Perspective on Workaholism

I recently saw this untitled article/quote online. The first five words grabbed me.

Workaholics are driven by fear

Now, as a self-proclaimed and community-endorsed workaholic, I cannot say that reading those five words was altogether settling. Rather, I found myself clicking quickly on the link to read on.

If you’re in this frame of mind and need control, being a workaholic is a socially acceptable way to try to achieve that. … [T]his kind of working method doesn’t scale— you end up exploding.

At this point I had resigned myself. The message, unfortunately, rings true.

The article goes on to recount the story of a successful architect, who happens to be confined to a wheelchair, but who also does not feel the need to over-exert himself in order to design beautiful, functional buildings. He is productive without destroying his health. What I took from the article, however, was not that lovely story but those first five words: “Workaholics are driven by fear.”

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I just relocated to work in Ghana – to a part of the world I had never seen, in a culture very different from my own, where the only person I knew before coming will be leaving soon. Under most circumstances, this would call for workaholism.

But no. In Ghana, being a workaholic is not a socially acceptable way to achieve control. It is acceptable, rather, to be friendly to one’s neighbors and to stay loyal to particular chop shops and market stands. Here instead, the emphasis is on living life well and building up one’s community – a type of work in itself, but no heels or ties required.


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