The Cure For Workaholism

By January 28, 2013Uncategorized

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I’m at Sky Harbor Airport, waiting on my United flight back home, after six days on the road. Was in LA for meetings, then Orange County for the same, then Phoenix for what I call, “the cure.” What’s the cure? And what am I curing? Every day, I take steps to prevent the onslaught of workaholism. It’s a real disease. Just like alcoholism or drug addiction, workaholism affects millions of people around the world. I know this sounds like a bad SNL skit, but it’s actually real. Workaholism isn’t the same as working hard. We all work hard, I work hard because I love what I do, whether it’s starting a new company, speaking, consulting, writing, or teaching. I’m fortunate that I love what I do, every single day. See, there’s a huge difference between working hard and workaholism. For those who are fortunate enough to enjoy what they do, working hard is a great, great drug. Getting a new client, closing a deal, giving a killer keynote to a standing ovation, these things actually make me high. I used to date a neuroscientist. She was much, much smarter than me. Over dinner one night, we talked about why I love what I do so much, and she told me that it’s actually chemical. When I speak? When I close a deal? When I do television? My body releases extra Dopamine, and technically, I’m high. Once you get that feeling, you really, really want more of it. There’s a reason for it. It makes you feel good. Really, really good. Problem is, some people can only get this feeling from work. And much like a drug addict, they chase after this feeling at the expense of personal relationships, their family, their friends, and anything else that’s not work. Simply put, they’re addicted to the feeling they get from working. They’re workaholics. And that high gets lonely really fast. For a while, I thought I was one. I’m never without a connected device, I’m the guy who shuts off his phone .5 seconds before the plane lifts off the runway, not thirty minutes before, when the door closes and I’m supposed to. Being out of touch for me is a bad, bad feeling, and I used to go out of my way to stay connected. I would have my device out at the restaurant, at the coffee shop, and yes, even occasionally on a date. It wasn’t good. Then, something changed. I didn’t stop getting “high” from work, but I learned something fascinating about myself – I learned that I could change the way I got high. I learned that it didn’t always have to be from work, and I could keep connected 99% of the time, and use that other 1% of the time to shift my brain. I learned that I could start to take the time to do other things, while still working regularly. To explain, I learned that I could let myself become truly enveloped in the moment of something that wasn’t work, but that I enjoyed just as much, and when that moment was over, I could go right back to work. Then I could go right back to whatever I was enjoying, and back and forth, and so on, and so on, and so on. Here’s where my blog turns into a finely-tuned point: To prevent workaholism, (or to recover from it,) all we need to do is find other things we love just as much, and do those on a regular basis. It could be as simple as hanging out with our family, or putting the device away when we go for a workout. For me, it’s skydiving, training for physical activities, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So back to my past six days: I was in LA for back to back meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday morning, after yet another meeting, I jumped in my car and drove down to Phoenix, Arizona, where, for a few hours on Friday and a few hours on Saturday, I got high from things other than work. On Friday, I hung out all day at Skydive Arizona, and got three spectacular jumps in. In between jumps, I was able to talk with FOX News about a segment, get interviewed by two different newspapers about Superbowl Advertising, and set up a speech next month in Connecticut. All while doing this:

A Good Day – Eloy, Arizona – 1/25/13 from Peter Shankman on Vimeo.

Then on Saturday, in the pouring rain, I jumped in my car, drove 200 miles from Phoenix to Winslow, Arizona, to cross the photo to my right off my bucket list. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for over ten years, and am so glad I got the chance. Best part? Both days gave me the same dopamine rush as work did, but in a non-work way.
Standin’ on the corner, in Winslow, Arizona.

End result? It’s ok to chase and capture that “high” all the time, just not the same way each time. Variety is the spice of life, and you can be damn sure it’s also a great way to live. So for an hour today, put down the phone. Hit the gym, go play with a puppy, go read to an elderly person. Take your partner out for a random surprise dinner. (I did this with my wife last week. It works.) Not only will it help you do your job better when you return to it, but you’ll introduce your brain to an entirely new way of getting happy, while bursting out of your comfort zone. And that? Well, that’s when the real magic happens. Having any type of “holism” isn’t good, no matter how good the feelings you get from it are. Being tunnel-visioned isn’t good when it’s at the expense of things you love or people who love you. But being able to shift, and let yourself get the same feelings you crave from multiple sources is a great way to live. Go have fun.

  • cheryl

    Great post.. totally agree.. I actually am from Arizona so that made the story probably a little more inspired by me. I think this is something that will totally impact the X and Y generation. There is a need to find a balance to disconnect in a way your truly enjoy. Thanks Peter.

  • cheryl

    Great post.. totally agree.. I actually am from Arizona so that made the story probably a little more inspired by me. I think this is something that will totally impact the X and Y generation. There is a need to find a balance to disconnect in a way your truly enjoy. Thanks Peter.

  • MindyGolde

    Great post, my friend. Now to find my cure. No jumping for me!

  • MindyGolde

    Great post, my friend. Now to find my cure. No jumping for me!

  • Ella Rucker

    It’s funny. I’ve been on this high for a few weeks now and knew I needed to do something about it. I got ahead of myself in work so that I don’t need to work so hard each and every day. Yet I’m up at two in the morning wondering why if I have all my work done am I still up? This is it.

    I DO DO what I love. I remember drinking one night and then writing a killer poem such that the alcohol was no longer even evident. It’s like that every day now that I’m a writer. There are other things. I just need to not feel BAD that I’m enjoying them when there is time to do so.

