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Forty years ago this summer, I was on a vacation through the West — my first visit to this state, ending with a night in Colorado Springs. For a college kid from Arkansas, it was awe-inspiring.

Stopping for lunch the next day in Dodge City, Kan., I called home and my father said, "You just got a message from the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock. They want to talk to you." All I could say was, "Guess it's time for me to get the hell out of Dodge."

A few days later, I started my first "real" newspaper job, at age 19. And though the paycheck said we were working 40 hours a week, it was more like "whatever it takes."

As the years went by, especially after I moved here in 1977, the idea of eight hours a day, five days a week, became ludicrous. Anybody who tried holding to that became known as a lightweight.

But there was no self-pity. Like most people in journalism, I loved the constant challenge, the deadline pressure, the battles to break big stories.

People said, "You're a workaholic. Someday you'll hit burnout." No way, I always said. Not me.

Four decades later, I'm finally trying to pace myself. Instead of 70 to 80 hours a week, now it's more like 50 or 60. That has become my way of avoiding burnout.

Reading this week's cover story (starting here), I realize that maybe working so much wasn't so smart, after all. Especially all those six- and seven-day workweeks along the way.

For me, it's late to be realizing that. But perhaps not for you.

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