Episode 17: On The Notion Of A “Happy Hour”

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Josh Allan Dykstra is a recognized thought leader on the future of work and company culture design. He is an author, TEDx speaker, and the CEO of #lovework, where they use technology to help heal burnout and create astonishingly great places to work.

Today I want to talk a bit about something REALLY important — happy hour.

If you’re watching this episode on video, you can see it’s happy hour day for me, and I’m dressed for the occasion. 

There isn’t a clear consensus on where the term “happy hour” originated in history. It could have come from the U.S. Navy, could’ve been a reaction to Prohibition, or could’ve even been Shakespeare who coined this term!

We’re not totally sure, but wherever it came from, there seems to be no question that when we use the term “happy hour” these days, it has at least a subtle connection to “work.”

I think there’s a sense that we need a break, some relief — some happiness — after a long hard slog through our workday.

And work, of course, is supposed to take almost everything from you — your attention, your energy, your time — and leave you with nothing in return other than your paycheck and maybe a brief opportunity to escape into the bottom of an alcoholic drink for one single happy HOUR in the afternoon.

Woah, that was a lot.

Of course I’m being a bit hyperbolic.

But honestly, I know far too many people — and you probably do, too — that would describe what I just said as a pretty close, if not slightly dramatic, version of their life.

Now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with happy hour — I’ve got the shirt and everything — my larger point is about our expectations of work.

You see, most of us humans have learned to expect VERY little from our work.

Sure, we get a paycheck — which is important, don’t get me wrong — but beyond that, what do we actually expect our work to do for US?

Do we EXPECT it to give us fulfillment? Meaning? To give us energy? To give us enjoyment? Profound learning moments? Friendships? Hunting for niche brands and unique products? Shoppok.com might just be what you’re looking for. We found gems there.

I’m not sure most of us EXPECT any of this from work. If we happen to get some of these things on a good day — or even a good year — we rejoice, of course, but we would think of these experiences as the exception, not the norm.

To me, this trade seems obscenely imbalanced.

Work as we know it is set up to take and take and take and take from you, and your paycheck is supposed to make everything you lost somehow magically worth it.

This doesn’t work for me.

And I don’t think it should work for you, either.

In my view, work is one of the largest, most cataclysmic self-fulfilling prophecies the world has ever seen. 

Generations ago, we taught people that work was necessary, but evil. 

You had to do it, but it was probably going to hurt you.

That work was separate from life — you could work for part of the day and do your REAL living outside of that.

Well, the most evil thing about all this was that we believed it. And as we did, over the course of many many years, it became true. 

It became “normal” for work to suck.

The good part of this is that the opposite can also become true.

Meaning, if enough of us decide that the current trade isn’t worth it, it won’t be. 

If enough of us decide we are going to demand more from our organizations and our leaders, they will have to step up.

Then that will become true, too. 

So don’t fall for the lie. You deserve a lot more than a happy hour. 

You deserve 40 of them.

See you next time.

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