Transition from a Workaholic to a Passionate Worker

by Ryan Yates

workaholicAs defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary a Workaholic is “a compulsive worker.” I thought maybe there would be a little more to it, but just this 3 word definition.

My wife has been calling me a workaholic for quite some time. I needed to understand if I was workaholic or maybe something else, just maybe I was a passionate worker.


I’ve been with my wife for over nine years, 3 of them in marriage.  Out of those 9 years I’ve averaged over 80 hours per week developing my career.  I’ve always thought that hard work and dedication would help put money in our pockets and make a better life for us.  My whole mission has been to create a life with great happiness and zero worries.  Does wanting a better life for the family really make me a workaholic?  Let’s take a test to find out.

The Test

To see if you may be a workaholic take this simple test from Workaholics Anonymous.  Here are a few sample questions from the test.  By answering YES to 3 or more of the questions you qualify to be a workaholic (sounds like a mass mailing from a credit card company.)  I answered yes to these 4.

  • Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
  • Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be a
  • failure?
  • Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
  • Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?

My name is Jeff and I am a Workaholic.

The Proof

I do agree with my wife that I use to be a workaholic.  I took my career very seriously and did everything I could to advance it.  I worked very long hours.  I took on every project I could, hoping to build my resume and look good in the eyes of my bosses.  I even pulled many all nighters working to fix problematic machines.  I did all these things because I’ve always enjoyed working hard and had a goal to be a manager by 35 years of age.  I sacrificed family outings and holidays to take care of business.  I was completely blinded by the desire to succeed and gain the approval of my bosses and co-workers.  The hard work paid off and I advanced up the ladder quickly.  At 32, I was givin a position as Engineering Manager and sent over to China to help start up a new facility.  I was 3 years ahead of my goal and had tons of career options available to me if I performed well on the 3 year assignment in China.

The Result

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  After 4 months of working even longer hours (14 to 16 hours everyday) it became very clear that I hated my new position.   There were aspects of the job I couldn’t adapt to, mainly all the politics involved with being a manager in my company.  The job became more about making yourself look good and everyone else look bad.  I just couldn’t do it.  I’m a hands-on results oriented person and dealing with all the politics and BS did not justify the 5 percent rise I received for the new assignment.  After a year of working at my “dream job” I chose to take a demotion and return to my previous job assignment.

The Passionate Worker

It’s amazing the clarity you get when you make the decision to take a step backward on the career train.  Once I went back to my old job this became all too clear.  I still work hard, but in a different way. I choose not to sugar coat anything and give my boss the straight scoop on issues. I stopped taking work home with me (emotionally). I only take calls that are real emergencies and set the appropriate boundaries with my direct reports.  I have begun to really make things happen in my area.  I no longer need to look good or say the right things anymore, I just want to do the best I can and not worry about the next step. I changed from being a workaholic into a passionate worker.

There have been many posts around the blogosphere about being a workaholic or being a passionate worker.  After reading these, I believe I am no longer a workaholic and have made the transition to being a passionate worker.  Seth Godin wrote post titled “Workaholic”, in it he makes reference to a new type of worker out there a “Passionate Worker.”

“The passionate worker doesn’t show up because she’s afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it’s a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation… because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it’s a lot more fun than watching TV”.

I think a passionate worker loves to develop their spirit which translates into a much better work experience.  I like the idea of a passionate worker.  The passionate worker uses their ability and drive to make their work meaningful.  A passionate worker seems much more entrepreneurial than a workaholic.  The workaholic uses his work to define him and his place in his company.  A passionate worker uses his work to better his cause and further his opportunities for future work.  The idea of being a passionate worker definitely appeals to me as a recovering workaholic.  I’m never going to give up working hard and striving to be the best, but the entrepreneurial spirit of the passionate worker seems to be where I need to be.

Are you a workaholic or passionate worker?  I’m going out on a limb here, but after reading most of the bloggers in the personal finance arena I’d say you are a passionate worker.  Making the change isn’t hard, it’s just about realizing you control the choice.  In today’s world of downsizing and layoffs, you really do control your own destiny.  Good luck to all the passionate workers.  Keep up the GREAT work.


There is an excellent post by Anne Zelenka,5 boundary setting tip for the work obsessed.

“If you are so passionate about your work that you border on obsessed, you might find it near impossible to turn work off.

This is especially so in the web age, when you can stay connected no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing. What do you do when suggestions like “work only during certain hours” and “don’t check email on evenings and weekends” just don’t seem to be enough?

Here are five more powerful tricks for keeping work in its place…”

More from Workaholic Anonymous:

Characteristics of Workaholics
The Twelve Steps of Workaholics Anonymous
W.A. Tools of Recovery


Vinny Financio October 9, 2009 at

Great post Jeff!
I like to think I’m a passionate worker but now I’m starting to think I may be a Passionate-Workaholic!

Financial Samurai October 17, 2009 at

Jeff – Absolutely FANTASTIC post!!

I can’t believe you work 70-80 hours a week for that long. That’s incredible. I did it for the first year out of undergrad when I was in New York city, but i paired that down. Now, maybe I work 50-55 hours a week, which I think is quite manageable.

Which city in China did you work at? How was the food? I studied abroad in Beijing for 6 months back in 1997 and had a blast. The squat toilets were a pain though.

I’m very passionate about my site, that it could be borderline workaholic. Like you, i’ve got no advertisement, and I’m writing for the pure enjoyment of it. Sure, maybe I can make $12-24,000/yr from my site, but I want to just focus on the content and user base first.

Besides, there’s not that many things I endorse. That said, I signed my first 3 month campaign starting this Nov 1st. Whoo hoo!


Jeffrey Kosola October 18, 2009 at

Thank you Financial Samurai,

China was an interesting place to live. It was the first time in my life that I was a minority, very eye opening. The food was great. My favorites were BBQ river fish and Hot Pot. I even tried snake, cat, dog, camel, water buffalo and many more. The city I lived in was Liuzhou in the the Guangxi province need Hong Kong. The squaty potty were really interesting, I sure don’t miss those 🙂 Putting tp in the toliet is a much better way to go.

Yeah, I work alot. I’m still working over 80 hours a week with my pizza delivery job. The craziest time for me was a 2 year period that I worked 80 plus hours, took a full load in College, and courted my wife at the same time. That was nuts. I think that’s when my gray hair started to come in.

I enjoy the passion you have with your site. For those who haven’t been there yet it’s Financial Samurai Check it out, you’ll love it. Not being in the finance field its great to see Financial Samurai’s take on it.

Keep up the GREAT work Samurai, I’ll see you around Twitter world soon.


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