Bing Blog


Tokyo Commuters

We all have to work for a living. The question is how much. On the short end of the scale there are immensely successful and wealthy business executives who consider being available by BlackBerry and cell to be work. "He's traveling," their assistants will say, or, if they're on the west coast, "I don't have him right now. Can he get back to you?"  I think of Stan O'Neal, the former head of Merrill Lynch, out on the golf course jotting jocular notes to himself on his scorecard while Rome burned.

On the other end of the labor vector are the salarymen of Japan. They rise before dawn, squeeze themselves into their suits, train cars and subways, hit their tiny desks for whatever circumscribed thing it is they do for fourteen or fifteen hours, take the night train home, snoozing on the long ride back to their crowded suburb, grab some fish and noodles before hitting the hay,  rise again a few hours later to start the whole thing over again. They live that way for decades, and then they retire, unless they die of karoshi, which mean "death from overwork." It's a word that exists only in Japanese. So far.

I was having a chat with this guy I know. I'll call him Ryan. He's a trader at a big financial institution. It was about 7:00 in the evening, and we found ourselves elbow-to-elbow at a local watering hole. We knew each other from someplace neither of us could remember. But that slight association required us to talk a little.

Ryan's moving out to the suburbs this month after years in the City. His wife wants more room. His kids need a yard. There are two of them, which represents $50,000 per year in tuition, and that's before they hit grade school. After that, it's more. In Connecticut, the schools are free. Plus, when you own a house, all you pay is your mortgage, as opposed to his former co-op, where they tack on a monthly maintenance fee of nearly $2000 on top of your mortgage. So he's moving. I asked him if he was looking forward to it.

"We have a lot more space," he said. I noticed he was sort of unshaven and there were bags under his eyes.  "That's what I'll be thinking about when I'm on the 4:30 train."

"You get to leave work at 4:30?" I asked.

"No," he said. "4:30 AM." This kind of floored me. I pictured Ryan pulling on his socks in the dead of night, his two kids placidly drooling into their pillows, his wife trying to stay asleep while he rummaged about in the dark before dawn, day after day.

"What train do you take home?" I asked him.

"I don't know," he said. "The 6:20 usually." I looked at him. I didn't know what to say. "I'm a trader," he said, as if it explained something to me. "I have to be at my desk at 6:30 AM. Also a few months ago they laid off a whole bunch of people during the big crunch. Then all the refinancing action started happening and we were short staffed. There are a lot of people around at my office at, like, 1:00 in the morning."

In my mind's eye, I saw Ryan, sleeping on the train going in, sleeping on the train going home. Dragging his butt to a late dinner when his kids had already gone to bed. Hauling his tired body up the stairs for five hours of sleep before the alarm rang again at 3:30, so early it woke the birds before their time.

"I've been doing something like this for years," he added. Then he looked at his watch. "I gotta go," he said. "I have six minutes to make my train." And he went, rushing to sit with all the other busy business people. Among them these days are many Japanese, most of them, I believe, headed for Crestwood and Scarsdale. They remain in the States for a few years and then are shipped back to the home office, which wants to make sure they don't get too soft over here.

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Falstaff in 1 Henry IV,

"Tut, tut, good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder, they'll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.

Or to turn a phrase, it's a dying.

Gee, Bing. Thanks for the upper!

I do know that there are people out there that work like this. I am just thankful that for the time being, at lest, I am not one of them. I try to limit myself to no more than 50 hours a week in the office. The Blackberry means some work from home, too, but oh well. What can you do? Quit?

In my retirement job selling cars I sold a car to a young woman from Nepal. She'd been in the U S for about ten months. She really liked living here but thought Americans worked too hard!

Whoa! Prisoners have more freedom. That's the kind of story that makes me wonder, Is it worth it? It also makes me ask, Why aren't these Salarymen retiring as quickly as possible?

Welcome to the Hamster Wheel, where every moment of your life is devoted to becoming the Real Housewives of Wherever (the Real Housewives are neither, by the way).

As long as the entire focus of our society is upward mobility, people will keep working to buy the trappings that make them eligible for the next level.

This should also be part of the health care debate. As long as most people depend on their employers for health care, employers can extract any amount of health they choose.

At the last company I worked for with health benefits, you were lucky to get time out of the office to see a doctor or dentist. One not particularly busy afternoon I was feeling a lot of pain in my hip. By 3 p.m. I had gotten my GP to squeeze me in for a visit, but my boss was groaning, "Can't it wait until tomorrow or the next day?" Apparently not. My hip joint had somehow rotated and was on the verge of dislocating. The doc put me on two days on a heating pad, among other treatments.

Work life should be a much bigger part of the health care debate, as long as employers are in control of health insurance and insurers are in control of care.

This is the Information Age version of workhouses. Employers and insurers hold your health hostage.

I've heard it said many times as I've grown my longevity: "I want to make it better for my children, I struggled through the depression trying to make ends meet so my children didn't have to go through the struggles and deprivation I've gone through".

My question is did we make it better or worse for our children? In the most affluent gradients of society, the story is the same as for all gradients: obesity, apathy, intimidation, disease, gridlock, tight schedules, fatigue, crime, competition, failure, drugs and alchohol to mention a few.

Another question I have: does our education system teach our children to avoid these hazards, or does it teach our children to assimilate into these hazards?

So much emphasis is placed on "education"; but, how much emphasis is placed on informed quality education?

