All Work and No Play Can Kill You

All Work and No Play Can Kill You

Aug. 25, 2017

All work and no play can make Jack a dull boy.

It may not only make him dull, it might kill him.

Did you hear about the Japanese CEO who resigned after one of his employees committed suicide? The employee took her own life after working 105 hours of overtime in the previous month. An investigation was launched, and Japanese regulators ruled that Matsuri Takahashi had been forced to work excessively long hours, and the punishing workload resulted in her suicide.

In fact, because it’s so common, there’s actually a Japanese word for it: karoshi (death from overwork). In 2015, 93 Japanese workers committed suicide or attempted suicide due to overwork.

There’s a culture in Japan of long hours and excessive overtime, and, coincidentally, Japan has the second highest suicide rate of any country in the world.

All work and no play.

I used to think that taking days off was for chumps. Why should I ever leave the court? I was a tennis pro and no one gets better sitting on a couch. No, there’s a word for people who don’t work every day: Loser.

And working seven days a week never made me suicidal. It made me happy. That seems to contradict what the Japanese data tells us.

But does it?

Being at the tennis club was my favorite place on earth. All my friends were there. All my students were there. If we were going to do something fun, it was happening at the club. We watched movies there, ate dinners there, and had parties there. We even played hide-and-go-seek there (don’t tell my old boss).

And when we were done, we went home and came back early the next morning to do it all again.

Why? Because it was fun.

In those days, nothing beat giving a lesson. Nothing beat that moment where the beginner became an expert. Nothing beat working hard and having your buddy on the court next to you doing the same thing.

Looking back, there was no such thing as “overtime.” I worked extra hours because I wanted extra hours. I stayed till 10 pm because I wanted to fix that forehand. It was all by choice and it was all so exciting.

That’s why I never got depressed. That’s why I never became a dull boy.

If you’re feeling sad or hopeless, there is a cure. And it’s not more work.

It’s fun.

Try to find a way to bring playfulness into your life. Find a way to do something exciting on your breaks. Or take a weekend off and travel. Or start a new hobby.

If your work won’t allow it, then start looking for another job that might be more fun.

And if none of those seems to be an option, then consider watching things like this in your stolen moments.

There’s no nobility in working long hours you don’t want to work. That’s a lie. Being a workaholic is a feverish delusion.

And guess what? If you’ve got that fever, here’s the only prescription: more fun.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.