We all know the fable: The grasshopper, who has spent the summer fiddling away his time, begs a little food from the industrious ant family, who have diligently prepared all summer and into the early autumn for the coming winter. The lesson? There’s a time for work and a time for play. The ants are virtuous; the grasshopper is frivolous.
I often think of this fable as the paradigm for worker productivity in the United States. Anybody with a browser can call up the pertinent data: Since the Reagan era, worker productivity has risen 3.5 times quicker than wages. We are a culture of ants, working ever more frantically to store up for the time we won’t be working—but that time almost never comes. We work harder, for longer hours, and over longer careers.
There is a funny meme showing how peculiarly American this is. It compares the early summer voicemail greetings of an American and a European. The European’s voicemail indicates this person is on sabbatical, traveling, and invites the caller to try again in three months. The American’s voicemail apologizes for not being available immediately, then discloses, “I’m having surgery today. You can reach me on my cell phone until just before the procedure, then afterward in recovery. I have my laptop with me and can help you from the hospital.”
I was a young professional in NYC on 9/11, and that day changed my life and my career. Most of my professional life since then has been creating applications to help organizations more resiliently protect themselves, their employees, and their interests. These offerings also manage what couldn’t be done before—sometimes not at all, and certainly never quickly or easily, because of scale and complexity—very efficiently and very quickly.
So the story of operational resiliency is, in a sense, the story of the ants and the grasshopper. The grasshopper had the right idea, and even the fable admits it: there should be a time for play. We should all be able to leave our desks—safely and in good conscience—whether for holidays or for needs. The software journey I’ve been taking, and many customers with me, is focused on making us all more productive grasshoppers. We should all strive, in whatever context, to harness modern efficiencies and let them pay us back in quality of life.
Professionally, I look forward to continuing that journey with customers. In any case, nobody ever accused an ant of happiness. I encourage you to join the ant revolution and find your way to becoming a grasshopper.
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