Is the human gnome incapable of plotting its future, or as history shows: random outcomes and survival of the fittest are the best we can hope for as we grow longevity enroute to our destiny?

And they wonder what causes heart attacks...

In most cases you can be a big time businessman, or you can have a life. Not both.

The article makes me thankful to be retired.

The recent economic upheaval is due to the immense income inequality.People bought homes they couldn't really afford, due to their shrinking salaries. The other big factor is the Medical Mafia, who created a monopoly and they are robbing the system blind.
The media refuse to write on these topics.

The term for death from overwork exists in Korean too (and probably Chinese): it's kwarosa. You can see that it's slightly similar to the Japanese term, which is because it is based on the same Chinese characters.

I'm 54 and own a small company. I'm lucky in that I live 10 minutes from the office. But I go home for dinner, and back to the office. I get about 5 to 6 hours sleep a night, eat lunch at my desk, and when I am home, I work using the computer.

How do 14, 15, 16 hour days of work make up a balanced life? It doesn't.

Whereas this is the life that this man chose for himself, who is to say that he has made a terrible choice? I would never choose to live like that. I don't feel "sorry" for him, however, because he chooses that life. I do feel sorry for his children, who (I am guessing) do not choose that kind of life for themselves and their family. If this man cares about what's best for his family, then he will seek a saner way to make a living.

This guys clearly taking a bullet for the team (i.e. his family).

I don't envy his lifestyle, but I do commend his willingness to endure brutal hours to make his family more comfortable.
I don't care what your station in life is: putting your family's wellbeing before your own comfort is admirable.

Disposable workers. Disposable Economy. Disposable Careers. Disposable Lives.

The United States worker put men on the moon, reworked the global economy many time over (Mass Manufacturing, Computers, The Internet ...) Now we hudle in our offices, working late into the night- too timid to show innovation. Terrified that our corporate Overlords will ship our jobs overseas. The Corporate Overlords who just squandered every drop of blood they squeezed form our enterprising spirit.

Oh, well, Not every drop. I hear the luxury resort business is booming, full of fat egos with fat bonuses.

After reading your article, I feel very lucky to have a non-stressful job, making an adequate salary, with normal business hours.

I have no desire to work myself to death, but am far from lazy. I'll try to maintain this for 20 more years and I'll be ready for what ever is next.

If people are so busy working they don't get to see their families, why bother with the family part?

At least in the US, we have some say in our chosen field.

Could these businessmen can change careers and make less money in exchange for happiness? Or, have they realized that more time with the family does not raise their happiness level?

This is a great story that has a ring of truth to it.
Slavery is still alive and well.
This poor fellow Ryan is a walking corps, and indentured servant to his creditors.
He is on a path of self destruction.

My mother was an orphan in WW2 and to her it was about having a home of her own.
My parents did the whole scrimp and save to keep their home, as every one did.

In the end, after 20 years of struggling my mother came away $110,000 for her house.
She was so proud because she bought it for $28,000.00 in 1974.
The reality with all the refi’s , maintenance, upgrades and taxes she realized a 1.6% loss on her investment in 20 years.
When I was a kid the whole family suffered because of this “building” and my parent’s obsession to keep it.
My father killed himself trying to keep it all together.
He is a fleeting memory to me because he was always working to keep the house.
It was like his catch phrase.
Perhaps Ryan should scale back his "lifestyle choices" before he is just a memory to his kids.
A house is just a building, prone to floods, hurricanes, and other myriad of natural occurrences.
In my opinion a house is a liability, nothing more.

Oh please, cry me a river. The guy who makes enough money to drop on luxuries more than average Joe makes pre-tax has to work a little harder than said Joe. Boo-hoo.

Now I know what's been wrong with me. I have Karoshi!

You will, of course, have to excuse me for saying I have NO sympathy whatsoever for "Ryan". Ryan, who works in a profession that is at least large in part responsible for, if not entirely so, the current economic crisis we are in today.

And, BTW, I believe that before the industrial age many FARMERS who worked the lands and fields worked pretty much 14-16 hour days. What makes "Ryan" and others like him so much better as to require any sympathy?

Perhaps some people have trouble with such a life. Me, I thrive on it.

I'm not so bad off as "Ryan," but 12 hours in the office is common, then I will drive home to work in my little home office until it is time to go to sleep.

I remember a time before and during college when I would go to work, work my set hours that day, and go home. I hated it. It was always so repetitive. Clock in, wash dishes for 6 to 8 hours, clock out. Repeat the next day. Nothing new, nothing different.

I may work 100 hours a week now, but at least I am doing something that is stimulating during those 100 hours.

Working hard like this is good only if temporary situation, but it will ruin your health and your family over the long haul. Asian cultures seam to be different in views of work ethics. In the US, many of of Gen'r X'rs have seen our moms and dads do this and end of divorcing. Drug use of stimulates rise and kids are left out on the streets with no one at home raising the kids. It's a balance, there is a season to work hard, and a season to relax and play. Yin and Yang.

Around the world, between different cultures/countries, there are major differences in expectation of how long the work day/week should be.

A friend of mine, who works in Hong Kong, works at least 9 hours day, 5.5 day each week (half day Sat). Another friend of mine, who works in Tokyo, works at least 11 hours day, 5 day each week. In some cities, working just 8 hour day will be considered not "productive"??

