When I was younger, people would always tell me there was a difference between working hard and working smart. Fools!
I thought. Why not do both!?
So, I decided I would start working genius. What is working genius, you ask? Well, it's working hard and
smart at the same time. You stay up super late. You burn the candle at both ends. All the while, you're really smart about everything you're doing with all of that time. Voila, working genius!
Have you ever tried holding a lit candle and keeping it lit while running full tilt with no end in sight? It's something, but it's not genius.
If you've been reading this newsletter for a while, you know I hit a wall. The candle I had been burning at both ends was snuffed out completely, and I was plunged into darkness.
It took three years and counting to pull the pieces back together. I still struggle with bouts of cynicism and apathy, and I don't always balance my energy perfectly, but things are far better than they used to be. The flame may flicker every now and again, but I have slowed down enough to keep one end of the candle continuously lit. I'm better off for it, my colleagues and collaborators are better off for it. Most importantly, my family and friends are better off for it as well.Burnout
, unlike multitasking, is very real. Those who are particularly passionate about their work are susceptible to it. As Steven D'Souza writes for HBR
: "Why was I so oblivious to being on the edge of burnout – or, more accurately, descending further into burnout? Perhaps because I love my work and often don’t frame it as 'work.' If this is a 'problem,' I reasoned, it’s one lots of people would love to have. I feel very lucky to do work I am passionate about, and I like the people I get to work with."
Work, no matter how lucky you are to be doing it and how much you love it, is work. Too much of anything, including your dream job, is bad for you.
If you think you may be suffering from burnout. You should try this test that appeared in the 2005 Stanford Social Innovation Review
. The article also has some good examples of how to take both an individual and organizational path to relighting the candle and better maintaining it. It's not just an assignment for you, but for your organization as well.
Today, I try to think about being more like Englebert Humperdinck. You may not have caught it, but he just dropped a new album in June and is currently on tour
. Born in 1956 in what is today Chennai, India, Englebert Humperdinck (there's no such thing as first reference with that kind of a name) has been a persistent presence on the pop/easy-listening scene with hits such as "Release Me" and "The Last Waltz". His rendition of "Feelings
" is a personal favorite.
Now, I have no idea what Engelbert Humperdinck does for work-life balance beyond the factoids on Wikipedia
, and I don't plan on digging too deeply. When it comes to constructing myths that serve us, facts have always been somewhat inconvenient.
Real Estate investment, a love of Leicester, a strong Catholic faith and ties to family seem to all play a role -- at least according to Wikipedia. There's also his musical career of course. He's now on a 50th anniversary tour and he's been around for a minute. Where other acts have gotten big and flamed (burned?) out, Engelbert Humperdinck has staying power.
I want to look back and say that, at some point, I figured out how to work like Engelbert Humperdinck. I found the right combination of things that enrich me personally, professionally and spiritually (or whatever interacts with my unique combination of electrical signals and hormones in a way that could be considered a stirring of the spirit).
So, forget working genius. Hello, working like Engelbert Humperdinck.