If you can't work 70 hours a week, "you're not competent to do the work"

If you can't work 70 hours a week, "you're not competent to do the work"

by David Atkins

If anyone needed proof that corporate leaders shouldn't be making public policy, this should seal the deal:

For many, work-life balance is seen as the ultimate goal. For others, that mindset is hogwash that's holding you back in your career.

Taking time off for family or passions "can offer a nice life," legendary GE CEO Jack Welch once told The Wall Street Journal. But he said that it lessens the chances for promotion or to reach the top of a career path.

Welch is not the only one who believes this.

Recently, Glencore Xstrata PC CEO Ivan Glasenberg argued that executives who start to focus on family and hobbies will find themselves undercut and replaced by ones who don't.

It's easy to dismiss these attitudes as outdated, macho, and unreasonable. But it's possible that people seeking work-life balance are just avoiding finding a way to work extremely hard and be very happy about it.

Marty Nemko, a career coach, author, columnist, and radio host, argues that the most successful and contented people prefer a heavily work-centric life over work-life balance.

"The real winners of the world, the people that are the most productive, think that this notion of work-life balance is grossly overrated," Nemko told Business Insider. "Most of the highly successful and not-burned out people I know work single-mindendly towards a goal they think is important, whether it's developing a new piece of software, inventing something, or a cardiologist who's seeing patients on nights and weekends instead of playing Monopoly with his kids on the weekend..."

He argues that many people who champion work-life balance aren't overworked, but are using the term as a politically correct tool, a smokescreen for the desire to not do work.

So rather than focusing on work-life balance, focus on being in the moment, on giving everything at work instead of imagining relaxing at home on the weekend. If you can't bring yourself to work 70 hours occasionally or it feels like torture, then you're probably at the wrong job.

Even startup founders, known for working incredible hours under a lot of stress, shouldn't blame burnout on a lack of work-life balance.

"Don't blame the hours," Nemko says. "If somebody says they got burned out working 70 hours a week it's because they weren't competent enough to do the work, they hired the wrong people, or the product they were working on wasn't good enough, and they were trying to make it work when they really shouldn't have."
These people are fundamentally broken as individuals. First of all, the pursuit of profit isn't worth 70 hours a week. Most normal people would rather make a middle-class income in exchange for 40 hours per week, than be a millionaire at the expense of a 70-hour workweek. Only abnormal, socially stunted people make the latter choice, and those people shouldn't be making public policy for the rest of us. People deserve basic human dignity. That includes a healthy respect for leisure time.

Nemko posits the entrepreneur-as-hero developing software, inventing products or saving lives as your average workaholic. But that's not how most of the very wealthy make their money. It's not how Jack Welch makes his money. Most of those 70-hour-a-week workaholics are extracting value (i.e., cutting jobs and wages while raising prices) from companies to boost wealthy shareholder returns, or extracting exorbitant rent-seeking charges from consumers. They're far more likely to be Jamie Dimon or Carlos Slim than Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs.

Spending that amount of time living for a cause is another thing. I know many people who probably work a cumulative 70 hours a week among their paid and volunteer activities to make the world a better place. But even then it's bit much for those with social and family obligations. Conservatives used to think those things were important. One wonders if they still do.