I have had thoughts about pursuing some opportunities in Hong Kong. Those opportunities will create a better career path for me. But when I learned about the expectation of work hours, I second and third thought about it. I want a good career but I want to spend time with my family too.

My father just passed away at age 56 last month. Life is full of decisions around opportunity cost. Of course each person will have their own value set on each opportunity cost. I just have to choose to give up a “good” career; which might demand all my time and energy, in order to get my family time.

Here is an article talk about how hard IBM works their employees in China, regardless of nationality.

Any feedbacks welcome! Friendly or not.

and your point is....both myself and my husband (both over 40)work full time, have kids, and he goes to law school at night. When he is not working he is studying. Yes he has 2 degrees already, but he wants to go further with his career. My second fulltime job is taking care of the house and the kids, that includes all the house maintence. We were both raised in the Midwest were farmers get up before dawn to work and don't finish till dark...and don't take vacations. It is a work ethic that is lost in the U.S. We have fun and we work hard, we enjoy what we have earned. You make it sound wrong to work hard for what you want for yourself or your family....instead of questioning your friend/aquaintence about his work ethic and choices, maybe it is time to ask the CEO's about theirs. By the way, in one way or another we all "work ourselves to death" as death is inevitable. It's the choice we make about what kind/amount of work we do that is the real issue.

The term I read was "dying in harness". What for? To have etched "I wished I worked another day" on your tombstone?

The word everybody needs to learn is BALANCE.

If enough people would say "no", things would not be this way.

So much for having a life outside of the office.

Is it worth it?

Good post that made me think . . . if the only certain thing in life is death, why do we drive ourselves to that death through work? Thanks.

Thank you for summarizing my life. Moved out of the City 4 years ago across the river for the same reasons - more space, a yard and to avoid college-like tuition for pre-school. I watched my wife and 1-1/2 year old son get dressed up to go on pre-school interviews where the acceptance rate is lower than that of the Ivy Leagues. Proud to say he was accepted to his top choice and most of his safety schools (remember he's 1-1/2). By then we'd had enough.

I also work at a large financial institution (not a trader though). On the 7:00 am bus in and if it's a short day, the 7:00 pm bus out - home by 8:30. Thank God for the Blackberry so I can answer emails during the 3 hour daily commute (round trip) other-wise the day would be longer.

Fortunately my job entails 30-40% travel so I don't make that commute every day.

I thought I had it bad, rising at 4:07 to catch a 5:27 train to Burbank, and catching the 5:30 PM train home. I hit the door at about 7:20, walk the dog, eat dinner, watch about 30-45 minutes of TV. I start taking blood pressure meds tomorrow,doctor's orders.

Working like that is unsustainable, not only for the worker, but for society. These people will eventually get sick, burned out, or worse, placing a burden on the rest of us.
At my previous job, I would show up for work early, finish my work, and leave at 5:30. This made a bad impression on my boss who stayed until 9:00 every night. She asked me to stay later and I explained that my work was completed and I was prepared for the next day. I had always been willing to stay for any deadline and have even slept in my office to get work done. But to stay for no other reason than "it looks bad"? Give me a break. Then I had my first son followed by my daughter a year later. It was then I decided that my family comes first. I feel sorry for Ryans kids, they really needed him. I will not be an absent father. I moved my family to a small town in Florida not knowing what I would do. I now work just 10 minutes from home, I show up to work early, get my work done, and am home with my family at 5:30. I make much less, but I have so much more. Oh, and I have stayed late on many occasions and was more than happy to do it. Because I appreciate this lifestyle, I try harder at work, I am more loyal to my employer, and I produce better work. It's too bad Corporate America doesn't realize this.

Sounds like the 11th circle of hell.

Hmmmm. Let's see. Ryan takes a 4:30 am train to get to work by 6:30 am. Got it. But there was something about a 6:20 pm train to go home, and it was already around 7 pm when you brushed elbows. Then he indicated he only had six minutes to make his train.

I wonder if Ryan gets off work when the markets close and has a whopping 3 hours of free time each day he fritters at the bar.

I won't question the Japanese guys. They do the karoshi thing, and we just talk the karoshi thing.

what is the Solution.. people who work in big apple all have very similar story..

work sux. I read the fourhourworkweek by Tim Ferris and it really opend my eyes to the rat race. Now I just want out.

Ryan needs to get a life and find a new job.

Some of us don't overwork as much as we claim, or even convince ourselves, we do. Did anyone see this recent article in the Journal: ? The flexibility many of us now have to blend our personal lives with work can render us less efficient and productive in our jobs. Which wears us out more: set hours at a boring job or having to self-regulate?

Who is John Galt?

That is a waste of a perfectly good life. Hideous. Horrible.

I would like to welcome Ryan to the real world.

Most Americans have been working hard and making sacrifices for years, while traders like Ryan profit from damaging deals. Most Americans are still working hard and making sacrifices, while traders like Ryan profit from bailouts.

No sympathy!

It is a race to the bottom.

As I sit here staring out the window at the sun beating down on the early summer foliage, from the office of my 3200sq ft house, on 5 acres, mortgage of $770/month, dog sleeping in chair, wife and daughter off to the neighborhood pool, having spent my lunch cutting some grass, 6 figure salary, ...wondering why so many New Yorkers feel that the greater NYC is the only place too live.

