Leadership · Entrepreneurship

Combating Burnout and Staying Hungry

Daniel Eberhard CEO, Koho

October 29th, 2014

Going to switch things up a bit here. I want to talk soft skills and self-optimization.

Most days I am rushing to work because I am literally excited to take on today's challenge. It is one of the great things about being an entrepreneur.


We all hit slumps, skids and stalls and it is well known that part of what separates the good from the great is resilience.

What I would like to know is personal best practices to staying hungry and staying passionate. I believe this is when we are at our best, in terms of creativity, quality, leadership and emotional engagement.

What I want to know is how people avoid or manage these speedbumps. Do you just shut up and push through it? Do you take a step back and reset? If so, what do you do when you are stepping back?

I'm sure this as all personal so there are no wrong answers but very interested to hear what people have to say. Please be specific regarding your methodologies.

Thank you.

*edit & additional context *

Great feedback so far.

To be clear, I am not burning out at all but I do think this subject is worth the exploration. There are procedural methods employed by people which allow them to produce their most inspired work. I don't think its as simple as either 'you're hungry or you aren't'.

Most of us would be considered high performers. I believe moving/maintaining the needle at these level requires more and more deliberate processes.

Keep the ideas rolling.

Lucia Guh-Siesel CEO & Founder, Bandalou

October 29th, 2014

What a great question Daniel and widely applicable to all of us.

I recently learned something from my 15 year old son that may resonate with you. I hit a stumbling block one night, and so he asked what happened. I told him the story and how I began to question some core beliefs about what we were trying to accomplish.  He listened intently, then at the very end, he looked me straight in the eye, put his arm around my shoulders, smiled and said, "Mom.  Minor set back."  

He was right.  

Every day, with every step forward, there are bound to be stumbles and stalls.  And that's all they are -- minor setbacks.  I hope my story helps.  Good luck!  L.

Sedef Onder Managing Partner + Strategist, Clear Inc.

October 29th, 2014

I'm not sure "staying hungry" can be learned. My take is that you either have fire in the belly.. or you don't.

My personal solution to burn-out (which often happens to those most intensely focused or passionate about their work)... was to step back and re-assess my situation. I realized I wasn't recharged by my success when focused on the "wrong" things (ie., goals or raison d'etre's that didn't align with mine).

When focused on what mattered to me or gave me purpose, I was actually re-energized by the work much of the time. And felt more in control of my time/schedule and life overall.

To clients who experience this, I suggest they spend less time "following" a schedule, and make considered choices for what they prioritize and act on. Respond rather than react. Always keep your eye on the bigger picture, rather than the momentary stumbling blocks and inevitable obstacles.

Separately, I agree with you about pushing through, being resilient and persistent when facing work challenges (whether you're aligned with them or not). It works and you can succeed. But that is precisely the type of habits and behavior that can unintentionally lead to the feelings of burnout in the long-term.

Powell Loskamp President at Money Flow Public Co.

October 29th, 2014

Inspired Action!

As a part of your morning routine, find a daily practice that develops clarity and focus regarding your purpose / mission, then set an intention to take action accordingly. 

Sandy Fischler Experiential Marketing Director | Event Producer | Event Management | Entrepreneur

October 29th, 2014

I go through this all the time. What I do is step away for a day, sometimes two. 

I find that I get overwhelmed and need processing time to let my mind filter through the jumble and eventually a new path forms and I'm off again. I like to think of it like a pot boiling over, you have to reduce the heat the bring it back to a simmer. When everything is boiling over, it's frothy and you can't really see what's going on, so you get overwhelmed. Reduce the heat, take stock of where you are at, what needs to be done, and regroup. 

I don't ever have a problem staying hungry, there is no going back for me, only forward. But sometimes I need to stop and take stock of the options, look at the various paths, make sure I'm staying on course towards the goal. A day of reflection has never destroyed anyone's start-up.... 

Sri Vemulpali Member of Technical Staff at Riverbed Technology

October 29th, 2014

From my perspective, your body is valuable. Its the greatest tool you have, to interact in this world. So when it needs rest sleep, when its hungry, feed it, when its need emotional attachment, give it. Take care of it. If you do not feed you get really slumped, Or do not over feed it. Everything should be moderate. :)

Do meditation to relieve your stress. In stress one make insane decisions. Pushing yourself, working too hard when you need rest. ....

