The price of working too hard
It’s easy to get caught up working too hard in corporate life.
Pushing yourself for that next opportunity – that next promotion, a pay rise, some recognition from your peers, bosses, industry etc.
Whilst I’m incredibly grateful for my career, if I were to be honest, I often look back at some of the decisions I’ve made and wonder if it was all really worth it.
Being adopted and an only child, it was hard to find where I fitted in growing up.
I honestly just felt like I never knew where I belonged.
Hell, I didn’t even find out my nationality until I was 40!
So recognition for me was always the driver – just to be acknowledged for doing something well was the only thing that mattered as it gave me that sense of belonging – that I was doing something that mattered to people.
Finding that sense of purpose, and in insanely competitive mindset served me well career-wise.
Falling into call centres provided me with the environment I needed.
I worked hard and was rewarded. I got promoted. I worked even harder. I got promoted again.
The process kept repeating itself and eventually I made it to C-Level positions which for many, are seen as the ultimate measure of career success.
But crazy hours, lots of travel, study and more has all come at a price.
Work was often put before family, friends and my own personal mental and physical health.
And as I sit here in my mid 40’s it’s hard not to ponder what life would have been like if those other priorities were put first.
The beauty of life, however, is that we all have choices.
Each and every day. I can’t go back and change the past, but I can focus on how I choose to prioritise things moving forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I still strive for success, still work hard and have a slight issue with perfectionism…
And recognition is still a big driver for me – and I still don’t always make the right choices.
But I’m getting better at it.
I initially read the story about the fisherman below many years ago and its one that has always stayed with me.
If you’ve read it before then great, it will serve as a good reminder.
But if you haven’t – I truly hope it gives you a good dose of perspective about working too hard that may help you achieve some balance in your life.
Working too hard – is it really worth it?
The story about a fisherman
One day a CEO was taking a break from his company conference at a beach resort near Mexico. In need of some fresh air, he took a stroll towards a little harbour where he noticed a few fishing boats jostling for position. He decided to take a seat and watch the world go by.
At the same time, a fisherman who had just finished pulling in his catch took a seat next to the CEO, stretched his legs and smiled. It was just after midday and the CEO was intrigued to know if the fisherman was done for the day.
So he plucked up the courage to ask: “Hi there, you seem happy with your haul, is that you all done for the day or do you go out and catch more fish again?”
“It is a fine catch and yes thats me finished for the day” replied the fisherman.
“Youre a lucky man,” said the CEO, “my day is only beginning”.
The CEO in full conference mode paused for a minute then asked another question: “Have you ever considered going out fishing again?”.
“No, why would I? I have enough money for my family and some nice food for dinner. My home is 2 minutes from here and looks out onto the great ocean. My lovely wife is waiting for me to return, so we can celebrate with a nice lunch, some loving, a siesta and wait for the kids to come home from school.
Then as a family, we will catch up with the day’s activities, share stories, eat some nice fresh food, laugh, watch the beautiful sunset, maybe sing a little and then sleep likes babies”.
“Sounds nice,” remarked the CEO he paused again.
The fisherman smiled and stretched out his legs.
“But just imagine if you went out fishing again – you could haul in twice as many fish and make twice as much money. Fair enough you might not finish until 7 pm every day but you would have enough money to buy more boats”.
“Hmmm ok,” said the fisherman, trying to understand the point.”Once you have more boats you can employ other fishermen to do the work for you”.
“Ok and what next” said the fisherman.
“Well, you could expand your fleet. Of course, this would take years of hard work but there is no reason why you couldnt create a massive business just like mine and if youre really lucky, float on the stock exchange. I could help you?”
“Ok and then what?” said the Fisherman.
“Well by then you will be at retirement age and you could sell the company and buy yourself a house somewhere near the sea.
You could kick back with your wife and grandkids eat good food, take siestas, watch the sunsets, laugh, sing a little and enjoy the good life”.
“Im confused” said the fisherman.