I learned a new word last Friday.

Mike Suto, one of our company’s trainers, left a great job a few years before coming to our company. It was a high-paying, high-profile, high prestige job that was also a high-stress job. Mike had cancer, his personal life was not where he wanted it to be, and he felt like he was living to work instead of working to live.

So he quit.

He had nothing else in mind. No other job to go to. He figured the worst that could happen was that he would lose his house, go on welfare, and go live with his sister. He wouldn’t die. He wouldn’t go to jail. He would just go live with his sister.

Later, he found a job with us that fit his schedule, fit the amount of work that he wanted to do, and fit his vision of what he wanted to do with his life.

In any case, on Friday, he and a team from the company finished a week-long seminar, and I was one of the group of people that they presented their results to. And one of the things that Mike brought up was karoshi. (Mike happens to be Japanese, and uses a lot of Japanese idioms and expressions in his conversation.)

Karoshi is “death by overwork.”

It’s something that Japan knows something about … another aquaintance of mine, Mark Kaufman, lived in Japan for years, and said it was not unusual for white-collar workers to stay in the office until 9:00 at night.

Well, we have some of that here in North America too. I’ve certainly known more than my share of it, and several of my colleaugues are going through it right now.

Let’s say this all together really slowly: we don’t live to work. We work to live.

Working really long hours is fine for short stretches when major projects that are critically important to you need to get done. But habitually working hours that are just insane is a good way to waste your life … and very likely shorten it as well.