Why working for 12+ hours a day made me a better person

I was waiting for a traffic light to turn green. Being in a hurry it felt like an eternity had passed.

Suddenly a homeless-looking old man passed behind me and pressed the button to cross. I did the same thing a minute ago. So we were now two strangers waiting for the light to turn green.

An eternity passed once more and the light was still unchanged.

The old man, possibly irritated, crossed over and I was thinking of being late as a definite possibility. I didn’t give any thought to anything else.

Suddenly the light turns green.

But only for the simple reason that he thought of me and pressed the button on the other side. Surprised, I couldn’t help but simile like a kid on Christmas day.

He waved, I waved and for a brief moment we connected as fellow human beings. We were no longer strangers, comfortably ignoring the existence of one another. He became real to me.

I never saw him again.

This was a few years ago. But in my mind, it’s as fresh as the day it happened.

Since then, I constantly remind myself of the realness of people that my work touches. As a marketer it’s easy to forget that the leads in your funnel are as real as that old man at the traffic light.

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

At the time I was working for a startup, about 5–6 hours a day. But I was still so absorbed in my work that it was like I was living in a theater play. With a handful of main characters and hundreds of quickly drawn colorless drafts of people.

That moment snowballed into an idea that profoundly changed me.

I was woken up.

I looked around me acknowledging the fact that everyone around was living a life just as complex and detailed as my own. It was a moment of revelation enabled by my narrow focus, suddenly expanded.

The “sacrifice” of 12+ hour work days.

I was at an AIESEC event talking about careers and how I got to work at a great company in a field that I’m really passionate about.

I did my thing and at the end I had a question that really caught me off-guard.

In my speech I talked a lot about working hard, dreaming big and making something people want. Obviously, if you look at the three elements there, they mostly directly refer to work.

The question was: “How do you balance life and work”

Simple right?

The classical work-life balance challenge.

My answer swiftly ended any follow-up questions.

I said that it’s all life.

Work is inextricably part of life so you should enjoy it just as much as any other part of life.

I still hold this as a personal truth but with some more essential details to the puzzle.

I would have never been in my position today without a decent amount of work. Definitely more than the average for my age. Work has enabled me to find the right questions to ask and to connect them with the right answers.

And right answers are nothing short of gold.

They have enabled me to carve up a path that has the potential to lead me to a place where I can greatly expand the impact I can have on the world.

It’s a sacrifice I’m doing fully aware of the path’s potential. Right now, I get precious little time for other things.

The most important part?

The more common things I used to do, now give me much more satisfaction.

Going out on a Friday night? Amazingly fun.

Drinking good coffee at a favorite coffee shop? A great experience every time.

Meeting people for chats in cool bars? Immense fun and breed deep conversations.

In a way, less has actually become more.

Going out on dates? Well, this one has been put on hold. The amount of mind-bandwidth this one takes has inevitably gotten it to be paused. For a while.

Putting in 8 hours per day at my proper job and another 3 or 4 hours for other personal projects with weekends mostly fully allocated to the latter has made me happier.

Is my work-life balance OK?

In terms of hours, definitely not. But in terms of satisfaction it’s a definitive yes. Especially since I won’t be doing it forever. It will naturally become more balanced as the work begins bearing fruit.

“Work ennobles man”

I have found this to be true since an early age. It’s something I saw in my parents and grand-parents.

And fun has always been part of it all. You only need to look at it from the right perspective and it all becomes immensely fun and rewarding.

Becoming a better person through work is real.

  • You offer value to others and the world.
  • You appreciate people’s character better.
  • You learn things and solve problems better and faster.
  • Your self esteem grows.
  • You appreciate simple pleasures more.
  • Your perspective can widen considerably.
  • You can find fun in anything.
  • You get freedom to do more and enjoy more.

What else?

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