Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
'It was time'
A little story about coaching kids' soccer and flying for fun. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I've had two moments in the last couple of weeks during which I realized how the world has changed.
The first moment has to do with coaching my daughter's youth soccer team. It's a highlight of my week. With daylight savings ending, I had to send an email around to the parents saying I think we should move our once-a-week practices from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m.
As I sent the note, I realized how lucky I've been with my work. No, I'm not independently wealthy, and I certainly have to work to earn a living to support my family. And, I'm sure I put in at least as full a week, in terms of total hours, as anyone I know.
But, after spending the first half of my career working for organizations that required me to do things like "go to an office," and "keep regular hours," and "get your work done in a timely fashion," I've managed to create a work life that includes significant work/life flexibility.
I have to do the work. But it's mostly up to me "when" and "where" I do the work.
Near-total flexibility. I’d give up a lot of money (and I probably do!) in exchange for it.
The second moment had to do with reading the transcript of the United Airlines earnings call last month—at about midnight, mind you; see above.
(Why do I read transcripts of airline earnings calls in the middle of the night, when I don't invest in airlines? Because I write a lot about airlines. And why do I write a lot about airlines? Because people read a lot about airlines. Easy math.)
Anyway, all airlines have been down, and up, and down and up again since the pandemic, but buried in this call was a structural change that the CEO of United, Scott Kirby, emphasized.
In short, he explained that a big part of United's passenger base now is a group that didn't really exist in large numbers a few years ago: "a permanent structural change in leisure demand, because of the flexibility that hybrid work allows. With hybrid work, every weekend could be a holiday weekend."
Kirby put it even better during an interview with CNBC: "It wasn't money that constrained people from travel. It was time."
Mind blown. For decades, many of us were told that this is just how it works. You trade time for money. As a result, so many people seem to go through two opposite stages of life, each with a restriction that's solved by the other:
When you're young, you can feel as if you have all the time in the world. No marriage, no mortgage, free as a bird. But most often—unless you won the ovarian lottery, in the words of Warren Buffett—money is the constraining issue.
Then, as you grow older, people often measure success in terms of career progression and financial independence. Maybe you start to meet those goals, but paradoxically, you no longer have anywhere near as much free time and flexibility.
As the English band the Godfathers once put it: "Birth, school, work, death."
Now, Kirby says the passenger data on United Airlines shows that the dynamic has been dynamited. And people like me are able to blithely announce that I’ll now be knocking off work on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. in order to coach little kid soccer practices.
For years, I've reported on survey after survey suggesting that the single thing people want at work, all other things being equal, wasn’t necessarily more pay or progression. It was flexibility.
It's the one thing that makes employees happier and more satisfied across all industries. And now, many more of us have got it.
Unless, of course, your family is like mine, and followed the other other pandemic trend that we're told has to do with increasing happiness: getting a brand-new, cute little puppy.
In that case, I'm afraid you're not going anywhere for a while, anyway.
Call for comments: Do you have increased flexibility post-pandemic? Do you wish you did? And would you trade it for money or security? We want to know!
7 other things worth knowing today
I'm not planning to stay up all night watching election returns, and I think it's clear we'll have a lot of races with no final result in the first couple of days, anyway. Fortunately folks at places like Bloomberg will, and they'll have an update at this link in the morning. (Bloomberg)
A lone winning ticket for the record $2.04 billion Powerball lottery jackpot was sold in Altadena, California, lottery officials said Tuesday, making the lucky ticket holder the winner of the largest lottery prize ever. (CNN)
The Transportation Security Agency is turning 21 years old. [W]e checked in with the agency to learn about the latest security developments and what the future might hold for travelers and their toiletries. (WashPost)
OK, one more state of Twitter story. Can an $8 Twitter subscription bail out Elon Musk? Let's look at the numbers. In short, this analysis concludes even with a crazy-high conversion rate, the corresponding decrease in ad revenue would doom the platform. I found the argument compelling, anyway. (Mashable)
Business school salaries revealed: Here's how much MBA graduates make post-graduation. Top salary? Stanford Graduate School of Business, with a median $158,400 salary and a median signing bonus of $30,000. (Insider)
The least stressful job in the U.S. that makes more than $100,000 per year is "environmental economist," according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It's a job that "calls for conducting research on environmental topics like public and private land use, air and water pollution and endangered species preservation," and while it requires a master's degree or Ph.D., it's a "fulfilling job," but not one that involves "working in very competitive conditions." (CNBC)
The National Park Service is warning people to stop licking toads in the wild, due to their gland-secreted psychedelic substance that can create a hallucinogenic experience. (MSN)