Just Another Burnout Story? Part One

Story telling is an important contributor to our intellectual health. Without stories, facts & truth often do not adhere to our long-term memory and are therefore useless when needed in the future.  Stories, even fictional accounts, can serve to stimulate our minds and allow us to retain facts and ideas that will serve us down the road. Even more effective are true, personal accounts of events. With the hope of that outcome, I embark on this personal story. If you know me and have heard it before, please bear with me and read to the end because there is a key lesson I want to impart.

At the relatively young age of 26, I found myself in one of those life moments when nearly everything I knew was undergoing major change. My wife was 8-months pregnant with our first born child, I had just been promoted, we were undertaking the first relocation of my career, said relocation was moving us away from Nebraska for the first time in both our lives, and we were in the process of buying a new home in this new place. One Saturday morning, sitting in an apartment while we waited to close on our house, I was prompted to spend significant time documenting my life’s priorities & aspirations. I felt that without this documentation, life was about to take me on a ride of happenstance, and I would not be in the driver’s seat. The result of this time was a document that I came to refer to as my Life Roadmap.

On that Roadmap, my career was a priority, but it is important to note that it was third on the list. I find it to be true for most people that career is not #1 on their list of priorities in life, yet for most of us our vocational work takes more than its fair share of our waking hours. This is what I refer to as the inevitable out-of-balance condition of life. Because of this reality, we need to build healthy rhythms into our lives to ensure we place the needed focus on all our priorities. A Life Roadmap is a key tool that allows us to course correct along the journey.

Fast forward to when I was 44. I was Director of Finance for a large, global business in the company and for the past several years had been traveling extensively in support of the operations and the due diligence & integration of several acquisitions. I characterize those years as traveling about 75% of the time; my wife characterizes them as me traveling, recovering, or preparing to travel again 100% of the time. Life, to be sure, was even more out-of-balance than typical and with my children getting older it became apparent that I was not going to be an effective father from other parts of the world.

So, utilizing the tool at my disposal – and having built a regular rhythm of review, reflection, and course correction – I sought some wise counsel to determine the best path forward. Ultimately, the decision was to be up front with both my functional and operational leaders and let them know that I needed a change to ensure I was sufficiently addressing all my priorities. There were some specific things that I required, such as not relocating again (Pittsburgh was our 10th location and I had promised my 2 oldest they could graduate High School here) and not traveling more than 10% of the time for the foreseeable future. I hoped this would be a possibility within the company but recognized it could entail a step back or perhaps even away from the company. Within a few weeks, my functional leader had created a position that met a strategic need he had been trying to figure out and met my personal needs as well.

Now, even though that might seem like an okay ending, this is not the end of the story. This is not just another burnout story on the path to hoped-for success. So, please stay tuned for the next blog. . .

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