Karoshi - Working to Death
Karoshi. It’s a legally recognized cause of death in Japan. Japanese people work long hours – the extreme end of the spectrum being the 100 hour workweek. Just think about that – no days off, ever, and routine work days of 14 hours or more. It belittles the expression ‘burning the candle at both ends.’ It’s more like you broke the candle in a few places, stripped away some wax, and lit six wicks simultaneously.
Jokes aside, hours like that are reserved for people that lack the ability to say no, and whose priorities are mixed up. Would you rather work:
100 hours a week, for someone else's dream, for $150,000 a year, never have vacations, a day off, or even 5 hours of sleep a night
40 hours a week in a coffee shop for $30,000 a year?
I’m interested to hear what our readers think, so leave a comment at the bottom of the article for me. I’d take the latter option any day. Quality of life is not worth the sacrifice of time and freedom to do the things that make you happy, in my humble opinion anyway. But this raises the question: where do you draw that line? I have no doubt that its location is different for every person, for every field, and it’s something you yourself need to figure out.
Let me begin by saying that I believe a rough estimate for my personal Karoshi Line is about 80 hours a week. I’ll henceforth refer to the Karoshi Line as the point at which you are working so much that you begin to contemplate suicide to escape work. Not exactly the same as “working to death”, but still a point that none of us ever want to meet - and most certainly never want to cross. One can get a pretty good idea of their Karoshi Line by a single method. Work longer and longer hours until you start to slip into a dark depression. This discovery technique applies to your main career, but everyone's KLs are going to be different depending on the type of work their doing. You can probably creep up on your KL and not actually touch it. That approach would be to methodically engage in more projects until you feel a stress threshold building that isn't relieved by a good nights rest or a hard workout. Whether or not the work makes you tired is one factor, but not being able to escape it when you leave for the day is another big one. If you don't have an outlet of relief, such as the gym, getting hammered, racing cars, etc, then the KL will drift ever closer as the monotony of your life continues.
Lots of people enjoy their careers. Lots of people do not. I have no doubt that KL duration would directly correlate with how much you enjoy working in your field.
I suppose it’s possible that insane work hours make you happy – but if that’s the case, most likely you’re an entrepreneur and are pursuing your own dream. So shut your happy mouth and let the rest of the kids listen.
Working for someone else to death is perhaps the greatest tragedy of life in the developed world. You sacrifice your living breath for the benefit of a corporation, of which your contribution directly affected only .001% of their quarterly return. Working to death on your own pursuits, is more noble (but don't mistake that for condoning). When you're following your passion (and that passion happens to be your livelihood and work), then dying while your doing it is on the same level as an avid skydiver's parachute not deploying, or a free diver getting shredded by hammerheads in on a peaceful summer day. They cross the boundary doing their own thing, their own way. Rock on.
If you decide your Karoshi Line is 40 hours a week or less (which means you’re not working overtime and are already thinking dark thoughts), then you should get the hell out of your workplace, or even possibly your career field entirely. No amount of money is worth living a depressed life.