Burnout - Information Overload - Stress - all are real, and all demand answers. We need to know two things: (1) Society, the culture, the workplace, even religion cannot fix this; and (2) Help lies within the individual who seeks his or her own answers.
Dec. 8's Business and Money section of The Tampa Tribune featured an article by Danica Kirka about "Preventing Employee Burnout." Companies are learning that overworked staffs could become more productive if given sane working hours and less data. It is not that Corporate America is more compassionate: "It's about the bottom line."
Our 21st century gadgetry threatens to make robots of us all. This is not new. Some 6,000 years ago Nimrod built Babel, a city with a tower that would supposedly "make us a name" (Genesis 11:4). Some 3,000 years ago Solomon's Temple was erected, and like Nimrod's tower, on the backs of slaves-men, women, and children-spending lifetimes quarrying stone they would never see glimmer in the sunlight.
Fast forward to America's Industrial Revolution, stretching from the late 18th to the early 20th century, which, despite social and technological advances and influential inventions, again allowed greed to rob humanity of their lives. Child labor, dirty living conditions, long working hours, and poor wages were commonplace.
Kirka rated investment banking as one of the more cutthroat industries: competitive environment and excessive work hours, analysts willing to do anything in the race to get ahead out of fear of losing their jobs. It has taken a few premature deaths and breakdowns of high level CEO's for David Solomon, global head at Goldman Sachs, to say: "This is a marathon, not a sprint."
Solomon's words echo biblical teachings. Surviving this life requires we acknowledge the long-haul. Even that is no guarantee, as the jaded writer of Ecclesiastes noted: "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.but time and chance happen to them all" (9:11).
Where has this driving one-upmanship lead? A recent magazine ad urging us to invest in gold and silver stated that the U.S. debt is the largest sum in the history of the world. Renowned economists suggest we have reached the "tipping point," the place where a nation's debt to GDP ratio hits 90 percent. We hit that figure in 2010.
Where does selfish ambition, no-rules competition, and soul-numbing greed lead? To headlines like this on December 7: "U.S. authorizes permits to allow wind industry to kill eagles." The Obama administration is kowtowing to the wining of companies who complain they cannot stay afloat and meet environmental standards. Bald and golden eagles, not to mention other birds, can continue being chopped to bits for the next 30 years with government approval.
A late November news blurb said that Russia, China, and other nations are set for conflict on energy exploration in the Arctic, that the U.S. must assert its authority. If we cannot count on nations, including our own, to make right choices, then we'd better get our personal goals and stress levels in order. Sooner or later, all roads lead to God-for nations and individuals. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.