First, let me caveat the shit out of this post. Burnout can be the by-product of situations which require a lot more than an aphorism to fix. If you’re feeling depressed for a long period of time, seek out help – from family, friends, or a doctor. Professional burnout can also be the result of a bad job or bad boss – in these cases don’t just try to suck it up but instead address the cause of the issue. Okay, now….
In tech we tend to be so focused on the destination that we can very often forget the journey. We start companies, join startups, try to solve hard technical problems, all because there’s a vision we have in our head of what success looks like. Or what it will feel like to accomplish that which we set out to do. Satisfaction, notoriety, community, maybe even wealth. All waiting for us after months, years of hard work.
But as you build if the only thing that keeps you going is success still out of grasp you’re gonna hit a wall at some point. I’ve found – in my own work and through advising others – that one way to get over these walls, or minimize them altogether, is to be thankful in the moment. To take some satisfaction and pride in the journey.
I’m incredibly fortunate. I’m working my ass off to build a venture fund. The first three years have been wonderful but our success, our ability to raise a next fund in ~2018, is far from certain. So besides tracking our progress towards those milestones, besides thinking about what impact we want to have over a 20 year period, I try to pause frequently and marvel at where I find myself. In San Francisco during a period where the tech industry has an impact and responsibility as great as ever. Working alongside a parter who I enjoy and makes me better. Entrusted with other people’s money to invest in founders. Able to get up every day and put sweat and reputation behind those founders.
Does this gratitude for my situation make it easier in the moment when a startup we’ve backed is in the midst of a rough period? Does it make it painless to lose a deal to another firm? Does it solve for my own inward disappointment if there was a situation I feel like I could have handled better? No, I’m not seeking to dampen the emotions I feel but instead to recognize them, let them pass and remember how thankful I am for this chance.
So my recommendation would be to incorporate a little bit of this into your life. Some people do it by starting every morning and evening with a good thought. Others more randomly as they go through their day. Just find what works for you. There’s not a wrong way to pause and smile.