Work to Live or Live to Work?

by | Sep 26, 2016

Finding Balance - Do we work to live or live to work?


I am always intrigued by those who work colossal hours in any given week, week in, week out. I find it intriguing. It differs so much from my approach. Do they live to work or work to live?

Although I never do a straight nine to five I am probably working (mentally or physically) from the time I get up 6:30am to the time I usually switch off 10:30pm. I don't have an office per se so much of my time is spent on coaching, speaking, writing or in meetings. So I am probably just as guilty but I am focusing my energy on those workaholics we hold up to high esteem. The visual role models we see.

Read: 7 Big dos and don’ts of working from home

Of American Dreams and Role Models

This week I watched a very engaging TED talk by writer and producer Shonda Rhimes.

Famous for shows like Greys Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, she waxed lyrical about how she lost her hum, her mojo, while churning out 15 hour days for her work. Now she has an incredible role, a huge team but still churns out some incredible hours. She explained that she probably spends 15 minutes straight a day hanging with her children and had to do so to her hum back.

I then turned to another workaholic. Elon Musk. CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X (And probably another one).

I was reading a thread on Quora and I got this video about his work ethic


Here is what he said about his staff.

Right now we're working six days a week. Some people are working seven days a week – I do – but for a lot of people, working seven days a week is not sustainable. The factory is operational seven days a week but most people we only ask to work six days a week right now and, obviously, we want to get that to a more reasonable number. I think people can sustain a 50-hour work week. I think that's a good work week. If you're joining Tesla, you're joining a company to work hard. We're not trying to sell you a bill of goods. If you can go work for another company and then maybe you can work a 40-hour work week. But if you work for Tesla, the minimum is really a 50-hour week and there are times when it'll be 60- to 80-hour weeks. If somebody is hourly, they receive time-and-a-half but if somebody is salary, then we do cash and stock bonuses for going above and beyond the call of duty. So we try to make it fair compensation, but the general understanding is that if you're at Tesla, you're choosing to be at the equivalent of Special Forces. There's the regular Army, and that's fine, but if you are working at Tesla, you're choosing to step up your game. And that has pluses and minuses. It's cool to be Special Forces, but it also means you're working your ass off. It's not for everyone.

      — Source: In deep with Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Financials, Falcon doors and finding faults in the Model S

And here is something he said about time with his family

But what I find is I’m able to be with [my kids] and still be on email. I can be with them and still be working at the same time … If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get my job done.”

         — Source: The Way Elon Musk Manages 5 Kids And 3 Businesses Has People Up In Arms

As a father of two, with a lot less resources than the aforementioned, I have no problem working hard but I think that being present for my children when they want to talk about stuff that is relevant to them is key. I can't be checking email or social media (as much as I love them) so reading such statements seems a bit alien to me. But hey I am not Elon, and it works for him.

Not Just Corporate

The thing is, [Tweet "this approach to working hard and long hours is not just an entrepreneurial thing."]

On Linkedin this week I read a story about a teacher who was working hard during the half term holidays. Some people gave her stick because she spoke about putting in extra hours while staff were on break. She said she loved her job so going above and beyond was not an issue for her. I also came across a couple of stories relating to the junior doctors protests here in the UK. Some doctors were consistently working 15 hour days. Some more. Which was why they felt insulted when government officials and journalists suggested that they were not working and were swanning around instead of working with patients and saving lives.

Read: Work-Life Balance – An Impossible Dream?

A question of priorities

I never work on Saturdays. It harks back to my upbringing when I was religious. Sabbaths were sacred and a time for reflection. It meant that all pens were put down and the focus was on recharging. Connecting with family and friends. Waxing lyrical over the week and just spending quality time with each other. [Tweet "As a business owner of two companies this habit has not changed."] Tempted as I am to check emails, write speeches, or go out and do paid work Saturdays still remain special to me. Yes sometimes you will catch me sharing wisdom at an educational conference or two or even learning some stuff, but mostly Saturdays are my time for winding down. Switching off. Netflix!

Read: Boundaries in Business – Who Needs Them – You DO!

In addition I actually decided to set up my own business so that I could have the freedom to attend those milestone events for my children. School plays. Sports days. Things that were important to them. To have the freedom to drop everything if they got ill. And yet still set up the business model in such a way that a day off or two would not mean the world falls apart.

Still intrigued

I guess I see the workaholics of the world through my own tinted lens.
I don't cast judgement on women who return to work very quickly after giving birth (although I used to)
I don't cast judgement on men who work so hard and miss emotional connection and growth with their kids(although I used to)
I don't cast judgement on friends who can't make dinners or events because they have to chase fires, meet incredibly stringent deadlines or are too afraid to leave before others as this seems like slacking
I just guess I am intrigued more than anything else.
[Tweet "What is it about this emphasis on working hard, more so than working smart that intrigues me so?"]

Maybe I am selfish in my own approach.
I don't want to save the world, I am quite happy with just impacting my world.
I don't want to be a billionaire or be famous, I am happy making do with what I have (and a little bit more)
I work to live. Always have done and always will do.

I don't have answers by the way. Just rifting because I find workaholics intriguing.

It intrigues me. Thoughts?

Originally posted in Pulse LinkedIn on the 19th Feb 2016


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David McQueen Subscriber
David is owner of Narrativily a speaker, coach, host and mentor and has worked with individuals, youth and adults as well as organisations to define success on their terms.
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