Burnout Should Not Be The Price of Success

I hadn’t seen my buddy in 6 months.  As I looked across the table, I saw a once funny and outgoing guy barely able to finish his beer and just stared at the popcorn the waitress brought over.  He had bags under his darting eyes and yawned once every 2.5 minutes.

“Dude, I have never seen you like this.  What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’ve just been working non-stop.  Ever since I got promoted, I’ve added 100% to my workload for 18% more pay.  I travel 3.5 weeks out of every month.  I miss all the kid’s events.  My wife’s pissed I’m gone and I get about 4 hours of sleep a night.  There’s too many priorities right now.  I’m just burned out man.”

You see, my buddy is a project manager for a wind renewable energy company.  His previous position put him on the road about 25% of the time and he made a nice salary.  As with anyone who’s ambitious, he wanted to be more challenged.  He approached his boss, who made him an offer as well as a warning; be the global head of project delivery with both FTE and contract employees reporting to him.  He’d be on the road 100% of the time and have a lot more responsibilities.  The boss didn’t sugar-coat that it would be time consuming and tough.  Understanding the risks, he accepted.

Within three months of him taking the global role, project delivery increased and staff was reorganized so the right people were in the right positions.  More staff were added as were more projects.  Revenue is up.  Shareholders are happy.  On all fronts, he looked very successful.

But the cost of his success has been burnout.  I’m not talking about being tired and feeling that you’re overworked.  I’m talking lives off caffeine, lost a bunch of weight, family doesn’t like him right now, friends forgot his name and pasty skin from spending too much time in airports and planes burned out.

When we have a goal or idea we’re passionate about, or want a new and exciting challenge, we work hard to achieve it.  I’ve been there.  I spent hours and days working on it.  I was consumed.  But I also knew my limits and there came a point I had to say “Hold on buckeroo!”  I looked at what I was missing out on and had to prioritize what was important.  I still pursued my passion, but struck a balance with everything else.

Burnout should not be the price of success.  Sometimes you don’t recover and your health suffers.  Sometimes you lose relationships.  Sometimes it’s both.  Prioritize what’s important.

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