(FORTUNE Magazine) – It used to be that we had a job and we had a life. That was before a lot of innovations intervened: E-mail, dual careers, telecommuting, shuttles and intercity commuting, outsourcing.

It also used to be that we had a uniform. If we were a sales manager, we knew what to wear to work every morning, and so did our neighbor the lawyer, or the vet.

Where we lived was not something we thought much about. Our job, our corporation, determined that entirely.

And in those simpler times, the new Chevrolet or Ford or Plymouth would come out every fall, and we would buy it and drive it for years (leasing was something someone else did with office buildings).

Well, nowadays when you live in one city and your spouse works in another, a Jaguar is really a Ford and a Chrysler may be a Mitsubishi, and the guy next to you on the train seems to have left his collar at home, what are you to make of all this?

Welcome to the Business Life 1996. It's only FORTUNE's second such annual issue, but hey, as things go these days, it's a tradition. This is the issue in which we step back from the fray just a bit and contemplate the really important career decisions: where to live, what to drive, and what to wear.

It's not all utility, though. There's plenty of good reading here too. You'll learn, among other things, how Ralph Lauren came to occupy the throne of safe business fashion once held by Brooks Brothers (the uniform lives?). Our annual Best Cities for Business ranking is better attuned than ever to the needs of real people trying to survive this Business Life--its rankings skew heavily toward balancing work and family.

And if you're still confused, please, please, do not miss Stanley Bing's horoscope for the busy executive. If you do, the guy in the next office (aligned with Mars) may be reading it--and charting your career death.

John W. Huey Jr. Managing Editor