A friend of mine is a relentless self-improver. He's always looking a performance edge. He has multiple degrees. He regularly attends seminars and conferences. He has accountability buddies. He pays a leadership coach, a strategy coach, and even an empathy coach.
He doesn't burn the candle at both ends. His candle is one big flame.
Yet he's almost always run-down. He's often fighting a cold. Once every month or two his body basically breaks down, and it takes him days to recover.
When I questioned the grind of his 14-hour-plus schedule, he snorted. "I don't rise and grind," he said. "Why waste time rising when I can just keep grinding?"
Hold that thought.
Imagine you own a professional soccer team. You try to sign the best players, then invest considerable sums to further improve their speed. Coordination. Strength. Technical skills. Tactical skills. You're constantly looking for a performance edge, because the margin between winning and losing is razor thin.
For example, studies show that the difference in physical variables between Champions League teams (the premier club competition in Europe; think teams with players like Neymar, Messi, and Ronaldo) ranges between two and four percent.
Making your players 2 percent faster, or 1 percent stronger? Since that can mean the difference between winning and losing, those tiny margins are clearly worth chasing.
Yet injuries can matter even more. According to physiotherapist and researcher Jurdan Mendiguchia:
The number of days players are out injured is related to a club's position in the (standings.) With the teams who are the furthest away from meeting their objectives, this is correlated to the injuries they have. The losses between salaries and objectives that aren't met could be between 36 and 45 million euros.
So, what should we focus on? On the injuries? Or on trying to close that performance gap of two to four percent?
I think the answer is quite clear.
The same is true for my friend's ABW (his acronym for "always be working") approach. Sure, he operates at an extremely high level.
Right up until he can't.
He admits that near-daily headaches impact his mental sharpness. Frequent colds impact his focus. Illnesses take him completely out of the game.
While his performance is sometimes high, what Mendiguchia calls his "availability" is often low. (Talent and effort are irrelevant when you aren't physically or mentally able to play.
And then there's this: While he claims otherwise, twelve hours deep into a workday there is no way he, or anyone, can be as smart, or creative, or decisive.
Because hours worked isn't a proxy for achievement.
Nor is embracing an ABW attitude a status symbol.
What matters is the quality of the hours you work, not the quantity. What matters is the quality of what you accomplish. Consistently operating at your best?
That starts with being consistently available to do your best.
Which you will never be able to do if you believe that 'Always Be Working' is the path to long-term success.