Burnt Out

No legacy is so rich as honesty.

William Shakespeare

Look around the room.

Burnout is a discrepancy between your core values and how you actually spend your time.

Not too long ago, I was in a rut. I wasn't happy at work and I wasn't emotionally fulfilled. These things seeped into everything I did, every action I took, and everything I said yes or no to. Fearful of how others would perceive me, I would say no to social outings. Stressed from the day, I would say yes to mindless entertainment. Somewhere between hungry and bored, I would order expensive, unhealthy food.

I went back home to North Carolina. During the next couple of weeks, I decided I had to quit my job. It wasn't working, and it wasn't going to work.

Self-doubt pervaded every thought, and most of my time spent awake was in some sort of low-grade fear. I sought a solution.

I became a bit more aware of my internal monologue, and I noticed something strange. I was my own biggest critic. You get it. I'm sure you've heard this story before.

When the day came to quit, it felt weird. I had expected a weight to be lifted off of me, but instead, a lot of the stress remained. Only this time, the stress originated from the job hunt yet to come.

Interesting though. I intended on taking a break, and there was nothing in front of me right now that should give me grief. Looking around the room, there were no threats.

Be honest when you can be.

You can’t be honest with everyone, all of the time.

Knowing when you can and when you can’t is a luxury that some of you can’t afford, depending on the people around you.

But as much as you can be, be honest. If you have leverage in your career, leverage in your relationships, and options outside of both — I hope this encourages you to be more honest.

It’s a treasure to know people who you can be unfiltered with. The human filter can be a burden on your best relationships. Just don’t be that guy at work who doesn’t have one.

Stop censoring yourself.

In your conversations, do you self censor your speech? Do you tell little white lies that can be plausibly denied?

This latticework of half-truths that you’ve built up harms you more than you know, and the real truth harms others less than you think. Everyone embellishes to others, but this can morph into lying to oneself.

Every time there is a gap between your reality, and the reality you display to others, bad things happen.

The first: you force yourself to keep tabs on the perceptions of others. Every conversation point is earmarked for later. After all, you alter your speech to seed these impressions in others.

The second: you become habituated to this behavior, more likely to do it in the future, and more okay with the idea of distancing yourself from reality.

The third: a tiny fraction of your heart burns, shrivels up, and dies. Do this frequently, and you might just become the Grinch.

Stop lying.

We all have desires and intentions. The problem starts when these intentions deviate from what we actually do.

People can recognize a sayer — someone who is all bark and no bite. This person is hopeless, and loses any respect they have, until they finally find their way to self-awareness. You can be an excellent storyteller, but if you can’t back up your statements, it's just hot air.

Once this pattern takes hold: the more you say, the less you do. How can other people believe you will do what you say, if you can’t believe it yourself? It isn’t just loss of reputation or respect here that you have to worry about — people become burnt out on you. They don’t want to be around you anymore, they don’t want to hear you anymore, they find you repulsive.

Like all other forms of burnout, it starts with dishonesty. If the bridge burns too much, it must be rebuilt. Some bridges can’t be rebuilt.

Respect your own integrity.

Do this enough, and you lose respect for yourself. Your words don’t just lose weight with others, they lose weight with you. You have a good bullshit detector, and you can recognize a liar fairly easily, even if that liar is you. The danger really starts when you start feeding your own delusions.

You can fool others, and sometimes you have to, but don’t lie to yourself.

There are two solutions to this:

  • Shut up. At least you won’t lose the respect of others with your empty assurances.
  • Only say things that you mean.

They are not mutually exclusive.

Stop crafting perceptions for others.

People can make up their own mind, you don’t have to do it for them. Making an impression is great, but let me tell you a little secret: impressive people make great impressions. If you want to make a nice impression, be a nice person. If you want to make an imposing impression, be an imposing person (only joking).

A common but less talked-about side effect of being dishonest with others is that it can start to dictate your actions. If you craft a particular perception of who you are for someone else, that person will expect you to sustain that perception. This isn't malicious - they just assume it’s the real you.

If this perception you've created is incongruent with your true self, it takes a lot of work to keep up appearances. You don’t want to lose face, do you?

A lot of popular self-help books laud the effects of changing how you think, but what about how others think? The external is just as important here.

If your friends and colleagues are toxic people, can you battle your way out of it with positive thinking? If you answered yes, you’re deluded.

There’s a reason this section is titled “Stop crafting perceptions for others”, and not “Stop acting in accordance with the belief of others”. You can't make sense out of the tangle of perceptions you’ve seeded in other’s minds. Their judgements and feelings are very real, but you're not a mind reader. Maybe you think you know, and you're just wrong.

The best way to fix this is at the source: just stop managing perceptions in the first place.

Don’t let other people dictate your actions, and don’t let your lies prevent you from living a good life. Free yourself from the chains of your lies and insincerities and you’ll fare better in all things social.

The truth is better and less complicated.

Everyone is a liar.

You’ll never be able to think objectively in your life, at least not completely. The human experience is extremely subjective, and it’s hard enough to make sense of your own reality.

That being said, you can improve and simplify your life's disarray by being true to others and to yourself. You will never be able to do this fully, but your aim is “good enough” — the bar is already super low.

Everyone is a liar to some extent, and they’d be lying to themselves if they said otherwise.

Ode To Dad