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Key to work-life balance is not a good job, it's good sex

Posted by: Penelope Trunk on July 09

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When you think about work-life balance, don’t blame your work. It is a misconception that you need a great job for a great life. The connection between a good job and a good life is tenuous. So you should just worry about the basics:

Do you have goals you can meet?

Do you feel challenged by your work?

Do you have control over your workload?

If you answer yes to all these questions, then your problems in life probably don’t stem from work. They are probably personal. So stop thinking chaning your job is going to change your life.

In fact, the thing you really need to be happy is sex. Once a week with the same person. That’s way more important than your job, or the money you make or the friends you have. (Although, doing well at any of those things does give you a wider range of people to choose from for sex.)

When it comes to work-life balance, then, you’re not really looking for balance. Really, it’s impossible, and you know it and you have never met anyone who honestly could say they had it. You are really looking for peace and happiness. And those things are attainable, if you stop focusing on money. You only need $40,000 a year to reach peace and happiness. Really. Even in New York City. Because happiness is about your optimism levels and your sex life and not about your job.

So get a job that doesn’t undermine your ability to have peace. And then focus on your sex life. And when you hear your friends talking about work-life balance, recognize that at their core, what they are really talking about is that if they approached life with more optimism then they would be more likely to be happier with their choices: Whether or not they are balanced.

Reader Comments

Joyce Maroney

July 31, 2008 05:07 PM

While I support Penelope's position that a good sex life contributes to a great quality of life, I do think there are some general guidelines people can follow at work to be happier and more successful there:

1.Do whatever Irene tells you to do and don’t embarrass me. This one comes courtesy of my father. My first job was doing the payroll, manually, at his codfish processing plant in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. Irene was the long time office manager who knew how to make things happen. Getting to know the Irenes everywhere I’ve worked since has saved me time and embarrassment.
2. Speak up. This one applies when you have a good idea and/or when you know that something just isn’t right. Organizations rise and fall on the quality and openness of communications between people.

3.Assertions absent data are just your opinion. This is a corollary to #2. If you want to promote your idea, you need to be able to substantiate its merit with objective data.
4.The workplace is different for women. Even as organizations have welcomed women into the workforce in the last 30 years, the realities of childbearing and rearing can still throw them for a loop when it comes to contemplating alternative career paths and flexible work options. The world has come a long way since 1985 - when my then employer asked me to sign a letter committing that I wouldn’t get pregnant. If you're going to decide to become a parent, however, you will make hard choices between work and life. Get over it.
5.The company’s money is the company’s money. In the interest of encouraging employees to be frugal, companies often exhort them to “treat the company’s money like it’s your own”. This seems to confuse some people - whose behavior can lead you to believe that they must live like sultans from Dubai on their own time. Don’t waste company resources and don’t play games with your expenses. If you need a history lesson on this one, think Enron.
6.There is power in silence. This is a thesis topic in its own right. Relationships and careers get derailed when things are said in anger, ignorance, or just because the speaker decided to keep talking while s/he shouldn’t have. Keeping your mouth shut at the right times gives you time to think.
7.Email is both friend and foe. I’m old enough to remember the workplace pre-email. It’s a fantastic tool for conveying information and agreements quickly to lots of people. The dark side of this ease of use is how much workplace productivity is sacrificed to individuals coping with volumes of email that get in the way of “real work”. It’s a rotten tool for negotiating agreements. And it makes it way too easy to communicate something in haste that you’ll regret later.
8. Selling is the most important skill of all. The years I spent as a sales rep were among the most valuable of my career. Planning and persuasion are key to success in sales - and in business in general. I don’t care what your functional expertise is. If you can’t persuade others to take action, your own success will be limited.
9. Management has its ups and downs. This one could also be called “be careful what you wish for”. It’s great to manage a team of capable, creative and motivated people (as I do now). However, as your responsibilities, compensation, and access to information increase, so does your risk. Your mistakes become more costly and visible and the time you need to invest in doing a good job increases. You have to make tough decisions that can lead to unemployment for people you care about. Not everyone can or should be a manager. Organizations need to continue to find ways to retain highly talented individual performers whose goals don’t (or shouldn’t) include people management.
10. Keep your job in perspective. This one isn’t always easy, but is probably the most important of all. Jobs have their ups and downs. Organizations do, too. Be respectful of other people, work hard while you’re at work, don’t be defensive in the face of obstacles, and when you go home, shut the door on the workplace. Much is written about how organizations can help promote work life balance. Ultimately, though, only you can define and protect the work-life boundaries that work for you. If you can’t honor that balance in your current job situation, then it’s up to you to find one that will work for you.

Joyce Maroney

Jim Littlefield

August 20, 2008 03:46 PM

I had the opportunity to hear Sean Achor in Rome this past April. Sean is a professor of positive psychology at Harvard University. One of his key points was: doing what enjoy is what makes you happy. The things you enjoy most are those activities that cause to to loose track of time. Therefore, I would tend to agree, most people loose track of time during sex. As Marta would say, it's a good thing.

As for me, I decided starting my own business working from home. It provides the time and money I want to do the things I enjoy most. I am a happy!

Jim at

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Cali Ressler, Jody Thompson and Brazen CareeristBest Buy HR renegades Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson and Yahoo’s “Brazen Careerist” columnist, Penelope Trunk, tell us how to juggle responsibilities without going crazy.

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