Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


How often do you admit to yourself that work is really getting to you?

How many times do you wish it could all be different?

How rarely do you sit back and forget work--when you're at work, that is?

Somehow, it often seems as if workers in the U.S. are always among the most stressed in the world.

Perhaps they feel they have little social protection if things go wrong. After all, most U.S. personal bankruptcies are caused by health problems and the inability to pay for the concomitant costs.

Perhaps the U.S. also has a certain obsession with appearing busy.

It's a little like the obsession with always being "excited" about something.

One country, though, has the least-stressed workers in the world--Sweden.

Many have theories as to why that is.

Some, though, alight on one four-letter word: fika.

This word is rooted in the Swedish word for coffee. But it roots workers in remembering to be human at least twice a day.

Around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Swedish workers stop what they're doing, grab a drink, and maybe have a chat.

And it's not a chat about work.

They somehow manage to switch off their current work tasks and debate--oh, who knows, Ikea product names.

In their book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, With Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats, Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall explain that you don't even have to have company to enjoy fika.

The purpose, though, is to remind yourself to slow down and appreciate life's simple joys.

Even if they happen to be a cup of tea and a pastry.

So often we tell ourselves that it's the little things that matter most.

Then we spend most of our lives obsessing about our successes and failures (mostly the latter), about our relative positions in society, about all the things we wish we had or think we deserve.

In this quaint but very human little ritual, the Swedes manage to encapsulate the concept of stopping and smelling the roses, which some people might only do once or twice a year.

To institutionalize a pause in the day is surely to give people permission to enjoy it.

Unlike other cultures, where lunch is supposed to involve work, where cell phones allow us to be accessible at all times, where even vacations are no longer sacrosanct, this Swedish custom preserves something that we should be preserving far more.

Our essential humanity.

How sad to consider that there are so many who believe that humanity is increasingly useless.

Last week, Google's director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, said of humans: "We have limited capacity in our brain. It's at least a million times slower than computational electronics."

He can't wait for our brains to have nanobots implanted in them.

And why?

"Let's say I'm walking along and I see my boss at Google, Larry Page, approaching," he said. "I have three seconds to come up with something clever to say, and the 300 million modules in my neocortex won't cut it. I need a billion modules for two seconds. I'll be able to access that in the cloud just as we can access additional computation in the cloud for our mobile phones, and I'll be able to say exactly the right thing."

What glory it will be when we're all so very perfect.

Bonkers thinking such as his is what happens when you fail to observe fika.