I don't feel sorry for Ryan. This is the greatest country in the world. In order to make it the greatest country in the world you have to work. Work hard. Work long and hard. I don't see a long, hard day at work as being a bad thing. Hard work is a virtue. If you only get 5 hours of sleep a night, then you only get 5 hours. If anyone wants wants any different, go to socialist Europe with their sky high taxes and sky high unemployment. They love that sort of thing over there. This is the USA. You sink or swim. That's the way it is here.

I was amazed to see a "hotel" in Tokyo that catered to workers in similar circumstances. Each "room" was more like a coffin, or a telephone booth laid on it's side, entered from one end. People would sleep in these things on weeknights, and take the train "home" for the weeked. Amazing.

I am so worried about "Ryan".....

Why do people live in NewYork...C'mon there are better cities to live in without this kind of a life...

Happiness is having nothing left to loose.

If he makes him living as a "trader", then he is a leech on the country and deserves a rotten life.

Hey, Ryan! Move your family to Iowa or Arkansas or Utah or Georgia or Kentucky or Wyoming ... and become a part of your family. Right now you are no more useful to them than an ATM. You can raise your family on $50K a year and find happiness. You don't have to sell your life for a couple hundred grand. When you keel over from karoshi, will you wish you had spent more time at work or with your family?

I thought the Bing Blog had something to do with Microsoft's new search engine. They pilfered your trademark!

Oh please, cry me a river. The guy who makes enough money to drop on luxuries more than average Joe makes pre-tax has to work a little harder than said Joe. Boo-hoo.
Posted By Igor, Charlotte, NC : June 3, 2009 12:24 pm

I'm going to have to go with Igor on this one - 'Boo hoo'. Life is about choices. This sounds like the culmination of a few bad choices IMO. Sorry.

Its a shame that the american dream has quickly become the american nightmare!! We did it to ourselves and have no one to blame but the individual looking back at you in the mirror.

There are 2 kinds of people in this world. The workers and hustlers. The workers never hustle and the hustlers never work. I have been working for about 15 years since college and I don't think I have averaged more than 35 hours a week. I call in sick, leave early and generally take advantage of my employeer. I could care less. I have a alot of fun and have made an average of 60K a year since leaving college. I watched my Dad work hard and get screwed by corporate America. Not me baby...

I'm wondering how productive is this guy anyway?

J from Abington, VA: GET A HOBBY!!!! You don't need to work 100 hrs a week to have an exciting life. Sounds like you're just a boring person with nothing else to do so you work your life away. I'll be out enjoying life.

An old saying... "No man was ever heard on his deathbed saying 'I wish I had spent more time at the office' ".

They never met my boss

Dear Bing,

The Search Box is hard to find. Where can I do my searches?

Microsoft, I expected better from you.


When people tell me they work long hours, I remind them that life is finite and it always ends before you are ready.

I think it is really dangerous when we start blindly equating behavior like Ryan's with "doing it for the family", because he is withholding the most valuable thing he could give them: his time and attention. Granted, in this economy especially, you've gotta do what you gotta do, and sometimes our choices are limited. And to his credit he and his wife have figured out a way one of them can be there for the kids.
KatyM, don't sprain your arm patting yourself on the back for your "work ethic". You don't mention who is paying attention to your kids when you and your husband are working full time and studying all night. The most prestigious day care in town and all the iPods you can buy them will never fill the holes you are creating in their hearts. Congratulate yourself on blind ambition, if you must, but leave the word "ethics" out of it.

some choose to work like this for six digit salary.

others have no choice but to work around the clock for a pittance.

that's courtesy of capitalism.

I would take this guy's life, along with the karoshi that it comes with, any time. He provides for his family, and he's got a meaningful career. Why shouldn't he apply his energy constructivelly? He can save a few bucks now, and in a few years, when the kids don't depend on him financially any more, he can change his lifestyle. Having to live a dull life in Iowa, Georgia, or Wyoming would kill me faster than karoshi.

Let's see unemployment is way up, modern technology is supposed to make our lives easier and give people more leisure time, but the people who still cling to their jobs in survival mode are killing themselves. We're really a bunch of f*n idiots!

One word - choices. I had a great job like Ryan making 6 figures, but I worked too long and never saw my kid. So, I quit, took a pay cut and relocated to a area with a lower cost of living (great schools BTW and free too!) I see my daughter every day, cook her dinner, and make her afterschool soccer games. She's happy, I'm happy. Choices, choices...

Sorry....ain't buying it.

Don't want that life? You don't have to have that life.
Its a choice Ryan. Buy in, or get out.

Sad commentary on today, and poor ole Ryan that these are his if to say he has no other options in life. There are about 1 Billion other people in the world who would kill to get into the US and have his life....or my life for that matter.

I travel 45% of the month...Its a choice. Its a living I choose to engage in. not all its cracked up to be..

You know, I'm fascinated with this groundswell of people who contend that life is a series of conscious choices. This theme has come up before when someone was unhappy with his or her job. I understand the point. But I don't see things that way. I don't really think life is a collection of rational choices that we make and then live with the consequences. I wish it were more like that. I see life as a gigantic circus that you find yourself in one day. It's got amusing sites, and dangerous rides, and food that's not really very good for you... and nobody gets out of it alive. As for choices, sure, we can make some, but it doesn't change the circus into a flower show.

If you work at an office, you don't work hard. Unfortunately, you don't work smart either.

