Friday, October 13, 2006

Recommended Book

At Liz's suggestion, I've been reading Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There a hilarious and insightful book about the Bourgeois Bohemians (bobos). I won't waste time summarizing the book. Here's an excerpt (so true so true):

Workers in this spiritualized world of Bobo capitalism are not the heroes of toil. They are creators. They noodle around and experiment and dream. They seek to explore and then surpass the full limits of their capacities. And if a company begins to bore or stifle them, they're gone. It is the ultimate sign of privilege -- to be able to hit the road in search of new meaning whenever that little moth of tedium flies in the door. Self-cultivation is the imperative. With the emphasis on self.

So this isn't a crass and vulgar selfishness, about narrow self-interest or mindless accumulation. This is a higher selfishness. It's about making sure you get the most out of yourself, which means putting yourself in a job that is spiritually fulfilling, socially constructive, experientially diverse, emotionally enriching, self-esteem boosting, perpetually challenging, and eternally edifying. It's about learning. It's about working for a company as cool as you are. It's about finding an organization that can meet your creative and spiritual needs. When Anne Sweeney contemplated taking over the presidency of the Disney Channel, she didn't think in resume or financial terms. She asked herself, "Would this job make my heart sing?" and she decided yes. The PR firm Porter Novelli doesn't recruit employees with appeals to crass self-interest. Instead, it runs ads in various magazines showing a young woman in jeans sitting on a rocky beach. The copy asks, "What do you want?" The answer, expressed in the woman's voice, is this:

"I want to write my own ticket. High tech is a wide-open field. I'm helping to create public relations programs for companies that are on the leading edge of software development. What I'm learning is making one fabulous career. I want to hit the beach. I grew up on the West Coast. The ocean has always been my second home. Whenever I need to think things through, this is where I come. I want to keep climbing. Each year, my role gets bigger. My managers support my growth with professional development and mentoring programs. It's like being back in college. I want to go to Africa. Next year, I hope. (Incidentally, our health insurance plan is great.) I want to be my best. If there's a limit to what I'm capable of achieving, I'm not sure where it is or when I'll reach it. Never, I hope.

This is Bobo capitalism in a nutshell. College, learning, growth, travel, climbing, self-discovery. It's all there. And it's all punctuated with that little word "I," which appears in that short paragraph 15 times. The Organization Man is turned upside down. Whyte described a social ethos that put the group first. The current ethos puts "me" first.

Work thus becomes a vocation, a calling, a metier. And the weird thing is that when employees start thinking like artists and activists, they actually work harder for the company. In the 1960s most social theorists assumed that as we got richer, we would work less and less. But if work is a form of self-expression or a social mission, then you never want to stop. You are driven by a relentless urge to grow, to learn, to feel more alive. Executives who dreamed of turning themselves into refined gentlemen may have valued leisure, but executives who aspire to be artists value work. Companies learn that Bobos will knock themselves out if they think they are doing it for their spiritual selves, for their intellectual development. Lee Clow is chairman of the advertising firm TBWA Worldwide. He has established a set of work expectations that would have led to strikes decades ago. Now they are considered enlightened. "It's a rare weekend in this agency when you won't find people at work," he told the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. "Sometimes I'm asked what I say to people to get them to work on Saturday and Sunday. We don't say anything. But our creative people know what we expect from them. They know they'll have a chance in this big sandbox. It's designed to be a stimulating place, a fun place, an interactive place, a social place." Don't dare call it a sweatshop. It's a sandbox! This isn't business. This is play!

I think I'm in Love...

with Kaki King. I was obsessed with her "Until We Felt Red" album while cruising around in California a couple of weeks ago. Check out her beautiful, ethereal music.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

One More Quote

[SriniBaller and I were lamenting the sad state of the Stanford football team, still winless this season]

Me: How much did you pay for your [season] pass?
SriniBaller: $250
Me:Damn, that's a lot!
SriniBaller: I know. I feel masochistic going to these games. If I had bought an XBox and a couple of games and flushed them down the toilet, I probably would have gotten the same level of enjoyment.

More Quotes

Me: Remember how you were drinking all those protein shakes when we were in Branner?
Srinivas (aka SriniBaller): Yeah, I was trying to be buff so people would be scared of me. Now I can just grow a beard and yell, "Jihad!"

[Upon entering Tolu's new crib]
Tolu: You don't have to take off your shoes. I'm not Asian.

[At the super fancy Cheesecake Factory in Palo Alto, where I was trying to take pictures of the interior]
Tolu/SriniBaller/Allen/Joe: Stop acting like a tourist. This is a chain and they have franchises everywhere, INCLUDING New York!
Me: Ok, maybe I should not take pictures of you guys since I have friends in New York too