If one is thinking to get motivated, then one needs to answer why he has to get motivated. This is the basic gap, why people push themselves. But, when one answer the purpose why he wants to be an entrepreneur driven by higher objective, and look at your inner core values how they are connected, you are in serene to pursue. One do not see their sacrifices as cause, neither one's setbacks as setbacks, nor one's pain, what they express as great endeavor. The very nature of struggle transforms in to passion and joy. Anyone can realize with deep introspection.

All the best.

Kevin ODonnell

October 31st, 2014

Business is like running a marathon that has no finish line, right?  Pacing is all-important.  Some of it is managing your physical strength -  eat smart, sleep regularly, exercise, avoid the bad stuff, etc..  Most of it is managing your emotional energy and the relationships with your colleagues, which is also easier when you're feeling well-rested, balanced.  Following a simple rule is helpful:  Arguing is easy; understanding is difficult.  It takes energy to listen and think carefully.  But if you do, you'll avoid a lot of mistakes ... and arrive at your goals a lot sooner, with less drama.  Those are the qualities of great leaders (see:  James MacGregor Burns).
It's fine to hit the accelerator from time-to-time ... but you should already have a conscious plan for how long.  A constant upward acceleration leads to several likely conclusions - none of them especially good; that is, unless you actually enjoy failure.

Ron White Creative Director at TAD (The Academy of Design)

October 29th, 2014

Great topic!

Meditation has always helped me.  When i'm down I sit back and reflect and remind myself of what motivated me in the beginning of this entrepreneurial journey.  It has helped me to channel that original excitement and energy to keep on pushing. 

Also at times I like to reflect on the sacrifices I've made along the way, this also motivates me to keep working when i'm down.  I never want to feel that my scarifies was made in vain.  

This is what always helped to stay hungry and keep pushing when i'm in a slump.

Dave Mochel Teacher and coach. Increasing Well-being for Individuals and Organizations

October 29th, 2014

Daniel, I hope you are well. I think you have posed an important question. There is a significant body of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of mindfulness and cognitive reframing in dealing with burnout and connecting to internal resource. These practices have been around for thousands of years and are supported by thousands of research studies. You can read about it in my latest post on Huffington Post -- http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/david-mochel/how-to-change-the-world-1_b_6062244.html Be well, David David Mochel Applied Attention Consulting LLC 805.450.5428 dave@appliedattention.com www.appliedattention.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-mochel/

Jason Green SVP Global Operations at Gravity4, Visionary Entreprenuer, Open Source Enthusiast, and Gamification Pioneer

October 29th, 2014

I would like to add this, the bumps you are hitting might be a signal that what you are doing isn't working. I would take some time off and evaluate if you project is getting the traction it needs to in the expected time frame.  The worst thing you could do is continue working on something that is not going anywhere. 

Not saying this is the case, maybe you are just burning out.  Either way take some time, a week or so off, to really just chill and evaluate.

Rachel Kjack Learning & Development Expert / Speaker / Trainer / Elearning / Organizational Culture Hacker

October 29th, 2014

When you are running a startup, it can get lonely - even when you are surrounded by people. It helps to keep a "task/maintenance balance" by making sure that you are maintaining the relationships that are directly around you and not just focused on task all of the time.....which is depleting over time. 

A lot of people have already mentioned that you need to take a step back and remember what's most important and why you got into the game to begin with (and no doubt that running a startup is a game of sorts.) Once you do that and get some perspective, I find that it can make a world of difference to carve out even an hour of time for maintenance of the relationships between you and people that are helping you be able to do the work you do (co-founders, leaders, employees, family and friends) . 

It helps directly with productivity too. When you've taken time to check in with people and really deeply listen and communicate with each other, when it's time to get things done you end up spending less time with wasted cycles of miscommunication or dealing with behaviors that aren't serving the greater purpose. I'm saying you have to slow down to speed up. I'm advocating for face time with people away from screens. And bonus if you can get into a natural environment - like a walk in the park or something outdoors.

Feel free to connect with my LinkedIn/Facebook and ask me anything specific you want. I coach and train startup folks and tech folks and specialize in how to be more effective in your communication and relationships, so I'm happy to suggest things you can do when I know more specifics about what you need.