Burnout isn’t something I thought I’d ever write about

Sean Smith
Sep 24, 2018 · 5 min read

Life is a funny journey, isn’t it?

When I thought I was at my peek of happiness for the past year — literally about a week ago — I realized that I was actually at the tipping point of a burnout that was eating away at my productivity like a termite to wood.

I had just closed on my new house, something my wife and I have been looking forward to for over a year — owning our own home. We decided to get a lot of remodeling work done on it before moving in and I was at the house overseeing it every day. In the morning I would be answering emails from my phone and greeting the contractors that came in to work on what we were having done for the day — most likely painting or flooring. In the afternoon I would take the sales calls I could take at the new place with the small amount of cell service I had.

In between that time instead of doing the work I should have been doing, instead of looking at what I could improve in my business I was watching Twitch streams, aimlessly browsing through Reddit, Twitter, Facebook. Focusing on everything other than what would propel me forward, and help our business prosper. Luckily my business partner was the yin to my yang and was raking in deal after deal for us — but I never want to use that as a crutch.

I hadn’t really realized I was actually “burnt out” until I had some visceral reactions to content that was being shared that I would otherwise eat up. It was stuff that was vital to my clients, but I would pass it over to my employees to read and learn rather than try to master it myself as well. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this actually happened a lot over the past month or two.

I’ve always prided myself as being very in touch with my own emotions, knowing what I’m feeling and dealing with it head on, but burnout is something I never really understood — it’s a nebulous emotion that isn’t as sudden as it would seem. It’s like an addiction to inaction. It’s a catalyst to sitting still and not improving. In that, it doesn’t really hit you until hopefully you realize how little you’ve been improving — and hopefully that upsets you. It upset me, a lot. Simply put the goals we set for the year with our business aren’t being hit right now, and I for the past months acted like there was always a reason for it — but really the only reason I can find for it now is me.

Burnout isn’t this bomb that goes off, it’s a sizzling ember on a piece of coal that you leave in the fire pit over night and come out in the morning to see it black — not red hot as it was the night before — but still smoldering, still letting off steam.

I’ve always been addicted to self improvement, to moving forward, to knowing what I don’t know. It was only when I started lashing out in odd ways that I realized that something deeper must be wrong with me, something is really reaching a fever pitch that needs to be dealt with. I had a blow-up at an honestly small issue with a long time friend in the industry over a simple misunderstanding, he had to go to my business partner to let him know what had happened and it wasn’t until I heard that perspective from him that I realized how wrong I was and how much things needed to change. I had to have a call with him right then to apologize and get things sorted. From that point I realized that I had been being short with my wife, I had been getting angry and dismissive of things that weren’t as big of an issue as I had acted like they were.

I was addicted to making impulse reactions because I had un-tapped energy that I would normally filter into my work that I had to let loose, and internally I was frustrated that I wasn’t using it for what I should be using it for (for improving myself and my business) and my filter for that frustration was to release it into whatever I could. It’s a child’s act, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I never knew what burnout looked like, I just thought it was becoming disinterested with something, not making a lack of interest turn into a boon for abusive behavior. It’s toxic, I was toxic, and seeing as I just realized this about a week ago I probably still am slightly toxic.

I can put up multiple different reasons why this might be the case, I can make excuses, but all of that keeps my complacent and still — it doesn’t solve the issue, it doesn’t improve the situation.

I’m a person who is always looking for a solution to any problem in front of me, I’m a person who wants to improve and wants to move past. So this is me figuring out the problem of burnout.

My solution honestly doesn’t seem like it’s too hard, it was written out for me the moment I realized what was happening. It’s the same feeling as an alcoholic realizing they are an alcoholic — your work is cut out for you.

The first step after realizing you have been burnt out is to stop focusing on what is wrong with where you are and focus on improving to where things should be. What is needed to get you there? You need to improve, you need to not be impulsive about your decisions, you need to seek knowledge and stop acting like you’re above information. You also need to limit your exposure to things that will make you viscerally react as you have.

To be perfectly blunt the recent election has led to a lot of negative emotions for me that are hard to deal with — so limiting my exposure to what is happening politically is something that will help a lot.

  1. Limiting my exposure to social media is going to be a large cornerstone to getting back on track.
  2. Seeking knowledge proactively is going to be the second big part to getting back on track.
  3. Actively putting myself back in a learning mindset rather than delegating my learning will be a major cornerstone of getting back on track.
  4. Keeping an optimistic mindset towards things will be the next major component.
  5. Expressing my emotions, learning, and growth through writing (as I used to so often) will be the last major point to this hopeful improvement.

To anyone that has been in contact with me recently and has felt that I wasn’t what I normally was, to my employees that I’ve been letting down, to my friends who I’ve been short with, to everyone in my life — sorry and thanks for putting up with me. It’s good to see this clearly and to be on the (hopefully) other side of it now to get back to where I should be.

Treat burnout seriously, but also keep looking inward to see if you’re dealing with it in the same way I have been, because it’s not as obvious as I thought it would be. It rears it’s ugly head in a myriad of awful ways and you never want to have that affect your growth — you should always be growing and focused on learning and improving.

Here’s to burning bright rather than burning out. Thanks!

Sean Smith

Written by

Co-owner @SimpleTiger. Writing words on TNW, 99U, Moz, Copyblogger & more. Making marketing better with quality communication.

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