It’s Cool to Be Kind

We sometimes perpetuate this notion that being overworked and stressed out are proper excuses for why we abuse our health and relationships with others. We wear them as badges of honor, proof that we can work harder than the bloke next to us. I’m talking about being more intimate with our iPhones than our partners, missing a family event or holiday to meet a bottom line, and burning the midnight oil instead of giving your body its proper rest. For some, this is the only way we know how to function and we think that it is effective. Maximum output – even at the cost of our physical and emotional well-being.

I’ve worked in environments and have hung around groups that idolize this sort of modus operandi. It was common in that culture to compare, more like brag and compete over, sacrifices to the Gods of production and efficiency. I personally offered up relationships, time with family and friends, sleep, and even a little bit of my sense of self to their alter. I suffered from severe migraines (for which I was taking medication), fell in and out of romantic relationships, and self-medicated with whatever would make me feel better at the time. Wine was my best friend. I was running on physical and emotional fumes.

Because I was in Startup World, there was even more on the line every day. With a runway that constantly fluctuated and resources that often ran dry, it was always do or die. This idea circulated that we were changing the world and had to do whatever it took to make this happen. Ego and pride were the stars of the show. We were special. I bought into this idea. I sipped the Kool-Aid and continuously asked for refills.

I witnessed unhealthy habits and instances of letting ego take control. I saw the need and drive for success play out like a junkie needing his fix, and stopping at nothing to get that next high, only to come down lower than before after the most recent one wears out. I listened to someone explain the empty feeling that came with achieving a goal he had worked towards for over a year, because he didn’t know what fulfillment really looked like.

Now it must be noted that I had full and unbridled choice in this circumstance. I chose to stay in a situation that I knew wasn’t healthy for me in the long term. How many of us can say that for a number of jobs or relationships we have been involved with? What I didn’t possess at the time was the personal power to recognize my circumstance as a product of my choices. It took months of being out of the environment and time to learn and grow to have a more complete perspective on that experience.

Having spent time with individuals who put value in the power of the individual spirit and emotional and physical longevity, I have a firmer grasp on what works for me. I’ve seen true leadership in the form of a balanced lifestyle, compassion and understanding for those around them. You know something to be proud of and show off? The time you’re able to spend with your family along with your professional successes. You know what’s cool? Getting the proper amount of sleep that your body needs and treating others with respect through empathically listening and seeking to understand them.

You know what’s not cool? Being irritable and unkind to others, all in the name of attaining glory and recognition. It’s like running as fast as you can in one of those hamster wheels, you’ll be completely exhausted, but you haven’t gone anywhere.

It should also be noted that I do think it’s important to work hard, really hard in some cases, to reach goals. What I don’t put stock in anymore, is the idea that you need to run yourself ragged to the detriment of yourself and those that love you. We need more leaders who are eager to challenge the status quo. We need greater emphasis on the balance of achievement and personal fulfillment, and the understanding that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

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