition even though I've worked in different countries and different industries. It might just be capitalism, tbh.

Scott 2
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Scott 2 »

His anecdotal example is a woman who thrived working in the floral department at a grocer. I think duties hitting the good traits will be highly personal. From what I understand, the combination of insurance and administration make medical professions very unpleasant.

The author also made me think about - people who have done work for me over the years. What sort of suffering did I inflict? Could I have made small changes to dramatically alter their quality of life? It is something I tried to navigate intuitively, but a more explicit evaluation may have been warranted.

Frita
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Frita »

Scott 2 wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:49 pm
Thanks for sharing; this is pure gold. Many Americans (including myself a few years ago) think they have to tolerate bad jobs. Such BS! I am putting on my list to read.

Edit: Removed unnecessary quoting.

ducknald_don
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by ducknald_don »

Scott 2 wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 4:33 pm
His anecdotal example is a woman who thrived working in the floral department at a grocer.
I think hair dressers always come at the top of the list in job satisfaction surveys. Interestingly programmers are always near the bottom.

ertyu
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by ertyu »

I can imagine myself being happy doing the occasional therapy session for someone online, making 400 bucks a month, and living somewhere low cost ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

No need to bother with insurance etc. when you charge 30 bucks per session

Green Pimble
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Green Pimble »

ertyu wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:52 pm
A therapist or GP with a private practice?
My work in the medical field definitely ticks a lot of the 'good' boxes, and I think it's a pretty great job; although it does often pit quality of care against speed/through-put. Luckily I do not work in the American system though, so I avoid a lot of the insurance/billing stuff.

I haven't read the book, but it's interesting to note that one of the pillars/legs isn't "get good sleep". Perhaps the author has never been a shift worker? I know for me, sleep disruptions are a continuous negative influence.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Scott 2
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Scott 2 »

The author puts sleep under "take care of yourself". He's very big on good sleep hygiene, as well as mindfulness practices.

NuncFluens
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by NuncFluens »

Scott 2 wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:49 pm
Good Jobs

But if you are one of the lucky ones, you experience your job as:

1. Self transcendent - that is, it matters more to others than it does to you
2. Poignant - challenging at difficult times
3. Episodic - with peak experiences that vary
4. Reflective - you can see the role the completed work product will have on society
5. Personal - that you are proud to have performed it

Then you have a job that can provide both life satisfaction and contentment. Note that both sets of job characteristics that impact your mental health are exclusive of salary.
I didn't read the book, but there are a few points that don't make sense on their own (1 + 4 seem closely related and 3 seems to be up to individual preference). Maybe the prose goes into those points a lot more in-depth and I'm missing a lot of details, so take this for what you will.

Personally, I prefer Cal Newport's list out of So good they can't ignore you:
  • Autonomy: Having a certain degree of control over your work. This might be an individual preference, but I notice Lustig's list doesn't mention it at all.
  • Competence: Being (able to be) effective in the work environment. This touches on points 2 of Lustig's list I imagine, but also includes means of improving oneself.
  • Relatedness: According to a summary I just looked up, this was meant as "being close to one's colleagues". Personally I took it to include points 1, 4 and 5 of Lustig's list.
But I fear I only prefer it because I read it first and have built my job-hacking skills around those metrics. Maybe I'll have to pick up Hacking the American Mind after all.

bostonimproper
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by bostonimproper »

Why “bad vs. good jobs” rather than “bad vs. good perspectives one can have about their job”? Not to say there aren’t worse and better positions to be in based on quality of life, but most of these seem centered around one’s own perception of their work which is (potentially) more easily changed than the work itself.

Frita
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Frita »

bostonimproper wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 6:41 am
Why “bad vs. good jobs” rather than “bad vs. good perspectives one can have about their job”? Not to say there aren’t worse and better positions to be in based on quality of life, but most of these seem centered around one’s own perception of their work which is (potentially) more easily changed than the work itself.
When I read upthread, it was through the lense of how functional work cultures are. One is not going to be healthy and/or remain unaffected, regardless of perspective, in a toxic situation.

ellarose24
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by ellarose24 »

ertyu wrote:
Sat May 01, 2021 2:56 am
I can imagine myself being happy doing the occasional therapy session for someone online, making 400 bucks a month, and living somewhere low cost ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

No need to bother with insurance etc. when you charge 30 bucks per session
Have you heard of compassion fatigue? It is very real and every therapist deals with it pretty intensely.

Having your own practice costs money in terms of education, up keeping licenses, and branding. Most would likely work for someone else to help take care of the branding and try and simply steel some clients/word of mouth. Or you can work for BetterHelp where you are a phone-monkey for experience.

