Rachel Maddow Gives a Lesson in Self-Care

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“I knew that I needed to make the change for me just in terms of my health. I’ve had a lot of back trouble over the last five years, and that is something that I’ve mediated a little bit through physical therapy… But bottom line, that’s about working, you know, 10 to 12 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year for more than 12 or 13 years. I mean, … there’s a bottom line there that I knew I needed to make some kind of change.”

Rachel Maddow explained to Terry Gross on Fresh Air why she decided to give up her flagship daily evening slot on MSNBC. What Maddow revealed is a recognition that there’s more to work than working harder. It’s a welcome message for any hard charger. When is enough enough?

Gross herself, who has hosted Fresh Air since 1975, noted that the pressure of producing a show focuses attention, but there is a cost. “I hate to admit this because I know constant adrenaline is really unhealthy for a lot of reasons, but it is kind of energizing. But it can get too much like having too much coffee to drink does.”

Beware of doing it all

Again, good advice for so many of us. Energy is good; use it wisely. But, unfortunately, you can only be on some of the time. And if you are, there will be a price to pay. Sadly, some too many self-styled experts advise going for it full-tilt. Management corridors are littered with people who did just that and today live lives of quiet desperation, alienated from family and friends. And when they retire, they have no social support network.

Today, in part because of new ways of working accelerated by the pandemic, employees can have more say over their schedules. Women executives also set the tone by setting an example of how to succeed with a family, even when it means forgoing work events. This is not to say women have it easier than men; they do not. Instead, it is to acknowledge that many women executives — having overcome barriers men did not face– are bound and determined not to inflict unrealistic expectations for work on their subordinates, both women and men. 

Demanding jobs are just that demanding. When you are paid well, you are expected to produce. The challenge is to make time to determine how much longer you want to do what you are doing. You also need to ask yourself if there is not something else you’d rather be doing. Finally, recognize that just as you have earned a seat at the table, you have also made the right to step back or away.

Middle path

Maddow, for her part, was able to pare down her schedule to Mondays only and guest-hosting special coverage events. It also enables her to focus on other work, including her award-winning podcast work, notably her latest Ultra about a domestic seditious conspiracy in the Thirties aligned with the Nazi government.

Maddow was also able to do something for her colleagues. “And that is the right solution because I have the best staff working in the news. And they are absolutely phenomenal. And I want them all to keep working in news and keep working with me and keep working with me both on the time that I’m on MSNBC and on other projects. And that’s working out great so far.”

Working hard can facilitate success, certainly, but when you are at the top of your game, you need to look around and see if you want to keep playing at the same pace. Of course, some do and will, but others say I need to take a different path, one healthier for myself.

First posted on Forbes.com 1.01.2023