What Does Career Burnout Feel Like? A Retrospective

This post was originally published on a now-defunct blog. My hope is that it helps those of you who may be suffering from burnout or who just want to make a change.

It has been a tough few years. Divorce, depression, learning to be single again and rebuilding myself. Learning to love me again is a hard road to walk down.

During all of this, one thing has not suffered – until now. Whilst in the midst of juggling property and divorce lawyers, of wondering how badly my daughter would be affected by her mother leaving, of dating and wild parties; I have always worked hard at my job.

Professionalism is the hallmark of my success in the investment banking technology arena. It is intrinsically linked to my reputation in this industry and is built on hard work. And my hard work has always been derived from a deep passion and interest in the technology that I was responsible for. That was until the beginning of 2017.

The end of last year was tough: 1 am releases, weekend working and long office hours. But, I thrive under that kind of pressure and welcome it. At the turn of the year, I started to feel something new – disinterest. My manager – with whom I have a great relationship – stated his intention to leave and I thought about following suit.

I put my growing disinterest in my job down to me having been in the role for a few years and mastering my domain to the point that there was nothing left to learn. Little did I know that this was not to be the reason.

After scouring the internal company job site, I eventually applied for – and accepted – a role within the Digitial Initiative of the bank. A challenging step up the corporate ladder, or so I thought. To cut a long story short, my disinterest is now a glowing ember in the gasbag that is my career. And it is a result of burn out. At nearly forty years old, I have burnt out. The toll that my mind and spirit has paid in recent times has left me needing a break to re-evaluate my life and reignite my motivation.

The voice inside of me used to whisper the sweet notes of change but now, like an F1 car on the home straight, it is screaming those same notes and I cannot deny it any longer.

You see, I am part of a  social class that remembers the advent of the internet, that grew up watching dad wake up at 6 am to work as a mental health nurse in order to pay the mortgage. The mortgage and bills were the twin monoliths that immigrant parents worshipped through (mainly) working class jobs, back in the day. There was no concept of career “choice” for them. It was: find a job, stay in said job and pay the bills. Put the kids through school. This is the mentality that I adopted, which is why many of my dreams of extended travel to far off lands were curtailed due to the duty that I felt had to The Job and my folks.

But we live in a different time now. The internet has given us choice. The whole concept of “work” is changing rapidly from nomadic working to ultra-flexible office hours. People are starting businesses, taking professional courses and helping others from beaches, jungles, mountains and swimming pools the world over. Okay, it is not as idyllic as that, but you get my point.

What does all of this mean for me? Well, for the first time in my life, my relentless pursuit of a career is going to be put on the back burner for a while. I intend to take a break and explore starting my own business(es), studying and living. The voice inside of me used to whisper the sweet notes of change but now, like an F1 car on the home straight, it is screaming those same notes and I cannot deny it any longer.

Getting what YOU Want out of Life

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe.

I am struggling. I am struggling with the weight of expectations; those self-imposed and those thrust upon me by society in my formative years and now, by the whispers of social media. We are all told to “do more”, “be more”, “have more”, “love more” etc. The interweb seeks to unlock our true “potential” so that it can, ironically, deliver us the best, greatest version of ourselves, to ourselves. Our own personal Nirvana.

What is the truth, though? Where do we fit in, those of us that are not uber-connected millennials? Those of us who are children of hard-working parents, whose only notion of achieving their “potential” was to bring home the bacon each month? What does the notion of “potential” mean to me, an almost-forty-something single dad?  And, importantly, what can I do to achieve my potential now?

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What Failure Taught Me

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” — Nelson Mandela.

Failure has defined my life. Since that day back in August 1996 when I experienced the first major failure of my academic life, I have been sensitive to failure and, crucially, always tried to learn from my mistakes.

I can remember the day like it was yesterday. My schoolmates and I arrived at school to collect our A-level results. We clambered over one another like wildebeest at the watering hole, around the teachers giving out our result envelopes.

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Finding Your Authentic Self

On the flight into Singapore, I finished a wonderful book called The Introverted Entrepreneur by Beth Buelow. Now, I don’t consider myself as total introvert, although my personality is skewed in that direction (I’m probably 60/40 introverted).

Why does this book resonate with me so? This year has been one of opening myself to entrepreneurship opportunities, co-founding three businesses and watching them hiccup and become stillborn in the process.

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