    Thanks, Peter. Great post.

  • Ella Rucker

    It’s funny. I’ve been on this high for a few weeks now and knew I needed to do something about it. I got ahead of myself in work so that I don’t need to work so hard each and every day. Yet I’m up at two in the morning wondering why if I have all my work done am I still up? This is it.

    I DO DO what I love. I remember drinking one night and then writing a killer poem such that the alcohol was no longer even evident. It’s like that every day now that I’m a writer. There are other things. I just need to not feel BAD that I’m enjoying them when there is time to do so.

    Thanks, Peter. Great post.

  • Alayna F

    I have another cure for workaholism. Have a baby!! They keep you pretty busy – busy and tired enough to not want to work all the time. : ) Seriously though, kids also do lend some perspective about what’s important in life. I’m less focused on getting awards as a huge smile from my daughter with her two little teeth coming in is something I aspire to every day.

    • Angela

      Worst.advice.EVER.

    • You had a child to distract you from working too much? Yikes.

  • Alayna F

    I have another cure for workaholism. Have a baby!! They keep you pretty busy – busy and tired enough to not want to work all the time. : ) Seriously though, kids also do lend some perspective about what’s important in life. I’m less focused on getting awards as a huge smile from my daughter with her two little teeth coming in is something I aspire to every day.

    • Angela

      Worst.advice.EVER.

    • You had a child to distract you from working too much? Yikes.

  • Kevin Lee

    Funny there was a TED talk about how lots of addictions change brain chemistry. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which addiction the talk was about, but suffice it to say that it was one that involves not drugs but changes brain chemistry .-)

  • Kevin Lee

    Funny there was a TED talk about how lots of addictions change brain chemistry. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which addiction the talk was about, but suffice it to say that it was one that involves not drugs but changes brain chemistry .-)

  • A rare regret of mine is that I lived for 4 years about 70 miles from Winslow, Arizona and never took the time away from college to go stand on that corner. Still on the list and hopefully I will upon sometime soon.

  • A rare regret of mine is that I lived for 4 years about 70 miles from Winslow, Arizona and never took the time away from college to go stand on that corner. Still on the list and hopefully I will upon sometime soon.

  • Ken Wilson

    Excellent essay. As a former “workaholic,” I can attest to this being effective advice.

    Was the flat-bed Ford planned or a lucky accident? Love the pic. (Now that song is gonna be stuck in my head all day. Cool.)

  • Ken Wilson

    Excellent essay. As a former “workaholic,” I can attest to this being effective advice.

    Was the flat-bed Ford planned or a lucky accident? Love the pic. (Now that song is gonna be stuck in my head all day. Cool.)

  • Sabrina

    Great post as always! I’m definitely trying to take different dance classes and working out again to get my other high from working in PR, which I love!

  • Sabrina

    Great post as always! I’m definitely trying to take different dance classes and working out again to get my other high from working in PR, which I love!

  • Michael G. Ettlemyer

    Peter, a good reminder in an over-connected business world. That video is the clincher. Awesome. Work-related question: what did you use to put the video together? I get how the footage was obtained. What a view!

  • Michael G. Ettlemyer

    Peter, a good reminder in an over-connected business world. That video is the clincher. Awesome. Work-related question: what did you use to put the video together? I get how the footage was obtained. What a view!

  • Kellie Frazier

    Fabulous article and so very true. It was your video that got my dopamine rush going! Thanks for strapping that camera on your helmet Peter. Now to go add that to my own bucket list. 🙂

  • Kellie Frazier

    Fabulous article and so very true. It was your video that got my dopamine rush going! Thanks for strapping that camera on your helmet Peter. Now to go add that to my own bucket list. 🙂

  • My Lord, is that a Flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at you?

  • My Lord, is that a Flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at you?

  • Michelle Levine

    truly brilliant, I am such a huge fan of yours…can you run for president or start a cult or something (oh wait, maybe you already have achieved cult status…or do I just have stalker tendencies? : )

  • Michelle Levine

    truly brilliant, I am such a huge fan of yours…can you run for president or start a cult or something (oh wait, maybe you already have achieved cult status…or do I just have stalker tendencies? : )

  • TARA

    So glad you got to take time to do what you love. I hope next time you’re in the Phoenix area you’ll have time for a meet and greet. Great post!

    And I loved the video. Made me think my next weight loss goal will be to get to a weight where I can tandem skydive. I’ve always wanted to. If I like it as much as I think I will I could develop a love like you have!

  • TARA

    So glad you got to take time to do what you love. I hope next time you’re in the Phoenix area you’ll have time for a meet and greet. Great post!

    And I loved the video. Made me think my next weight loss goal will be to get to a weight where I can tandem skydive. I’ve always wanted to. If I like it as much as I think I will I could develop a love like you have!

  • Melanie Dennis

    Thanks for the reminder. I do get that high from working. My husband reminds me to not confuse making a living and making a life. Wish more people had real Bucket Lists too– only 6 more US states for me! I have taken to posting those bucket list photos like yours above, around my office. Hot air ballon ride, scuba diving, zorbing….

  • Melanie Dennis

    Thanks for the reminder. I do get that high from working. My husband reminds me to not confuse making a living and making a life. Wish more people had real Bucket Lists too– only 6 more US states for me! I have taken to posting those bucket list photos like yours above, around my office. Hot air ballon ride, scuba diving, zorbing….

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