Does Business Really Equal Busyness?

While studying the etymology of the word business, I learned that doing business refers to “the state of being busy by doing commercially viable and profitable work.” At Desautels, we define “busy” as taking on more and more projects to not only fill our days but also, let’s face it, boost our resumes. Does business really equal busyness as the etymology of the name suggests?

Businesses see time as a money machine. At Desautels, we also consider our time in terms of future monetary value. That means that the busier you are, the more successful you are likely to be after your BCom. This in turn creates the stereotype of ruthless business environments where we fight to be busy in order to stand apart from the competition. Here, “survival of the fittest” becomes “survival of the busiest”. It certainly, however, does not mean we are always busy doing things we enjoy. On top of running around from meeting to meeting, we are involved in all kinds of extra-curriculars, from Case League to McMUN, hoping that all this busyness will lead to future financial success.

This stems from the misguided conclusion that being busy leads to success. In TV shows like Mad Men, the main characters are always suited up, running in and out of meetings, and searching for “what’s next.” They never stop. 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy said it best: “I have the great looking-at-the-watch skills needed to be a CEO.” If you’re busy, you are much more likely to be perceived as successful, especially at Desautels.

We are all working towards success. When I got accepted at McGill, my mom even gave me several books such as “Life as a College Graduate” and “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20” to guide me towards “the dream job” in a painless way. These books, however, aren’t enough to ensure that I succeed. We need to lead our own lives, not the ones from self-help books. This means having meaningful experiences by following our passions and learning from our own mistakes. We still need to actually try and fail.

On the one hand, after going to university, working hard, and getting good grades, we expect a good job and a big house. Yet, we need to face the reality that the same opportunities do not exist as in previous generations. Boosting your resumes with extracurricular activities you don’t really care about may not make you happier or even more successful in the long run. With that in mind, do we really want the journey from university life to business life to be so stressful and so bland?

Our generation looks for instant gratification, and that is one of the greatest obstacles in our way to career success. We must recognize that we can only try our best during our college years and that long term endurance should not be overlooked. German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer suggests that achievements are only a small speck of our lives and for that reason, life in general is not worthwhile since we work for much longer than the time we enjoy our successes. Camus, however, offers a different, less defeatist approach. In The Myth of Sisyphus, he describes the need to enjoy the journey. Life is the journey and what we get out of it is up to us. If we are too busy we may forget to enjoy the journey and then wake up to Schopenhauer’s gloomy views.

Our lives have become increasingly busy and interconnected in the past century. Technology allows markets to operate 24/7 and people rarely get real, if any, vacation from their smart phones. Busyness has reached a new level since it is that much harder to disconnect from our work. Therefore, it is more important nowadays to occasionally stop and look at the road ahead. We should emphasize spending time doing things that will make us happy in the long run, and clear our minds from the clutter of daily business. We should not lose track of our goals and values, and remember that being busy should not be the aim. For me, this means enjoying what I can and savouring university despite the Canadian chill, despite the homework, and despite the looming pressure of what happens after graduation.

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