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Alphaville
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Alphaville »

Frita wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 9:04 am
When I read upthread, it was through the lense of how functional work cultures are. One is not going to be healthy and/or remain unaffected, regardless of perspective, in a toxic situation.
agreed. you can't polish a turd.

too much focus on demanding "employee attitude" is mere gaslighting on the part of incompetent managers.

Scott 2
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Scott 2 »

@NuncFluens

Funny enough, I finished listening to Deep Work on this morning's walk. I haven't read his prior book, but will assume the perspective is similar. I think the difference, is that Cal makes an implicit assumption - productivity leads to a meaningful life. I found him centered on achievement as the end goal. At times, I felt like he was using it as a loose proxy for wealth accumulating behaviors (the emphasis on value).

Lustig optimizes his system for happiness. There is a strong intersection with Cal's perspective. Lustig gets a law degree while working as a doctor, because it aligns with what he prioritizes. But, he also recognizes achievement is not the end. In his anecdotal example, the woman who thrives as a florist, left a better paying job as a prison security guard. Neither profession would fit Cal's deep work criteria.

Cal's a relatively young person, with an exceptional mind. To some extent, I think he's answering the question "how can you be like me?" The cynic in me also sees a "fear of death" aspect to his writings. If he achieves enough, the legacy will persist beyond his end. I hesitate to embrace his message as broadly applicable.


For me personally - I can be very productive, while making myself unhappy. I had one of the bigger jobs at my last company. I was good at it. I'll be replaced by a team of people, who they are struggling to hire. I'd been there for 10 years (through 10x growth) and had many strong relationships. It wasn't enough.

Conversely, the job mismatch meant being happy was bad for my productivity. There were times I had to pull back on my yoga, because I'd feel so good, I wouldn't care about my work. I'd sit at my computer, blissfully doing nothing. Not browsing the internet, literally staring out the window, waiting for someone to need my attention.

I think part of why I struggled for so long, is I internalized an achievement focus. By metrics like Cal's, I was doing well. I also liked the "Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose" list from Gladwell's book Drive.

Lustig's criteria appeal to me, because they explain my unhappiness, despite my apparent success.
Last edited by Scott 2 on Tue May 04, 2021 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

Scott 2
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Scott 2 »

bostonimproper wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 6:41 am
Why “bad vs. good jobs” rather than “bad vs. good perspectives one can have about their job”?
The bad list does read like someone with a victim mentality, doesn't it?

I think @Frita nailed it with the lense analogy. Lustig is encouraging work (and an organization) that fits the individual.

Frita
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Frita »

Alphaville wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 9:45 am
agreed. you can't polish a turd.

too much focus on demanding "employee attitude" is mere gaslighting on the part of incompetent managers.
:roll: :lol: I notice this gaslighting as part of the local culture. It seems that having a churn of young workers and older yes-people, few primo positions that pay well and afford “power,” high cost of living and desirability for local amenities, consumerism, and fear are some contributing factors. This permeates local government, boards, and nonprofits too.

Toska2
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Toska2 »

I would like to add to the "good" jobs requirement.

It has the flexibility to allow life to happen. If I have to plan my vacation in January after everybody that is my senior has, well that just wont do.

I also think turning hobbies into jobs because they fill those requirements is a bad idea. Something about turning an intrinsic motivation into an extrinsic one.

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Alphaville
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Re: The Hacking of the American Mind - Bad vs. Good Jobs

Post by Alphaville »

Toska2 wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 6:06 pm
I also think turning hobbies into jobs because they fill those requirements is a bad idea. Something about turning an intrinsic motivation into an extrinsic one.
i can actually speak to that. and can add nuance.

my wife and i have profitable hobbies.

originally it was a business"to live the dream" (lmao), and it was feast and famine, and we hated it, and yes, the damn business spoiled the fun.

but then we killed the business and found, as one would call it, "secure sources of income" (steady jobs). nothing spectacular, just day-in day-out stuff with no overtime or overload.

fast forward to today, now that we can say NO to clients, we can find folks to pay us to do what we want at our own pace :lol:

and no, we would not make a living out of it, not in any way we would enjoy. but it adds an extra kick of hot sauce to the yearly budgets.

for a similar example in fiction, see lester freamon in "the wire" carving $300 dollhouse furniture while he does po-lice work. he gets a salary and a pension at his detective desk, and a tasty money trickle on ebay for thinking with his hands... while solving cases in his head.

here a funny picture just because

Image

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