Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Workaholic I

There is a truism that tells us that nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time at the office. These words are meant to get us to appreciate what is really most valuable and important in our lives, before it is too late. It is not our jobs, but our relationships that truly matter. This is my story as a recovering workaholic.

I had a scientific colleague many years ago who told me "A bad day of vacation is better than a good day at work." I remember thinking to myself at the time that this guy would never survive in science if this is what he really believed. It struck me as the attitude of someone who, channeling famed test pilot Chuck Yeager, did not have the right stuff. To be successful in science takes a special kind of dedication. I have not met too many through the years who have been successful working simply 9 to 5. This is not the kind of vocation where you can compete and be successful without special effort. My negative opinion of this person was only strengthened when he eventually washed out as a scientist and could not get a job in his field. When he ended up working on restoring antique furniture, I remember chortling smugly to myself, feeling oh so superior.

As the years have gone by, I have seen person after person wash out of this field when they were not willing to dedicate themselves completely to their work. Without a deep and burning passion, there just never seems to be success or advancement. This is a career path where one really has to be self-motivated and fully committed to survive. Work has to be more than simply a means to a paycheck, it has to be a driving force in one's life.

(Part 1 of 3)