When "Enough" Isn't Enough (and Dealing With Burnout)

In my previous post, I shared that TRUTH is my word for the year. In the interest of committing to radical truth in 2019, here’s an honesty bomb for you: this self-employment/freelancing/small business thing? It’s a totally unglamorous, unpredictable sideshow that involves a lot of hustle and heart. But here’s another radical truth: I wouldn’t want it any other way, at least for now.

Working for one’s self is supposed to be a grind, so they say. As an “old Millenial”, burnout is more than just a mindset: it’s a lifestyle. My generation is defined by multitasking and technology and career changes and more than one financial crisis, so it only makes sense that we suffer from work-related whiplash. Do we pursue work that we love, or try to find fulfillment outside of work? Do we become a specialist or a generalist Further complicating things is the concept of the “deep generalist” : how does one both specialize and generalize, developing a deep understanding of multiple industries and concepts? It never seems like enough, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

My generation is leaving corporate America in droves, and it’s because we feel creatively undervalued and overworked, tethered to jobs that are effectively meaningless and, in many cases, misaligned with our personal values. In the 2013 book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, the authors posit that “conscious businesses”, defined as organizations that are driven by a higher purpose beyond pure profits, are “changing the world by elevating humanity through business”. Conscious businesses engage all stakeholders including leadership, employees, customers, shareholders, and the community at large, as they are all affected by the decisions, activities, and the presence of the business itself.

As a business of one, I’m making a concerted effort to treat myself as a conscious business. This classification of businesses respects all individuals in the business ecosystem, aware that their team members represent more than just a set of skills, experience, and education: when a conscious business hires an employee, they are aware that they’re hiring a complete person, with fears, worries, and feelings that come with being human. I’m able to bring my whole self to work, leveraging my own experiences, ideas, and emotions to do great work for my clients.

Though self-employment comes with its own set of challenges and frustrations, I’m buoyed by the knowledge that what I’m doing truly helps people. The work that I do has inherent worth and adds value to the clients I serve, irrespective of the feelings I might have about the work that I’m doing. Yes, I work for money, but the fact that I enjoy it and derive meaning from the work that I do helps me as an employee and as a business owner — and makes my work the best that it can be.

(The photo caption for this post is a snapshot of the four tenets of Conscious Capitalism. I got a lot out of this book and have been recommending it to everyone I know: it made me think differently about capitalism and its role in our society, and it’s had a profound impact on how I approach my business. Check it out!)