“Having spent five years in the business, from a kitchen table upwards, and experienced the roller coaster that any founder goes on, I eventually worked myself into a place of such exhaustion and pain, both physical but mainly mental, that I burnt out. I stopped functioning. I had to take four to six months completely away from the business. In doing so, and then through the painful process or trying to make sense of the experience and put myself back to work.” — Rob Symington, Reboot Podcast Episode #52- Feast On Your Life
Most entrepreneurs will easily relate to Rob’s description of burnout. It’s no surprise — the entrepreneurial journey is a roller coaster of fast moving highs and lows, promise and collapse. It can take its toll on the most resilient amongst us.
As we pulled together the most recent episode of the Reboot podcast, our discussion turned to some of the books which have helped us to navigate our own burnout experiences. You’ll likely recognize these titles from reference in other episodes, talks, or through work with one of our coaches — with good reason. These are some of our most beloved sources of inspiration and solace, both for us and for our clients.
We’ve selected one particularly salient quote from each book to share — we hope one, or all, will connect with you. Five books we recommend you read when you’re burnt out:
Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte
“Work is where we can make ourselves; work is where we can break ourselves. It is a making and an unmaking that can ultimately never be measured by money alone. In work we can indeed, and in a moment, build or ruin our fiscal fortunes, or we can slowly and imperceptibly, over long years, destroy the inner complexion of our character. Sometimes to our despair, we know instinctively that work is never done. At its worst we are Sisyphus, pushing the boulder over the last incline only to see it fall back and away, our of grasp, to the very bottom of the slope, to be pushed back up with the same despairing effort the following Monday morning.”
Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
“Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression. In that deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed. My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul.”
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Transitions by William Bridges
“We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed.”
Entering the Healing Ground: Grief, Ritual and the Soul of the World by Francis Weller.
“Grief is subversive, undermining the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and sanctioned behaviors of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with life-force…. It is not a state of deadness or emotional flatness. Grief is alive, wild, untamed and cannot be domesticated. It resists the demands to remain passive and still. We move in jangled, unsettled, and riotous ways when grief takes hold of us. It is truly an emotion that rises from the soul.”
Is there a book that you found helpful to you when you experienced burnout? Please share it in the comments below.
Some other posts in the Reboot Leadership & Resiliency Digest about burn out: