Image credits: Jill Wellington

Burnout to Breakthrough: Reflections on a Milestone

Writing a book is a daunting task, but increasingly more accessible in this day and age. The act of getting published, however, seems to be getting only more difficult. Some estimate it to be only a .2% chance. I feel overjoyed, therefore, to share this exciting news:

I signed up with a NY publsiher to publish my latest business book with the (working) title: Burnout to Breakthrough.

Signing with a publisher is a big deal for a writer. For most of us, it is the achievement of a lifetime ambition. Perhaps even something we’ve dreamed about since childhood. I will confess, as a child, I never thought of becoming a writer. My first-ever career aspiration involved a blackboard, lift lid school desks and smiley dolls who needed me to ignite their imagination and inspire them to greatness.

Being locked up between four walls, solo, at a desk, was not part of that game. Still, somehow writing chose me and instead of becoming the teacher I always dreamed of, writing became mine. I managed not only to bring forth a second book but also to get a publisher excited about it.

Did I write out of love for writing? Are you asking me if I love getting up at 5 in the morning, spending the entire summer indoors while my friends were out enjoying the sun, snorkeling and sipping margaritas, as I battled bouts of brain dehydration, at the very edge of my mental ability where my body was screaming for movement and my knees squeaked when I finally straightened my legs?

No, I don’t.

But I love the whole thing. The creative process is an intoxicating dichotomy. One moment you feel resplendent, on fire, like the sun. You want to reach inside your heart and pull out that scorching ball of flames, squeeze it in your hand until it bursts and splashes particles of light on everybody. Other times — you want to grab the world by its collar and shake some sense into it. Pour molten lava from a volcano of compressed retaliation on their destructive contributions to our planet. In any case, deliberate creation and expression is a wondrous feeling. The orgasmic thrill of birthing new insights; the Eureka sensation when the next lightbulb-moment occurs. And then the next one…And the next.

So what did my dear teacher — Writing, teach me?

Creativity is not a chance occurrence

Creative thinking, entrepreneurial thinking, innovative thinking, or strategic thinking are imperative if you want to succeed in the modern world. All these kinds of thinking happen through flashes of insight — the lightbulb-moments. When they occur — it’s thrilling. Empowering. But they are not as serendipitous as we believe and not a chance occurrence. They are sitting there waiting for us to tap into them. There are very simple ways to recreate the conditions needed to produce this burst of insight. Once you know how it works, you can access them on demand.

There’s no such thing as “life purpose”

Bruce Lee said it best when he was asked by a martial artist to teach him martial arts. Bruce grabbed two cups and filled them with water. “The first cup,” the Kung Fu master told him, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”

Most “purpose gurus” will advise you to return to your “original self,” or look to the things you enjoyed as a child to find your purpose in life. Following that recipe would have rendered my mind full of the idea that my life’s purpose was to become a teacher. I would have then never listened to my impulse to write about all the things I see going astray on the work floor as that does not align with being a teacher (not in the straightforward sense in any case).

Practice asking: what good can come of this?

Having a bumpy upbringing has been the best school of life I never asked for. It forced me to practice the art of transmuting challenges. There was a time when I was bogged down by the negative events in my life. I often threw my hands up and asked in despair: “Why me?” Today I ask, “What good can come of this?” And that’s how my next opportunity gets born. Be it a book, a community or a project.

Do you find yourself sitting at your desk staring at your computer screen without one creative thought entering your mind? How are you cluttering your mind? What habits can you uninstall from your life for several days to make room for breakthroughs?