Friday, August 23, 2013

Don’t work too hard?

As I finished purchasing a cup of coffee, the person behind the counter said, “Have a great day!  Don’t work too hard!” 

A few days later, while waiting at the doctor’s office, I heard outside my door, “Don’t work too hard!” The response was, “Great advice to hear, but hard advice to follow.”
How did “don’t work too hard” become a standard farewell? It is right up there with “have a great day” and “take care.”

Somewhat related, I’ve also heard a few times of late the saying that no one ever said on their deathbed that they wished they had worked more. There are quite a few variations on the exact wording, but the sentiment seems to be conventional wisdom now. 

This feeling may come in part from the recent book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bonnie Ware. The second of the regrets she studied is I wish I had not worked so hard. (The other regrets are about not living true to one’s self rather than others expectations, not expressing ones feelings, neglecting to stay in touch with friends, and not choosing to be happy.) 

How have we gone from a nation that values work and identifies with the protestant work ethic to one that considers work as more of a necessary evil that should be avoided where possible?

Is working too hard an actual danger for folks? That does not seem to be the case. Recent articles like this one from the Atlantic say we are working fewer, not more, hours than in the past. 

I concede that some folks do work too many hours and let their work consume their lives. I know that is an area I struggle with. However, I think more folks in 21st Century America struggle from the lack of meaningful work than from working too hard.

People without work lose much of their identity. Recently a friend committed suicide, due at least in part to being out of work. My dad often said that retiring was the worst thing he ever did. I watched him dwindle away without meaningful work.

I believe the reason is that we were created to work. Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” The Hebrew word translated as cultivate means to work or serve. Indeed, working is one of the ways we were created in the image of God, as He is described as resting from His work of creating the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:2-3).

In Colossians 3:23, Paul instructs, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men.” The Greek word for heartily literally means from the soul. That verse is one that I try to incorporate into my life. I am to work, not lackadaisically, but with my very soul. And, not for the approval of others, but of God. It is hard to put any higher value on work than that.

Contrary to the sentiment of regretting working too hard, I can picture on my deathbed wishing that I had worked harder, that I had accomplished more.

Maybe we can make “Work hard” or “Have a productive day” be the phrase to replace “Don’t work too hard!”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Quick book reviews (#5)

I’ve written another set of brief reviews of books I recently read. (Actually, I’m way behind in doing these and some of these books I read several months ago.) These reviews use a scale of one to five stars based on Library Thing (where I post these reviews as well). I am generally a tough grader and seldom give out the full five stars.

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas (4.0 stars) 

I’m a fan of Eric Metaxas' writing, based on reading his biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What Metaxas does here is combine short biographies of seven Christian men into one book. In addition to Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, he looks at George Washington, Eric Liddell, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Colson. I found all of the biographies compelling, even the ones on men I had read about in the past. The biographies both intrigued and inspired me. My one complaint is that he did not attempt to draw any conclusions from the biographies. I expected that he would either show how each of the seven men exemplified some Christian attribute or show what they shared in common that made them who they were. Instead, it is just seven short, inspiring biographies. I found the book well worth the time and I would encourage reading it to anyone who wants to see what individual Christians can do to influence the world.

Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor by Ben Witherington III (3.5 stars) 

I found Ben Witherington’s book to be a slow read, but with enough good elements that it was worth the time I invested in it. As the title states, he tackles the topic of work, one which I think has been neglected in Christian circles. He takes a fairly theoretical and theological approach while making the concepts accessible to most readers. He does a good job of looking at differing views on work and helps show the strengths, weaknesses, and downright errors in those views. Along the way, Witherington makes interesting observations and assertions, such as retirement having no biblical basis. On that point, and most of his other ones, I whole heartedly agree. The problem with the book is when he attempts to move away from the theory of work. His next to last chapter, which pulls largely from work by Andy Crouch, was lost on me and the last chapter on finding balance between work, rest, and play did not work for me either. Despite these issues, I recommend this book to anyone wanting explore and better understand the proper role of work in the lives of Christians. 

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin (3.5 stars)

Hanna Rosin’s book was all over the news a few months ago when it came out. It draws heavily from a couple of Atlantic articles she wrote (The End of Men, July/August 2010 and Boys on the Side, August 2012). The basic premise is that women are becoming the dominant force in everything from business to academia to the bedroom. Rosin uses a wealth of statistics, her own research, and personal anecdotes to make her case. I found her book compelling, thought provoking, and often frustrating. Ultimately, I found myself depressed by Rosin’s almost gleeful attitude on much of what she describes. I don’t find women dominating men to be any more desirable than men dominating women. Unlike Rosin, I also don’t think that women becoming as cavalier about sex as frat boys is a good development. Regardless, I would recommend the book to almost anyone interested in learning about some very important trends in our society. Or, you could save time and money and just read her two Atlantic articles! 

