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So many people are sick and tired of work. The type of meaningless work they have no choice but to do. There are endless reasons why people hate their jobs. Some hate the hours, the commute, the boss; for others, it’s the dead-end position, and for others, it’s the heartless corporate employer.

We’ve been taught that that’s just the way ‘modern’ life is. Work hard and you will succeed has been the mantra since we were in elementary school. In reality, schools helped prepare us for this meaningless type of work. When we asked why we needed to learn something, the answer was usually, “it’s on the test, the state-mandated exams, the SAT,” or worst of all, “because I told you so.” Not much meaning there, only examples of force.

My friend, author and self-management philosopher Doug Kirkpatrick has been traveling the world teaching people about a new way of working. I remember the first time he told me about the #1 principle for his new model of self-managed work; “People shouldn’t use force against other people.

It’s taken me years to wrap my head around what Doug has been teaching since he and his colleagues at Morning Star developed the principle 30 years ago. The idea is pretty simple, don’t force people to do work; give them the room to do what they feel needs to be done.

As simple as the idea is, it was not until I studied how our society works that I saw that force is everywhere. We live in a society that has learned to use force against everyone. It is mostly not the horrible physical force used in the middle ages or the more modern era of slavery, but it is ‘force’ all the same. We’ve learned to accept this more subtle form of force because it’s built into our social fabric and taught throughout our lives.

Identifying force is difficult for us — we see it as a normal part of life. For example, we’ve all come to accept the idea that a company has the right to hire, force people to do tasks, and fire people at will. Sure, laws protect people from some kinds of abuses, but those were hard-won protections. Think about it, why do we even need laws that protect workers? It’s because the whole model of employers and employees is force-based. In fact, our entire system of work is based on force. We work in a paradigm of force, and we don’t even know it.

For centuries there have been people warning us about the trap that is this paradigm of force. In 1905, sociologist Max Weber described people in our industrialized form of work as “cogs in the machine” and the structures and processes that keep people in the system an “iron cage.”

There’s lots of history about how we got to this age of constant subtle force, and understanding that history can better help us see the force system. However, I believe it is critical that we first see how force is impacting our lives.

Force isn’t just a part of our system of work that’s “not very nice.” Force is killing people. The stress caused by force in our workplaces is killing over a million people worldwide each year. The situation in Japan is so bad that they have a word for it, Karoshi — literally translated, it means “overwork death.” And that’s just those who die.

Hundreds of millions more suffer from chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. Think about it, do you know someone who is stressed to the breaking point by their work? How many people do you know who take anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication? According to a 2019 survey by ComPsych, 61% of employees reporting high levels of stress, with extreme fatigue/feeling out of control. And then, there is alcohol and drug addiction that is often related to work-related stress.

Unlike what many people think, it’s not their specific boss, company, or position that is anxiety-provoking. It’s the whole system of work that is based on force. It’s the force-based system that causes stress. It can often help to move jobs, but soon enough, the stress will catch up again. Sure, some places are better than others, but they are all built around force when it comes down to it.

Now, imagine not being forced to work but working on stuff you find meaningful. Imagine not being forced to be a ‘cog in the machine’ but making an impact on others’ lives. Imagine working with people you care about instead of being forced to work with people you don’t even know. Imagine not being a cost center that keeps being squeezed but instead earning the fruits of your labor.

That is the future of work we want to create — a new paradigm based on human needs. Imagine being part of a system of work that is built from the ground up by people for people. Not forced to serve a boss, revenue targets, or corporate goals, but to serve ourselves, humanity, and the planet.

A system where everyone is a capitalist and is both co-owner and co-manager of the company they DON’T WORK FOR but instead, COLLABORATE WITHIN. 

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