The real question is whether you're going to get rich suing Microsoft for its new "Bing" web presence. I've already clicked on it twice thinking it was you . . .

Kevin, go back a few blogs and see what I really think. I'm actually having some fun with it. It's possible they need me more than I resent them.

A recent study showed near 30% of Japanese workforce are contract workers. They have no rights, benefits, or even treated as humans at work while expected to perform like the "regular" employees. They have become disposable people, pretty much what will happen here too.

How ironic. After being laid off as an IT manager last fall, Ive taken to working less - a LOT less, and Im loving every minute of it. If the kids have to pay for their own college, or I end up driving this 10 year old car of mine another 5 years, it will have been worth it, knowing that I am living while the rest of you are dying.

I don't care what you think, no amount of money is worth this kind of a life. The notion that working yourself to death for the wife and kids is a noble thing is misguided. Don't do it! You will miss all of the little things with your kids (which end up being the things you treasure the most) and chances are, you'll end up divorced. We all have to work and provide for our families, but its a huge mistake to only work and leave the family to themselves day after day after day. I promise at the end of the day, you will look back and have nothing but regrets and say "I killed myself all those years, and for what?" Don't be a fool like I was for a lot of years. Get a job in a city that you can live reasonably close to home and work reasonable hours. Do it now and never look back. You may not make as much money, but so what, you will be living life.


I did basically the same thing for 25 years and moved up the executive ladder. Nothing was at the top! I suffered a near fatal Heart Attack at the age of 51. I resigned. Now I am working at 50% of my former life and have only 25% of the stress. My wife does not really work.

Now I am doing fine, but I cany pay my bills due to unemployment, medical bills, tuition and a wedding. Any advice?

Wet in Seattle

Got it. I wouldn't turn down moderately-priced cigars, but I'd hold out for lunch with the now defunct Ms. Dewey, too.

In most cases, people work so much because they want more and more material things!!! Spending time with the family will allways beat working over 40 hours a week. Not worth it. It can be done and still buy a house and new cars. Just don't buy the big house and the expensive car. Cook at home and brown bag your lunch. Don't go on shopping sprees. Only have children if you can afford them. Americans are too materialistic.

This junk can be turned around, at least in the US. The ogre at the bottom of this mess in the USA is the income tax and especially corporate taxes. We can all choose better employment if we abolish these taxes, and the IRS. Tax comsumption instead. But it is vitally important to abolish income and corporate taxes. See

Save me this farce, anyone who works in an office does not work! There is a dairy farmer who lives in the next farm over, and for fourty plus years this man has risen at four in the morning and milked his cows, bailed hay, repaired equipment, and countless other things ALL DAY. Then at six, he goes back to the barn and milks again until nine. EVERY DAY SEVEN DAYS a week, he still drives the same truck and tractor that he had twenty years ago and does actual LABOR. Yet everytime milk or crops go up, all the city people whine. So spare me the pity party for ANYONE who works in an office. When you want to learn how to do REAL work, that the country REALLY needs, and get paid next to NOTHING for doing it, come on down to the farm.

Poor Ryan, wha, wha. Is he happy? If not, then he should do something about it. He probably needs to read your executricks again.

Reminds me of a story I read somewhere..... It was a story about a venture capalist on vacation in the Caribbean. Day after day, he observes a poor fisherman leaving about 8 am and returning about 11 am each day hauling his catch of fish home to feed his family. The venture capitalist then would observe the fisherman relaxing on the beach and playing with his children each afternoon. The venture capitalist is of course repulsed by this unambitious and apparently lazy lifestyle.

After watching this scenario play out, day after day, and unable to resist the temptation, the venture capitalist inquires to the fisherman, “why don't you spend more time fishing?” The fisherman replies, why would I want to do that? The VC, in his infinite wisdom, explains to the fisherman, that by spending an extra 6-7 hours fishing each day, he could then sell the excess fish at market each day. The fisherman, still confused, asks, "why? If I spent more time fishing, I wouldn't get to relax on the beach and spend time with my children each day" The VC goes on to explain that by working longer and harder he could then go on to save & invest that money he made from selling the excess fish. The fisherman even more bewildered, again asks why? Again, the venture capitalist, educates the fisherman by explaining that, eventually, if he saved and invested his money wisely, he should have enough money to buy a boat. Of course, the fisherman then asks why he would want to buy a boat. The VC, getting frustrated, explains to the fisherman that with a boat, he could catch and sell even more fish substantially raising his profits.

The fisherman then replies, if he owned a boat, the increased time required to maintain the boat would be on top of the extra time required to fish and that he would be gone from from his family from dusk until dawn. The venture capalist then goes on to show the fisherman projections that after hard work and time, his profits would allow the fisherman to buy a fleet a boats and pay people to run them for him. The fisherman finally asks, if someone is doing all my work for me, what will I do all day? The VC finally explains that he could relax on the beach all day and spend time with his family.


People want to believe they are in control of their decisions. It lends an air of safety, stability, an illusion of certainty. And of course, certainty, by definition, is predictable.

Spare me the tarrot cards.

Reinvetion is continuous or else not.

Simply put, what you have here Bing is a classic "Queen's race". Where you just have to run faster and faster simply to "stay in place".

Hamsters do this well. The only way to play a Queen's Race game is to bow out immediately. Otherwise, well you buy the big house, get in debt, then you're trapped.

