“You can never fully convince someone he is wrong, only reality can” - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The iconoclast authors words ring eerily true for most of us, who never seem to realise our own mortality in the face of an ever increasing amount of stress and workload.
Despite light warnings and hints from (some) of my own investors regarding my pace and lack of recovery, I simply frowned and replied that I could take the heat. In my mind, only losers burnt out.
I kept flying towards the sun with the confidence of Icarus, fully convinced of my own invincibility. Until I was not.
Hemingway’s quote of how to end up in bankruptcy rang familiar. My personal demise had occurred “gradually, then suddenly.”
When burnout strikes, the warning signs can be subtle. For my part it was higher blood pressure and sleeping problems. The day it finally hit me, changed my life forever.
Since that fateful day in May 2017 when I experienced severe pain in my lower abdomen and back combined with a crippling anxiety I have left my company and spent almost 1,5 years in recovery. The total time in pain and anxiety has been around 2,5 years.
Is it possible to take pre-emptive measures?
As stated quite bleakly in the beginning of this article it is difficult, mostly because of many founders’ strong belief in their own invincibility. For most, reality will wake them up.
However, I strongly believe that it is not necessary to repress feelings of passion and drive in order to stay away from burnout, but rather build “cushioning” around everyday life. Even small things will aggregate to great benefits over time.
So what are the things one can do to build a robust defence to stress and passionate drive?
1. Meditation - a practice of meditation has so many benefits it is almost incredible this is not recommended to all founders. It is one of the most powerful stress reducers while at the same time bringing much clarity to thinking. Stay in bed every morning for a 5-20 min meditation before doing anything else. Give your body a pleasant wake up.
2. Do not bring your mobile to your bedroom - the mobile phone is one of the worst things that has entered our lives in terms of sleep, if not the worst. The stress of notifications, mail and blue light is a great destroyer of restorative sleep. Leave your mobile outside and never let it in. If you are concerned with waking up, buy a regular alarm clock.
3. Focus on good sleep. According to Matthew Walker (author of the brilliant book Why we sleep, get it now) sleep is so powerful it is actually remarkable how living organisms ever woke up. It is the greatest superpower we humans can have. It’s effects on health are just ridiculous.
So, if you want to head straight to a burnout, please avoid the tips above, otherwise, take care of yourself. This will leave your investors, clients, wife, girlfriend, dog, cat and above all yourself, much much much happier.
Tomi Kaukinen - Keynote speaker, serial entrepreneur, burnout survivor - Licence to Fail (www.licenceto.fail)