Why Work Hard|Play Hard Gets You NOWHERE In Life

How the Latter Dilutes the Effectiveness of the Former.

Photo by Bahman Adlou on Unsplash

“Devote yourself to one idea instead of running all directions and reaching nowhere.”
Dr Prem Jagyasi

It’s 4:30 am and the sun still has about 90 minutes before it’s supposed to poke its head out of the eastern horizon. I stumble into my apartment, amazed that I actually made it home and pretty happy at the night I just had.

A night that began with a quick meeting with Jay for a drink at TGIF at 7:30 pm turned into me swinging my shirt around my head listening to Petey Pablo 6 hours later at Black Ties Night Club.

As I opened my computer, I typed in my password and looked at the blank email “new message” block thinking what I was going to say. I typed in the words slowly, making sure not to misspell anything or sound as slurred as my head was at the moment.

I’m going to take a half-day for the first half of the day and will log in after my lunch at noon to work for the second half.

I reread it right fast and felt good that it seemed like the writing of someone who was of sound mind and wasn’t anywhere near as inebriated as I currently felt. I sent it to my direct manager at the time and cc’d my Director (his boss) on it as well.

I closed the laptop, laid down, and closed my eyes, praying that my manager would be happy I let him know I wouldn’t be coming into work today ahead of time…even though it was only a three and a half hours notice.

With that unlikely thought in mind, I can’t say I was totally surprised when he called three hours later and said, “What the f*ck are you doing?”

This is just one example of the numerous terrible decisions I’ve made because of alcohol that directly impacted my ability to be successful at work. Most of these weren’t as egregious as this, but there were many other situations in which, due to alcohol, I did not perform up to my standards as it related to work or just life in general.

Recently, I have analyzed my decisions in this area and have come to the conclusion that the negative compounding effect of these situations not only prevented me from seeing the success of which I was capable in business, but it also directly preventing me from seeing personal success as well.

It’s funny because this “work hard/play hard” slogan is what is typically celebrated and worn as a badge of honor among many in the business world, especially salespeople.

However, I would argue that it’s this very mindset that keeps so many people trudging through quicksand in life and not recognizing the two steps forward, two steps back cha-cha of life they are dancing because of it.


The fallacy of work hard/play hard isn’t in that it can’t be done in the order in which we typically say it. The work hard always comes first, as one needs to focus on the difficult task for the day and stay committed to giving it 100% effort until the day is over.

Then it’s time to “let your hair down” and hit the bars to relax a little. But remember, this says that you must play at the same intensity with which you just finished working. Therefore, you CAN’T only have one or two drinks and then go home to get ready for tomorrow.

No…no…no…that won’t do at all.

You have to enjoy a few shots before you leave one bar and then find the next spot to hit to make some new friends before finding your way home to your couch to sleep by 11 pm (maybe later if you got “lucky”), thoroughly satisfied that you indeed played “hard” enough to live up to the saying.

The problem with this scenario is that most people forget that this is a cycle, and there is, in fact, another “work hard” coming that very next morning that you’re supposed to approach with the same intensity as you did yesterday.

The reality is that this creates a tremendous challenge for you, as you try to recover your mental clarity. You fight to appear as sharp as yesterday, but you are only a percentage of your full self and ultimately present a half-hearted effort that yields half-hearted results.

This often results in you having days in which you are producing at 100 percent effort and making tremendous progress on your goals. You then couple this with a few days of hangover recovery and just “mailing it in” to get through the day, and whatever progress you made on your 100 percent effort days is reduced by the lack of progress on these days.

This creates a cycle of taking a few steps forward on some days while taking a few steps back on others. This will allow you to somewhat progress toward your goals, but it will seem like at a snail’s pace and never at the clip at which you feel like you are working.


This is one of the harshest realities of how alcohol depresses your ability to be successful. A lot of it has to do with getting burned out from working so hard and not seeing the results of your efforts.

You are pushing as hard as you can each and every day, giving it your all to get better and learn and grow. But the reality is that on the days in which you are hungover, even though you feel that you are giving it 100%, the results of your efforts are only yielding much less than that.

Due to its tremendous effects on your neurotransmitters, alcohol makes it much more difficult to think than when you’re not recovering from its effects. Alcohol greatly depresses the activity of the prefrontal cortex, therefore making it much more difficult for your synapses to connect quickly and your thought process to be optimal.

This results in you have to think twice as hard on the day following a night of drinking than you would prior but yet still not being able to produce the same quality of ideas had you not been drinking.

This directly results in difficulty in concentration, clarity of thought, and cognitive reasoning skills. With this as your reality, while you feel like you are giving 110% just to bring your A-game to the room, the reality is that, due to alcohol inhibiting effects, you are producing at a much lower clip.

And this doesn’t just completely stop on the days in which you don’t drink. Alcohol has a lasting effect and the neurological impairment to your thinking that lasts much longer than just 24 hours.

In fact, it has been proven that prolonged drinking shrinks your brain volume over time, making it much more difficult to connect ideas at a high level, even on the days afterward in which you don’t drink.


Probably the number one inhibitor of your success and what keeps you on the treadmill to nowhere is the tremendous amount of time that is wasted when you choose to spend endless amounts of time “playing hard” with drinking.

The thing about alcohol is that it can make just about ANYTHING seem fun. What this means is that you could spend countless hours doing the exact same thing over and over again because alcohol has convinced you that it excites you.

The endorphin and serotonin spike your brain receives excites your mind to highly enjoy the activity you’re doing, often regardless of what it is. These are hours that you could instead have used to invest in yourself to improve at your current business skillset or learn a new skill or hobby.

If you add up all the time you spend in Ubers or cars getting to and from alcohol-related activities, along with the time it took to pregame, postgame, and then next day recover from said activity, and you could easily have an extra 20–30 hours per week of time that you could add to your success development investment.

Multiply that by four weeks per month and 12 months per year, and you have anywhere from 960 to 1440 hours that you could instead be investing in improving your skill set to excel at work. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the effect of the compounding growth on those hours to potentially change your entire world if you commit to it.

The possibilities of how this could change your life are endless…


  • Work hard / play hard makes it hard for you to build on the momentum of your success as you take two steps back for every two steps forward you taking when you’re recovering.
  • It also could lead to effort burnout, as you will feel like you’re giving 110% on the days after drinking but the results of your efforts are only a fraction of that.
  • Lastly, if you take all those hours that are used to live up to the slogan of “playing hard” and invest them instead in yourself and your skill set, the sky would be the limit for where you could take your career and life.

And while I admit, “Work hard / play in moderation” isn’t as catchy, I’m sure you’ll get used to it when you see the results it adds to your success.