The Return of Not So Common Advice

Most commencement speeches inspire their graduates to build their careers, reach for the stars, and do whatever it takes to reach their dreams. After all, they’ve accomplished the first part of that dream: getting a college education. However, my colleagues and I received a commencement speech a couple years ago about the importance of exercise and eating right and not… “letting yourself go” from an older gentleman who could very well have been speaking from experience. Naturally, we didn’t take too kindly to the speech and promptly demoted the bizarre experience to the “to shred” pile in our memories.
Ironically enough, a couple years later I find myself reflecting on that very commencement speech. I’ve been dwelling on the how to define what one needs to sacrifice to be successful. As they say one must sacrifice health, friends and finally family to achieve poster child success. But is that kind of sacrifice even necessary? Without those three things, what do you have? With the increased attention to what the Huffington Post calls the “Third Metric” how is it possible not to sacrifice one or all of these things when you are starting out? Climbing the career ladder often means late nights, early mornings, and often sacrificing the respite of the weekend. Accepting this reality has been difficult for me, because I just can’t help but feel that by now we would have found a way to not be “on” all of the time.
Maybe I struggle the most with this because participating in the Haitian work lifestyle often means having people come by to visit, grab a coffee, and eat up a good 2-3 hours of your work day. Although very nice, the decrease in actual work hours does cut into productivity, something Haiti’s economy most definitely needs. However, in that same breath I see this way of life slowly fade with the aging of previous generations. Life has become busier, people are more on edge, and the pressure that is often omnipresent in the States is increasingly claiming the lifestyles of the current population. Is workaholicsism, reserved for the select few? Or has it become a rite of passage for ambitious young professionals?
Whatever the answer, I have been keeping my sanity by spending my Saturdays with my younger cousins ranging from 17 years to 4 months. The constant energy and the simplicity of life as a young person has been such an outlet for me that Saturday lunches with them have become sacred.
Finding that outlet, even if it only takes place once a week for an hour is so necessary to not completely losing yourself in the work. What is your outlet, how do you keep yourself sane when work becomes overwhelming?