For many, work-life balance is seen as the ultimate goal. For others, that mindset is hogwash that’s holding you back in your career.
Taking time off for family or passions “can offer a nice life,” legendary GE CEO Jack Welch once told The Wall Street Journal. But he said that it lessens the chances for promotion or to reach the top of a career path.
Welch is not the only one who believes this.
Recently, Glencore Xstrata PC CEO Ivan Glasenberg argued that those executives who start to focus on family and hobbies will find themselves undercut and replaced by those who don’t.
It’s easy to dismiss these attitudes as outdated, macho, and unreasonable. But it’s possible that people seeking work-life balance are just avoiding finding a way to work extremely hard, and be very happy about it.
Marty Nemko, a career coach, author, columnist, and radio host, argues that the most successful and contented people prefer a heavily work-centric life over work-life balance.
“The real winners of the world, the people that are the most productive, think that this notion of work-life balance is grossly overrated,” Nemko told Business Insider. “Most of the highly successful and not-burned out people I know work single-mindendly towards a goal they think is important, whether it’s developing a new piece of software, inventing something, or a cardiologist who’s seeing patients on nights and weekends instead of playing Monopoly with his kids on the weekend.”
“Don’t blame the hours,” Nemko says. “If somebody says they got burned out working 70 hours a week it’s because they weren’t competent enough to do the work..”
These people, who are “out-of balance” in the usual sense of the word, find motivation and satisfaction in devoting themselves to something and making a difference. That comes with a caveat of course. Sleep is non-negotiable. “If you need your eight hours, you get it,” Nemko says. If you sleep eight hours a night, that still leaves you a hundred hours a week.
“The pool of people that do not have work-life balance feel efficacious — are efficacious in the world — are making a difference, and are making more money,” Nemko says.
He argues that many people who champion work-life balance aren’t overworked, but are using the term as a politically correct tool, as a smokescreen for the desire to not do work.
So rather than focusing on work-life balance, focus on being in the moment, on giving everything at work instead of imagining relaxing at home on the weekend. And if you can’t bring yourself to work 70 hours now and then, or it feels like torture, you’re probably at the wrong job.
Even startup founders, known for working incredible hours under a lot of stress, shouldn’t blame burnout on a lack of work-life balance.
“Don’t blame the hours,” Nemko says. “If somebody says they got burned out working 70 hours a week it’s because they weren’t competent enough to do the work, they hired the wrong people, or the product they were working on wasn’t good enough, and they were trying to make it work when they really shouldn’t have.”
The search for work-life balance has become gospel in recent years. But depending on who you ask, sometimes it can become an excuse.
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