When I started burning out in my late 30s, I didn’t change careers or take a sabbatical — here’s how I got back on track
In my late thirties I was living in La Jolla, California, and running a seminar business that was delivering sixteen eight-hour seminars per month in different cities in America.
On Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving, when U.S. offices were closed, I delivered seminars in Canada, where offices were open. Whenever I wasn’t in front of an audience all day long, I worked on my consulting business. My calendar was slammed. I didn’t even know what city I was in some days.
Just prior to my fortieth birthday, I started experiencing what others described as burnout. I was losing my luster: I was tired, irritable, angry, and I was becoming demanding like those divas you hear about. I didn’t like the way I was acting. I saw a nutritionist and tried meditation. People were telling me I was looking tired, that I was working too hard and that my life was out of balance. I had heard it all before, but this time I bought what everyone was telling me and I started telling myself the same.
I decided to take a hard look at my current situation to see what I had to do to get myself back to being obsessed and in love with what I was doing rather than feeling burned out. It didn’t make sense to me that I could simply be tired because I was working and traveling too much. This was the easiest job I had done in my life. I was standing up and talking to hundreds of professional salespeople about how to grow their sales! I was young, had plenty of energy, and didn’t mind working hard.
I sat down with a piece of paper and took an inventory of my life. What is my purpose in life and what am I currently doing? I asked myself. If I get back to my purpose and clarify my goals, I thought, I will get back on track.
As I wrote, it hit me, just as the truth always does, immediately and clearly. I had lost track of my bigger purpose; I was no longer obsessed with the big goals and had settled for simply being busy and having some modest financial success. None of this was in any way in line with what I knew I was capable of.
The “burnout” had started because I was no longer obsessed with fulfilling my monster purpose and continuing to build on what I was doing. The seminars had become repetitive. I was a public speaker with a rote delivery: same thing, different audience. But my purpose had never been to just travel around talking to audiences and collecting money. Yet somehow I had gone from a someone with a dream of being a serious businessman to just another speaker.
Once I realized this, I started to ask myself, What do I need to be doing to be obsessed with what I am doing again? I had been fascinated with the idea of creating a new way of selling that would change the world, not just change one industry (at this time I was speaking to just the auto industry). I also reminded myself I had always wanted to have a big real estate company.
I decided I would split up my company. I’d create a consulting company for the auto industry, expand the brand of my speaking career to serve other verticals, and step hard into my real estate business.
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As it turns out, I wasn’t burned out after all. Once I reaffirmed my purpose, I immediately felt rejuvenated and excited. I quit asking average people for advice, quit questioning myself, and went full bore toward my purpose. I refocused on my obsession with fulfilling my complete potential, not just being financially successful.
Now the challenge was to make this obsession public and acquire help to get me there. In a couple of months I had a promotional company promoting my seminars, a partner picking up the automotive sector, and a sweat equity partner to help me acquire and manage the real estate. Soon I found myself back on track and moving faster than ever.
When you are clear on your purpose, you will never burn out.
Be obsessed or be average,