1/3/13

Hi tigers! I admit it - I used to be a workaholic. I used to see myself as an achievement oriented, results focused and hard driving career woman. I was in denial. The workaholism symptoms are really hard to spot. It started with a lingering feeling of guilt every time I took a day or even a few hours off. I remember liking to play the role of "earth mother". Always available to pick up the next pitch. Always happy to stay in the office during public holidays. Always ready to fly 5 hours on business for an one hour meeting. Then I realized that I stopped buying casual cloths (when would I wear them?) - Instead my business suits, white shirts, black leather bags and high heels took over my wardrobe. Maybe that is when I started to spend my weekends at the office. One day I woke up with a realization that my self-esteem was completely defined through work. Here is what happened next:

I got scared. The fear to lose my business card identity made me do irrational things. Like working even more! I was digging in until I was unable to switch off. The already high expectations from my bosses became even higher. Perversely, it made me feel needed and appreciated. Until one day it became clear to me that I changed and I didn't like what I saw. I used to be brilliant, capable, creative and easy to get along with. I became controlling, obsessed with performance and not interesting to talk to. I hit the bottom.

Today I am celebrating the 3rd anniversary of my decision to take a break and escape from my predicament. Instead of spending a hundred grand on an MBA I put a fraction of that amount in the best investment I ever made and travelled around the world for one year. I met great people, some of whom became my dear friends and mentors. I got my life and self-esteem back. My career perspectives look great because I am more creative, productive and motivated. I am not afraid to let go because I have a broader set of skills to build upon. Most importantly, I use my time strategically and focus on fulfilling my own dreams rather than getting paid to fulfil someone else's.

Are you a workaholic? What is your story?

Comments (23)

1/2/13

Guilty and still an enthusiastic participant in the rat race.

I admire your decision to take a very long break, however wonder if that wouldn't take you out of the gene pool for the 'interesting' (from a workaholic's perspective) career tracks? What are you up to now?

1/2/13

What are you going to do next and what is your personality type? Interested to know more about where you're taking things

1/2/13

Great post. A good contrast to the tone of most posts on WSO.

It's all manipulated with junk bonds. You can't win.

1/2/13

haven't graduated yet so I'll take it as a cautionary tale- but definitely curious to hear what you're up to now

be ashamed to die, until you have won some victory for humanity- horace mann

1/2/13

Haha, worker drones! Say "Hello" to the man for me!

When a plumber from Hoboken tells you he has a good feeling about a reverse iron condor spread on the Japanese Yen, you really have no choice. If you don't do it to him, somebody else surely will. -Eddie B.

1/2/13

Tell us the whole story: what do you do now, and how are you going to survive in the future?

"I dumped everything and went traveling until I ran out of cash" is nice when you land on your feet after that. If you ended up living on your friend's couch, and flipping burgers/grooming dogs for living, that is not a good outcome from the average workaholics perspective, even though it might be something that makes you happy.

1/2/13

OP will marry a gunner who did the 2+2+HBS+Prestige path and live happily every after. You bros do not have that option. Remember that.

1/2/13
1/2/13

Lioness, Lioness, tell us more.

I worked in banking and consulting and had a similar experience. One day a friend of mine was in the hospital and I went to visit over lunch. It wasn't a life threatening illness or anything, and I'm not a doctor now, but it made me realize how "removed" I was. I was just sitting in the hospital cafeteria and it hit me like a sack of bricks. It's amazing how seriously people in finance take their lives....not that there's anything wrong with working hard..but sometimes, it's just a bit..

1/2/13

Some people only have this realisation when they suddenly lose their job. For them it's a huge shock.

Do you regret getting into the industry in the first place? I wonder if you wish you'd done something else after college.

1/2/13

So op, I take it you didn't get in to the industry in the first place because you loved it/wanted to dedicate your life to mastery of it?

"...all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

- Schopenhauer

1/3/13

I never understood how people could love work so much. But then I learned from my friend who's just as bad as the OP that its not the work, it's the addiction to praise, feeling needed, and status. Even then, I still dont understand why people care what others think about them when everyone else is too into themselves to give a shit about you.

