With Burnout Comes Wisdom (If You Survive)

by Bill Brenner on November 5, 2015

I’ve devoted several posts to combatting career burnout, particularly in the information security industry. But something recently occurred to me: Burnout can be a good thing, but only if you survive.

Mood music:

The thought came to me after talking to a fellow industry veteran and work colleague. We’ve seen friends younger than us either setting themselves up for the fall or crashing to Earth after burning to a crisp.

My friend knows burnout. So do I. We’ve survived it and are better for it. You don’t often hear about how survivors of burnout become better and stronger. There’s wisdom to be had.

Personal lessons:

  • Accepting more responsibility without more pay seems OK when you’re young, but it’s not. When I was in my 20s and eager to advance my young journalism career, I didn’t think about money. I just wanted to get the job. I assumed that with good work, better pay would follow. All I did was show the bosses that they could keep throwing more weight on me and I’d take it. I nearly destroyed my health in the process.
  • Being a people pleaser is dumb. My current employers treat me well, but I’ve been in jobs where I put everything else in life aside to do more work. I wanted to be the golden boy so badly that I let precious relationships suffer along with my health. As I got older I realized the top brass didn’t put in nearly as much time as I did. I ultimately discovered two things: The best corporate leaders learn to prioritize tasks and keep their eyes on the big stuff. The worst simply ride the backs of minions who won’t say no.
  • Working 90 hours a week and loving it? I didn’t think so. Those who know the history of Apple have heard about the “90 Hours a Week and Loving It” shirts that made the rounds back in the ’80s. It was based on Steve Jobs boasting about his people working those kinds of hours. When you’re in your 20s it’s easy to fall into the trap. I certainly did. But all those extra hours left me with a whole lot of loneliness and depression.
  • Living on your knees will cripple you. As a young man, I was terrified of the punishment bosses would deliver if I ever disagreed with them. Part of the mindset was well intentioned. I knew enough complainers to know that I didn’t like them. The part I missed was that you CAN disagree. The key is to suggest alternative ideas and steer clear of empty whining that only focuses on why something is bad. Even if you don’t always hit the mark, it’s better than letting disagreements in procedure eat you alive.

Set boundaries. Put family and health first. Stand up for yourself. Spend  your time on that and you just might survive the burnout periods.

I sure hope you do.

90 Hours a Week and Loving It

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andrea November 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm

So needed a reminder to get off the treadmill for a bit. Thanks, Bill.

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