A recent statement by David Brooks in his article, The
Sandra Bullock Trade, deals directly, though unstated, with an
exceedingly common problem faced by workers and executives in American
firms. His approach is not only insightful opinining, but it builds on a
highly significant number of studies. Furthermore, it clears out a
great deal of underbrush in the entire business of careers and resets
the computer on vocation. In other words, this is a long overdue
If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many
career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.
David Brooks, The Sandra Bullock Trade, New York Times, March 30,
The article, heavily researched, highly practical and
almost philosophical, analyzes the tradeoffs between marriage (read,
family) and career success (an Oscar for Bullock). His question goes to
the jugular: would you exchange a professional triumph for a severe
personal blow? And he follows the question up with his statement that
if you have to think about this question for more than three seconds,
you are absolutely crazy.
Brooks points to research on winning the Oscar, numerous
and rigorous studies in happinesss, personal well-being throughout
adulthood, the relationship between money and happiness, and the
relationship between trust and one’s community.
Like Brooks, my perspective on family and community is tied
intimately to my belief that being human is far more about community
and family than vocational achievement. Thus, there are times that I’ve
simply refused to take on certain projects because they would interfere
with my family relationships. I’ve had a few clients that expected me
to be available during family vacations. Those clients got the strong
message that “that dog won’t hunt.” In other words, my family times are
more important than my business and yours. Though plenty of Boomers
fault the Gen-Yers and even some Gen-Xers for their insistence on family
relations, I’ll side with the employee not the CEO. Though often I
merely roll my eyes, those who know me get the message clearly. But
when asked, I’ll address it.
Though Brooks doesn’t refer to it, research also finds that
execs gain far better performance from people who limit their time to
their organization and who maintain their significant relationships
Brooks’ commentary is an all-compassing word that needs to
be branded across the foreheads of a few with whom I’ve worked. Kudos
to David Brooks!