How I Went From Workaholic to World Traveler Who Also Works
In my mid-20s, I had a booming business.
By most standards, I was living the dream: I was self-employed, working with Fortune 500 clients, and I earned enough to live comfortably.
But then again, I also spent 70–90 hours a week on my computer, and when I wasn’t on my computer, I was sucked into the vortex that is my phone. I barely saw the few friends who hadn’t given up on me entirely. I’d gained weight — a lot of weight. I slept like shit (if I slept at all).
Along the way, I’d lost sight of something really important.
People used to work because they could trade effort and knowledge for the means to live a better life. But at some point, we started working for the sake of work — even if it made our lives worse.
Our jobs were no longer tools; they were status symbols. Work was no longer a means to an end; it was an end in itself.
We didn’t just have jobs anymore; we were our jobs.
I nearly worked myself to death.
In late 2012 I had a particularly heinous deadline. And since I believed missing a deadline would represent my failure as a human being,1 I hurled myself at the task with no regard for what it might do to me mentally and physically.
I wore the week of sleepless nights and 20-hour days as a twisted badge of honor. I pretended I was complaining, but it was a humblebrag. Like, “Oh, poor me, I work sooooooo hard.”
And then shit got real: my fucking beard turned white, died, and started falling out.
Within a year I couldn’t grow a beard anymore. I was left with two options: I could shave clean,2 or I could keep the only facial hair option left to me — the mustache.
I Accidentally Saved My Life by Trying to Destroy It
Between the hair loss and the weight gain, I was facing a very real problem.
I wanted to own my own business to become a person I’d be proud of. I wanted people to look up to me. The vain part of me wanted to be envied.
That’s why I was working so hard. That’s why I was making the sacrifices I was making.
But how could I be proud of being — how could anyone envy or aspire to be — a fat guy with a creepy mustache?
By working so hard to create a better life for myself, I’d actively made my life worse.3
When I realized this, I felt angry and betrayed. And I wanted my life back.
I was sick of checking email in bed.
Sick of staying late and pulling all-nighters.
Sick of ignoring invitations from friends for weekend get-togethers.
Sick of missing holidays with family because of tight deadlines.
I had given everything I had to a career that promised me a better life, but the only part of my life that was healthy was my bank account. My health, my relationships, and my happiness had been steadily declining for years.
I needed to save my health, happiness, and relationships, no matter how much damage it might cause to my career.
“What good is my career,” I decided, “if it costs me everything else?”
That wasn’t what I signed up for.
And so I decided I’d burn it all down if it meant I could get back the life I wanted — the life I thought I’d been working toward for the last decade.
I stopped checking email outside work hours. I left my phone silent and in my pocket during social events. I stopped working after 40 hours each week.
Then I joined a gym. I started playing basketball and frisbee on sunny days. I stopped eating takeout for two meals a day. I made — and kept — plans with people I cared about.
And I braced myself for the consequences.
The Consequences of Taking My Life Back
The first thing that happened was … nothing.
My clients didn’t notice that I wasn’t checking email after dark. Projects didn’t fall behind if I wasn’t working on Sunday morning. My business didn’t self-destruct without my constant availability.
I was still keeping up on my work. In fact, I actually started getting more done.4
And I started catching up on sleep. I made it to the gym a few days a week. I was able to meet friends for work-free lunches or dinners.
Then, after a year of this lower-stress lifestyle, my beard started to fill in again. I’d lost 30 lbs. My friends liked me again.
I was happy.
When I started valuing my life over my career, every part of my life improved. Including my career.
By improving the quality of my life, I had more energy for everything — including work.
My productivity increased, and my clients liked the happier version of me much better. So while I was spending less time on the computer — way less time — I was getting better results.
I was both outraged to know that I’d bought so wholeheartedly into a culture that — as it turns out — was totally misinformed, and relieved that I could have everything I wanted without the all-consuming stress of work. It felt like learning that Santa Claus wasn’t real.5
The Path I Followed Can Work For Anyone — Even You
Maybe the circumstances that spurred me to make a change are extraordinary.6 But the changes I made didn’t require extraordinary skill or effort.
All I needed was information and resolve.
I want to share what I’ve learned with you, so you can get the benefits without the hair loss.
Over the last few years I’ve done hours of reading, research, experimentation, and discussion about what it means to live a good, balanced life.
How can you live a life that matters without giving up your career?
What I learned was — to be completely honest — disappointing.
I thought I was going to discover hidden secrets. I was expecting to find trade secrets or dark magic that made it possible to be happy and work and at home.
What I found was far more … practical.
There were no secrets. Just things that I already knew, but I was ignoring. Things that seemed so obvious that I’d never bothered to actually do them. I’d hear the advice repeated over and over and just think, “Yeah, well duh,” and I’d carry on not following that advice.
But when I found myself at a breaking point, I decided to start with the obvious. I took three very simple actions — actions so obvious and unsexy that I still kind of roll my eyes thinking about them — and my entire fucking life changed.
So let me make this a half-offer, half-dare: get this guide, 3 Blindingly Obvious (and Therefore Painfully Underappreciated) Daily Actions That Will Change Your Life — Starting Today, and read it.
You’ll roll your eyes at the advice. But I dare you to actually follow it. Just for one week.
Tell me it doesn’t make a noticeable difference.7Get the Guide
Here’s to a life worth living.
- In retrospect, this terrifies me because at the time it seemed perfectly fucking normal to equate my job performance with my worth as a human being. ↩
- Without facial hair, I look like a fat baby. And not in a cute way. ↩
- This was hard to swallow, because I’d spent the last five years telling my family and friends they were stupid to worry about me. But — silver lining! — now I really understand how irony works. ↩
- It turns out that working long hours decreases productivity. And if you just thought to yourself, “Sure, but I’m not like most people and I can stay productive for way longer,” that’s what I would have said up until the instant I learned that I’m exactly like most people and this absolutely applies to me. ↩
- You know: outraged to learn that a huge part of your childhood was a lie, but relieved to know that there’s not an old, fat man judging your every choice. ↩
- I really hope they were. Seriously. Patchy beards are the worst. ↩
- You won’t be able to tell me that. Because it will make a noticeable difference. ↩