If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 60 Hours a Week?

Senior leaders work longer and harder than ever. At the heart of it is insecurity. Insecure overachievers are exceptionally capable and can make a lot of money. To not let it become a lifelong trap, work on an exit plan.

Boastful Outside, Insecure Inside

I had a neighbor who worked extraordinarily long hours at an investment bank. We once crossed paths when he was just leaving home for his second shift. It was 7 in the evening and he would supposedly come back at 3 AM the next morning. On weekends, too. He claimed to work 100 hours a week.

My wife also excelled in her career. She had it all as a young consultant and was promoted regularly. She and her colleagues worked long hours, but said, “I thought it was normal. It’s like brainwashing. You tell yourself that it doesn’t matter because you can reward yourself with a vacation several times a year, and come back refreshed.”

I’ve heard stories like this over and over again from friends in accounting firms, consulting firms, and other white-collar jobs. 60-hour workweeks aren’t uncommon. One morning, a friend dozed off at her steering wheel and crashed into a highway toll booth which almost killed her. She had worked until 1 AM that night and wanted to be back at work by 8 AM.

A Cult You Want to Belong

We all know that chronic overwork is bad for our mental and physical health but do little about it. Paradoxically, most believe that they have autonomy and that they are overworking by choice. We believe that we can simply quit, but we’re afraid of the void.

That modern office in the heart of the city. The bragging rights on Thanksgiving. The feeling of being among young professionals in designer suits. So we buy ourselves status symbols to cover up the empty bucket we are as a person.

If high-achievers suffer burnout, they think it is their fault. They don’t blame the workplace culture. How to blame an organization that provides fresh fruits on Wednesdays and invests in hollow work-life balance initiatives?

The Pursuit of Living Stress-Free

I never subscribed to this up-or-out career policy. As a result, my career wasn’t as dynamic as those of my friends. I rarely got promoted, but I slept well. I didn’t receive huge bonuses, but I built side incomes.

You would find me scrutinizing charts at work and philosophizing on the true nature of market movements. I was on a crusade to exit the Matrix. My life goals deviated from what my bosses wanted from me and they noticed. Their message was, “maybe you should reconsider whether you fit here.”

When my wife came back from work one day, she glanced at my P&L and realized that I made as much as her entire annual income in just two weeks. I enter a trade with the click of a button and let my position run for weeks at a time if market trends allow. Trend trading was the only strategy I could employ while working full-time. I was determined to make it work.

If you know how markets move and you can harness its trends, you become unstoppable. I eventually retired from the workforce at 35 and vowed to never have a job again.

Nowadays, I spend my days reading history and philosophy books on the balcony, and working on side projects where I can learn new skills. My wife has also given up on the corporate rat race. She is into gardening, and enjoys home-cooking and baking. Our lives are wonderful. Every day is peaceful. We occasionally fantasize about buying a farmhouse or moving to a new city.

People Do Not Want to Be Free

It’s really not hard to get there, but it’s a choice. It’s a choice to commit time to acquire a new skill. It’s a choice to not hang out at your local bar on a Friday night. Most people simply are not ready to be truly free. People have different priorities and it’s comforting to know that you could start anytime. So you push decisions into the future. I also believe that it’s overwhelming to possess a skill that can set you free. Truly free.

After all, what to do with all the freedom? It’s something I’m still figuring out myself.