I sat down, opened the laptop and felt a wave of nausea.
I shut it immediately and headed outside to be sit by the ocean. It was a reflexive reaction. The artificial glare of the computer screen was gently soothed away by the wind and the waves.
Later that day I went back to the laptop, and the same thing happened. I felt weak and tired.
This had never happened before, yet I knew what was going on- I could feel it coming for weeks. I was burning out.
My laptop, my primary tool to build my business now repelled me. But I knew it wasn’t the laptop- that screen repulsion was a symptom.
The disease itself was the pushing and the striving.
I felt flat and lifeless and just wanted to sleep or lay curled up on the floor. From Flow-state to Low-state.
So I put down the tools
I immediately put into action a plan to immerse in nature. The next 4 days I surfed 6 hours a day and slept under the stars.
There was sunshine and waves, crystal clear turquoise ocean and leaping families of happy dolphins who were chatting away when we put our ears under water. There were rainbows in the sky and whales on the horizon leaping clear out of the water. There was silence.
There were hours spent surfing at a spot where you can not see a single man made object. In between waves and paddling I sat on my board just listening.
Just being, no distractions. Feeling the embrace of the ocean and the warmth of the sun, I healed and assessed. Surrounded by wildness, sun on my face, I allowed the lessons to be learnt.
Here they are:
1. Screens, distraction & Information-overload= burnout
We are the first generation to deal with so-called “smart phones”- beware they don’t make you a dumb person. We are also the first generation to be saturated by wifi and artificial electro magnetic fields- this has to have some effect (but that is for another discussion).
I remember being a young salesman in the finance industry in 2005 begging senior management to give me a Blackberry so that I could stay connected at all hours. Like the child who dreams of living in a house made of chocolate, I did not know what I was wishing for.
Connection gluttony, screen addiction and information-overload are going to be real problems in our society if we don’t develop maturity and discipline.
If you find yourself reaching for your phone when you wake up, checking it last thing at night, while you eat your meals, or when hanging out with friends (which is what I was doing for a few weeks)… ask yourself: “what am I addicted to?” and create a plan to heal yourself.
2. Striving too hard for success will lead to burn-out
For months I had been in a mindset of growing the business as fast as possible. All the striving, the strategising, yearning, craving, constant checking of the phone for emails or notifications.
The irony is that everything in my business life was being accomplished- I was crushing it! Yet I was still hurrying, projecting and incessantly planning- I was buying into the “ quick fix”, instant gratification trend of modern times and missing out on the joyful process of steadily creating something.
There is an obvious balance to be struck here. It is all about learning to let go and trusting in the process. In my case, the desire for rapid growth and striving for success had the tinge of fear. It was a desperate needy energy that implied a sense of insecurity. But yet, in my heart I trusted in myself and I felt a profound sense of purpose about the work I was doing.
I believe that I create my own reality and I am not short of confidence. The success of my business feels certain and unavoidable (in a non-arrogant way). So why the hell did I push like a madman?
Old habits die hard. 10 years in the corporate world had instilled in me an energy of hustling and hurrying, based on a mindset of scarcity.
“Time kills deals” was one of the mantras of an industry that trains people to push, push, and keep pushing. My addiction to control had flared up.
I’m a big believer in allowing life to unfold. I feel my role is not to push for success, but to hold space for what will be to unfold and manifest. When you understand that everything is connected on some level, you begin to see how the patterns and events in your life have an element of pre-destination.
You met the right people at the right time, or you learned the right lessons right when you needed. When we just let go a bit, drop out of the struggle and allow life to unfold, we experience wonderful things.
3. Watch out for your business overtaking your life at the expense of your relationships
My wife is amazing. She supports me through thick and thin and is infinitely understanding and compassionate. I have not made it easy on her.
The entrepreneurs challenge in life will always be striking the right balance. For those not in your business, the level of obsession you have for it probably looks crazy. We view it as a new life we are creating, almost child-like… but others just can’t see that. They see the reality: Obsession.
The first year of setting up my business threw up some relationship challenges. I had just spent 10 years working in an industry I felt repulsion towards, and it felt sh1t wearing a mask and pretending to care for most of a decade.
But now, having stepped into my power away from fear and self doubt, I was for the first time in my life able to blend my passion and purpose with my career.
The lesson I have learnt are about the importance of perspective and empathy to keep things balanced.
Also, the value of communication has been hammered home like never before. Our loved ones are not mind readers. You are moving a million miles a second, ideas flowing, plans changing- this is the way of the entrepreneur.
By doing better at keeping your family and partner in the loop, they will be able to better understand, and from that place of understanding comes support. And support feels amazing! When all is said and done, it is the relationships you nourish in life that will count more than anything.
4. When your rituals and habits slip, watch for Burn-out
Your habits and rituals serve as a barometer on your life. It is very easy for me to see when I am slipping into a state of imbalance: my daily rituals begin to slip away.
When I design my perfect day, the necessary components include meditation, movement, affirmations and visualisation, nourishing food, educating myself with books, playing outside, quality time with Maria and getting my 8 hours of sleep.
Life flows when I retain my commitment to these rituals. Rituals keep me centred, upright, stable and capable of keeping my life in perspective. The erosion of my practice is a sure sign of me leaning into the future, striving to do more, compromising on my inner peace in the outward quest for attainment or accomplishment.
When I try too hard in life, my rituals are the first thing to go. Thus, books get replaced with endless hours on the laptop, playing outside becomes sacrificed for getting more done and ticking more boxes. I even forget to eat meals when in the peak of my business driven frenzy!
There is a certain type of tiredness that has nothing to do with sleep. This tiredness comes from the constant, obsessive thinking about one thing- such as your business. What is the solution to this type of exhaustion that is a sure sign of burn-out?
STOP. Unplug. Go be with nature.
Return to your rituals. Find stillness. Create space in your life.
To be aware of the subtle fluctuations of your internal state is a skill that will serve you for life. Align this awareness with disciplined commitment to rituals and habits and a determination to honour your relationships with those special people in your life, and you are on the path to sustainable performance that will be fuelled by purpose and love.
Talking of love, there is one simple question I ask myself which never fails me in my quest to live with unrelenting and radical authenticity. This question let’s me know if I am pushing too hard or if I am allowing to unfold in trust. I’m going to turn it on you:
Are you living through Love or Fear? Are your efforts in your business/ work fuelled by Love or Fear?