The last few years, I’ve had some challenges in my journey.
Putting time and energy into projects that fizzle out, or not getting the results I had hoped for.
There were several times where I felt like I had gone down the wrong path completely.
When I arrived at those roadblocks, I didn’t handle them the best way I could.
Instead of learning from my work and trial and error, I would throw in the towel instead.
I’d cocoon myself. I’d fill my time with distractions. Seeing what other people were doing on Facebook. Or prioritizing lower level tasks that had nothing to do with moving forward on important and meaningful projects in my life.
“You can do it all!” “Multi-task!” “Push yourself to the limit!” “You can sleep when you’re dead!”
A lot of phrases that we hear in the 21st century. These ideas of always being on the go, go, go. Push yourself to the extreme at all costs: sleep, friends, family, health. It will all be worth it.
The truth is, though there may be good intentions behind these phrases, they are not healthy and they are not right.
The result of continual pushing and driving our engines in the red is burnout. And when we hit burnout, there’s a lot to clean up afterwards.
It’s hard to resist, we have major figures in the world that seem to be able to do it all. J.J. Abrams and James Franco are two people in the entertainment industry that come to mind. They seem to be able to do it all: directing, writing, producing, acting.
But I also know that I can’t compare the messy back stage of my life to someone else’s front stage. I have no idea what their personal lives are like. I have no idea what people or teams they have in place that handle all of their work or issues so they can be involved in so many different projects. And I certainly don’t have personal insight into the struggles that they have to endure on a daily basis. Continue reading “Burnout: You Can’t Do it All”
Months had gone by and I still had no regular work. The bank account dwindling dangerously low. I was consumed with anxiety on a daily (if not hourly basis). Forward motion had come to a stop. I was doing anything, but addressing the issue, hoping beyond hope that some magical big break would come my way.
I would try to distract myself by taking the family out to eat or going to a movie, but would find my mind drifting during our outings.
We’re running out of money? What am I going to do? What kind of job can I get that will pay our expenses?
Then one day, while I was out, I had a very calm and gentle thought.
You need to go back to Disney
I was fortunate when I had left working for Disney. I had exited with grace and had not burned any bridges on my way out the door.
I started reaching out to a couple of friends who were co-workers and managers and asked if I might have a chance to return. They said it looked hopeful.
One afternoon I made a phone call to the head of casting at Disneyland. She was incredibly gracious and got me a part-time position in the park.
I was nervous coming back.
I had a lot of emotions returning to Disney. One was a feeling of failure.
I had left thinking that I was just moving on to bigger and better things. Now, I feared I would be met by fellow actors who would look at me disapprovingly and say sarcastically “Well, look who’s back!”
I did get some of that.
But mostly I was received with open arms by a lot of people at work. More than anything else, I felt some hope. I was given the chance to use my abilities and skills again.
I put my nose to the grindstone and took any work that came my way. Including those television extra jobs that I didn’t enjoy so much.
I was in a place where I couldn’t be picky about what I was doing. I was just grateful for anything that I could do.
Within a few months I started getting more work than I had ever had as an actor.
I was cast in more shows at the Park than before, and soon I was cast in more television commercial work than I had ever booked previously.
Something had broken through. Or what I should say, was that something had been broken… my pride.
“Don’t compare your messy backstage with someone else’s front stage.”
I think sometimes we can look at successes that other people have and go “Wow, they have it really easy.”
No they don’t.
Everyone has their challenges along the way.
With that in mind I wanted to share a story about a rough patch that I went through back in 2005-2006.
It’s a story about pride, frustration, hopelessness, humility and ultimately just turning it all over to God.
I want to share this story because it shows how I made poor decisions in my career and life, but with God’s Help, Grace and Mercy, I was able to get me back on track.
Between 2002 to early 2005 I was having success working as a commercial actor. I’ll admit, it was nice. I wasn’t swimming in pools of money but I was starting to see results from working on television.
I had booked a series of national Dodge television commercials that had not only aired, but had been renewed, which meant I was receiving nice residual checks. My wife and I jokingly referred to this time period as being “thousandaires.”
