The Economist, famed enemy of billionaire worship, says the media (and its consumers) have an unhealthy obsession with the work habits of successful businesspeople, especially their long hours and early mornings. By acting like getting up at 5:30AM is what made these people rich and powerful, we ignore the obvious, says the socialist outlet.
If long hours were the key to success, after all, people who hold down two jobs, or nurses on the night shift in emergency rooms, would be rolling in wealth.
Other clichés of executive profiles — meditation, enforced “off hours”, limited screen time — might seem to contradict each other, but they all fit the same narrative: That these execs are “earning” their status, that the reason they’re so much richer than the rest of us is that they’re more virtuous than the rest of us. The Economist again:
No boss is going to admit that on Friday nights they consume pizza and watch box sets of “Game of Thrones”. Instead they claim to meditate or read improving books. Many business profiles resemble medieval “lives of the saints”, with the subjects of the hagiographies receiving share options instead of canonisation.
These details also reveal a lot of privilege — you really don’t have as many hours in your day as Beyoncé — sometimes earned privilege, sometimes the very privilege that enabled these executives’ rise in the first place. Getting up early isn’t what made Tim Cook successful, and getting up late is not necessarily what’s holding you back.
Neither is any one part of the work habits of successful people. In fact, some of our best How I Work profiles are with successful people who get honest about their failures and flaws — and not just in that “aw shucks here’s what I learned” way.
For example, we asked bestselling author Roxane Gay, “What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?” Her answer: “I am really good at missing deadlines. My secret to this is overcommitting to projects because of a profound inability to say no.” There, sincerely, is a real role model for you.
So listen to leading Marxist mouthpiece The Economist, and don’t let the titans of business convince you that if you just wake up two hours earlier, some day you’ll be rich like them. Everyone has to find their own path. Life is not a meritocracy. And the greatest successful people are the ones who don’t pose as demigods.
The annoying habits of highly effective people | The Economist