Most of the people I work with – either as colleagues, employees, or partners – know that I don’t believe in time off.
My approach to working is not “balanced.” I am working 24/7, 365 days a year. I’m not saying that I don’t take vacations or that there aren’t days when I’m not in the office. But there is never a day – and I don’t think there has ever been in at least 40 years – when I don’t work at least 10 hours on workdays. And on vacation days and weekends? I don’t think I’ve ever worked less than two or three hours. And that’s active work. When I’m not at my desk, I’m usually thinking about business.
This makes me a difficult person to live with, work with, or be friends with. I try to make up for my inattentiveness by caring and by being generous. It’s a second-rate effort at best. I realize that. But it’s who I am. No, that’s wrong. It’s who I have chosen to be.
The Fanatic’s Dilemma
I don’t feel virtuous about this. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend this approach to others. I worry that my children might emulate me in this regard, and it isn’t a pleasant thought.
On her deathbed, my mother cautioned me: “Try not to work so hard.” And I sometimes complain to K about the stress I’m under. “You don’t have to work,” she points out. “It’s not like you need the money. Just quit.”
I know. That sounds logical. But here’s the truth. There was a time in my life when I was capable of taking it easy. And I did. But when I decided to get serious about my career, I trained myself to work as long as it took and that became a habit. Not just of behavior but of my thinking, too.
The way I explain myself to people that don’t get it is this: I’m like a big, complicated machine that can accomplish 16 different things at various times of the day. All of those functions are on automatic. They are permanently and deeply programmed into my circuitry. Problem is, I have only one control – an on/off switch. And there is no rheostat. In other words, I have only two modes of operation: on, which means that I am working at full capacity… and off, which means that I am not functioning at all.
This is, admittedly, a design flaw. But unless you are willing to shut me off or replace me with a different model, you are going to have to live with me. Just like I have to live with myself.