Adam Is Successful...but He's Not Happy

Adam’s daughter thinks he sleeps at his office.

On paper, he’s got it made: multiple degrees from prestigious schools, an enviable career, and a comfortable salary. He’s got a wife, two daughters, a nice house in a good neighborhood — this dude’s life seems pretty charmed.

But Adam’s not happy. Long hours and no work-life balance — Adam calls it more of a “work-work balance” — have left him feeling stuck, and contemplating quitting it all in search of something more meaningful.

In this conversation, Nate Green and Jason Lengstorf talk with Adam about what balance, perception, and success really mean. Then the three of them come up with an experiment that just might change Adam’s life — without requiring him to ruin his career.

NOTE: The audio on this call is a little janky, with some background noise and lag, since everyone was calling in from different corners of the world. If you can forgive the quality of the recording, we hope the quality of the content makes up for it.

Show Notes:

6:30 — “You give up a lot of things when you work 65–70 hours a week.” – Adam

7:12 — “Daddy, are you going to sleep at the office again tonight?” – Adam’s daughter

9:46 — “Would that be perceived as a step backward?” – Nate

11:11 — “You don’t get a bunch of people to slave away at this if they think they have better things to do.” – Adam

11:58 — “It feels really dirty, like you’re doing something awful to the company…” – Jason

12:30 — “It’s self-defeating in a lot of ways. … People who are really bright and capable crash out of the industry really quickly because they’re chewed up by that cutthroat culture.” – Adam

14:28 — “It’s like the celebration of who can be the biggest masochist.” – Jason

14:45 — “You have all these external trappings of success. … Does that stuff mean anything to you?” – Nate

16:00 — “At this private high school I was a hillbilly. It ingrained in me this aspiration for more.” – Adam

17:48 — “You realize you’re the same person with a nice watch.” – Adam

18:56 — “It keeps moving the idea of happiness outside of you.” – Jason

23:28 — “I fooled myself into thinking I was being a really good provider, but … I wasn’t doing nearly enough on the family side.” – Adam

24:59 — “It wasn’t really about the money I was making. It was about getting that hit of validation.” – Adam

32:53 — “Maybe it’s almost envy because you note that they’re comfortable enough that they don’t have to respond right away, and you feel compelled to.” – Adam

34:57 — “I had fully expected that my career was going to suffer as a result. … What I found was that my entire team was releived … and my clients didn’t even notice.” – Jason

38:09 — “Do you want the promotion?” – Nate

38:15 — “…not really.” – Adam

42:36 — “What’s the worst that could happen? The fire me and I don’t get the promotion? I’ve already said that I don’t really want it.” – Adam

45:00 — “You just see, ‘Is this a thing worth doing?’” – Nate

50:43 — “What if it was like, ‘I have this thing I cannot miss: I’m going to go eat dinner with my family at 7pm’?” – Nate

52:04 — “What I was depressed about was all the things that were being left behind in pursuit of the work.” – Jason

54:36 — “This is a stupid fucking analogy.” – Nate

55:46 — “Now, at least once a week, work is subordinated to family. It changes the dynamic.” – Jason

1:02:01 — “A lot of what I’ve accomplished in my life is because I was consistently seeking the approval of others.” – Adam

1:03:02 — “I’ve sort of turned hard work and discipline — which are positives — into negatives.” – Adam

1:03:18 — Adam mentions The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join.

1:03:42 — “I’m starting to look for that validation and that happiness and that contentment internally rather than externally.” – Adam

1:06:48 — “It’s a really small thing, but it’s symbolic of the change in my attitude.” – Adam

1:07:18 — “The best habits are kept by doing small things consistently.” – Nate