However train isn't too bad: I commute Baltimore-DC and back, have to leave the house by 7:30, back home by 6:10 or so every day. It's an hour on the train each way, but the nice part is you can sleep/read/whatever in the mornings, then have a beer with train friends in the evenings.

Helps to live 2 minutes from the train station too. Do this.

No, what you really need to worry about is the loving Blackberry. Because once you have that, you can work for your company 24*7! If they need some question answered they don't have to hire enough people to cover, they can just use their smart new "chitter" tool to see you're "on" and bug you. Note how these things usually don't have a "reading stories to kids" mode.

Gee, I wonder why.

Incomplete! They forgot to tell you that he makes $3M a year. So work like that, sleep on the train, and save it. Then retire after 10 years and move somewhere away from the mess and trade the $15-$20M you have left. Save it, don't waste it. Same goes for all you other luney tunes living like that.

Yes, a very commendable way to live. I wonder what his objective is? To enable his children to eventually live mom and dad's wonder of a life? To make metric assloads of money for a rich butthead, or living in the hope that his children will one day be such buttheads?

People who work in nursing homes and hospice say that they never hear any of the residents bemoan not working harder, or not making more money...they tend to pine after opportunities have more fully appreciated the brief time we have with family, friends, and enjoying life experiences that have remarkably little to do with 'taking a bullet for the team'. Hell, the team doesn't really even know or care who you are; you're just a tool (by several meanings of the term).

Bing, you old calvinist, do you really feel your life hasn't been structured as it is due to at least some conscience choices? I certainly don't believe that my life situation just 'happened'. I've made some good choices, some bad choices, and made some selections that moved me away from misery towards happiness. Were there no forks in the road you traveled?

You can indeed hie off to a place like Spokane, though you probably won't be happy if you're looking for the high culture of New York or Los Angeles. You will, however have some time to look around and enjoy life before you're on the wrong side of the sod.

Of course we all make choices, Mike. But the web of choices we make early on -- some of which only seem voluntary but are in fact molded by character and fate -- spin a powerful web from which it becomes increasingly difficult to escape.

Two words:

Wage Slavery...

Traders work on computers and telephones. Some day, when people have computers and telephones right in their own home, maybe they could work from there.

Of course, for those Americans without an adequate avenue to demonstrate 'true manhood', and possessing primarily the synthetic background of business school, simulating karoshi will have to do. As one who has spent time in Japan, please be aware that modern Japanese women and their children do not admire the trait. Japanese bosses do, however, think it's just dandy they've got such brown-nosing subordinates.

Don't forget:

Time at your job X meaninglessness of your job =
Total Depression

I'm sorry, but I don't feel bad for this guy whatsoever. Obviously this guy is making a huge income. Me on the other hand, I have a college degree and after searching over a year an a half, and applying to over 1200 jobs since January (yes, that's one thousand, two hundred + jobs), I'm still stuck in retail. My college loans are about to start and they will be four times what I presently make a month...

I'd do anything to be in this guy's shoes. At least he has the option. At least he has a job. At least he has a "life."

I can sympathize with this. I am a software engineer at a major semiconductor manufacturer. Before the meltdown or whatever we're calling it, my team had several open positions we tried to hire for. In several months we could not find a qualified person to fill the two positions. Then in late September or so the handwriting was on the wall and our positions were closed by upper management. Now, the people on my team are busting ass for months on end (working weekends, nights, birthdays) to get the same work done. At least our employer buys us dinner after 7PM.

Made it to church tonight and told my pastor all the crazy hours I've been working just to try and stay caught up. I mentioned things I've missed with my kids,like their spring soccer this year. By working 60-70 hours a week, he then asked how much was I worth, I answered after cashing in my life insurance? He laughed, but then he asked, is it really worth it and brought to light how much more I would be missed and miss by being dead, working myself to death. I know know it's a blessing for some to even have a job anymore but really, and I should not complain but, I have to ask whats really more important.

Guess I'm lucky. I have a successful business, work perhaps 6 hours per day, can take off when I want (usually one vacation every other month), do fun things with my wife nearly every day. Can't imagine it any other way. I know that I am one of the few, and not everyone can have it this way. Even so, it is important to know what is important. Struggling in a dead end job is no way to live. If you can't afford that big house in the suburbs, how about a cottage closer to town? Or a condo? You don't need that SUV, in Europe no one drives them, and they have kids too.

This happens as we make slave of ourselves using different rationalization methodologies, like money, family needs, responsibilities etc. The reality is that there is no courage to break away and no capability to make bold decisions.

What are you doing reading this post !!! Get your *sses back to work !!! Your not supposed be complaining about your work, your dwindling benefits, your retirement that's GONE, the lack of time with your growing children. No, your main concern is keeping the share price propped up and going higher. Productivity people!!!, productivity!!!. There's NO stopping to smell the roses. So get your *sses BACK TO WORK, and go with a smile. Oh, I forgot to mention, the CEO of your company gave himself a bonus too.

The sad thing about the story is that the guys kids will grow up with mental problems because dad was never around. Dad get's up to work his ass off everyday, kids grow up and have problems, dad dies early from failed health, kids grow up lazy and no sense of what a dollar earned is. So, what do you do, you get up in the morning, pop another valium, take your beta blocker and your viagra, and make sure the company is profitable, because one hundred years from now you will have made a difference and people will remember you, NOT !!!

Yes, the web gets stronger with time. Well put.

