A cult of work you were not going to join

Original author: Jason Lengstorf
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Are our most valuable qualities exploited at work? Let's take a look at how our strengths get embroiled in bad habits that, if we don't change our lives, may well kill us.

You didn’t think you would come across a similar one. You didn’t even notice how you came here yourself.

It all started with a chance to make a living doing what you love. The work of your dreams. To create, and not sit out all my life in a stuffy office. You were not just going to make money, you were going to leave your mark on the world.

At first you loved the job: it was difficult and interesting, it set a fast pace. Everyone around was terribly smart.

You thought about solving work problems in your free time. I took the projects home. Worked extra hours on weekends. It never seemed to you that you were overworked because it was not work for you.

You worked far more than 40 hours a week, but who counted them? That was great.

But weeks turned into months, and somehow you came to the conclusion that you already work at least 60 hours a week. You greet your colleagues by looking at them with dull eyes and mentioning (as if) as a joke that without coffee you will not survive.

You still like the work, but there is no longer the passion that was in the beginning. Whole days fly by and you don’t know what happened, but you definitely haven’t succeeded lately.

Everything that does not concern work is in a frozen state. You would love to see for yourself whether Belgian waffles are really as good as the Belgians themselves praise them. But now you don’t have time to travel. You know that you need to do physical exercises, but somehow you always avoid the gym.

“Next time,” you promise yourself, “I will soon find the time for this.”

And not that you feel miserable, but something is wrong. You cannot understand what exactly. It just always seemed to you that there would be ... something more.

You have been forcibly fed an “ideal” work ethic that is toxic to anyone who encounters it.

A dangerous quagmire swallows you

You are no longer a free member of society. You were lured into the Suicide Cult.

The Suicide Cult is an artificially created delusion that working 60 hours or more every week, sacrificing everything else in your life, is not only a necessary component of success, but also considered an honor.

The Suicide cult is insidious in that it disguises itself as everything that we like about ourselves: dedication, ambition, diligence, responsibility.

He tells us to work harder, stay up late, and, as they say, we can rest in the next world. He says that we will never move forward unless we come to work earlier than everyone and leave home later than everyone else.

Cunningly and mercilessly, the Suicide Cult leads us to hang ourselves on our own best qualities.

And if we do not break free, we are all doomed to death.

The Suicide Cult will kill you (as he tried to kill me)

Balance is the main salvation if the Suicide Cult has already taken us into its steel arms.

For me, it all started with health problems. I did not go to the gym - I thought I was too busy. I did not have time to cook - too busy - I ordered meals at home.

Then followed my hobbies. Everything that did not concern work stepped aside - too busy - until I spent all my time working at the computer. In 2012, I worked 70-90 hours a week.

After that I lost even the remnants of my social life. Friends knew that I wouldn’t show up — I couldn’t, too busy — so they stopped calling. On some days, my only contact with people was only to buy coffee.

Then - and at this stage I finally realized that I had problems - I lost my beard.

Canaries in a coal mine, or How I killed my beard

At the end of 2012, I received my largest project for my entire career at that time: a site for sales on Black Friday for a company on the list of 100 most profitable enterprises.

I was excited and scared. Such a project could advance my company to the next level, and I decided at all costs to make this project my best work.

Designers came up with great ideas, and we discussed them to make sure we keep up with the deadline. We have created a brilliant modern idea based on the most advanced technologies. The client really liked her.

Then the bureaucracy entered the game. The legal department has made changes. Attachment to a brand was against the law. Work on the design did not fit the schedule. Very much did not meet.

By the time the design was approved, I had only a third of the time that we planned for the project. And - since it was a site for Black Friday - we could not move the deadline. The site should have appeared on time, or it will befall me a complete fiasco. And the point.

In order not to experience defeat, four days before Black Friday I worked like a madman, I managed to sleep for a total of six hours. Thanksgiving I did not spend away from the family to complete the final touches.

I was exhausted. I was in a frenzy. But hell, I completed the project.

The customer was thrilled. The site won several ADDY Awards at once. I guess they made a dofig of holiday sales.

Over the next few months, sections of my beard began to turn gray. The antennae has become ultra-rare. Then they generally fell out.

Soon, I lost all ability to grow a beard - I only had a dubious choice between a smooth-shaven “giant toddler” and a terrible mustache.

