What is it about our American culture that celebrates hard work as the Holy Grail? Today, I stopped by a local shop for an oil change and tire rotation. Within minutes of walking in the machismo bantering between one of the clients and the crew behind the counter reminded me of why I’ve never liked quick lubes. When the client started boasting about his upcoming vacation—not the vacation itself, but this being the first vacation he has taken in four years, I knew a blog was in order.
Like so many of you, I pride myself on my work ethic and my ability to grind. Most people who know me express their concern that I need to slow down my pace and find time to rest and recover. This has been a constant struggle for me that is two fold. One, I’m high energy and wired to go. But two, I’ve grown up in a bullshit “get ‘er done” culture where people (men in particular) love to boast about their schedule as if the world would stop spinning if they slowed their pace. What is it that’s so American about running ourselves into the ground?
Arianna Huffington has a short but poignant TEDx talk about the importance of sleep. Like so many hard working entrepreneurs she experienced the very real phenomena known as burnout firsthand. In my next book, Be Audacious: Inspiring Your Legacy and Living a Life That Matters, I share my own experience with burnout. It’s ugly and when it hits, it hits like a hurricane. Perhaps the gift of burnout is it serves as a wake up call to a better, more sustainable and productive future.
I suppose those who haven’t experienced the exhaustion and mental fallout that comes with burnout will continue to brag about their lack of sleep, endless hours and number of years without a vacation. My hope for them is that they one day experience the awakening that no matter how noble their work, the world will keep spinning if they make time for sleep, let the emails sit for the weekend, and disconnect from the IPhone long enough to go for a walk or spend time with the kids.
Next time you find yourself about to brag up your lack of sleep, your hours worked that week or the number of emails you received throughout the day, think twice and avoid sounding like you’re too important to practice self care.
And maybe you will find that your productivity will increase as you learn to work smarter and not longer.
~Michael W. Leach