Are You Outsourcing Your Life?

February 6, 2013 by Bill Bradley


Title: Don’t Give Away Your Life

Competencies: self-development, stress management

Who benefits: anyone

Consultant Usage: coaches and career counselors can refer this book to clients

What’s it about? There was a rather lengthy period in my career when the word “outsource” was anathema to many in the workforce.  It was a threat.  It was a morale killer.

I remember the first week of 1984 (how Orwellian) when I was called into my boss’s office and put in charge of a special project. My new team had 8 months to help 5,000 employees find new jobs in other companies.  I think of that project as the ultimate outsource, although it is not the traditional usage of the word.  These employees were surplus.  (In August of that year my boss called me in and said the outsourcing number had been raised to 5,001 … adios Bill)

Yet we who had detested the Corporate Outsource have ourselves become the ultimate outsourcers.  In our personal lives we have veered from the decisive “doer” to the perennial planner.  We outsource our tasks.

Which brings me to today’s book recommendation: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times.  Despite the less than clear title, this is a fascinating look at how in these fast times we outsource so many personal, even intimate functions that once upon a time brought personal satisfaction and achievement.

Yes, there are some “good old days” moments in the book.  When I read the first chapter, I wanted to curl up and go back to a nostalgic time.  But it ain’t gonna happen.  We have moved from family, friends, and the community to the market place.

We have moved from self-designed and managed birthday parties for our young ‘uns to hiring party planners.  We have hired help in a variety of forms conducting the parent role from pre-school to adulthood. We have moved from meeting people in community organizations and events to Rent-A-Friend and  “Take out” is in.

One politician got it right when she said “It takes a village to raise a child.”  But it is critical to note that the village is composed of friends and neighbors helping each other without much conscious thought.  It is just what friends and neighbors do.  In modern times these tasks are being farmed out to strangers. Can we ever return to those good old days (which probably weren’t as good as we remember)?  Are all these modern outsourced marketplaces that bad (they exist because there is a perceived need)?

What Arlie Russell Hochschild does in her book is make you think about how you organize and conduct your life.  She invites you to think about what a satisfying and satisfied life looks like in the modern world.

She is a wonderful story teller.  You will breeze through her pages and at the end, wish for more.  If you are feeling harried or less that satisfied with your status quo, it’s a good weekend book.

Catch you later.

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Wellness

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  • I am too harried and my list of books to read too long to get this one but it does actually sound unique and interesting. Have a good weekend.

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