I love the term “Misery Olympics” and wish I’d thought of it first. Google it and you’ll get about 549,000 results, but who has time to get to the bottom of that rabbit hole? We all watched the Olympics in Brazil last month, but the Misery Olympics never end—they go year-round, and they’re everywhere.

Basically, the Misery Olympics represent the braggadocio of overachievers.

Laura Vanderkam, writing in the New York Times , references this phenomenon with statistics from the June 2011 Monthly Labor Review. The MLR, a publication of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that people estimating 75-plus hour workweeks were off, on average, by about 25 hours—in other words, they WAY overestimated. It turns out, based on self-reported time tracking, many people work far less than they think they do.

But why do we brag/lie/misoverestimate about working so many hours? Wouldn’t working fewer hours be much more brag-worthy? Are we still so chained to 20th century ideas about work and self-sacrifice that we believe the Misery Olympics are worth winning?

Entrepreneurs find themselves especially stuck in this miserable cycle of over-work. And based on my own clients, they are finding little solace in their “gold medals” anymore. The thing these entrepreneurs worked so hard to create has become the thing they worked to avoid: “a job.”

Is it possible to boycott the Misery Olympics?

Important question. And the infamous Millennials may have the key. They don’t “get” the correlation between productivity and time spent in a cube because they produce differently: faster, simpler, leveraging technology and, most of all, putting family and friends first. The lines between work and play, socializing and networking, are much more fluid. And their lives are—based on my own four millennials—much less miserable.

I’m coaching many business owners who are painfully and frustratingly stuck in a cycle of over-work—real and imagined—that is entirely of their own making.

Ready to boycott the misery Olympics? You can!

–I’m working with a client in Philadelphia whose primary goal in 2016 is to run his contracting business entirely from his boat, a salty 43’ trawler called “Slow Poke” that he sails in Chesapeake Bay.

–A long-time client and old friend has structured his market-leading commercial cleaning company so he spends much more time with his wife and five children (aged 3-13) and much less in the office. He and his family are now writing a book and launching a website to help other families follow suit.

–This summer I took my own advice and experimented with my own business—I wrote this article from a beautiful medieval town in northern Italy where I worked and played my whole summer!

So how does it feel to be a big loser in the Misery Olympics? Pretty terrific. If you want to stop being a contender for that grim gold medal, send me an email at Scott@doubledareyou.us and we can set up a time to talk.


photo credit: clarence dock sculpture 9 via photopin (license)