I’ve been thinking… friends are kind of a magical affair.

Someone who is always curious about what you have to say… turning turning and turning towards you (perhaps they are just as curious about the topics, depth and the way you think).

You call them up, when you are in need (and they do the same). They got your back and you got theirs.

Things that feel embarrassed to share, but you share anyways. Someone that you can be messy with.

They care about you… in a way that you want to be cared for.

Sometimes, in my busy world, I wonder who am I this person for?

Simon Sinek has done really cool work. But it’s been misused by cooperation all around the world.

A car dealership might buy Start with Why and declare “Our purpose is to allow people to flourish by giving them modes of transportation.”

No, it’s not. Your purpose is to make a profit going to work. Because if the dealership didn’t open, people would still have cars. (And that’s fine.)

Purpose shouldn’t be a clever excuse for justifying the thing you’re going to do anyway.

Purpose is emotional and fundamental.

A incongruent purpose weakens the foundation of trust and begins a downward spiral.

[From the excellent interview of Seth Godin and Michelle Florendo]

Of course, if you invested in real estate, Amazon or the Turnips way back then, you’ll be making bank.

The Crypto market is at an all-time low now, as of Jun 22. Would you invest?

Well, what about the risk, capital and insight required.

When we factor all that in, I’m not sure if it’s really a shortcut.

When we reach a huge goal, we celebrate and pocket the trophy. The goal becomes a relic.

Onward, to the next level. Until it isn’t so clear anymore.

When we went to the moon, won the Olympics, or sold our company.

The next day, the big high comes with a big low. The lack of direction from the goal.

As we chase the pleasure, we reward ourselves with holidays, new toys and margaritas. Yet, the level of pleasure falls short. The hedonic treadmill sets in and the problem begins.

Adding to confusion and disability to get the same intensity of pleasure, the empty space brings up issues that we’ve been suppressing, as we chase the big goal.

Is it to ride the discomfort that comes from the lack of goals and reset? To re-think the purpose of life? To design a life and an identity you’re proud of? To heal our traumas? Solve another big problem?

The paradox of choice is real.

I imagine being addicted to easy short-term dopamine, losing motivation, and getting stuck to the couch is a downward spiral. The pleasure from sugar, alcohol, video games, social media drugs, screens, books, podcasts, TED talks and porn.

An exploration of the issues at play. No real answers.

[Thank you Alvin for turning me on to Andrew Huberman on Dopamine.]

“I always thought burnout happened when you work too much. Now I get it. It’s investing emotionally and then not getting a return on that investment.” — @spamaps

"If you're expecting a reward and you don't get it, dopamine levels fall steeply." (via Psychology Today)

My burnout was not from physical tiredness. It’s caring and investing and hoping for things and not getting that. Over and over again.

I slept a lot. I stopped writing. I stop making the podcast. I stop learning. And it didn’t help one bit.

I went through many diagnoses. I thought it was grief. I thought it was languishing. I thought I’m working on the wrong project.

Burnout” isn’t some make-yourself-feel-better-because-you’re-unmotivated sort of term, meant to give you comfort when you’re stuck in a rut or feeling down, stressed and unmotivated for weeks on end."  @teaNreflection

Symptoms

  • Irritable from perfectly reasonable request
  • Disengaged with everything (meaninglessness)
  • Unmotivated
  • Despite exercising, meditation (10mins) and 8h of sleep, I did not feel better

I have tried living alone, psychedelic retreat and alternative therapy (focusing). My obsessive nature compounded the number of possible diagnoses and solutions. Adding to this, I didn’t have the vocabulary to name my symptoms. I am functional on the outside and easily irritated.

My sense of self, my preference and my opinion are gone. I’m like a dead log floating downstream. I feel disengaged with everything. The things that brought me joy, don’t anymore. Food, music, podcast and learning.

I rest well. And since I don’t have a sleeping problem, I sleep a lot. 12 hours a day, lazing around, naps. I keep work to a minimum. I wake up for small meals. I keep up a walking and yoga routine. I meet my parents and friends. The rest of the time, I slept.

I really wish I can get back to my usual vibrant self. But I can’t. I don’t know why and how. Not knowing if and how to get better is the scariest part. I imagine it’s the same for depression, grief or other chronic illness.

For the first time in my life, I don’t know how to dig myself out of the hole. And I look perfectly fine and privileged on the outside. Traveling, running a successful lifestyle business.

I hope writing out this experience will give an expanded perspective of burnout and how you could help yourself too.

