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June 20, 2005
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 The H.R. Doctor Is In

A Close Shave

This morning while getting ready for work and slashing my face with a sharp instrument as I do most mornings, I realized that I spent about 15 minutes involved in the shaving process. Assuming I did that five days per week, that’s an hour a week or 50 hours a year after allowing for a "vacation" from shaving of a couple of weeks per year.

This conservative estimate of 50 hours per year amounts to more than 2,000 hours of shaving time during a career of four decades. As any astute HR director can tell you, that’s the equivalent of an entire work year, averaging about 2,080 hours!

Thoughts immediately turned to questions such as if I had begun growing a beard at age 16, could I now retire a year early? While the answer is a regrettable "no," it is clear that rituals like shaving in the mornings nibble away at the average lifetime to the point where we wake up one morning and we’re dead, if not clean shaven.

Statistics in the HR Doctor’s new book Don’t Walk by Something Wrong! include the fact that the average American spends seven years in the bathroom, two years on the telephone and six months waiting at traffic lights and stop signs. When you add in commute time, waiting in line at banks, post offices, grocery stores, etc., you begin to understand why people generally discuss how short our lives really are.

The statistics did not even include perhaps one of the greatest devourers of our lives in America Ñ the four hours a day spent on average watching television. Yes, that was four hours a day!

One of the secrets to a successful and happy career, as well as to a life full of joy and productivity, is to maximize the amount of time we spend in productive and rewarding activities. The corollary is to minimize the time we waste on activities, or in the case of television watching, lack of activities, which substitute a vegetative state for a state of accomplishment.

This is not to say that every waking moment must be spent at work, or seated at the computer next to an autographed photo of Bill Gates. Quite the contrary, life is far more than our day jobs. Often relaxation or meditation may seem stoic or unproductive when it can really be quite the opposite.

In the HR Doctor’s experience, the sooner we each find the ways to contribute to the happiness of ourselves, our families, our communities, the better off we are. Contributing to your own happiness certainly involves working at a job that you find rewarding.

It means finding a career, such as HR, or public service in general, where you are motivated by a sense of accomplishment, and where you work with colleagues who are respectful, supportive and have a strong sense of humor. It also means taking good care of yourself, wearing a seat belt, not smoking and always handling sharp objects such as razors very carefully.

Your family’s happiness begins with time spent together and with time spent in continuous learning and gaining new experiences. It means investing in the development of your children through helping them achieve balanced knowledge Ñ a mix of art and music, science and humanities, politics and history and as many other subjects as you can reasonably encourage. It means demonstrating as a role model the importance of civic engagement, and that you personally walk the same way you talk.

Community engagement means service to others. At work it may mean being a servant leader - where much of your energy is spent in the development of others and in helping enhance the KSA’s - there goes an HR acronym again - the knowledge, skills and abilities of those around you. It means being involved in charity work of which there is no shortage.

It means taking time to visit with your neighbors and keeping in touch with people you care about even if they are a continent away. It also means celebrating successes and accomplishments and being proud of those achievements. However, the pride must stop when it reaches the boundaries of arrogance or hubris.

When all of these things are carefully considered and acted on right away in our fleeting lives, the result will be a life well spent and a legacy inside the family and the community which will last far beyond the roughly 670,000 hours of life lived by the average person in America. It means productive contentment at work and, when work is over, time well spent with the family, the community or with yourself.

We know that it is impossible to separate personal life and work life, however, it is also impossible to have a rewarding life without service to others and joy in what you do.

Next time you look in the mirror while shaving, putting on make-up, or whatever conversation occurs between you and the mirror image in front of you, ask yourself whether all that you could be doing is being done in your life! If it isn’t, perhaps a little less TV watching and a lot more personal growth might be just the ticket to a life of greater joy!

The HR Doctor wishes you a close, and smooth shave!

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor


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