Redlining – Burnout Perspective Take 1

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One of the beliefs that I came to be self-aware of was this: I was associating suffering with success. I had in my mind this connection, which started in the healthy way – like you work more you get more.

It started that way as an athlete, I believe, because work is associated with suffering, and pain (the right kind; think building muscle) is a good thing. But where I ended up was the belief that the more I suffered the more successful I’d be – and this was outside the gym. If I sacrifice more, give up more,  I’ll win.

That belief came to such a powerful halt was because I sat down and really looked at it objectively: if that is my belief system the only thing I’m chasing then is suffering and I’ll never be happy because suffering and happiness are opposite.

We’re in a culture that’s almost narcissistic when it comes to work – “be an entrepreneur and I don’t give a fuck about anybody else, and just get your money.”

I think conversely we’re also getting messaging like: “Give up everything – don’t  eat, don’t breathe – just work and work.”

A friend on the other end of the phone says, “I feel like I have been red lining I think for the past four years and I’m at the point now where am I stuck. And I’m thinking, ‘I’m red lining but I can’t ever possibly get what I want if I’m working this hard and often and require a serious break just to make sure I don’t die.’” This conversation turned out to be just the message we both needed.

Redlining in the sense of working so hard you’re sacrificing everything else, i.e; burnout.

So for any of out there not sure what will take you to the next level, let’s talk about how my approach has changed, and what results have been.

What I’ve moved towards is this place where I come first. A little self love, a little happiness, a little reverse priority.

I don’t set appointments before 10 am. (Unless, there’s like a really urgent need.) I also avoid email as best as possible during this time. Before 10 am is for me and it’s for work in the most productive and creative part of my energy.  By productive, it doesn’t have to be work. It could mean going for a run, or anything that’s highly productive: Planning, thinking, creating, mapping, setting goals, eating, etc. Those could be more productive than meetings and pulls and emails.

 

We associate working with more production, which is simply not true.

So, I think what we’re after what we’re chasing in in this concept of red lining is super high production and if we’re aiming for super high production, then we must realize that the amount of time we put in is pretty much irrelevant. Production is not a function of time.

Example: Working on a project could take you 10 hours, or 10 minutes. If you complete the project with the same level of quality in both cases, which is more production?

You can have a really really productive day in five minutes and you can have a really unproductive day in twenty-four hours.

I think by setting some boundaries and installing some limits and putting yourself  in a position where what you’re consistently asking yourself “Is this high production?” and if you’re not in a high production mode – STOP talking, STOP working and find some joy.

For a long time, I would get home at like 9pm after some coaching. I would answer emails for an hour, then crash. But now, I’ve realized I’ll do a better job if nine o’clock, I know I’m tired, and I realize they won’t read them until tomorrow. So I sleep, get up at my 530, and plan out my day, and email them at 10am, when they’ll read it. Sleep is my highest and best use at that moment. Sure, there are exceptions, too. I’m not suggesting this is a rigid system at all. It’s one I’ve adapted and iterated over more than a year.

But this redefinition is important. It forces us to reanalyze the relationship that we have if ‘doing work’ is the objective. The objective of a business is to build happiness (search that quote) and, in my opinion, to serve others.

The messaging we get is opposite this. The hard part is in taking all of these fucked up messages that are just bombarding us consistently with: “If you’re not working, you’re going backwards” and that’s just not true. I am constantly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘working.’ That also means that sometimes I have to redefine what qualifies as work.

 

The efficiency and productivity that you need might be best strengthened or added to by stopping working and going for a walk.

As a creative, I really tend to lean into my creative as often as I can, and truthfully I can’t do that and go, go, go without breaks that lead to inspiration that lead to better quality creation. I have to spend almost as much time reflecting as I am painting for my painting to have any emotion in it.

I don’t know a whole lot about every industry, but let’s talk real estate as an example. I think I understand at least one simple principle:  If you want to sell one $3,000,000 house you make more money than if you sold four $100,000 houses. Spending your productive time focused on one success then rather than for mediocre performance, and you’ll make more. Commission based on sales doesn’t have to mean volume, it can mean quality.

Secondarily, our culture of comparative, comparatives as a means of happiness, seems to undermine most of our positive emotions. Worrying about everyone else ain’t going to make you happy, it will just make you suffer.

If you hang out with old people or anybody over the age of like sixty that’s been successful you’ll get a very different sense of this concept of work.

They’re going to have wildly different ideas of this relationship that we have with work. They’ll say things that challenge your perspective. Often we’re desperate to  get the things that make us feel better with money that we don’t have. So, we work on things we don’t like, and then have to keep working to maintain them.