What's the old story of the 'tree of sorrows'? Something like; when we die god places our life's specific sorrows on the branches of a tree. Having relinguished our own personal sorrow, we get to select someone else's, which we think will be a lesser burden. After lugging around another's sorrows for awhile god lets us go back to the tree to retrieve the sorrow we've spent a lifetime learning to bear.

Maybe Ryan is enjoying his sorrows more than he might admit.

Steve (st. Louis)

Do not worry about the kids. They will grow up to be like dad. They will go to a nice college. Study finance. Kill to get an internship at an I-bank. After school, they will take a I-banker analyst job for two years. Leave to get their MBA. Then they will Comeback to the I-bank to spend the remainder of their life working those same type of hours.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Investment bankers' children don't commonly go into the business. They often trade up and go into private equity or some other form of money management. Bankers kids aren't trust-fund rich, so they still have to work for a living. They just don't have to work as many hours as their parents did.

There are actually a lot of guys with military backgrounds in the business. Bear Stearns was known for hiring a lot of former military guys.

Remember that according to Obama this guy doesn't qualify as a "Working American". Aside from the Class Warfare hooey the one thing you can say is that this man works. (It's work if you are away from your family working such long hours.) New rule everybody: You are a "working american" unless you are a "person of lesiure" Let's lose all the jealousy in the comments as well. All of your wouldn't want to do this and you know it.

I must say that I agree with Steve from Pittsburgh. that's not only because I like Pittsburgh and did my first corporate work there, drinking at the bar at Froggy's. The jealousy and free-floating anger that's sometimes in evidence here is interesting and a little unsettling. It afflicts all levels of every class, by the way. I've known guys who make a million a year who absoltely HATE those rich mothers who make two.

People are supposed to work smarter not harder, this guy deserves to die from over work, he isn't bright enough to see his own problem and come up with a workable solution.

It's natures way, the sickly and the stupid are eliminated.

Lots of people work hard and don't complain about it.

It's a choice we make by ourselves for ourselves,,,,so live with it.

50 grand for two brats to be educated is way too much...try turning off the video games and buy them a few books.

Better still find them a little job that they can earn money at.

That usually is an education in itself.

"Then at six, he goes back to the barn and milks again until nine. "

Still milking by hand in Ohio?

The Japanese word karoshi, in my mind, is synonomous with banzai. Both words signify death in a sense; but, death with honor.

Both words transcend welfare and defeat: rather than let one's self grovel for crumbs on government hand outs, or, in combat, surrender as a traitor demeaning one's self and country, death with honor is the better alternative to being branded the loser.

Karoshi and banzai tends to sum up an attitude that spells out: My back is to the wall, this challenge will not abort, I'm pissed and I'm going to overcome, I might die, my adversary might die, perhaps we both might die. I won't quit!

Ryan, being a member of the male species, apparently made the commitment

To: Anonymous : June 4, 2009 5:20 pm

AHHHH-OOOOO!!!! Well said. Mixed with Nature and Nuture, follow by the combo of being a little of a hussallah, a worker bee and a company man when its required and knowing when to give the 36 hours and carry the 48 from the other week to cover to keep the wife and kids in the forever loyal FAMILY. Also know when to wage war on work and then when to wage war on how to work SMARTER.

Listen I had a mentor who smoke fat cigars, drove silly cars and had the job we all dreamed of after we finished our undergraduate. He and his side kick gave me a shot. I was single, I kick the SH%^ out of that F'in job. Like a pit bull with it first chew toy. Boom baby promoted to the next level, out of the nest.... mentors say your ready... laid off 6 months later because I learned the economy doesn't give a sh** if you are good or not you are a spoke in the wheel. Next job, different playing field, performed but smelled some roses took some back for myself and guess what, It is okay. The problem with the blackberry is simple... Should I stay home with the wife and play or should I go to work and get a boat load of work done? Wait I can use my black berry and my office link to do both. HMMMM I think... my boss counts the number of unscheduled abscences we have even thougt we are salary... That is one of my tricks...Manage it BABY you are an adult, own your decisions and life, don't be owned by your salary man! PEACE and LOVE----Live life it is short. RIP AK be well JH.

BING - Punch this weekend.

Hey Ano,

The commitment to die for what?

Where's Peter Seller's snapping arm
while blurting "Mien Furher"?

Dr. Strangelove indeed.

I'm thinking Anonymous has watched too many cheesy WWII remakes. The origin of banzai has nothing to do with karoshi, unless they are linked by the culture's deeply ingrained disregard for the individual.

'Tis the bravado of youth, sporting a bastardized interpretation of bushido. The Japanese militarists preyed upon feelings of personal insignificance in a society that had long controlled every aspect of life...what you were lawfully permitted to wear, how you spoke, what you were entitled to eat, where you lived, what jobs your caste was allowed to perform.

The warrior spirit was supposed to be able to overcome anything, no matter how many deluded young idiots died before American industrial might. It did not work out well. Don't confuse what you think in your head with reality. Banzai came home to disgrace and humiliation, and karoshi arose not out of a sense of the individual prevailing over obstacles, but rather as a symptom of personal worthlessness.

But if it helps to think of yourselves as little corporate samurai (you could even stick your Mont blanc pens in your belts) then have at it.

Bing, nobody is more class conscience (and therefore more resentful) than America and Americans. A somewhat dated book by Paul Fussell, 'Class: A Guide Through the American Status System' still accurately (and in a very entertaining fashion)describes our preoccupation with class.

