Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to burn out without really trying

Actually, if you've never experienced burnout, you're just not trying hard enough. But don't be discouraged, there is enough burnout to go around. If you follow my very simple recipe for burnout, I 100% promise that you too can get there. Look, with proper mentoring and some specific changes to your approach to life, you can fully and completely burn out.

Before I reveal the secret to burning out, let's define it. Burnout is the final phase of what I will call the "burn out trajectory." It goes like this: working hard leads to growing tired which leads to exhaustion which leads to work fatigue which, if sustained long enough, develops into burn out. Burn out really needs to be thought of as an injury as opposed to being tired or exhausted. With tiredness or exhaustion, the cure is rest. They are not injuries. Burn out is an injury that needs healing.

Ok, a quick review before I reveal my 10 secrets to guaranteed burnout.

Work hard > Tired > Exhaustion > Fatigue > Burn Out

Here's how to do it:

Desire to Please. Let your desire to please people, especially your boss, drive everything you do. Prioritize everyone else's happiness over your own and take responsibility for them being happy. Neglecting some important things for the sake of pleasing others is paramount. If someone else is not happy, make sure you tell yourself that it's probably your fault.

Fear of Disappointing. In order to get to burn out as fast as possible, use fear as your primary motivation. But to really get the greatest impact out of fear, do it this way: make sure that if people are disappointed, it was because you weren't good enough. In fact, gather up your entire self-esteem into a single bundle and hitch it to the emotional reactions of your boss, partner, children, or any other significant relationship - heck, tie it to an insignificant relationship. Doing so will really help you get through these phases in the burnout trajectory.  

Ambition. It is important to have high goals and do whatever you can do to meet them. Furthermore, make sure the right people know how ambitious you are. Let them know how available you are to do whatever it takes to make it happen - at any time of day. You always have time to succeed, right? Here's a winner's tip: keep your cell phone with you at all times. You never know when an opportunity might need attention right now.  

Huge Ego (get addicted to affirmation). Burn out is not for the humble. If you are humble, your chances of burn out are low and you might just want to give up on the notion. However, if you have a huge ego and you know it, then turn up the ego volume to 11. Here is a special trick, if you can pass for humble while having a huge ego, you've really got the best of both worlds. No one hates for you being Trumpian in your inflated sense of self, but you get to have it anyway. One way to really increase the capacity of your ego is to get lots and lots of affirmation. Want it. Crave it. Get addicted to it. Stealthfully manipulate it as much as you can. Make sure as much of that affirmation is public as you possibly can without looking like that is what you are doing.
Low Self-Awareness: Capacity. If you are self-aware, accomplishing burn out is going to be a problem. However, if you are not, then there is still hope for  you. Having no idea how much you can do is key to burn out. If you do not know how much you can actually do, then you'll never know when enough is enough, because, let's be honest, it is never enough. Low self-awareness will allow you to say yes when you should be saying no. Ignorance is bliss!

Low Awareness: Task Size. Just say yes without even looking into the size of the yes. This is critical. Actually knowing what you are saying yes to might lead to cold feet and second thoughts. That is the death knell for burnout. If you know the size of the yes, then you might begin to get self-aware about your own capacity and then the whole thing falls apart. Just agree to everything and burn out will come looking for you.

Avoid Communities of Discernment. Other people are a real problem. Your friends have no desire for you to burn out. Be gracious - they just don't get it. They will fight you on this. Just leave them out of the process. It is better to simply make decisions in isolation and then, only when it is too late to back out, share those decisions with your friends. You get their pity without their critique (bonus: that's backhanded affirmation).

Procrastinate the Mundane. When you take on too much, just ignore anything that is boring. You'll get to it later, promise. Focus only on exciting things that get you lots and lots of affirmation. Just tell yourself that since you can't do it all right now (ever), focusing on the important things (read: exciting) is all that matters.

Dismiss Feedback. You may have friends or colleagues who give you feedback even when you don't ask for it. Be polite, of course, but dismiss it as quickly as is socially acceptable. If you have to tell a little white lie for the cause, then do it. Whatever you are doing is more important than your integrity.

Push Through. On your way to burn out, you'll have signs and symptoms that it is coming. Sometimes these are health related or are manifest as disruptions in sleep. This is good. When this happens, push harder. Drink more caffeine if you must. Whatever it takes is worth it.

Like Winston Churchill said when giving a speech on how to burn out, "Never, never, never! Never give up!"

If you really want burn out, you can do it. Don't get discouraged. You can't burn out in a day. It requires persistence. Be patient and trust the process. You'll be in the club before you know it.

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