Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Don’t Know My Way Home in the Dark

Having spent much of my working life around type A personalities who pour all their effort into their careers and have little in the way of personal lives, I’ve always respected those who sacrifice some career advancement to get life balance. This doesn’t include just high-powered business executives; I’ve seen it in a mechanic as well.

The way we pay for car repairs usually involves book hours instead of real hours. A book lists the number of hours each type of repair is supposed to take. Then you pay for this number of hours no matter how long the repair takes.

Mechanics vary greatly in how long they take to complete repairs. A former mechanic friend (I’ll call Dan) used to routinely take less than half the book hours to complete his work, but he says that he worked with some mechanics who would spend all day on a 2-hour job.

Dan was well-liked by his employer because he made maximum use of the space he took up in the garage (i.e., he made them lots of money). And he was well paid because he was compensated for 15-20 book hours per day, even though he was only there for 8 hours per day.

Dan’s employer routinely tried to get him to work more hours, but he always refused saying “I don’t know my way home in the dark.” This was a clever way of saying he preferred a rich life outside work over making more money.

All this came to an end when Dan’s employer tried to impose new rules that capped his pay at 125% of his actual hours worked. So now Dan is in a completely different line of work, but he still manages to get time for his family and a few rounds of golf each week. It can be difficult to turn down career advancement and higher pay, but it is worth it to me.


  1. I believe I heard another life balancer comment once, "I used to think I wanted a career, turns out all I wanted was a pay cheque"

    Work is work, hopefully it's fun and enjoyable, but it's work, not your life.

  2. So are you saying you used to be a mechanic?

  3. @Big Cajun Man: I agree. The benefit your family gets from an increase in pay has to be weighed against the loss that comes from having to commit more time to work.

    @Preet: I couldn't fix a car if my life depended on it. Dan (not his real name) does exist and he's not me. I golf with him quite a bit, though.

  4. Wise words Big Cajun Man. Even when we're passionate about our jobs, we still have to prioritize family and life. You can't start a relationship with your spouse and kids after 30 years of working when you suddenly find you 'have the time' to do that.

    Work hard, play hard, neither to the exclusion of the other. I work a lot of hours, but that didn't stop me from playing hookey and going fishing for a day last week, and it won't stop me from playing hookey next week for a day with my kid to do some outdoor activities as well (and he'll be playing hookey from school for the day too - partial reward for getting good marks this term).