Possible causes

  • Unsustainable pace (of coaching + podcast + traveling)
  • Grandma passing
  • Leading extended family through the inheritance dividing process

What really helped

  • Freeing of responsibilities
  • Closing animation studio for the year
  • Being cared for by my friend
  • Allowing myself to be cared for
  • Being with a friend who is highly present and caring (and is not disturbed about my disability)l
  • Giving myself 3 months off to travel

What didn’t helped

  • Hanging out with friends (it didn’t worsen either)
  • Psychedelic retreat (it did confirm there was no grief in the body)
  • Hustling to find what’s next and things to do.
  • Goal-based coaching
  • https://conscious.is/blogs/a-different-take-on-burnout (believing that burnout is optional, preventable)
  • Salsa class
  • Personality test
  • Finding out the zone of genius
  • NLP session, breathwork

What I did well

  • See it as a common and natural illness (and did not blame myself)
  • Seeing it as learning opportunity (for future reoccurrence and others)
  • Journaling
  • Did not start smoking and drinking
  • Meditate daily
  • Exercise daily
  • Slowly down my work.

What might help but didn’t try

  • Vipassana
  • Therapy (to get a proper diagnosis)
  • Realigning with the purpose of work projects
  • Massage (with friends)
  • More connection with friends (lifeboat)
  • Volunteer and help someone
  • Dance classes
  • Group board game

Further steps

  • Re-connecting with purposeful and exciting work projects
  • Cultivate relationship lifeboats
  • Finding activities of group fun
  • Improve my resources to be a lifeboat for my friends
  • Start a relationship with a therapist (so it’s easier to do so when needed)

Further questions

  • What’s the right mix of surrender/listening vs taking action
  • When should I emerge from the break?
  • If I can’t travel, what else?
  • What’s the right mix of sleep vs getting out?
  • Could chronic dopamine fall (research paper) be the scientific reason for burnout?
  • What’s the difference/relationship between procrastination, burnout, boredom, existential angst, depression, and languishing? And if different, what other things might help?

Years ago, I wrote to Seth Godin.

He wrote back:

“it’s tragic
and I wish I knew a way forward, but I don’t
so much pain in the world”

It’s true, for those who care, sometimes there really isn’t a way forward.

It’s discomforting, painful and pure suck.

And if we are not careful, compounding social media, you will beat you down to the knees. The day, gone.

Day after day, it repeats, and a downward cycle in motion. Your agency, gone.

An alternative is a practice. It’s not the insulation from bad news. A practice that prioritise contribution, a win for the day.

Help one person. Write one article. Send a “thank you” note.

It’s not perfect but it’s better than wasting the day.

There are times in life when activities that were exciting, are now a repeated task on the to-do list.

I don’t mean dental, exercising, or housework. Not all activities are joyful. I mean those which are supposed to be joyful.

One of the insights from a recent retreat, is that my desire to be optimal (and helpful) has made me forget about joy.

I don’t know my favourite food, music and what’s fun.

I started publishing weekly because of Seth Godin. It was joyful to share. But now, I publish to keep up with the momentum.

Maybe Seth finds joy in teaching and writing. Perhaps, not for me right now.

The reason for writing was for me to learn, to share, and most importantly, to feel joyful.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unbearable. It’s simply not joyful now.

Perhaps, like Seth, who announces this book will be the “last book”, then another one comes along. He knows that the next book will be an act of contribution and joy, not because he needs to write another book.

So, this blog and newsletter will be on pause. I’m going on a sabbatical.

And if you see a new article here, know that it’ll be an act of joy.

That irritating, pesky voice is not you.

To observe something, it requires distance. A vantage point.

An astronaut observes the earth only when she away from it.

Yes, you can see your eyes with a mirror. Don’t get tricked. That’s a reflection of the image of your eye. It’s not your eyes.

Recognising that those thoughts are not you. They are conditioned by your upbringing, society and experiences.

That’s the beginning of the journey of better thoughts.

In relationships, we work as a team for collective happiness.

A trap that we fall into is to withhold information because we don’t want to hurt the other person. Deep down, we do that to avoid the pain of confronting and making change.

When we start withholding, it leads to withdrawal from the relationship. We start to project and assume what others think.

Revealing is risky. We risk not being understood, an angry interaction and uncertainty.

It’s risking for the sake of closeness, better teamwork and our long-term happiness.

Revealing is a skill. Listening is a skill.

A book is a good place to start. Practice, commitment and recommitment get you there.

Here’s a collection of thoughts regarding the ‘definition of leadership’ that resonated.

I will add more as I find them.

“A leader is somebody who is taking radical responsibility for the influence they are having in the world. Don’t blame people, circumstance and experience.” — Jim Dethmer

A leader point to a destination. A new opportunity, a new way of doing things better.

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