Our Ability to Turn Down Work Is Directly Influenced by Our Consumer Lifestyle.

Alexander the Great once said, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” I disagree. He didn’t sit in front of a computer all day.

Our society is based upon two common principals. Ambition and consumerism. A desire for rank, fame or power and the desire for ownership of materials. Cavemen ventured into the wild to hunt their meals and provide for their group in hopes of securing their rank as alpha male. Alexander the Great was not satisfied when he inherited a kingdom from his father so he sought out to conquer the world. Where does that leave us? Sadly, somewhere in the vast space that is the in between.

The decision to turn down work.

I weighed the pros and cons of taking on another freelance project and what I found was odd.

Recently, I was courted by a creatively attractive client and offered a large sum of money for a four week web design project. A project relatively simple in nature. One that I turned down. Why? I weighed the pros and cons of taking on another freelance project and what I found was odd. My decision was held up solely by the fact that money was on the table. And that money was mine if I wanted it. The problem is time. I’m bankrupt on time. Alexander the Great once said, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” I disagree. He didn’t sit in front of a computer all day.

…it leads me to believe turning down work isn’t a common problem.

So often I hear about new techniques in becoming more efficient. How to achieve a three hour work week. How raising your hourly rate subconsciously strikes a chord with your prospects and provokes them into the mindset of “if he charges this much he must be good.” But I have never heard similarly interesting techniques on turning down work. In fact, I searched Google for the term “turning down work” and the first result was dated June 1, 2000. The article, When and how to turn down work, was actually pretty insightful. If you are in the same position I certainly recommend you read it. But if a better ranking article hasn’t been published online in over ten years it leads me to believe turning down work isn’t a common problem.

The problem: United States economy at a glance.

We are currently hovering around 9.7%. An unemployment rate that has risen 242.5% in ten years.

When did we become a society that included “if I get paid this, I could buy that” as a deciding factor? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of unemployment was only 4% when that article was published in 2000. We are currently hovering around 9.7%. An unemployment rate that has risen 242.5% in ten years.

Now imagine you are in a position where someone offers you well paid work and you want to turn it down. Remember, 242.5% more people are scratching their way to a minimum wage between $2.00 (Oklahoma) and $8.55 (Washington). Some of them may even be competing for this very project. Possibly by lowering their rates and offering incentives. But before you turn down the project one of your final thoughts is “but it would pay for items x, y and z”.

I am afraid of having less so let me buy more.

By way of Pavlovian conditioning we are so afraid that we will wake up without jobs or money that we are concerned about the inability to consume products in the market place.  We actually end up overcompensating because of this. An “I am afraid of having less so let me buy more” mentality. That’s a scary thought.

Instead of weighing the importance of factors such as available time from current work load, going rate for the requested work or even your interest level in the project our minds have been rewired by advertisers to replace those concerns with the amount of purchasing power the project will allow us. Many of us are apt to fall prey to this cycle before realizing it. Or, in the case of the caveman, venturing into the wild only to be eaten by the very prey we set out to hunt.

1 Comment

  1. Mark AndersonReplyOctober 20, 2011 at 7:16 pm 

    I thought that quote was Def Leppard or Neil Young! 

    Interesting post. Next on my list of books to read is “Your Money or Your Life” to try to get off the “more stuff” merry-go-round.

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