There is something nice when you have money in your bank account don’t have to sweat it when the car suddenly needs repairs.
During this time period we were facing other challenges in our life. The most pressing issue was that our youngest son Duncan was diagnosed with autism. Receiving money during this time helped take some pressure off of us that we were feeling in the home.
But there was something else that was happening in my heart at the time.
I had developed a sense of self-entitlement.
“I’ve done all this hard work as an actor, some people didn’t think I would have success, and now I’m going through this hardship. I deserve this success!”
Maybe a nobel intent, but my mindset was not very charitable or humble mindset. It was more of a “I’ll show them” attitude. Pride was there.
Now that the work and the money was coming in I felt confident that it was always going to be like this. I had been working a number of years at Disney doing my shows and there were some behind the scene issues occurring that I let wound my ego. Instead of using these moments as a learning opportunity, I let my pride get the best of me.
I sat down with Kate,my wife, and told her that I felt that I was being led to leave my regular work at Disneyland. I was going to jump in head-first into being a full-time freelance actor.
Kate was hesitant of this decision. She asked if I would consider reducing my hours at Disneyland and still accept part-time work. I held my ground and said that I needed a clean break.
To her credit, she supported my decision. She didn’t feel good about it but she trusted me. So I put in my notice at Disney, said my goodbyes, received my final check. We had a farewell party at a friend’s house.
It looked like it was going to be a beautiful future filled with freedom and opportunity.
Little did I know at that moment that I should have heeded Kate’s reservations.
What was to come was going to be a very difficult 11 months for my family.
And I had no one else to blame except the guy that was looking back at me in the mirror everyday.
It’s not always puppies and unicorns with everything going your way. There are no promises that everything in this life is supposed to be perfect. There are trials.
But what are you saying when you’re going through a difficult trial?
You’ve got to watch your mouth.
There’s no denying that we can have a negative verbal reaction when we receive bad news. It’s like hitting your finger with a hammer… there’s likely to be some colorful language to come out.
There’s a danger, however, in letting negative words continually flow out of you. Rick Warren has a great observation with this. Anger is not something that when you fill up with it, you just let it out and get rid of it. Anger is a little more dangerous than that. When it starts coming out of us, it’s like a machine that can keep producing more and more and more anger. It’s like turning on the switch to the Negative Emotion Factory. This is the same factory that can produce plenty of other negative emotions: sadness, envy, resentment, self-pity.
There is nothing wrong with talking about troubles that you’ve gone through. Keep in mind that words fuel your feelings, both negative and positive.
Years ago I used to have a constant phrase I would use when people would ask me how I was.
It was my way of letting people know how hard I was working and how I was juggling all the challenges of work, family and personal life. I said it ALL the time.
Until my wife corrected me after we went to a friend’s party. She had overheard a number of my interactions with other people that night, and the only thing I kept saying was how I exhausted I was. It wasn’t painting our life in a very positive way.
After the party that night, I made a concentrated effort to remove the phrase “I’m exhausted” or “I’m tired” out of my vocabulary. Here’s the strange thing… several weeks later after not saying these phrases, I actually started feeling more rested and energetic. My negative phrase and been physically and emotionally running me into the ground for months.
I challenge you not only watch your mouth with the negative thoughts and emotions, but to replace those words with phrases that will build you up.
“And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” James 3:4-5 (NLT)
Perhaps the negative emotions that you are feeling are really a disguised call for help. Try flipping those words of frustration into “I’m in a rough spot and I need some guidance, direction and support.” There’s a very good chance someone will hear your call and give you the support you need.
What negative phrases do you find yourself automatically saying? How could you flip that into a positive? Share your thoughts on my Facebook page.
You want to make everyone happy. You don’t want to let anyone down.
You want to stretch yourself and grow, but instead you find yourself worn out and exhausted.
There may even be a part of your faith which makes you think that you must say “yes” to every request that comes your way because it is your duty.
