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Why a Vacation Won’t Fix Your Burnout
The hard truth about “taking a break”.
For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of “lifestyle design”.
I’ve been working my butt off for not only a sense of independence but also for control over the way that my day-to-day life unfolds.
For most of my life lately, I’ve been very self-centered. This is a result of being an individual athlete in an individualistic culture. I’ve had to make a lot of cut-and-dry decisions to live the way I want to live. For years, I didn’t really care much about other people’s agendas because I wanted to live the life that I wanted.
I guess maybe I was a bit of a brat, but it came down to the fact that I didn’t (and don’t) like being told what to do, so I did what I wanted to.
Want to know what happened?
I worked my butt off, made a few smart decisions, got a little lucky, and a few years later, I created something very close to a life I want and I can do pretty much whatever I want for most of the day.
It’s kind of lame.
I got pretty much everything I wanted, and it completely burned me out.
I haven’t written anything that I’m proud of in almost 6 months.
Last September, I challenged myself to publish on Quora every day for 6 months, and I did it. It went pretty well. That’s how I started writing on Quora, and Quora has changed the direction of my writing career.
My Quora answers have been viewed close to 10 million times, and this visibility has opened the door to some great writing opportunities.
However, over time, I got tired of writing on Quora every day. I got tired of answering questions every day, getting yelled at by lunatics, and feeling personally responsible if someone didn’t like my work.
I almost left Quora in April because I was so tired, but in the end, after a month or so of being inconsistent on the platform, I decided to stick around. The pursuit of the “Top Writer” tag, along with some other great writers on that site has kept me going.
This resilience didn’t help the root of my problem though.
I continued publishing nearly every day, and the result was that my answers got worse.
My writing got worse.
My writing became self-centered. I wrote about me for me. I didn’t care about sharing ideas and providing value anymore. I just wanted to get shit off my chest. I didn’t care about the craft anymore, I just needed some therapy.
The result is that rereading my posts from the last 6 months on Medium, Quora, Substack, and Twitter is absolutely nauseating for me.
I’ve been burnt out for a few months now, and it just hit me last week.
I’m also realizing that I dealt with this burnout completely wrong.
You can’t fix your burnout on a beach.
You might have seen one of my recent posts about my vacation in Europe.
I told myself that I was going to Europe to travel, see some sights, eat some food, and “take a break”, but the truth is that taking a 2-week vacation did very little to ease my burnout. I didn’t feel better about my life after riding around Europe and eating gelato for 2 weeks.
Crazy, isn’t it?
However, research backs this up.
I’ve been burnt out of my work life back home and taking a break for 2 weeks to be chubby and look at some old buildings didn’t fix that.
Getting wine drunk with strangers in Rome didn’t fix that either. Neither did going to the Amalfi Coast or riding the Tube all the way around London.
This is because the only way to truly confront your problems is to actually confront them.
Burnout is a normal aspect of high performance, but it feels most people don’t want to actually deal with it, so they just drown themselves in more “hustle porn” on the internet.
Everything gets boring if you want to be the best.
Relationships get boring if you don’t find ways to keep them exciting.
Jiu-Jitsu gets boring if you don’t constantly evolve and find new ways to test yourself.
Life gets boring if you live on auto-pilot, no matter how much you’re succeeding.
The conundrum that we all have to deal with is the fact that new experiences are the best way to be happy, but repetition is the best way to build skills.
Do you want success or joy? Do you want skill or experience? Do you want fun or focus?
In order to be your best, you need a balance of the daily monotony and discipline of improvement, mixed with the variety of travel and new experiences. You need to grind, hustle, and focus, but you also need to play and relax.
You need to have a little bit of fun, and honestly, that’s something I’m not super good at. No one’s ever taught me how to have fun without worrying about the future.
That’s what I’m learning now.
Everything gets boring, but it doesn’t have to.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but “American hustle culture” is obnoxious and exhausting.
It’s ridiculous, and it’s not going anywhere.
In this culture, you have to grind till you die, not because you want money, not because you want success, but because you need to. In my world, your identity is based on your work ethic, and that’s a dangerous place to be.
It’s a dangerous place to be because one day, you’re physically not going to be able to put in the work you want to.
You won’t have the energy to write new stuff every day. You won’t have the strength to constantly improve your max effort deadlift or your personal pull-up record.
One day, this life is going to pass you by, and your goals, experiences, and triumphs will be just that. Your defining moments will just be moments in history. Most people probably won’t remember you or me.
How are you going to deal with that?
Before you go…
Thanks for reading this week’s edition of my newsletter. I’m excited to announce that I’ve begun working on my next ebook, and it will likely release in August. The title will be announced in the next few weeks.
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Dad Chokes: Reflections of a Middle-Aged Grappler by Jim Michael
Jiu-Jitsu Makes You Mortal by Maximillian Hanson
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