The last couple of days, there have been a lot of tweets with messages like “You need to work tons of overtime in your 20’s to be successful in your career”. There have been also been plenty of counters to these tweets.
This kind of logic is seriously seriously flawed, and bad bad advice. As readers of this blog, you would know that I always talk about tradeoffs. Firstly though, let’s talk about blindly following others footsteps. If I do everything Russ White does, do I become as smart as Russ White? Of course not. If I do everything Warren Buffet does, do I become as rich? Of course not. If I do everything Ivan Pepelnjak does, will I become as experienced as him? Of course not. There are many many paths that can lead to success, whatever that is, and they are not always straight.
So, following in someone’s footsteps does not equal success. Therefore, blindly following advice about working your ass in your 20’s does not hold any real value. What about doing what successful people do? Some successful people wake up early, some do a lot of reading, some exercise a lot. Will you trying to repeat this mean you will become successful? Not necessarily. While reading is definitely something I recommend, just trying to repeat what others do, does not guarantee any form of success.
Then of course, what is success anyway? Is is having a fancy title? Is it making a lot of money? Is it traveling in business class? Is it being well known in the industry? Or is it simply enjoying what you do? We all have different definitions of success and why should we only define success as having senior roles or making a lot of money? There is nothing wrong with being happy with a less senior role if you enjoy what you do.
When you are in your 20’s, it’s one of the periods in your life where you likely have the most time to work. While this will differ of course, I met my wife to be in my early 20’s, many might not have a relationship or kids in their 20’s. That means you can put in many hours without perhaps sacrificing family time, sleep, exercise etc, because you have a lot of time that you don’t have at later stages in your life. Working a lot of hours then, means you don’t necessarily sacrifice someone else’s time, but that doesn’t mean you should work yourself to an early grave either. Just racking up hours, does not in any way lead to success. What kind of hours are you putting in? Is it just configuring the same VLANs over and over? Or is it studying to become better at your trade? The first doesn’t really make you better at anything, except configuring VLANs, while the second will help you learn and eventually advance in your career. Just mindlessly racking up hours is not good advice. Also, saying yes to everything might seem like a good approach, but it’s not, you think you would earn respect but you will just be seen as someone that management easily can roll over.
Everyone chooses their own path. That said, to me there are some things I would never sacrifice to further my career, even at the early stages. If you work so many hours that you become overweight, sleep deprived, poor health in general with poor condition, bad blood values etc, these are things that will affect you for the rest of your life, even if you start living healthier later on. Now, I understand that people do what they need to do to support the family etc, but don’t give up your health willingly just to please management.
Later in your career, you probably have a family. That means that when you are working off hours, it’s their time you are sacrificing, not yours. Being away from family, kids etc is time that you will never get back. Your kids are only small for a few years and then you will never get those years back.
We all have different priorities and can work different amount of hours without burning out. Personally, I believe in a balance of work, studies, family time, exercise etc. I could study even more than I do but that would mean sacrificing exercise and family time, something I don’t believe in long term. Do whatever works for you, but don’t think you have to work overtime all the time, and always say yes, to be successful. That’s just poor advice. Find your own path and your own definition of success.