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It’s a Burden … It’s a Plague … It’s SuperBoss

If I were smarter, and more highly motivated, and just a little bit British, I’m sure I would regularly read The Economist. It would also help if they kept a copy in the waiting room of my local tattoo parlor, but you get my point.

Alas, I only get to see articles from the respected English magazine when they show up in my Facebook feed, and even then I don’t really check them out unless it happens to be a day when there are no really cute cat videos. (Have you noticed how many days go by without a really cute cat video? I blame Obama.)

Such a day occurred recently, and so I found myself reading a column called “Schumpeter.” [Joseph Schumpeter was a famous economist and that’s why they use the nom de plume. Or so they say. If my name was Adrian Wooldridge, the actual writer of the column, I’d use a pseudonym, too.]

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“Here comes SuperBoss,” was the title of the piece which discusses the “cult of extreme physical endurance … taking root among executives.”

If you were the kind of person who wakes at 4:30 a.m., you would have seen this phenomenon yourself.

Disney’s Bob Iger is the kind of boss who wakes up at 4:30 a.m., which makes him something of slouch compared to David Cush, the CEO of Virgin America who is out of bed and on the treadmill at 4:15 a.m. (Lazy slacker Tim Cook of Apple doesn’t hit the gym until 5 a.m. No doubt he can’t understand how to set the alarm on his Apple Watch.)

Of course, it takes more than just getting up early to make a SuperBoss really super. You’ve got to do stuff, too. According to Wooldridge, a hot topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland was a tweet entitled, “14 things successful people do before breakfast.” In addition to the above-mentioned early-bird CEO gym rats, successful SuperBosses “make their beds (because this is supposedly correlated with increased productivity)” and meditate, network and “spend time on a ‘personal passion project.'”

The personal passion project does not refer to “pre-dawn sex,” though they manage to squeeze this in, too. Turns out the SuperBoss is not content to rule of the world of commerce. He or she uses the hours before the rooster crows to conquer the world of high culture. “Novel-writing and art-making are easy to skip,” Wooldridge notes, “when you’ve been in meetings all day.”

As a matter of fact, novel-writing and art-making are also easy to skip when you haven’t been in meetings all day, but who am I stop a SuperBoss CEO if he wants to become the next Jane Austin? I’d much rather have my bosses have their fingers in delicate watercolors, than have them unleash their creative instincts on my humble attempts to get work done.

Put all this early-morning overachieving together, and you’ve got what The Economist describes as “a growing cult of extreme performance.” Even though we’re not seeing any performance, extreme or not, in your work life, you will have to admit that we are experiencing the end of “an era of gentlemanly capitalism” where managers showed “a code of effortless superiority.” It has been replaced with a code of “effortful superiority: The successful deserve their success because they get on the treadmill and sweat.”

Too true. When it comes to bosses, it’s good-bye Cary Grant, hello Jason Statham. If your next review starts with you being thrown out a window and ends up when you’re blown up in a car chase, don’t blame me. You’ve been warned.

Not satisfied with ruling the gym, SuperBosses are also “devotees of extreme sports.” John Roost of Fiesta Insurance Franchise Corporation “has climbed the highest mountains on seven continents.” Rick Davidson of Century 21 “spends his spare time climbing mountains, skydiving, scuba diving, racing NASCAR vehicles and flying fighter jets.” A lot of that stuff does sound extremely risky to me, but not flying fighter jets. It’s a lot more dangerous trying to squeeze into an economy-class seat on United.

Personally, I have very little respect for these SuperBosses, who, I have to point out, also get SuperSalaries and SuperPerks, too. If you want to know who I think a SuperPerformer, I say it’s y-o-u. You drag yourself out of bed every morning. You go to work. You make ends meet on a puny pittance of a so-called salary.

And that’s what I call extreme.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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