Jan 29, 2013

Reading List: The Cure For Workaholism

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.

via Peter Shankman http://shankman.com/the-cure-for-workaholism/