Book Review: The Underachiever’s Manifesto

My colleague gave this to me to read, probably because I have a reputation for being a bit of a workaholic. I say “a bit of a workaholic”; what I mean is that I regularly pull 18-hour days at the office even though I live two hours away. And when I get home, I work. And then I go to bed and dream about work. Yes, you could definitely say I’m addicted to my job.

So it’s not surprising that sometimes people give me pointers towards not working so hard. Colleagues leave food on my desk so I remember to eat lunch, make me go for walks if they know I’ve been in the office for more than 10 hours, and generally look out for me because they’re awesome.

The problem with The Underachiever’s Manifesto, though, is that it’s for people who are only achieving because they feel like they need to. I’ve met these people and I get where they’re coming from, but it’s not the same place as me. I don’t work hard because I want my bosses to approve (though I’m pleased when they do). I know that ultimately it makes absolutely no difference to the vast majority of the people in the world whether my campaign delivers on time. I have quite a cynical view of my own existence: or rather, one that I would call realistic.

I work because I love to work. If I stopped loving my job, I’d stop working so hard. I’d probably find something else I loved and do that instead, but ultimately the main thing I enjoy doing in life is not socialising (stressful), or talking to people (tiring), or watching TV (boring). It’s work. I love it. If I achieve something along the way, great. That’s an added bonus. But, like many of the pilgrims I’ve interviewed for the research project, the point of my conscientiousness isn’t in the result; not from my point of view, anyway. It’s all about the journey.

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