Even though there may be good intentions with saying “yes”, it is not always the best thing to do.
We have to learn to say “no”.
There are only a set amount of hours in the day and week. In that week, we have to sleep, eat, enjoy our family, friends and loved ones in addition to work and other responsibilities.
When we say “yes” to something, we are impacting these areas of our lives.
In his book “Essentialism“, Greg McKeown talks about this concept. When we don’t say “no” we are saying “yes” to something else by default. That’s not good. Because now all of our time energy and effort is being spent on tasks that we weren’t supposed to be doing in the first place.
I know this first hand.
Back in 2005, I left my work at The Disneyland Resort to pursue acting in commercials full tme. But I didn’t have a plan. We had some money as a buffer, but I just thought opportunities would present themselves.
Well, several things presented themselves. However, it wasn’t what I expected.
I found myself getting over involved in my sons’ school, since I was now a “stay at home dad.” My continual automatic volunteering led me to overextend myself. I couldn’t say no. All of my energy and effort was now being put into projects where people would ask for help. My default answer of “yes” resulted in a never ending cycle of getting frustrated, stretching myself too thin and leaving me with no time to look for work. Our funds soon depleted. I was very fortunate to be allowed back to my work at Disneyland, but I learned a valuable lesson.
You can’t say “Yes” to everything. No matter how important it seems.
I learned another valuable lesson from McKeown’s “Essentialsim” about making decisions. Ask yourself, “What percentage do I feel like this is the right thing to do?” I’ve had opportunities that have come my way where I felt “Yeah, I feel like that’s about 60% the right thing to do.” That number doesn’t sound so bad…why not, it’s more than 50% right?
What it we took that same percenetage of 60% and looked at it as a score on a test? It would be an F or D minus grade at best.
And that’s a life decision! Why would we accept failing grades in our life decisions?
If you are not feeling 90% or more regarding a decision, if it’s not an automatic “YES!!!! I WANT TO DO THAT, BE A PART OF THAT!” then don’t agree to it.
It’s not easy to say “no”, but remember you are making room for that “yes” that can lead to the things you really want to be doing in your life.
Where are areas of your life that you are having a difficult time saying “no”? Let me know on my Facebook page.
Worry can stop you dead in your tracks. Something may coming up in the near future and you just can’t shake the thoughts or feelings you’re experiencing. You may think you are just preparing yourself for what’s going to happen.
But what if the very thing you’re worrying about, never happened?
A recent story on Huffington Post explored the science behind worry. In a study, a group of people were asked to write about negative situations or events they were worried would happen over a two week period.
At the end of two weeks, 85 percent of the group said that what they worried about neverhappened.
Here’s the other interesting stat: the remaining 15 percent that had the event occur, 79 percent of that group said they dealt with the negative situation better than they thought they would.
We waste so much time worrying.
I’ve done it. Many years ago I was asked by a relative to perform at a company Christmas party as Ebeneezer Scrooge. I was a younger man at the time and had no idea how I could pull this off.
Where would I get the makeup, the costume, what they heck would my act be? Just saying “Bah Humbug!” to a bunch of employees all night as part of the main entertainment didn’t sound promising.
I was given a 6 week heads-up for the gig. And I spent every day worrying about the outcome.
“This is going to be a disaster.” “They’ll call me a fraud”
The day came, I showed up at the venue. I said a few words as Ebeneezer, sang a few carols and then danced the night away with the employees. They had a blast.
As I was getting back to my car that evening I told myself to remember this moment of relief. And remember all the wasted time I spent worrying and fretting about how this would be a disaster. It would have made my life so much easier.
Please, apply this to situations you are going through. Maybe you have a family gathering that’s coming up, a presentation at work or at school that you are losing sleep (or hair) over. Take a breath.
Stay in this moment, because as the studies show, you may be truly worrying over nothing.
What have been situations in your past that you were worried about and they ended up turning out fine? Share your story here in the comments section or on the Facebook page. I think your stories could help others as well.
There may be times that you feel you’ve exhausted all your ideas.
