Why “I Go To Extremes” Wasn’t Just a Billy Joel Song Title to Me

How many of us have a 40-hour work week at our current job? Wow, check out the lack of hands going up at that question! Well, everyone can stop laughing. Looks like we’re not alone. According to the December 2006 Harvard Business Review, it’s estimated that 1.7 million Americans have “extreme jobs.” An “extreme job” is defined as “high pressure positions that require 70 hours or more a week.”

Geez! All us accountants are “extreme”?!? And we all thought that 70+ hour work weeks was called “tax season” and are what it took to get recognized, promoted, etc.

Doesn’t it have a nice ring to it, though? “Extreme jobs.” Seems the United States is a culture that thrives on “extreme” everything – from TV shows (Extreme Makeover – Home Edition) to sports (extreme Frisbee, anyone?), if it’s “extreme” – Americans embrace it.

But why do we continue to do it – even after the promotions, raises, recognition? Why are there those of us who feel the need to work 70, 80, 90 hours a week after the raises push compensation packages into the 6 figure range – placing them in the top 6% of American salary earners?

For most people, it’s just their personalities. Most accountants are Type A people. To quote Sir John Gielgud in Arthur, “It’s what we live for…” Others, it’s the trill of working excessively long hours. Yeah, some do find a thrill here that others (myself included) just don’t see. And, I’m sure, many find those increasingly larger paychecks very alluring! The Harvard study shows the majority of these “extreme” employees love it. Yep, they claim that there doesn’t appear to be too much employee resentment (notice there’s no mention of the family’s reactions to these long hours.)

Now, I’m not going to question the choices made by “extremers.” Having spent almost 15 years in accounting and finance, I’ve been “extreme.” Of course, my husband and children will be the first ones to tell you how much they hated it. Long hours in the office, coupled with constant cell phone calls during dinner and e-mails all weekend tend to make even the most supportive families resentful.

Of course, I didn’t see how bad this all was until I was grocery shopping at 7:00am on a Saturday (because I just didn’t have any other free time) while discussing monthly and quarterly P&L statements with the president of my company.

Not too long after this did I begin to realize how wrong it all was. Yes, the money, power, and prestige were nice. But at what cost? I was constantly breaking out in hives (from the stress), I was pushing family obligations to the back burner (come on – grocery shopping at 7:00 am on a SATURDAY?!), I was hardly seeing my kids (and boy did they let me know it!), and my husband joking about talking more to my office’s receptionists than with me. Yes, I was in full-blown burnout.

At the time, we were renting a house in a very ritzy suburb of New York City (Greenwich, CT) and knew we couldn’t afford to stay if I wasn’t going to continue to be an “extreme” employee. Three months later, we moved into an incredible house in a very middle class suburb of Cleveland, OH – Mentor, where I actually spent the bulk of my childhood. Not only did our mortgage become one-third of what we were paying for rent, I could finally wind down my “extremeness.” Granted, I still work 60 + hours a week, but it’s on my terms. I own my own executive recruiting firm. There is no one to complain that I’m taking a half-day off, to help with my older two daughters’ classrooms. And if I choose to take an hour off and attend a tea party hosted by my 4 year old daughter, who’s going to yell? And if my 19 month old daughter is having a rough night sleeping, there’s no “tsk tsk” from other “extremers” because I’m not starting to work until 9:00am.

A lot of companies are trying to combat “extreme employee burnout.” That’s why more and more firms every day are offering concierge-style services, like dry cleaning pick up and delivery, on site child care, and massage therapists on salary. They are hoping these incredible employees won’t do what I did back in 2004 – burn out and run away like the wind. It’s because these companies are now listening to their human resource managers. These managers know that it’s increasingly difficult to replace an “extreme” employee. Let’s be realistic here – how many new employees are going to devote themselves to an organization knowing that the previous employee hit burnout and fled? Companies are forcing employees to utilize their vacations. Some firms even offer to occasionally cover the costs for a spouse to go along on certain business trips. And we’ve all seen the upswing in telecommuting and flextime.

Would all these perks have encouraged me to stay at my old position? Probably not. While I loved my job (and the two offices that came with it – one a corner office on Park Avenue in the Upper West Side of NYC and another waterfront office in Greenwich, CT), enjoyed working with my coworkers (some of the hardest working people I have ever met), and the pleasure of working for one of the most brilliant minds around, none of this could ever make up for the looks of relief and gratitude on my family’s faces when they realized that they really did come first.

Plus, there’s a lot to be said for not breaking out in hives during the past three years!

Hailing from the metropolitan New York City area, Mary Stewart McGovern spent the first 15 years of her career in accounting and finance. After relocating to Northeast Ohio two years ago, she craved a career change. Deciding to merge her flair for networking, strong desire to help others, and her solid accounting and finance background, she decided to try her hand at recruiting. Mary started her “second” career in recruiting by working with a highly regarded executive recruiting firm in Cleveland, Ohio.

How You Can Survive Extreme Heat Without an AC Unit

Dealing with extreme kinds of weather is becoming more and more common for us. Most people are getting pretty used to it, whether it is extreme cold or extreme heat. It is still not that easy though, when you are talking about extreme weather then there is just no way that you could expect it to be easy at all. There are ways on how it can be done, but you need to do a little studying and research to make sure that you do it right.

If you are dealing with extreme heat during the summer, it can get very uncomfortable for you and your family at home. Some people are especially prone to excessive heat and have a hard time whenever they are in the middle of it. They just can’t seem to function properly at all, and if they cannot find ways by which to deal with it then they really have to search a little more for it. And how about surviving extreme heat without any air conditioning unit at all? That’s a real challenge there. However, the following tips are meant to show how you can survive extreme heat without any AC unit.

