I remember my grandmother giving me a black, patent wallet when I turned seven in 1995. I opened it and a 1,000 lire banknote (the italian currency before the euro took its place) popped out and fell onto the ground. I stared at my grandmother’s face. She pressed the banknote into my hand and said, “It’s no use giving a wallet without any money in it”.
Italian people see saving as a virtue. No matter how long it takes, how much suffering you endure, if you earn good money, you can save enough to brace against the uncertainties of old age.
What about free time? What about reduced office hours to devote yourself to arts, sports, music, hiking, whatever you want?
My grandparents abhorred any waste of time. To them arts appealed to highly educated people, music resembled background noise and sports was, needless to say, an expensive substitute for daily exercise (you can cycle to work and keep fit the same).
People of my age, on the contrary, value arts, music and sports as activities they do to recreate themselves. Which means: time they spend on pleasure and personal fulfillment. Our jobs take most of the day. In return, we receive a fixed amount of money. “But how can we spend it, if we lack the time?” Time is the new currency in modern economies.
My opinion is that, when you spend long hours at work, even though you are saving money, you are hurting your curiosity, your personality and your creativity. No matter how much you save, this is your life, and it is happening right now.
I recommend everybody to take the opportunity to carry out a creative activity seriously. Such as writing poems, playing music, running or simply walking through a park. Try whatever you want, but make sure you love it.
“But I’m getting bored!” you would object. “I want to produce something”. When it comes to productivity, our minds borrow the “more” and “less” categories from accounting and apply them nonchalantly to many aspects of our life. For example, when you are at school you instinctively know that scoring higher than your classmates is good. When you are running, you feel like covering an extra mile, just for the pleasure of beating your previous record.
By borrowing from accounting the “more” and “less” categories, the human mind shapes its opinions and its preferences accordingly. That is why, it is generally considered that more is better than less. More is associated with a sense of accomplishment and pleasure, while less with a sense of waste and disappointment.
In accounting and finance, the ratio between output and input represents the productivity of human labour. When the ratio is higher than one, accountants deduce that a job is productive, regardless of its nature, its quality and the experience of, actually, doing it. However, the mere fact of being productive (in accounting, monetary terms) does not make a boring, repetitive task a more interesting and useful one. Productivity does not affect a job’s outcome or usefulness. Criminal activities are highly lucrative, productive businesses, but this does not make them good.
Do you remember being a teen, getting home after school, and answering your mothers’ question: “how was your day at school?”, “what did you do?” I bet that most of you answered with monosyllables, such as “Good”, “Okay”, or “Nothing”. If you did, try to imagine yourself answering the same questions today, getting home after work. Was it good? Was it worth it? How much did you earn?
What would you answer?