Personally, I think this is part of the essence of being American; fighting the natural tendency of societies to erect hierarchies dependent upon establishing structures of lasting class dominance. Just because we were the world's first revolutionaries doesn't mean we've escaped the ongoing conflict between society's various internal's just gotten more nuanced.

My British friends are always amused at how much more interested, pantingly servile (and, at the same time indignant)Americans are about British 'royals' than they are themselves.

Do yourself a favour and come work abroad; the States isn't the only place in the world with six figure salaries, and the minimum holiday time in Australia is 5 weeks a year!

Mike, you're right! Class has everything to do with it. The elite communications people coined the line: "Do one for the guipper".

People have a subjective mind and are prone to suggestion.

If reality is too harsh in communications, communications will re-create it to a softer nuance to make it more palatable for the lite of heart, sob, sob.

The one's who get the short stick, are those that the communications skills aren't communicated too!

I used to work for Merrill in Tokyo and they had the fabled work life balance initiative, which means that us grunts got to continue working weekends and sometimes 24 hours straight, while the managers flew around to run marathons or take care of their soccer clubs or other pursuits like taking university courses. Over all there was work life balance but somewhat skewed, we worked like dogs and the mangers had a nice life. No wonder the place self destructed.

I can’t speak for “Ryan” because I have never been a trader, but I’ve worked around enough of them that perhaps this post will reduce some of the heat and shed a little more light.

“Ryan’s” workday is not really a matter of individual choice for him, as many respondents seem to think. As a trader he simply must be at his desk early enough to prepare for the trading day ahead and will finish whenever the market finishes. He sounds like he’s on the mortgage desk so maybe the first deals in New York get started around 7am and is really going by 8am. Getting there by 6:30am might actually be cutting it close. In other markets (e.g., foreign exchange) I knew traders who were at their desk by the time “Ryan” boarded his train.

And you need to get a couple of hours’ jump on the markets because there’s a lot to read. All the overnight news/events that might affect trading that day, of course. But also – if you’re part of a global book that gets passed into your timezone – you need to know any special events that occurred as part of overnight trading. Your salespeople might have some special deals that need to be done that day, and you need to think about how to execute that. Your investment bankers might have a new structure for which you are expected to provide trading support, and you need to have a razor-sharp idea of how much this stuff they’re peddling is really worth.

And once the trading day really gets started, how are you going to leave? Because usually except for lunch you are on the “dealer” (interactive chat) with your counterparts at other banks, your salespeople call over with new stuff they need to do for their clients (either they’re told or they’ve cajoled somebody to trade an existing position for some reason), you’re on the phone with some of the bigger clients talking about the markets and giving them your thoughts about what they want to do, you need to read the news and events that occur during your day, you might be talking to the “quants” who maintain the pricing models which help determine the right values (you think) of the various credit tranches you’re trading, you might even have a model or two of your own you need to tweak, occasionally you will read some research coming out of your own credit research team or from another bank which someone has forwarded to you. Oh, and you need to make sure you pass the right information to the middle and back offices so your trades are recorded correctly (which determines your P/L, profit/loss, which determines your year-end bonus), and that you pass your book onto the next timezone accurately.

It may surprise some readers but there are traders who can be super-disciplined in order to manage some time with their families (one reason the ex-military are sometimes favored in some of these jobs, as ChicagoSail mentioned). They might get in by 4:30am (that’s right, that means they get up at 3am), but they faithfully leave at 4pm or 5pm or 5:30pm (to catch a little daylight in the Summertime with their children). Among traders this is less common but in sales jobs I’ve seen people share jobs (essentially working for half-pay) in order to have more time with their families.

I’m with Bing in that there seems to be quite a bit of Jerry-Springer like quality in some of the posts here. I’m reasonably certain work-life balance has come up before in the “Ryan” household and while I can certainly understand how some fathers throw away their families in the name of work, I think the ethos and common sense of an earlier generation – that you don’t snap to judgment about how another man is raising his children, e.g. – might be far more appropriate. Those who condemn “Ryan’s” choices might be entirely right – though I hope this post illuminates that the choice is more about the entire job than the number of hours – but my sense will be that it’s none of my business to judge based on such little information.

Cliff, thank you for the informative lesson in trader 101.

Remember, this blog would be awfully boring if we all approach Bing's provocative posts with a 'I can't pass judgement until I know a lot more'. Most of us have been around life long enough to know what lifestyle choices will likely not end well (which is not to be confused with denying an individual the sacred right to trash their life at will). It also doesn't mean I feel any particular obligation to respect an individual's poor choices.

As for ex-military producing specimens of exceedingly rigid self-discipline....entirely true, often to the point of having discarded their families long before leaving that life. Their dedication to duty often doesn't extend to matters much beyond the chain of command.

This is commonplace in a lot of industries.

This man who is in the grind from 4:30 to 6:30 every day, slogging 'for his wife and kids' is in a state of living death.

What kind of relasionships can he have? Would he not be better off in a trailer park, working 8-5, and actually having TIME for his wife and children? We have a society filled with overpaid slaves!

FYI - I am a conservative, die-hard capitalist, but this is no way to live.

I thought Karoshi caused diarrhea.

Money is not everything when you are already good in communication. People come aboard for various reasons. Only in America and other places that are unaware of the unique ideas that people share will only get better in time.