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Workaholics (Aren't) Anonymous

Published November 30, 2014

We know you are. I know who you are. Because I’ve been one. I am one. This post isn’t meant to be negative about hard work. I am a big believer that hard work pays off. The fact I can write this post after being in the restaurant business for 30 years is testament to that. Having a strong work ethic is critical to driving change, building culture, and making a lasting impact. I don’t think anyone taking the time to read this post would argue with that.
But like any good thing, too much of it can be bad. Again I write about this subject from an experts point of view. For 7 long years I covered 11 states, hundreds of restaurants, and spent countless nights away from home and from my family. Oh, I tried to convince myself it was for the good of my family and our long term future. It sounded good. Hey, my wife even believed it for the first couple of years. But then I got tired. Really tired. And even with a high performing team around me, it was not a pace I wanted to continue. Burning out is no fun, and that is exactly what happens to workaholics, even when they say they love what they’re doing. And believe me, we say we love it. But secretly, way down deep inside in the place no one likes to talk about, we hate it, and eventually begin to hate who we’re becoming.
If that sounds like a strong statement and I’m being a little over the top, well, I’ll accept that. Sometimes the truth hurts. For me the truth hit home standing in a parking lot in Little Rock, Arkansas when I realized I was on a path that wasn’t sustainable. Sure I could have stayed. I could have figured it out. I could have maybe given 6 more months…at an unrecoverable impact to my family. No thanks.
After an extended sabbatical and recovery, someone proudly said to me “I only sleep in my bed 3-4 nights a month! I travel ALL the time.” I looked straight at this person and said “That is not a badge of honor. Stop doing that. You can’t keep doing that.” It really caught them off guard. Previously they had been recognized for all their hard work, industry accolades, and results. But at what cost? A marriage? Missing all of their kids’ activities? Losing touch with friends? And for what? More money? A bigger house? A new car?
It’s important to realized I am not throwing stones here. I am, and will always be a workaholic. It’s a disease. One that I will always battle. But I have put things in place to help me stay grounded and to not get too far gone again. I have a great support system at home to help me and a mirror in the form of my wife to keep me honest. I am a part of a great organization that values family and balance, which I am incredibly thankful for.
So go work hard. Get great results. Change people’s lives. Make a difference. Working hard is important. The work we all do is important. But it’s not the most important thing we do.