Not where you wanna be

So there’s a word for death from overwork — karoshi. More on this ruinous phenomenon:

Japan’s Killer Work Ethic

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 13, 2008; Page A12

TOKYO — Death from too much work is so commonplace in Japan that there is a word for it — karoshi. There is a national karoshi hotline, a karoshi self-help book and a law that funnels money to the widow and children of a salaryman (it’s almost always a man) who works himself into an early karoshi for the good of his company.

A local Japanese government agency ruled June 30 for the widow and children of a 45-year-old Toyota chief engineer who died in 2006. While organizing the worldwide manufacture of a hybrid version of the Camry sedan, the man had worked nights and weekends and often traveled abroad — putting in up to 114 hours of overtime a month — in the six months before he died in his bed of heart failure.

The cause of death was too much work, according to a ruling by the Labor Bureau of Aichi prefecture, where Toyota has its headquarters. The engineer’s daughter found his body on Jan. 2, 2006, the day before he was supposed to fly yet again to the United States for more work on the Camry launch, said Mikio Mizuno, an attorney for his wife.

I’m starting to suspect that even though I think I’m handling things fine, I might be missing all sorts of signs pointing to a stress level that’s actually off the charts, steadily steering me towards an early whatever. Or maybe it’s just the aging process. With little more than half a year left before the lights hit thirty, I’d like very much to take on new experiences, try on more hats, start joining those dots from long ago and far away. Grow up?

Last year, I’d quizzed Sayesha and her pals R and A on what their “efficiency rates” were at the office — Sayesha thought hers had dropped in recent years (if I recall correctly, she claimed it was 60% — I believed 0% of that), R assured us his was 100%, while A was very modest indeed (I’m sure it’s because she only needs to expend half the energy to achieve the same ends as her colleagues!).

I was quite interested in that sort of thing because, well, I’d decided to head to HK partly because I thought I’d learn to be freakishly efficient among an allegedly dynamic and driven people. My conclusion is … no matter where you are, what you do or who you’re with, you must continually find ways to motivate yourself and renew, broaden or deepen your interest in your work. Sheer terror at hurting your “reputation” and letting your native land down can only last so long, before you start getting too comfortable.

Hmm, I’m thinking this is true even if you’re in dream-job mode. Are you in dream-job mode??? I’m not, though I’m still motivated. Maybe some dreams should be left unfulfilled, just to make thoughts of the future bearable.


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