Burnout—a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress—is not simply a result of working long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out, at work or at home, or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self.Psychologytoday.com
Millennials are a generation that was told they could be anything. Astronaut, no worries. Pilot, of course. President, sure. You just had to put your mind to it. But as we all get older the truth reveals itself. We can be a lot of things, but sometimes what we want we cannot be.
Yet we strive, we work hard, we want, we do our best. But what happens when that isn’t enough? When the outcome we seek doesn’t arrive from the effort we put in? We burn out.
For a long time I considered myself to be pretty resilient mentally. I never had problems at work. I could easily crush university with no problems. So then when I was bored at work one day, I decided to create a start up. I put so much effort into that company, essentially working two jobs. One job during the day paying the bills, and the other the night hustle, building the software for this start up. And it was exciting! Seeing the software slowly coming together, working, creating value.
But then it all slowly started to become a chore. We didn’t get traction in the market like we were expecting. Companies weren’t that interested, or didn’t trust us. I was developing software, something I can do but which isn’t my love or passion. But we couldn’t afford to get someone else to do it.
Then it all became overwhelming. I started to ignore messages from the co-founder. I was ignoring deadlines. I started to resent looking at the code. And, on the eve of a potentially big opportunity, something that could make tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars, I walked away from the company. I gave my half to the cofounder and said good luck.
I watched a vlog recently that talked about burn-out. It quoted a video that said that burn-out happens when the effort we put into something doesn’t match the reward coming out the other end. And it’s true! We were slogging away at something and not much was happening, and I was stuck doing work that wasn’t my natural strength. So when this big opportunity came up for the company I had to ask myself – am I all in on this?
And I wasn’t. And that’s OK. Ultimately you only have one life that’s observable. One shot. One opportunity. Mom’s spaghetti. You know the reference. But it’s true! You have to know that sometimes despite your best wishes, something you wanted wasn’t possible. And that’s OK.
The epilogue to this story is a happy one. The cofounder continued, and we’re still friends which is a good outcome. I spent my spare time focusing on making travel videos on YouTube where there’s no expectation of success, so it’s been very freeing creatively.
And when the right idea comes along, we can start it all again!
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