Man’s wife: “What does he get if he’s disabled?”
Government worker: “His monthly payments will [double].”
Man’s wife: “Well, then he’s disabled.”
Government worker (to man): “What’s your disability?”
Man: “I’m stressed.”
An attorney friend of mine recently overheard the above conversation in a Florida government building. The man, who had just turned 65, was signing up for retirement benefits while his wife stood over his shoulder. I relay the story to illustrate how our government is expanding the definition of the term “disability.”
Howard Rich explains in his recent Wall Street Journal commentary: ‘Washington isn’t broke because the government is inefficient. It’s broke because it promises too much. …$125 billion in disability payments each year—a number that’s increased 17-fold over the past four decades (after adjusting for inflation). …[due to the] government’s increasingly malleable definition of what constitutes a “disability,” …workers who complain of “persistent anxiety” and “chronic fatigue” are now viewed by the government as being disabled.’
Basically, if you’re stressed, the federal government now considers you to be disabled. But isn’t everyone (with a life) stressed? So are we all disabled?
Activities or activity levels that “stress” one person will energize or relax another. Stress is not only subjective but it is a natural byproduct of pursuing goals more challenging than watching soap operas while soaking in a bubble bath.
Man is a rational creature and so the highest enjoyment that he can achieve is that which fulfills his mind. In Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, the hero, John Galt, says: “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. …But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. …the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man.”
In other words, man will not achieve happiness by avoiding work because this will lead to a level of mental frustration (stress) that no amount of monthly stipend from the government can ease.
If you desire a career doing what you are passionate about, whether it is civil engineering, painting, teaching, writing, running a small business, software programming or neurosurgery, you must log long hours and encounter stress along the way. Even to achieve fun goals like lowering your golf handicap, completing a triathlon or climbing Mount Everest, you must first put your body through physically agonizing routines. So stress is not a disability. Stress is byproduct of living.
Dr. Lynne Tan of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City tells MSNBC.com health editor Jane Weaver: "Very successful people, rather than feeling disempowered, take the extra stress energy ... and make it into a high-energy, positive situation."
Weaver even cites studies indicating that: “…by keeping the brain cells working at peak capacity,” moderate stress could help prevent Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. Periodic stress can be good for you; with the right attitude, the hormone surges of stress can be channeled into higher levels of productivity.
Certainly, humans should reduce unhealthy stress from procrastination, depravity, inactivity and unwholesome foods.
But humans would be foolish to eliminate healthy mental challenges in exchange for a monthly “stress stipend.” I maintain that the human mind is happy when it is operating at full capacity—learning, doing and loving. As I’ve written here and here
If stress is a disability, why don’t we talk about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as a disabled person? After all, Jobs was extraordinarily stressed at low points in his career, such as when he was ousted from the company he started. And when things went wrong, even as a grown man, he was known to break down in tears.
Yet, nobody thought Jobs was disabled. Everyone, including his competitors, viewed him as successful. Jobs made mistakes. He had some major regrets. But, as he grew older, he learned to channel the energy he got from stress into becoming a thriving entrepreneur and a loving son, father, husband and friend.
Jobs used stress as motivational energy to fulfill his vision of bringing amazing technology to the masses. Despite ample critics, backstabbers and cancer, he built the world’s most valuable company from the ground up. Jobs succeeded where other men fail (think Warren Buffett); he became a billionaire while maintaining his personal and professional integrity.
If you’re stressed, the federal government says: “No sweat! You qualify for cash from Obama’s stash!” But if you are relying on Obama’s cash to get you through life, please, start sweating. Word on the street is that Obama’s bank account is $16 trillion overdrawn.