Health first, performance second

Not very long ago I was shocked to read that the number one reason why companies die is that their CEOs get ill. That surprised me a bit, because I thought it was a lack of execution.

We often say that health is our most important asset, but we don't really mean it. When the deadline nears, such thoughts magically disappear. We work longer, sacrificing our health for productivity, without noticing it until it's too late.

Steve Jobs loved his work and everyone loved his creations. But that love had a high cost and may have even killed him. When he knew he was deadly ill, he still continued to appear publicly. Most of the time, he put performance first and health second, trying to compensate in the last moment. He didn't try to prevent his illness from the start, he tried to heal it later.

Before we see Steve Jobs as a role model and put self-sacrifice on pedestal, we should question such attitude. Even if it leads to great achievements, benefits the society and gets publicity. Self-sacrifice is against human nature and is therefore unsustainable. If we choose it, we must be ready to face the consequences.

Vineet Nayar, the proclaimed successor of the management leader Peter Drucker, said: "Employees first, customers second". But employees are inside the company, customers—outside. So he is indirectly saying that we should focus on the company's health first—taking care of the employees—before we are able to standardize the performance our customers receive.

If we put health first, we may not be the stars we hoped to be, but our light might hold longer. If we stop chasing "overnight success", "the next big thing", "awesomeness", "being first to market" and others that make us ill, we might even enjoy our work more, which then will be apparent. Aesop teaches up that a slow and steady use of energy advances more than a fast one.

Our performance can only be as high as our health allows. So we need to always be kind to the people we might not see tomorrow.