Reflections In Burnout Recovery
I don’t have a clear recollection of the last 3 years of my own life. What a fantastic way to start this writing exercise out – it is a bit unfortunate for me to realize this, but it is to be honest, the absolute truth.
What makes this realization even more tragic is that I have a four year old son. So do the maths and you’ll get it. Yes it is true, while I was busy burning myself out he grew from a newborn to a rambunctious boy. I’ve lost track of precious time that I’ll never be able to recover.
I intuitively knew it was all wrong, hours after giving birth to him in 2018, I was sitting in my hospital bed, logging on to fulfil client requests for ads ( I was a social media ads manager btw ). There was no way I could help myself. From 2018 until March of 2022, I was in full-on hustle mode. My typical workday was 14 hours. My normal set-point was high functioning, and high-stress. Even at times where I claimed to have it under control, pretending that I was “living in balance.”
What I have learned in the last few months going through burnout is entrepreneurship, particularly this popular new brand of show and tell entrepreneurship, where you document all your wins online ideally with the motivation to market yourself and procure more wins, is typically go to lend to some form of over working and self-abuse of one shape or another. What goes up must come down. And while yes, you can gain financial wealth, status and envy admiration in the form of likes and follows – if in the process you begin to glorify the meaning of these things you’ll always lose.
It isn’t an original thought I am sharing. Surprise right? Overworking yourself eventually leads to some negative consequences.
What I would prefer to share honestly, is the good that has come from my own personal experience in realizing this truth ( I have always been one who needs to gain applied tangible knowledge to believe something ) is what the recovery process has taught me.
Because, in 2022 , after having ANOTHER child , my daughter , born in March via an unexpected caesarean of this year I was FORCED to shut it all down and take a pause. This forced me to go through the process of grieving, self-realizing, recognizing and integrating all in the end to draw some essential conclusions that I think would be valuable to anyone who currently finds themselves in my former over-extended shoes.
So here it is, what I learned in Burnout Recovery, 3 Things:
The first is that I AM a thoroughbred entrepreneur – I have always identified myself as being an entrepreneur, I have been self employed the majority of my adult life. 11 years. Although entrepreneur is a positive thing in most instances, describing innovators, disruptors, opportunists, creatives and those who can procure money out of thin air. The negative trait of entrepreneurs, one that I definitely have, and you may relate to, is a tendency to live 10 steps in an imagined future but never in the present moment.
It is an incredible shame for us isn’t it? While there are many brilliant and beautiful moments in all that we do and the amazing things that we create our mind is often so far ahead of itself, an unbelievably good thing can be happening and we simply don’t even pause to even experience it. I am learning, in my burnout recovery, to try to be more present and enjoy my accomplishments. Ceremonial cacao has helped me greatly in this.
You Want to Employ People Who Can Help You, Not Employ People You Can Help – This is wisdom I wish someone had bestowed upon me pre-burnout. Although, I was wise enough to hire people to work for me, upgrading myself from a one person social media ads machine, to a full service agency, my inexperience at hiring and the agony of always feeling a little bit lonely, led to employing not the skilled and self sufficient workers I needed but instead people I thought would be “fun to have around.”
As much as I would hate to say anything negative about the handful of people who I hired and who did their best to assist me during this time, the reality was I never employed anyone who could REALLY help me or take the load off – hence why my burn out was so extensive. This choice I really regret, because when the client list was growing and the workload was piling up, I never sought out another person with true ability to “do my job” with me or even for me. Instead, I opted to hire people who I knew “needed to work” as it felt important to me at the time to extend my financial good fortune , rather than expand it by hiring another skilled marketing strategist and ads managers.
In the end I ended up paying people to be trained by me to help me. The work I was assigned to them was so niche and outside of their comfort zone that they required time from me that I didn’t really have. I was teaching people from scratch to do what I did and they weren’t even that enthusiastic about learning it.
Additionally, I was still lonely all the time, because the burden of “being a real boss now” meant carrying the weight of needing to keep the business growing to support these new people that I cared about. This was something I felt I needed to protect them from, so I isolated myself. I kept the business growing even though I desperately needed a break, so that I didn’t disappoint the new employees.
Fear Is A Terrible Purpose “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”, we have all heard this, but it is a crock – because even if you love what you do, you will eventually loathe it if you work too hard at it. The reason why I know this is because I was given the gift of being able to do something that I enjoyed for a living and only for a small amount of. It was that in itself fulfilling. I’d like to believe that at one point I was really proud of myself for this, but to be truthful don’t remember that. I never sat with the “accomplishment” long enough to embed the feeling. It was always, okay next thing, next thing, next thing.
That other expression “careful what you wish for” comes to mind, as I HAD wished for a long pre my burnout recovery that I would be successful in my creative business endeavours and recognized for the skill sets that I possessed.
Then, it all happened AND I was recognized, celebrated, encouraged, for a minute there I was in high demand. Somewhere along the lines though, while I was gathering momentum in business and growing, it all mutated into fear.
There is a lot more I could elaborate on this ( maybe another post altogether ) but for brevity sake here is what happened. At one point I was driven for the right reasons, prosperity and career fulfilment plus helping my clients but eventually in the midst of it all I was only driven by a fear of losing what I had built. The coveted 10K months. The downtown studio. The esteem that comes with saying to the people from my past who doubted me “just look at me now!”.
To give you the scoop on what drove me, I very much wanted to be an impressive under 30 something, and I was just 30 when I got the wind under my wings. At the time I didn’t give myself the due credit AND I thought I was a “late bloomer”. However, it was in my 20s, my era of really trying my hardest to “make the thing happen” I was my most carefree. When I did start doing incredibly well in my business was also when “I stopped having any fun doing it.” I am really sad right now writing this. At 33 my current age, I wish I could go back and console my immensely disappointed 20 year old self who thought that THIS LIFE was “the life” , they needed to aspire to. Oh dear sweet naive little baby if only you knew.
So there you have it, the3 lessons I have learned and that I think are the most valuable to share.
The moral of the story, for my reflective self anyways, is that you DO have the power to accelerate time. Any one of us can put our head down, hustle, grind and accomplish astonishing and impressive things with the right attitude and discipline. Unfortunately, we can also miss big chunks of our “real life” in the process, taking ourselves to a meaningless place where we are so pinpoint focused that we are living in only a cylinder, a straight tube from where we want to go to where we are going. No space outside. A lot of life happened around me while I was hyper fixated on achieving some explicit goals, goals that I no longer relate to nor really see as that immensely important, mind you that’s in retrospect, been there done that.
The good news is, in recovery I get to recalibrate and reconnect with myself. I get to reflect on a time that flew quickly by and TRY if I can to remember the mindset I had that kept me intensely focused. I told myself at the time I was sacrificing for the sake of something bigger and better – but when it all came to a stop, the better didn’t need to be bigger. The better was a return to the present date, with 3 years blurred. Trying to regain my footing and hope that at the very least the wisdom gained from the pain endured, would be enough to avoid getting caught up in it all a second time over.