About John McCollum
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Pressure good. Stress bad.

Pressure: a constraining or compelling force or influence; urgency, as of affairs or business

Stress: physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension; a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.


Dictionary definitions aside, I would colloquially describe pressure in terms of "I have a lot to do, but unless everything goes wrong, I can get it all done" and stress as "I have so much to do that, if anything goes wrong, I'm screwed."

I work well under pressure. I work very poorly under stress.

Frankly, I'm feeling a bit stressed today, which is bad. In general, however, I've been moving toward a life of pressure, which is good.

I've seen (and had) employers who, apparently, make a conscious effort to keep their employees under constant stress. Like it's some sort of game in which the employers want to keep some sort of psychological upper hand. I've also known people who have willingly submitted themselves to constant stress to 'get ahead.'

Jeez. Maybe I'm just too lazy, or maybe I'm not ambitious enough. That's fine with me. I'm happy. And I think it's paying off at work.

Element has adopted a model that looks similar to a Results-only Work Environment. The collaborative and consultative nature of our work probably prevents us from creating a truly 'results only' workplace -- no schedule at all (just get your work done) -- but I'm definitely buying into giving my employees more responsibility and accountability while giving them significantly more freedom and free time.

I can't remove all potential stressors from my life or the lives of my co-workers (and clients and vendors), but I can certainly contribute to their well-being by working to create an organization that values quality relationships as well as (or maybe even more than) quantitative results. Sure, we have to pay the bills. But let's be honest. Most modestly successful businesses can 'pay the bills.' So what do these businesses do? They create more bills for themselves by funding relatively lavish lifestyles.

[Caveat 1: I consider myself to have a relatively lavish lifestyle as well. My car is nicer than necessary, and my house is filled with more and better possessions than I need. We eat more luxurious food than is necessary and we drink better beverages than most. My office probably has more toys than we need.]

[Caveat 2: Please don't take this as an assault on any specific businesses or even on 'business in general.' I'm really just trying to work some of these things out for myself, and I'm using this blog as a sounding board.]

[Caveat 3: I'm really not all that good at this stuff myself. I still stress my employees out all the time. Most of it is just being generally obnoxious, but some of it is probably due to occasionally unrealistic expectations that I either permit or directly impose. So there.]

I wonder what would happen if we all just decided that we already have enough? Would the economy come to a screeching halt? Maybe. Maybe not. Reminds me of a press conference I saw wherein a prominent politician was asked "Do you think that, in addition to innovations in 'green technology,' Americans should curb their spending and be content to live at a slightly lower level of general consumption?" The politician answered, "No. Americans work hard and deserve to have the highest standard of living in the world. I don't think that our living standard is the problem."

But what if it is?

Okay. I'm stepping outside of my areas of expertise and influence. I'm not going to waste a lot of time trying to get 'America' to stop spending money and to adopt a more sensible attitude toward work. I am, however, going to keep on trying to do that for myself.


Reader Comments (6)

Kudos to you for your results-oriented work environment! Having worked on a freelance basis for 15 years, I know that having the freedom to work when and where is best for you means enhanced productivity. If you ever have a need for an editor or writer, I'd love to talk! (FYI, I lived in Clintonville for 5 years and have fond memories of that time!)

June 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Lampe

In continuum mechanics, stress is a measure of the average force per unit area of a surface within a deformable body on which internal forces act. In other words, it is a measure of the intensity of the internal forces acting between particles of a deformable body across imaginary internal surfaces.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulius

thanks a lot dear, im very interesting for your article. im very impresing for this :)

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April 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjasa iklan

These days the one word stress can mean so many things to different people. We are constantly bombarded with all kinds of stress whether it be work stress, financial stress, school stress, poor health or relationship stress.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAiza2010

Stress is I think one of the things that a worker should be dealing with for the rest of his life. I am a freelance employee just recently. I once worked in a four corner office and have a boss that gives me stress whenever he is in the office. That actually made me decide to quit the job and try my luck in the freelance industry. Luckily I have been employed and no stress at all. I manage my own time and I get to spend time with my kid. Isn't it nice to work stress free?

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November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJan Robert

Wonderful ! wah such a great article and I will surely bookmark it for future reference. Good work! Keep it up.

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October 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradnan

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