Is Marissa Mayer’s work ethic wrong?
by Lucile Stengel
First and foremost, Marissa Mayer’s work ethic is a personal decision that she brought upon herself, which makes it rather inaccurate to label such as right or wrong. But people will have their opinions and ideas about what works best for them. I’m just here to ponder Mayer’s life decisions and make assumptions (no matter how evidence based) from them.
To give a brief idea of what Mayer’s work ethic actually consists of, it is an amorphous entity that is defined by working ~100 hours a week, nonstop, during all events and occasions, and complete rejection of the conventionally defined work-life balance. Mayer represents a rather extreme case of this, but it isn’t baseless. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000 hour rule in his book The Outliers, where the outliers—those who became famous and successful and in essence changed the world—spent at least 10,000 hours on whatever it was their world-changing concerned. It also is a common conception that passion to pursue a career aspiration or dream often dies with starting a family, when work can no longer be a full-time occupation and rearing a child becomes a time-consuming job.
Mayer isn’t wrong in that sense—if you want to become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, work must become your life. It is amazing the results that hard work can attain. Just a few more focused hours a day on some project, and suddenly your product becomes something far beyond what you imagined.
While I was interning at a notable, large tech company, an executive, who was giving a presentation to the interns, stated that we should be making the most of our internships (which seemed pretty obvious to all of us). But then, he went on to say that as we have a limited time (around 12-14 weeks) to make a difference in the company and to gain experience, we should be pushing ourselves to do everything possible. He told us we should arrive at work before everyone else and leave later than everyone else and disproved the notion of work-life balance in a joking but also very real manner. Only when we have a family can we sometimes take some time off, he said.
Normal people believe in normal work life balance. Outliers are clearly doing something different, and working brutally hard at what they love has to be one of them.
A 100 hour work week is difficult to fathom. Work will still be there the next day, as you left it, and sleep isn’t optional for most human beings. For most human beings, this is completely wrong—a stressful decision that has drastic tolls on their lives and well beings. Most human beings need time to be lazy, have fun, and do something non-work related. Most human beings go on vacation and spend time with their families regularly and take off from work when they feel unwell. Marissa Mayer is not “most human beings.”
She claims that her success was due to her work ethic. If she looks back at her life and views it as a success, then so be it. She can credit it to anything she’d like.
But I need a clear cut division. What’s so great about work (versus college and school) is that it is not a 24/7 occupation. I can’t feel guilty for not working on an essay or assignment while outside of class. I simply put in my hours at work and then go home where I do whatever I’d like. Because my work will still be there tomorrow.
Everyone dreams of breaking the confines of mediocrity and the painfully average. To those who embrace the 24/7 work week, go for it. But to the rest, we’ll just have to figure out another way.