Life lessons from the Workaholic

Number two of my life lessons from people I’ve met. This one is from a person I met who lived for his work: the Workaholic. They spoke work, thought work, and breathed work. It had a profound effect on me to see someone like this.

If you haven’t read the first, check it out here.

The Workaholic

Similar to the Good Leader, I walked into introductions of this person, more prestigious on paper than the last. For this person, life and work were one in the same. Conversations of the football, fishing, politics, or any other hobby were lost a few sentences in. Returning instead to the comfort zone, work. I began to make it my mission to delve a little deeper into the Workaholic’s life, trying to find the social point. The Workaholics quotes themselves, their own work, and I found this profound.

Through the social experiment, I walked away a little defeated. Well, a lot. I only had one personal mission, and I did not succeed. Yet, I still learned a lot about the symptoms of a workaholic. This workaholic clocked in the normal forty hours a week, along with four hours every evening after the kids went to sleep. This came at a cost.

1. Find the balance

For many, employment is a transformational process. It enables individuals to move up a social class or two, and build a financially stable life. The question is always going to be, to what cost?

In 21st century society, the meaning of workaholic is varied. Some people seem to be able to clock in additional hours of work at no social expense. Some workaholics are able to do more in less time, and still have avid personal lives. Many struggle to balance the two. The work-life balance conundrum. So where does the balance arrive?

“For a very long time now I’ve been saying […], ‘You can have it all, but not all at the same time.’ How important it is to take very good care of yourself, of your mental and physical and spiritual wellbeing; it’s hard to do. It’s easier to be a workaholic than to have a truly balanced life.” ― Quentin Bryce.

For a lot of people, the work-life balance varies. I have always found that the balance was naturally struck. I could overwork for a few days, realise I am ahead, and take personal time in usual business hours. This works for me, but doesn’t work for everyone.

It’s tough to strike a balance, because our passions get in the way. If we are doing something we love, work will unbalance us. If we love our personal life, that might unbalance us too.

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Alain de Botton.

2. Do what you love

I thought this would be an interesting twist on the Good Leader’s number two takeaway ‘Love what you do’. Many people probably read that and disliked it a little. May as well clear the air on that one, right? Love what you do is a philosophy I adopt when I can’t always do the exact thing I want.

Try marking one hundred exam papers when the answers are almost the same. Then tell me you love it? Many academics dread marking, and I can’t say I have an unrequited passion for it. But each page represents a student’s livelihood. Each page represents their understanding of one part of the world. And to treat it as another simple piece of paper would be bad. We can find a love in that, I do. It’s just about looking from the right angle.

Steve Jobs Quote Do What You Love

Similarly, we should do what we love too. If there is something we cannot find a love for, go find something that does invigorate passion. I’ve heard this before, and plenty say it’s too hard. I disagree. It’s just about making the necessary sacrifices until you are there. If you love writing, and you’re a cleaner. Don’t quit your job to write, write on the side, and work on it. If you love sport, and you’re an academic. There is always before work, after work, and lunch breaks to practice.

The takeaway

From my observations of the Workaholic’s journey, I can offer two things. It’s to find the balance, and to do what you love. We can love work. We can love home. And we can love our friends. We just have to figure out how they can be balanced. And we have to work out if we do, indeed, love them.

Image by Tash Lampard.