  • You can circulate the air within your home through the use of ceiling fans and box fans. It would also be wise to open the doors of the house during the early part of the evening, while turning on the box fans in order to draw in the cooler air from the outside. The box fan would work as a kind of “exhaust system” that should serve to push out the warm air that’s within the home. When the night is cool, you should open the windows and doors to promote natural and cool air circulation.
  • A good way of dealing with extreme heat even though you do not have your AC units working is by eliminating all other sources of heat within your home. Always check to see if happen to leave any electrical appliance running even though there is no need or use for it, and that also goes for your computer. Not only would it make your home hotter, it would also drive up your electricity bills. Replace your incandescent bulbs with lighting fixtures that use up lesser energy and also give off lesser heat.
  • Be aware of the cooling effect of water. Take cool baths and showers and try to do it as often as possible. You can also make use of wet towels on your head and shoulders to keep you cool while staying at home throughout the day. Soaking your feet in basins of water while relaxing, watching TV, or reading a book is also a great way to cool yourself off on a hot day, without using your AC unit.
  • A good option is to just stay downstairs during the hot day. Since we know that hot air rises, the lower floors and the basement of your home would be a much better and cooler refuge than the top stairs during the day.

What Are Extreme Sports?

An extreme sport can be defined as any activity that has a real or perceived high level of danger. This can be anything from bungee jumping to hang gliding, scuba diving to snowboarding and rock climbing to extreme ironing – literally anything that gets your adrenaline pumping can be classed as extreme! Originally extreme sports were associated with adult sports such as those described above, however the term now includes sports like skateboarding and bmxing which are popular with teens too.

The history of the term ‘extreme sports’ is quite often associated with Ernest Hemingway who stated ‘there are only three sports – bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering, all the rest are games’. Whether you agree with this statement or not, it is clear that from as far back as the 1950s the term was associated with sports that could lead to death.

Most extreme sports are solitary activities although there are some exceptions to the rule such as paintballing (yes it really is extreme when you get into a game) and white water rafting which are clearly both team sports. Most people become interested in one or many at a young age and they usually only get a coach if they wish to take the sport further – this is clearly different to other sports such as football and swimming for example.

Another difference between extreme sports and normal sports is that the performance of a sportsman is not as clear cut. For example, a person’s ability to rock climb is evaluated on more subjective and aesthetic criteria, rather than on a speed or score level. With every mountain being different, and the variables also changing in the other sports, it just isn’t possible to create a set performance system. Of course, this isn’t the case for all extreme sports but it is the norm for most.

Nowadays there is even an international competition that celebrates these sports known as the x games. This includes people participating in extreme sports in a controlled environment. It began in 1995 in the United States and it is now a hugely watched competition throughout the world. This has also enabled many extreme sporters to participate in a sport full time due to the levels of sponsorship received.

Whether you fancy skateboarding or scuba diving or any of the other sports that fall in between, one thing is for sure – your adrenaline will be pumping and you are sure to have an experience that is like no other you’ve had before!

Fashion and Extreme Sports

Although it’s still not exactly “mainstream,” extreme sports have become incredibly popular over the last decade or so. Sports like surfing, snowboarding and BMX still don’t draw the crowds that football and baseball do, but they’ve been slowly creeping into the collective consciousness of sports fans everywhere in surprising ways. One area where these sports have had a major influence is in the world of fashion. BMX apparel and other kinds of sports fashion have become very popular not just with extreme athletes, but with people from all walks of life.

From a certain angle, the rise of extreme sports fashion isn’t surprising. Sportswear has always been popular with athletes and non-athletes alike. Not only is sportswear built for comfort, but they fit perfectly with most casual clothing styles in the United States. Sportswear has gone from being strictly for athletes in the early 20th Century to being what most people imagine when they think of casual dress. Fashion designers now regularly incorporate sportswear elements into their work, even in clothing that is not intended to be casual. These days, it’s hard not to go out in public and see people wearing jerseys, baseball caps and other clothing originally designed as sportswear even when there is no sporting event happening. Sportswear has become all-purpose casual wear.

Of course, comfort and a casual look aren’t the only reasons why sports gear has become so popular. As the name implies, extreme sports can be dangerous. Professional skateboarding at the very least requires pads and a helmet, and the right BMX apparel can save BMX bikers from some really nasty injuries. At a glance, this might not mean much to someone who would never step onto a skateboard or BMX bike, but the protection offered by some extreme sports gear can be useful in other situations. The heavy fleece jackets worn by snowboarders are some of the warmest winter jackets available, and the shoes worn by skateboarders can take a beating and last much longer than most sneakers.

Because of the popularity of these high adrenalin sports, many clothing designers have begun to market that extreme sportswear to the mainstream. People are still probably more likely to wear a football jersey than BMX apparel in casual situations, but the growing popularity of sports fashion hasn’t gone unnoticed. Many professional extreme athletes have their own clothing lines now, and it has gotten to the point where many people wear the clothes without having any knowledge of sports. Many just like the clothing itself, which can probably be considered the ultimate victory for any clothing designer.

In the end, the popularity of extreme sports fashion isn’t all that different from the popularity of most other sportswear. Most people ultimately wear things like BMX apparel because it fits in with the casual style of dress that is so popular in the United States. On top of that, most of this clothing is durable as well as stylish. Extreme sports are still seen as a niche, but many of the fashions associated with it could become mainstream in the next few years.