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak (3.0 stars) 

This book is Steve Wozniak’s (Woz’s) autobiography. It stands in sharp contrast to Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson, just as Woz and Jobs are very contrasting individuals. This book is not a great read (at least in part because Woz is not a great writer), but it is an interesting companion to Isaacson’s work. Woz is an unapologetic engineer and this book (from 2006) is his attempt to set the record straight. I came away amazed that he and Jobs were ever able to be friends. Woz comes across as brilliant and compassionate, but somewhat clueless. My guess is that I would much rather have spent time with Woz than Jobs, despite his penchant for sometimes cruel practical jokes. However, without Jobs, I don’t think what Woz would have amounted to much. I also think Woz probably would have been happier. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in seeing another side of the Apple/Jobs story.  

Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence by Geoffrey Canada (3.5 stars)

Geoffrey Canada’s book (an updated version of the 1996 original) is an interesting and very personal account of growing up in the inner city in the era before guns. He contrasts that with the current inner-city environment that is saturated with guns. His upbringing was by no means nonviolent or idyllic. However, the lack of guns meant that he and many others had a better chance of surviving and getting out to a better life. Canada chose to instead go back and try to help the next generation. I read this book as part of the research for my long-promised blog entry on guns. The book unfortunately offers little in the way of solutions and I came away convinced that the problems and suffering caused by guns in cities may well be an intractable problem. At least, the example of Canada’s efforts provides a glimmer of hope. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for some exposure to the issues around guns, violence, and poverty in urban environments.

I have an amazing stack of books (OK, they are really just bits in my Kindles) I’m hoping to read over my upcoming and much needed vacation. Hopefully, I will be much more prompt about writing my next set of book reviews!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

PT is hiring

My company, Principled Technologies (PT), is seeking to hire some folks, so I thought I'd list the openings here in case you or any people you know might be interested. Right now, we're trying to find people to fill four roles:
  • Graphic designer—This person will work on projects ranging from PowerPoint decks to Web sites to print media, with an initial focus on sales-support materials.
  • Marketing/PR/communications lead—This person will help drive marketing for the company, with a strong initial focus on sales support. 
  • Analyst/white paper writer—This person must have a strong technical background and be able to communicate very technical concepts to a broad range of audiences.
  • Senior technical staffer—This person should have in-depth IT experience. 
Rather than try to write more complete job descriptions here, let me note that the latter two jobs are very technical and for the marketing person we're seeking someone with a broad range of skills, as the complex description implies.

For all the jobs, we're looking for people who are passionate about doing great work for a great company.

If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in these jobs, please email me at

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sabbatical follow up

PT-LogoI’ve mentioned Principled Technologies’ (PT’s) sabbatical program in earlier blog entries. Being able to take off seven paid weeks every seven years is a benefit that I wish everyone was able to enjoy.

There is another part of our sabbatical program that I consider equally important. PT encourages everyone who takes a sabbatical to spend one week of it doing something good in the world. If the person does so, PT contributes $5,000 toward that effort. Over the past few years, PT employees have taken advantage of that program on four continents by helping causes as varied as the homeless, orphans, and endangered species.

I’m understandably proud of what those people have done. Until now, however, we have mostly kept that pride to ourselves. We recently decided that we should tell what our folks have been doing in the hopes of encouraging others to do likewise. So, we have started a series of videos highlighting the work PT employees have done as part of the sabbatical program. Here is the first one.

I am looking forward to both the future videos and to the future sabbatical efforts of folks at PT. My hope and prayer is that in some small way, we can make an impact for the better on the world.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gadgets in the making: Kickstarter/Indiegogo

You may have gathered from some of my gadget reviews that I love being on the cutting edge of technology. For me, the best gadget is a great one that no one else has yet. Using such technology, however, often means putting up with the problems inherent in the early versions of a product. That is a price I'm glad to pay. 

One good way of getting involved early with tech gadgets is Web sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These sites allow people with ideas to get the funding necessary to make their ideas a reality. The ideas range from small art projects to major music albums to all manner of gadgets.

To see the rest of this entry, visit its new home at Principled Technologies' Tech Everywhere.