May 2013 - about six months after my Black Friday debacle,

I tormented myself so much that my body forgot how to grow a beard. And for what? For the sake of me working 19 hours a day and skipping family holidays to fit into the deadlines?

I was exhausted. My body could not stand it. I was overwhelmed, unhappy, and isolated. At the moment I had a mustache.

I eagerly swallowed the poison of the Suicide Cult.

It was necessary to change something.

How to determine that you are in a cult

Clear signs that we fell victim to the Suicide Cult:

  • We often work more than 40 hours a week
  • Often sleep less than 6 hours a day
  • We feel guilty when we distract from work - even spending time with family or friends

We do not join the Cult instantly. One way or another, drawn into it, we may deny this fact.

But we are joining - thousands of us.

The Suicide Cult Lies

The suicidal song of the Suicide Cult sounds like healthy ambitiousness. "We must work hard to move forward." This is what we have been told all our lives.

We are doing what we think will be the best for the future.

But the Suicide Cult does not imply survivors.

And although cult symptoms are well-intentioned, they are short-sighted habits that do much more harm than good.

Let's look at the obvious signs of belonging to the Suicide Cult, and how each of them does harm in the long run, disguising as a healthy work ethic.

Often work more than 40 hours a week

Often, an extended working day seems a must - it's just part of the culture. You think: “My boss / colleagues / cat will condemn me if I do not work overtime, like everyone else. I will never move forward unless I work more than necessary. ”

And that’s all it takes to succeed, isn't it?

Not. You're wrong. Incredibly, terribly, startlingly wrong.

Studies prove time and time again that it is impossible to be productive for more than 40 hours a week . At least for a long period of time. Henry Ford offered a 40-hour workweek in 1914 because he saw - thanks to research - that workers, whose shifts lasted 5-8 hours, maintained the highest level of productivity.

Despite 100 years of research that support a shorter work week, many companies are still promoting remote work hours, hiding behind the fact that now is "emergency" or you need to make the "last breakthrough."

This chart is based on the chart used to illustrate Sidney J. Chapman’s Hours of Labor.

The paradox is when we look at productivity over an extended period of time. After just two months of 60-hour work weeks, productivity becomes negative compared to the values ​​that a 40-hour work week could provide.

Are you kidding? In the long run, you will do less by working 150% of the time.

Often sleep less than 6 hours a day

Somehow, staying up at night was an honor. We share “fighting stories” about how we slept for two hours a day with a strange pride that glowed dimly in our bloodshot eyes.

“I sleep little, sleep is a relative of death,” we say sleepily. So many projects, so little time. The belief that without getting enough sleep at night we will succeed will not lead to anything good.

Your perception of reality is comparable to the state of a drunk driver, if you have not slept for 18 hours. But the problem is growing: if you do not get enough sleep, then the next day your ability to concentrate will decrease even earlier. After several days of lack of sleep, you become someone (something?) Like a drunk zombie.

We wouldn’t go drunk to work, so, damn it, why do we drag in there after four hours of sleep, when we are in an even bigger “half-pipe” than after a hammer blow?

Even worse, sleeping less than six hours a day can cause early death. The Suicide Cult literally kills you.

Feeling guilty when distracted from work - even spending time with family or friends

Finding ourselves in the clutches of the Suicide Cult, we feel remorse when not working.

“I would love to go to this party, but I should not go - the project will not do itself.” We are afraid that the time spent not at work was wasted.

And again, the irony is that research tells us: the opposite is true.

Work with overload leads to increased levels of stress and exhaustion, which can be associated with the possible occurrence of health problems.

At the same time, it was proved that time spent away from work reduces stress and increases the ability to create, not to mention many other advantages.

In addition, if you accept the fact that it would be ideal to sleep 8 hours a day and work as much, then you have 8 hours left for non-working activities. Time spent not on work gives us the opportunity to "recharge". It moves us away from our projects, allowing us to remember why we love what we do.

Planning our escape

We were drawn into the Suicide Cult, but it is not too late to break out of it.

We were tricked into developing addictions using our best qualities. It seemed that they would make us better, but they made us less productive and less happy with our work, less happy in our daily lives.

We can break out of the clutches of the Suicide Cult towards happiness, using those of our strengths that it exploits.