“Who would be interested in what I have to say or what I have to offer?”
Don’t sell yourself short. You may have an idea, service or product that no one else has thought of. Or no one else has thought of bringing into the market place.
I like to take a step back and look at history for inspiration.
Arcade games are a surprising example.
A very niche idea of creating a game using vector or raster graphics on a video screen and putting it into a cabinet seemed like a silly business idea back in the 1970’s.
Kinda cool, but how could you make a business out of that? But within several years video arcade games were soaring in popularity. With heavy hitters Space Invaders (1978) and Pac Man (1980), by 1982, according to Wikipedia, the video game industry made more money than the combined revenues of pop music and Hollywood films.
That same year video games earned more THREE TIMES more money that the combined ticket and TV revenues of Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL.
Think of the social networks we are actively using today.
Facebook started in 2004 and now has over a billion users.
Twitter came from a brainstorming day in March 2006. Twitter went live in July 2006 and as of this writing has 304 million active monthly users.
My point is this: big ideas can come out of nowhere.
You may be met at first with resistance. Let me rephrase that: You WILL be met with resistance.
“Why would someone want to do that?” or “Why would someone want to hire you for that position?”
Don’t give in to those thoughts. We need you.
We need you to fail dozens and hundreds of times so you can learn what doesn’t work.
We need you to fail so that you can persevere.
We need you to find that hidden diamond that no one saw because they threw up their hands in frustration and went home.
And once you find it, don’t you dare hide it.
Share it and watch as people get that gleam in their eye that says “Wow, how did we never see this before?”
Cards on the table. I’ve gone through a rough patch.
I was doing so well. Writing, putting out podcasts and content.
Then my schedule got stretched too thin.
I had to make a choice between doing the right thing and what I wanted to do.
So I had to hit the pause on content.
Then I got sick.
Hit by a flu-like cold in the middle of summer that knocked me out for over a week. Residual illness stuck with me for a couple of weeks after that until I found I had a sinus infection. This has happened while my wife Kate is dealing with the severe illness of a family member.
When it rains, it pours.
It’s lightened up a bit.
We’re not out of the woods yet, but we have been able to come up for air.
However, I’ve found myself paralyzied, not finding the inspiration to get out of the funk.
Maybe, as dysfunctional as it sounds, I’ve been embracing the funk, the inaction, because it’s familiar to me. I know what it feels like.
But I can’t stay here. I’m going to have to act, because inaction is also a choice.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep putting out podcasts. Because it’s not about me. It’s about helping someone.
Someone who might be in a state of paralysis and needs to know that he/she can get out of it as well if they just sit down and start.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be a mountain of work. Just a little bit at a time
It’s time to dust off Steven Pressfield. It’s time to start listening to prayer if I can’t speak it. It’s time to open my mouth and work through it with Kate, and call my friends for support.
I’ll get through this and so will you.
I’m realizing I can’t do it all. My ambitions are great and that’s not a bad thing. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the week.
Last week there was a lot going on. Work at Disney, a trip out of town to celebrate my anniversary with my wife, my consultation work.
The night before I left town, I had three major tasks that I wanted to complete. If I were to do them, I would have had no sleep at all before heading out the door the next day with Kate.
Something had to give. I had to let those tasks go. They weren’t going to be completed because I had run out of time.
I have this card hanging in my bathroom with words I heard from Jon Acuff:
I’m not following these guidelines right now.
It’s frustrating. Why can’t I do it all?
Once my emotions calmed down, I’ve had to admit I have a major time management problem. I’ve not been getting a full night’s sleep, or having ample time to pray in the morning, or exercise, or go over our home budget… something’s wrong.
I’m going to have to say “no” to things. For my sanity, for my health. I’m not leaving margin for the unexpected and squeezing something into every nook and cranny of available time is not a way to live. I’ll keep you updated as I work through this and hopefully I can pass along some useful information that you can use as well.
Do me a favor, join in the conversation on my Facebook page and leave tips that work for you when it comes to time management. Maybe we can learn something from each other.