A new study was reported recently in the Wall Street Journal which followed the exploits of 24 freshly minted MBA’s over a ten year period as they entered the investment banking field.
Typically these ambitious folks enter their jobs working 100-hour weeks, convinced they have the ticket to the big leagues.
Within four years, every single one of these over-worked investment bankers developed a host of ailments, including allergies, weight gain, eating disorders, heart palpitations, insomnia, and substance addictions. Further down the road, some developed chronic conditions such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders.
Sheez Louise. I work with plenty of investment bankers on a routine basis, and to me they always appear, fit, trim, healthy, and clear-eyed. Their $2,500 tailored suits aren’t so bad on the eyes either. So who knows, maybe these particular associates of mine have already survived the grind years and are now sitting pretty (literally), making deals and cashing big transaction checks.
As for myself, I never wanted to be an investment banker. Also, I’ve never chosen to be a workaholic.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always put in a good 50 – 60 hours a week. Sure, there are times when you have to pull out all the stops to get to the finish line – but all in all, I’ve viewed my work as a means of enjoying a whole, balanced life. Not as the focal point.
That is not to say I lack ambition. On the contrary, I was determined to do my best and get all the promotions I could muster, with my sights set on moving into the highest levels of management. And I did. But it was accomplished by working smart, not stupid crazy hours at the cost of my health and family.
I don’t care where you are in the management hierarchy; I would say a good healthy 55 hours a week should be plenty. I take my cue from great leaders like Coleman Mockler, the former CEO of Gillette who was profiled in Jim Collins book, Good to Great. Mr. Mockler courageously led Gillette through a hostile takeover attempt, and in spite of the tumultuous period he was home every night for dinner, spent weekends with his family and was at church every Sunday morning. If he can do it, why can’t I?
Perhaps I ended up in industries and companies where the grind wasn’t quite so brutal as in investment banking. If this is the case, it was by grace of God, not my brilliant prescience of choice. Thank God for that.
Listen, I don’t have any doubts that these hungry MBA grads knew exactly what they were getting into. The excruciating work week is what they wanted. And I understand that sometimes you have to pay your dues to get to the pretty perched places.
If there’s a lesson here, we all make choices – where to work, how hard to work, what gets traded off, and when to give up. And I’m here to tell you,
You can be ambitious without sacrificing your soul.
You can get promoted without missing dinner every night of the week.
You can build a healthy and prosperous career without making yourself sick along the way.