This cycle spirals when all we wanted the whole time was to do things that we love and the things we want only cover that up frustration of NOT doing what we love. Things mask that anger frustration and pain and we end up chasing and burning the candle at both ends to get something that didn’t require money in the first place. If you do things that make you happy every day more than likely the money going to come because you’re doing what you love.

Happy people are typically successful people – not the other way around. Successful people are not always happy.

 

Some marathon runners run because they enjoy it. Some because they think it will prove something, or win them something – like attention or love. Who do you think generally becomes more successful?

 

We often think that it’s the big things that will make us happy: it’s the big house, it’s the big wedding ring, it’s the big cards, cool clothes, and flash cars. But if you’re trying to figure out why you’re redlining, and why you’re not feeling productive, consider that you’ve been sold an image of happiness, not a feeling of happiness.

Chasing something that you don’t want, with energy you don’t have, especially when you don’t even enjoy the chase. I am of the opinion that if you are aligned with why you want something, the chase has meaning and therefore production, redlining and other elements of the chase much more naturally work for you.

If you need millions, why?

I’m not suggesting millions is bad. Get yours. But why? Do you want to just be flashy? That chase will be tough until you get really clear on why.

This happiness element relates to production in a major way.

I’ll tie this together quickly and neatly.

 

Redlining, burnout, isn’t real when you’re happy, and if you know why you are moving a specific direction (clear on why you want a specific end result, rather than why you’ve been told you should want it) and understand what will move you towards that, you will quickly find that ‘more time is not the same as ‘more work.’ In fact, doing more work may mean working less, because you’ll attack the work in spurts and with lots of energy.

So for any of you out there approaching burnout, shed your need for ‘work more’ and focus on produce more, and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier you.

3 comments

  1. Maria says:

    Aaron,
    I can certainly relate to this as I feel like I have lived most of my adult life feeling completely exhausted and tired all the time from running a hundred miles an hour on a… treadmill. While I don’t particularly subscribe to the belief that material things and status bring us happiness, I have lived and operated from a lens of scarcity. At an early age, money has always been significant to me. Not necessarily to buy things but just to have and accumulate it because no one ever had it in my family. It became something sought after and thus the scarcity mindset. I’ve also had very traumatic experiences with money and credit at a young age and so all of this set the stage for this seemingly never-ending cycle of hustle hustle hustle & work work work all the time to make more money. All I knew was that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes others around me have made and that living with a debt-free life and being financially free was what I wanted (because that’s what no one else had). I wanted money to stop being so important. I was tired of it taking centerstage and influencing everything I did.

    Sometimes burnout is insidious to the point where we (I) don’t even know it’s happening. It’s like being sleep deprived so long (years) that you no longer know you’re sleep deprived because the way you operate (probably at 40% capacity) has become the new normal and you no longer know what it feels like to be operating at 100%. It’s only with some serious desperate intervention that you could finally get 8+ hrs of sleep or more for weeks straight that you might start feeling more energized and closer to operating at 100% that you can actually gain some perspective and compare your current and previous states. Perspective is very important imo. I think burnout behaves similarly in the way that it affects us and distorts our reality and perception of how we really are…how we’re being, thinking, doing and living.

    I appreciate this post and I am starting to really understand that you can still move forward and not necessarily be “working”. I definitely try to optimize and make the best use of my time. Quality over quantity but I still struggle with prioritizing and deciding exactly WHICH tasks are worth my time over others. But what is Quality without meaning or purpose? I guess Quality is relative and I need more specific parameters to determine exactly what makes something “Quality”. is it happiness? Is it serving someone else? In the end, I feel like I’m producing and being efficient and optimized but still end up feeling empty and tired.

    And totally on point about not sacrificing sleep just to get a task done like sending an email someone probably won’t read til later anyway. For me, it becomes more about habits (being efficient and not expending extra energy making a new decision) versus what might actually make more sense or be most practical in the moment. That or just feeling like I am trying to squeeze more out of my day by completing the task now versus putting it off for a few hours. I feel like there’s enough that I “carry over” from previous days, weeks, weekends, that I’m just always putting out fires and yah I know that’s no way to live. Gotta just work on preventing them in the first place…

    Lots to think about and reflect on for sure. Thank you so much for this post!

    • aaronvelky
      aaronvelky says:

      Maria, I’m sure many of us can relate to you. We often get so caught up in this culture of “work more” without considering what that even means. I love that you’ve seen not just your own potential, but your areas that need improvement, as they are often hidden beneath our ego.

      Even more, to consider how you can optimize your own situation requires a certain elemental aptitude, and you seem to have a great lock on it. I would encourage you to look at your productivity, all of your movement and leisure, and find what makes you most happy. As someone that has challenged that idea for years now, I’m excited that you’ve take a few steps in the right direction. Please email me if you have questions, as I’m happy to help and guide as much as possible!

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