Ass in Seat Mentality

- - Working

I find the corporate workaholic mentality of, the longer you spend at your desk the better the product will become, utterly ridiculous and literally, ass-in-seat. The best ideas I ever came up with occurred on a morning run in the park in Connecticut not sitting in my office on 6th avenue or any office anywhere for that matter.

Jason Calacanis CEO of Mahalo started a raging debate over in the tech world with a line in a post about how to save money running a startup (here) that said “fire people who are not workaholics…” since revised to “don’t love their work.” He proceeded to get a good shredding from tech bloggers and my favorite response came frrom Signal vs. Noise (here) entitled “Fire the people who are workaholics!”

If your start-up can only succeed by being a sweatshop, your idea is simply not good enough. Go back to the drawing board and come up with something better that can be implemented by whole people, not cogs.

The business world is changing and it’s becoming harder and harder to find talented cogs. Corporations need a business plan that attracts whole people if they want to be around in 10 years. Well, that is unless you’re making cogs… cogs are still good for that.

There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. He must be one of the few that get inspired by the buzzing of florescent bulbs, an inspirational phrase that is framed and the stale air that is recirculated from the upper (more successful
    ) floors.

  2. I’ll bet that there are more than a few talented cogs who decide to leave cog-dom and strike out on their own. And I’ll bet that quite a few people on this forum fit this description.

  3. Brenda Milis

    Hey Rob-
    you have made yourself one of the first examples/experiments of getting your ass-out-of-the-seat (on a grand scale) and i think a lot of us would be really interested to know what kind of work you get now that you have removed yourself from new york. Are you planning to post that kind of information on your blog? It’s pretty exciting that you are working to change the rules of the game by raising your profile with this blog so that people in the photo industry will think to reach out to and hire you without you having to sit at a desk in the city day in day out…i wonder how many people are watching to see how things develop for you from here. Quite a few, i would think…
    b

  4. james plimpton

    I always to my best thinking with my ass in, erm, a different type of seat. Heh heh.

    Does that count?

  5. Calacanis makes the mistake of equating being a workaholics with “loving your work”. Workaholics love the mechanics of work, and will do what they can to make work last longer. This means, by default, that they tend to not work smart.

    I spent a bunch of years in the tech industry, and I left because I grew tired of the he-man fake machismo that permeated the art from “entrepreneurs” like Calacanis.

  6. the problem is that talented hardworking people are being laid off left and right by magazines….

  7. @ Brenda: Yeah, I’m working on a few ideas and looking for new ways (or things) to photo edit besides the typical freelance stuff I’ve been doing and I’ll share what I find as I go.

    I’m wary of using this blog as a personal promotional tool because it works much better when there’s a conversation and not just me talking. I think it’s better to be a resource for all photo editors and not just one.

  8. I agree with Daniel. I am obsessed with my work (as are most artists). So, I am not a work a-holic because I feel the constant need to continue being productive. I simply love my work and don’t want to be doing anything else at the time. I think those employees that love to get the job done versus those employees that feel the need to get the job done are infinitely more valuable.

    Terra Dawn
    http://www.terradawnphotography.com

  9. “I’m wary of using this blog as a personal promotional tool because it works much better when there’s a conversation and not just me talking.”

    And that, IMHO, is what makes this blog such a great read – content and a conversation about a side of the photographic industry that photographers really don’t have that much exposure to.

  10. When I’m doing research I often do it out of the studio. Especially this time of year in Arizona is particularly beautiful and a crime to slave away.

    There’s also a time to work your butt off so the production goes smooth and easy, I live at work during those times.

    It’s a balance but being an asshole boss I’m not. I don’t know how a business can succeed with treating their employees like crap.

  11. scott Rex Ely

    I think the limiting factors here are that a higher level of productivity requires the demand for a higher amount of convention and structure and a lower amount of originality. His example is related to romance novels but I think it fits appropriately here.
    From R. Keith Sawyer’s book, Explaining Creativity, pg 213.

  12. scott Rex Ely

    Please understand that I assume no authorship, just a concurrence, almost verbatim with Dr. Sawyer’s ideas, which I think are appropriate for this discussion.

  13. I was looking through your slideshow of promos and I must say that they make me appreciate Koudelka and Pinkhassov’s work even more. I understand that there is a necessary ‘formula’ to editorial work, but God! it does become boring VERY quickly.

  14. I´m with you on this one 100%. It applies to any type of job where you need your brain and an ounce of creative problem solving. You may get your best idea from how the milk bounces off your corn flakes. The human brain is a mystery still, so anyone who tries to put that potent machine in a box still hasn´t learned how to use theirs.

    Like others have said, you need to work hard when the production is in full force but as a photographer I find myself needing to take the time to step back and look at what I´m doing after being all wrapped up and glued to the screen editing the day´s shots.

    Thank god I have the best cafe in all Madrid a block from my house. When I need that bit of reality, there are always (around 4 o´clock) a couple other shooters from the neighborhood to talk nonsense with having the same coffee for the same reason.

    The spaniards have a saying, “Work to live, not live to work.”

  15. In France they coined the therm “creative laziness” and there is some studies on how a little siesta after lunch, and other breaks can assure a better productivity and more creative one too… In other words doing “nothing” actually inspires. Also vacations and less hours of work (in France 35 a week) with flexibility of working timetable do improve the productivity in the worked hours. Obviously there is a break-even point (as they say) and there is person to person variations on what is best but anyway it is far from the 14 hours a day dreamed by old-timers workaholics fanatics. Also the “google way of working” is taking a step forward the freedom of workers…
    As a photographer I do not really have timetables so… I just spend my time looking so after 10000 hours I ‘ll probably will be proficient on that. Obviously 10000 hours with a lot of breaks in between!

  16. Alexey Aistov

    In Russia the problem has the following character:
    To the photographic information began in tens times more than 5-10 years ago, readers of magazines and newspapers began to pay less attention to the visual information (except for some editions, but it is rich editions and there collective very talently is picked up to each other switching and photographers). If before a photo the reporting in Paris Mach could be the whole event now it any more so is actual. Look on World Press Photo 2007 – the reporting on the Iraq war for Vanityfair becomes the winner! (-и this victory of the photographer is not so unequivocal, from a position of illumination of this war). To what I it? With work of photoeditors now can enough young man whom not strongly we “depend” knowledge of a reality and life will consult, therefore he can pay less money, and he is more compliant with administration of the edition.

  17. Before every photo shoot, I sit down and play the piano for about twenty minutes. The exercise puts my brain into a creative mode, and helps me to see in an entirely different way. I could shoot with a purely documentary mentality, and capture images like this all the time:

    But I find my greatest joy creating images like this:

    I find that taking the time to relax helps immensely to see deeper into the subjects and find creative ways to express my feelings about them.

  18. Oops! Looks like the HTML was stripped.

    The first image shows dancers on stage using a pretty basic but not very creative light setup. The second shows how a little creativity can pull a stronger image out of the same scene. In the second, the flashes are turned off, and the LED lights behind the dancers are used to frame them in a dramatic silhouette. A contrast boost adds to the comic-book style illustrative quality of the photograph.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dilvie/2211718006/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dilvie/2210924521/

    Anybody with some moderate technical skills could have created the first image, but the second could only be envisioned by tapping into creative instincts.

    Taking the time to relax and recharge keeps those instincts sharp and fresh.