What to say to men who brag about how much they work

Oct 21, 2021

I don’t know how much you follow British politics.

But there used to be this guy advising Boris Johnson called Dominic Cummings.

Benedict Cumberbatch played him in a film about Brexit.

(Yes there is a film about Brexit).

He was also quite instrumental in getting the UK to vote to leave the EU.  

Then Boris sacked him.

Now this Dominic Cummings-person has a newsletter.

Yesterday he offered some advice about WINNING political campaigns. Apparently what you need is “hot women and beer and pizza and music in the office on Friday and Saturday night”.

You also need people prepared to work around the clock until they literally turn grey or have a heart attack.

BUT MOST OF ALL if you want to WIN you can’t be one of those “losers who whine about ‘work-life balance”, according to Cummings.

Now this is a political example. But many of you will recognise this type of HUSTLE-CULTURE from the startup world or certain branches of finance. Men bragging about how much they work and how little they sleep as if it was a badge of honour.

And I guess it is.

We have created an economy where we value WORK above REST and EXTRACTING RESOURCES above CONSERVING RESOURCES. We should definitely talk about it and what it does both to us and the planet.


Sometimes you just need a good comeback to guys who go on like this.

For a long time I tried citing different types of statistics at them.

Laura Vanderkam wrote an interesting book a few years back where she argues that people who say that they work more than 80 hours per week are almost always lying. She cites research by John Robinson, and Geoffrey Godbey.

  • People who said they worked 50-54 hours tended to exaggerate their working hours by about nine hours.

  • People who said they worked between 60 and 64 hours tended to exaggerate their work hours with 14 hours.

  • And those who said they worked more than 75 hours a week exaggerated with almost 25 hours (!)

BUT I have found that throwing these type of figures out when you are face to face with a REAL Dominic Cummings- type doesn’t quite work.  He will always say that it doesn’t apply in “his industry”.

Which is why I have developed a much better comeback which I will now give to you for free.

(You’re welcome!)

Say you meet a guy in a bar who goes on and ON about how much he works and claims that anyone who even pretends to care about work life balance is a LOSER.

You just look him in the eye and say:

-       What about ABBA?

This will normally shut him up.

-       What do you mean?

Then you say:

-       Do you know that ABBA was a bigger band in the 1990s ten years after their breakup than they were in the 1970s?

(He will normally not know this).

Then you say:

-       Why do you think this was the case?

(He will DEFINITELY not know this)

So you tell him.

-       It was because they had small children in the 1970s and didn’t want to do much touring. This freed up a lot of time for them to work on the songs and productions. Their body of work got a lot better and they were then able to package it in different ways which enabled them to stay relevant for decades. All because of WORK-LIFE BALANCE! Loser!

Then you get up from your chair and walk out. I can GUARANTEE you that Dancing Queen will come on in the background as you do this.

I don’t know how this works exactly.

But it always does.

Happy Friday!


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