1/3/13

I have the same question has etherlord. Taking an extended break does sound good in theory. But when there's no guarantee that you'll still have a job after even a month's break, how do you start back again after a whole year off the grid?

Read my blog: Bateman Begins

1/3/13

From a family of workaholics, so I understand where you're coming from. I am also looking to study/travel abroad sometime as well.

1/3/13
In reply to etherlord
1/3/13

etherlord:
Tell us the whole story: what do you do now, and how are you going to survive in the future?

"I dumped everything and went traveling until I ran out of cash" is nice when you land on your feet after that. If you ended up living on your friend's couch, and flipping burgers/grooming dogs for living, that is not a good outcome from the average workaholics perspective, even though it might be something that makes you happy.

The trick is to build a very solid network. Even better is to start the job hunt a few months before you return home. If you have strong enough contacts you may just land the job before you get back.

dolph:
Some people only have this realisation when they suddenly lose their job. For them it's a huge shock.

AKA mid life crisis.

1/3/13

Thanks for all the comments. Maybe I am just lucky but I picked it up more or less where I left it (except for healthier attitude and higher energy, LOL). I didn't just "drop everything and disappear". Actually, I am pretty risk-averse. I think it is about being hedged under the worst case scenario while planing for the best outcome. From your comments and questions it is clear that the subject is very complex. I am writing a follow up post about it. Hope we can keep this discussion going. Stay tuned in.

The more you know the less you need. Right?

1/3/13

Tell us the strategy how you did that. I think, there are many people who would like to know how to plan ahead, so they come back and are able to pick where they left. From what I've seen, that rarely happens.

1/3/13

There are so many ways to do this. I can only speak about Asia though.

Step 1) Find someone to pay for you to go out there

A) Apply to teach English in Japan on the JET program. Great money and easy to get. I know guys that did this til the age of 34.

B) Apply for a Fulbright (English teaching ones are really easy to get than you would think) Half the kids I know that were teaching English out there smoked weed the entire time and weren't the brightest guys around.

C) Apply to study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan (the Taiwanese government will pay you to to go abroad). Great nightlife (I used to live there).

D) Apply for a Blakemore Scholarship. Google it if you don't know what it is. This one's a bit harder though.

Step 2) Have a good story to cover your ass when you get back

"Well I've been reading the news recently and it seems that a growing percentage of high-end real estate is being snapped up by overseas buyers from China, Singapore, Korea (insert random export-driven Asian growth miracle country here). Given my desire to have a more globalized network, and also the ability to converse on an international level, I made the executive decision to commit myself to learning this foreign language, as I view the ability to speak (Asian language) as worth more than year of foregone income over the course of my entire career".

Bam.

Step 3) Locate firms that value people that speak multiple languages (hint: Real Estate). Buyside firms that invest overseas seem to appreciate overseas experience as well. Again, so many ways around this if your spin your story intelligently.

Warning: Do NOT stay out there for more than a year. I know that it will be tempting but this is meant to be a break, not a lifetstyle. I repeat: Do NOT stay out there for more than a year.

1/3/13

I see this working for a college kid. Analyst - maybe, but risky.

What if you are an associate or above? I see no way how "I just wanted to learn a language" is going to cut it. If you go get relevant experience in other country - OK, but how is that going to be different than staying at your current position? Better get pregnant before you travel, so you can have a legit excuse after you are back in the workforce.

"Go be an entrepreneur for a year" might have some meat to it, but I do not think the comeback will be easy.

1/4/13

Well if you're an associate or above clawing your way to MD, chances are your mind isn't on "finding yourself" abroad- it's on becoming an MD. You have to decide on whether you want to take this year off or spend every second of that year furthering a career in investment banking (this is what it's going to take). Given the rigid uniformity of the industry, chances are you've set yourself apart from most by even considering this.

But there's nothing wrong with that.It's perfectly fine to take a year off. Professionals that studied the humanities/liberal arts in college are especially receptive to this. You just have to work harder, which shouldn't really be a problem if you're planning on lasting in this industry...

1/4/13

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1/4/13

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