How to Avoid Burnout

I’m an addict. For 20 years I replaced one addiction with another. I can’t even describe all of them. I’m actually embarrassed. Ashamed.

I would cling to whatever addiction was making me happy at that moment. A fire sucks the oxygen out of everything in the room. When the oxygen is gone, the  fire is extinguished. Then burnout occurs. That’s addiction. It takes every form.

(illustration by Brian Ewing)

Addictions: Let’s work 100 hours a week for fame, money, for sex, health, more fame, then F-you money, then stand on our heads, then get fancy artwork, big houses, guard dogs, pit bulls that kill people, bigger bank accounts. Heck, let’s own the bank. Then let’s double down on all of the above.

Now there is a new addiction. “All I want is freedom,” a lot of people say. But freedom from what? Who is enslaving you that you can’t get away from? Then people want freedom for their kids, or their parents, or their siblings, or their kids’ kids. Or five generations of kids. Where did all these kids come from?

(some people even carve their addictions into their bodies)

But still, “it’s all for them. Everything I do.”

Then we get burnt out.

There are two ways to avoid getting burnt out. These are the only two ways I have EVER succeeded in avoiding getting burnt out.

A) Only do things you enjoy. This might seem obvious but it isn’t. I only just started doing this in the past few years after being infinitely unhappy, getting divorced, losing money, losing jobs, careers, friends, everything I was clinging to. Eating a turkey sandwich in a diner by myself on Thanksgiving Day 2008. “Fuck it.” I was done.

I used to go out every night. “You never know,” I would think. I used to go to every business meeting I was invited to. “You never know,” I would think. I used to go on TV everytime I was asked. “You never know,” I would think. Maybe someone would SEE me. And call me and offer me and give me and want me and like me and love me. Maybe they would press the LIKE button on my face.

[Note to self: invent TV sets with "LIKE" buttons so people can LIKE people they see on TV and that somehow gets transmitted back to the TV networks.]

(can we combine the LIKE button with the TV?)

99% of meetings don’t turn into money. 99% of the news is a lie (trust me. I know them). 99% of TV is about scandal, murder, and cheating. 99% of the people on the street will lick the flavor right off your lifesaver if you let them.

Everytime you say “YES” to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up, burned up, a smoke signal to the future saying, “I did it again.”

The only real fire to cultivate is the fire inside of you. Nothing external will cultivate it. The greater your internal fire is, the more people will want it. They will smoke every drug lit by your fire. They will try to ignite their own fires. They will try to light up their own dark caves. The universe will bend to you.

(the fire within never burns out - painting by Sam Verdegaal)

Every time you say “Yes” to something you don’t want, your fire starts to go away.

You will get burnt out.

B) Blah  blah “The Daily Practice” blah blah. I put it like that because I feel I am always talking about it. But I will explain it in a completely different way this time.

You are empty. I mean this literally. Our bodies are like little galaxies. Galaxies have billions of massive stars in them and yet the reality is the space between those stars is so gigantic that a galaxy is mostly empty. That’s like you. You are made up of atoms. Every piece of you. And yet the actual physical matter in an atom (protons, neutrons, electrons) take up only 1/50 of 1% of the space in that atom. The rest is empty.

(billions of stars but 99.99999% empty)

So you are empty. There’s nothing really there. The real you, the real fire, is inside this emptiness.

We spend our lives afraid of the emptiness. We want to fill it with love, with money, with pleasures, with anything that could put off the ultimate decay and dissolving into that emptiness that happens to every object in the universe. Only the emptiness does not decay.

The best way I have ever found to fill that hole is not to seek external motivations to fill the emptiness. But to ignite the internal fire that will never go out. To light up my own inner sky:

Physically: take care of the little matter I have: sleep well, eat well, exercise when I can. I want my atoms healthy. I want the emptiness inside of them to be relaxed.

Emotionally: As empty as our atoms are, our emotions are even emptier. They are really just creations of an ephemeral mind that is mostly the creation of the brainwashing we grow up with. Our “education” that we get from society, our family, our friends. So emotionally I try to be only around positive people who inspire me. This way I can learn to be positive. To be a beacon to those around me. And I try to be quiet. Instead of speaking the average 2500 words a day that most people speak, it would be nice for me to speak 1000 words a day when possible.

Mentally. Your mind desperately wants to be the BOSS. It needs you to be very VERY BUSY with BS stuff so it can do all the things its good at: obsess, worry, fear, depression, exuberance, forward thinking, backward thinking, thinking thinking THINKING until…

burnout.

So you need to tame the wild horse or it will tame you until you are a slave. Nobody wants that. So the way you tame it is in focused use of it. Set a goal: I’m going to come up with 10 ways I can have more time for myself. Or I’m going to come with 10 ways I can make my job better. Or 10 business ideas. Make sure the list you plan to do is a hard list. You need to make the mind SWEAT so that it gets tired. So tired that it’s done for the day. It can’t control you today. TIRE IT OUT! Then do it again. 10 MORE ideas.

I’ll tell you what I did today. udemy.com asked me to come up with an online course. Maybe I’ll do a course on “The Daily Practice” but I made a list of ten other courses I could maybe teach. It was hard! I didn’t even know if I knew enough about ten different topics to be able to teach them. I still don’t know. But I did the list. My mind sweated like a pig. And then you know what I instantly did afterwards?

I fell asleep.

After sleeping about ten hours the night before. Sleeping is fun. I love to sleep. It’s a Saturday. It was 1pm. I took a half hour nap. My mind was tired. Then I woke up and wrote this.

Spiritually. Everyone and everything is equally empty. When you look at anyone or anything it’s almost as if you are looking in a mirror. They have inside of them 99.999% emptiness just like you do. The one thing you can do that might be different: they might be obsessing on the past or the future. Dreaming or Hating. Worrying or Reliving. You don’t need to do that.

The past and future are empty also.

I have money worries. I have relationship fears. I have insecurity. Will they like me, hate me, love me. Will I ever go broke. Will Claudia ever leave me like so many others have. All fears from the past, all worries of the future.

All of that doesn’t exist. It’s my mind pretending they exist.

I give up. I can’t control the past or the future. They are empty, just like I am.

Done.

When you surrender and accept the beautiful stillness around you, when you give up all thoughts of the past, all worries and anxieties of the future, when you surround yourself with similar positive people, when you tame the mind, when you keep healthy, there is zero chance of burnout.

(give up. like her)

This is the ONLY way I’ve ever ignited the fire and avoided burnout. Think about the things we worry about. How, almost 100% of the time when we look back on it we realize how useless it was.

Devoting ourselves to this Daily Practice, even if it only shows the tiniest of incremental improvements in our lives. These increments build up. Today they will build up. Every moment they will build up. Every moment they will shed the extra garbage on every level that you carry with you, the garbage that weighs you down, the external garbage that eventually goes on fire, burning you OUT, on the outside.

Instead, igniting the fire on the inside, burns a light so fierce it can’t be burnt out. Instead, you will brighten the galaxy. You will add brilliance to the lives around you. You will become a beacon, a light that attracts abundance, instead of a flickering fame that is eventually smothered.

(be the internal fire)

[This is an expanded response from last week’s Twitter Q&A. The question was from Leon Benson ‏@LeonBenson2: How do you stay as productive as possible without burning out everyday while still creating great content?]

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