Most people would agree that working is an essential part of life, and the U.S. is a country whose citizens live to work. A 2004 study titled "Overworked in America" conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that one-third of U.S. employees were chronically overworked. In the book The Overworked American, written by Harvard economist Juliet Schor, the average person works 163 hours more today than in the late 1960s, the equivalent of one month a year. According to the report "No-Vacation Nation," one in four private-sector workers in the U.S. does not receive paid vacation or paid holidays.
Given the crazed, workaholic nature of the U.S., enjoying what you do is certainly an important ingredient to long-term success. If we are going to expend so much time and effort on our careers, what could be better than getting paid for something that we actually like doing?
Just ask Ted Roark (Read his story, "Accelerating business with EB welding," on page 16). The president of C.F. Roark Welding & Engineering Co. Inc., Brownsburg, Ind., a job shop dedicated to fabricating components for the defense, aerospace, and science and research industries, found a way to keep his father's company alive amid an economic downturn that closed many other small, family-run job shops.
But like many people, Roark has interests that fall outside the realm of his business, particularly running, coaching youth basketball, and biking. In the late 1990s, while weighing the options for potential idle capacity at the facility, Roark came up with the idea of designing and manufacturing titanium-framed bicycles in-house.
Today, located in the back of C.F. Roark's Brownsburg facility is Roark Custom Titanium Bicycles—a bike frame fabricating business that specializes in high-end, custom travel bicycles. The light titanium frame and a custom coupling system enable the bike to be disassembled and stored—wheels included—in a hard case, allowing traveling cyclists to check their bikes without incurring an airline's oversized-luggage fee.
The venture proved to be successful—notable Roark bike owners include actor Robin Williams, professional triathlete Tim DeBoom, Papa John's pizza founder John Schnatter, and, of course, Ted Roark.
American workers are hard workers, whether because society tells us we have to be or because current economic conditions have piled on additional stress (at this point, it's probably both), so it would behoove us all to make sure that we're spending that time doing something we care about.