Be a workaholic

Posted on April 21, 2009



Normally, any term with the suffix, ‘aholic’ is seen as being negative. It’s because we only see the negative results of it. Whether in church, business, or play, too much of anything usually means neglect in other important areas like health, spirituality, relationships, finances, etc. The problem is that we have used a word to counter being a workaholic and that is ‘balance’. Balance means the perfect coexistence of public and private life where everyone lives happily ever after. Sounds like a fairy tale to me. I believe balance is just another word for mediocrity. It means being good at everything but not great in anything leaving no one happy now or ever after.

The notion of balance starts from childhood in our education system. In school we sit in rows, color inside the lines, and do not talk out of turn. Our churches also condition us to not be extreme but to be a part of the flock. Our conditioning is continued with the status quo environment most work places cultivate. Being balanced is rewarded and being extreme is punished. The problem is that the great world changers, past and present, were all obsessed workaholics. Innovators, artists, leaders, and influencers live at the obsessive ends to make a difference- no matter the cost, private or public. This isn’t right, but it’s the truth.

So am I justifying being a self destructive workaholic? No, but let’s look at the life of Jesus as an example. His ministry went from one extreme to another. He went from high extremes of anger (turning tables & rebuking) to high extremes of love (healing & shepherding). He was engulfed in the masses and then he would retreat to isolated times with God. Jesus was not a balanced individual. For Jesus, people’s needs came at the most inconvenient times- early mornings, late nights and on the weekends. Problems and opportunities are not contained within the 9 to 5 mold. The world is messy, so like Jesus, you have to be messy too. Obsession is the only road to greatness here on earth or heaven. Balance is a one way trip to obscurity. Get obsessed with work and ministry. But also get obsessed with your spouse, family, play, and health. Jesus may have always been tired but he sure wasn’t boring or mediocre. Chances are he was probably the best carpenter in town too.

The key is to be a workaholic AND as author Richard St. John calls, be a ‘work-a-frolic’. So work hard and play hard. My wife knows there are weeks when I am extra busy because of work. But then I commit to play hard with my family at the expense of work. When all my dependencies (family, friends, & team) get my obsessive time then everyone is happy. When they get my balanced time then no one is.

A well ordered life is a must for any creative leader. However, being well ordered does not necessarily mean your time is evenly distributed throughout the week. Life is too crazy to have that kind of control. So be a workaholic, prayaholic, and workafrolic and be proud.

That way everyone is happy, including you. It’s only when you get this extreme then you get real balance.

Also visit my Willow Creek Blog