This Guy’s Beard Fell Out from Working Too Much

June 9, 2015

10:00 am

Designer and developer Jason Lengstorf was working 80-hour weeks designing websites for clients in 2012, when his beard started falling out.

“Patches of my beard started to turn white. The whiskers became ultra-fine. Then they fell out altogether. Shortly afterward, I lost my ability to grow a beard entirely  –  I was left with the unsavory choice between a clean-shaven ‘giant fat baby’ look and a creepy mustache,” he writes.

It took the loss of a beard to wake him up to the unhealthiness of his lifestyle. “After my beard died, I felt the full weight of burnout. I was burnt to a f***ing crisp. I realized I could either leave my career altogether, or make some fundamental changes to my lifestyle.”

From that point on, Lengstorf became an opponent of what he calls the “overkill cult”: the belief that working over 60 hours a week is honorable and necessary for success. The overkill cult lures us with the desire to be dedicated, responsible, and ambitious; we join it little by little until we’re hooked – but we’d still deny there’s anything wrong with us.

Lengstorf extricated himself with a few serious lifestyle changes:

  • Work 40 hours a week or less. Research says we can’t be productive for more than 40 hours a week, and significant overwork can actually drive us into negative productivity (it’s possible, as any programmer will tell you).
  • Sleep for about 8 hours a night. It will lengthen our lifespan and make us more creative and productive. It’s time to stop “greeting your coworkers, bleary-eyed, half-joking about needing coffee to survive,” Lengstorf says.
  • Stop feeling guilty about time not working. Spending time with friends and family, going to the gym, pursuing hobbies – these are the things that make life meaningful. 

So, are you part of the cult?

Image credit: “The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join” by Jason Lengstorf

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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