After the death of my beard, I fully felt my physical and moral exhaustion. Damn, I burned to the ground. I realized that I need to completely quit my career or fundamentally change my lifestyle.

Just in case, below are the promises I made to myself that helped break out of the Suicide Cult.

I work as much as I can - but no more

First of all, I had to accept the fact that it’s possible to work productively only 6-8 hours a day. Trying to work longer will not make my work more productive. In fact, the longer I work, the less I do.

I chose the second option, deciding to change my lifestyle. I used radical (for me) strategies to control my own time, reducing the work time per week from 70-90 hours in 2013 to 38 hours in the last year.

I expected to see a decline in professional success in favor of the overall balance in my life - I willingly made this sacrifice. Instead, I saw higher productivity at work: the lead time for my orders was reduced, and I was more systematically meeting deadlines. I was amazed, but, looking back, I understand that there is nothing surprising here.

Sleep has become my top priority

Good sleep is beneficial in many ways. And yet, this is the first thing I sacrificed when I was busy. Lack of sleep brought chaos to my ability to think clearly, which was very bad for my work.

After I reduced my hours of work, I started to get up without an alarm. Since I stopped working the crazy number of hours, I close my computer at six or seven in the evening, by eleven I usually already in bed, read before bedtime. I easily wake up between 7:00 and 8:30.

It has changed my life. Without exaggeration.

Earlier, getting up on an alarm clock before I had time to rest normally meant a difficult start to the day in a state of clouding of consciousness. Waking up on my own after I got as much sleep as my body requires, I became much happier in my waking hours and much more prepared to start the day.

I devote a reasonable amount of time to “DISABLED”

This was and is my biggest difficulty that I encountered trying to break out of the tenacious clutches of the Suicide Cult. I love what I do and I want to finish my projects. It's quite simple - to build a working day, even taking into account more working hours, if you remove all sorts of distracting things that prevent me from working.

But now I know that rest makes me more productive: time spent away from work makes my passion and excitement “recharge”. Tearing my thoughts away from the project, I allow my subconscious to return again and again to various abstract ideas, which as a result become better solutions. A break in work reduces stress and contributes to my creativity.

So I’m sure to rest from work, even when my intuition tells me (and is mistaken) that this is a bad idea. I go for a walk. I leave my phone in my pocket when we go out with friends or while eating. I devote quite a lot of time to my hobbies, for example, reading or hunting for the best cheeseburger in the world.
I am happier today than ever in my life. I am happy and happy to work on my projects, do my hobbies and spend time with people I love.

I am happy only because I live.

Parting with Suicide Club saved my life

When my beard died in 2013, I was scared that this was only the beginning of a deterioration in my health, and that would ultimately kill me. It was only a fleeting vision of my future, and I was horrified that if I did not change, then I had the prospect of isolation, baldness, moral decay, and a possible heart attack or brain tumor provoked by constant stress.

By changing my lifestyle, I was able to change everything for the better. My beard has grown after a year of maintaining a balance between work and the rest of my life. I lost 13.5 kg because I stopped sitting all the time at work and finally got to the gym. I felt more cheerful and became more positive.

When I left the Suicide Cult, everything in my life improved. Nothing got worse.

In a superhero pose near a volcano in Costa Rica (Pay attention to my beard)

Ready to make your escape?

If you are sucked into the Suicide Cult, know that you are not alone.

You can meet with public pressure to maintain this crazy pace. You can fight your workaholic image and feel that without overtime hours you become lazy or worthless.

But I promise you - despite all the doubts about the Suicide Cult that make their way into your mind, there is a better solution. Best for a career. The best for health. Best for your relationship with people. The best for your happiness.

You found yourself in the Suicide Cult because you are smart, ambitious and dedicated. But you were led astray by your own good qualities, and they turned into bad habits.

There is a better solution, and you are smart enough to accept it.

Pour the poison into the toilet. Bring back your freedom. Find the happiness and success you have been looking for when starting your career.

Shut down your computer. Get outside. And call your friends, they miss you.

What next?

If you look like me, then you will like the idea of ​​escaping from the working madhouse and the soul-crushing routine of the Suicide Cult, but you don’t feel that this is possible.
But I was wrong. All I had to do was trust myself and take the first step.

Do not waste time, how I did it. You can leave the Suicide Cult today.

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