The only pain in Reich's voice today, however, is when he talks about his old Washington job. "It was the best job I've ever had and probably will have," he says. "If you can figure out how to make a Cabinet-level job saner, I'd go back in a minute."

He doesn't expect Cabinet jobs to get sensible anytime soon. Worse, he doesn't expect your job to get much better either. What Reich found in his research for this book and his travels as an in-demand speaker is that America has a new definition of success, and it's not one most people will like. Work is taking over our lives, advertising is taking over our consciousness, communications gadgets are taking over our attention, and the widening gap between rich and poor is setting us up for serious trouble. This understanding surprised him.

"As Secretary of Labor, my goal was to try to get more jobs andbetter wages for Americans, and after working hard at that role for a number of years, you can't help but feel jobs and wages are everything," Reich observes, setting himself up. "But, obviously, they're not. In the new economy, with unpredictable earnings, with the new intrusiveness of work - almost 24 hours a day, given cellphones and e-mails and faxes - and with the two tracks that are emerging, the fast and the slow track and the absences of gradations between; given all that, it's not simply a matter of having a job or even having decent pay.

"People are working much harder than ever before, even people who are paid rather well. My research and travels around the country since I've left Washington have revealed a striking pattern: The more money you make, very often the longer hours you're putting in. People with college educations who are in managerial or professional roles are typically putting in 50 to 80 hours a week - and that's not including travel. Travel is eating up more time than ever.

"We've gotten to the point where even though we are very prosperous overall as a nation, we are remarkably poor in terms of the quality of our lives outside work," Reich continues. "That's what the book is about. It tries to explain that paradox."

The Future of Success does that well - maybe too well. Reich's depiction of a steadily tightening noose, in the form of rising expectations, global competition, ever-wiser marketers, and ever-better communications technology, begins to assume the guise of inevitability after a while. That's not an image he does much to dispel. He discounts the more obvious time-management tools, as well as the whole movement toward simplification. Recounting his efforts to pursue these routes to achieving a more manageable success, he concludes they simply don't work.