Burnout or just a Reset? – It’s Okay it Happens

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Recently I found myself struggling with something. I couldn’t really put my finger on what exactly it was but my motivation seems to have vanished throwing me into a terrible feeling of purgatory.

You may have noticed if you follow me on social media as I just haven’t been terribly active in the last little while. I needed to figure out what was wrong.

Any given day I would wake up with all of the thoughts that outside of work I was going to get X done, study Y, and learn new thing Z. The truth was I really did want to do those things every day. It’s just that when it came down to the task I just kind of sat there with no ability to focus on it.

I was starting to wonder if I was biting off more than I could chew. The industry is quite intense right now. Base knowledge of “legacy” technologies such as routing and switching core concepts are still extremely important. The shift to SD is stronger than ever and it’s quite difficult to try and get your hands on all the environments to learn how to use and operate them. This leaves you with a lot of reading to learn which can be daunting for someone that’s a more hands on learner. Don’t forget the automation and developer wave that is also bearing down. It’s important, and even more stuff to learn and get familiar with. It can be very overwhelming if you let it be, and I thought maybe that’s what I was doing. I figured I was letting it get to me.

The thing was I debunked that theory as I would run into an issue throughout the day/week and my natural curiosity and stubbornness would have me labbing it up that evening and I’d be all in. Having a great time, learning, enjoying it. Surely I still have a passion for the industry so what is going on?

I tried all the typical suggestions you see on websites and the media. I’d take the dog for a walk to try and clear my head. I quit listening to my normal music and tried more focus friendly music, music that I didn’t know, didn’t know the rhythms or the words. I did simple things like rearranging my desk to try and build a new environment/workspace. None of it seemed to be helping.

A lot of time was spent thinking about what my problem was. I watched from the outside and noticed most people have a distraction around them. A significant other, a child, reasons to be other places and do other things. Since I don’t have that I had to think even harder about what it was I needed. I’m not a TV/Movie person so I couldn’t use that to take up my time. Sure, I play hockey once a week but that’s once a week on Sundays. It’s really my only social thing as I’m not much of an extrovert. I realized though, that aside from being dead tired on Monday from hockey the night before, Monday’s were my better days. It got me thinking….

Back when I was in high school and college things were different. I didn’t seem to experience this lull even though I went to class all day, did homework after school or in between classes. In college I was also studying extra for certifications here and there. Albeit I’m older now what was it that was different back then. It then dawned on me.

In those days anytime that wasn’t dedicated to school (my day job), homework (learning new things), and Certification Study (well that’s still the same) I spent doing things for me. Things I loved to do. They still took work, dedication, focus, but the short answer was I just had an absolute blast doing them and could do them at my will, at my pace, as much or as little as I wanted, and it was a distraction from the daily chores of life. In those years it was riding BMX or Skateboarding, staying out until 3-4am at coffee shops with friends, and most specifically playing music.

Turning back to present day things are a bit different. I’m a bit older and more broken and don’t heal quit as well as I did as a teenager or in my early 20s so the BMX and Skateboarding thing isn’t such a great idea. Besides, I still live in Michigan so I can’t quite do those things half the year anyways. I do however thing about it from time to time.

My body just don’t have the capacity for multiple 3-4am nights in any given week nor do I have any friends that have even the slightest desire to do that. Of course aside from Cisco Live (I save those nights for that week). So that’s out.

What isn’t out though, is playing music. I’ve had my old drum set back for about 3 years since I bought a house. I’d dabble here and there but it was just me sitting in a room irritating the neighbors for no good reason other than making noise. Which is specifically why drummers are drummers because we like to be irritating and make noise. So I needed to make it purposeful again.

Just before Cisco Live I rather clown like did a cover of one of the customer appreciation events bands and it seemed to be fairly well received but I thought nothing of it. It was done for a specific reason and trust me, I’m slightly embarrassed about how bad it was. However, I started looking back at it and I had a rather large amount of fun doing it. The learning the song, recording the song, recording the video, piecing it together. It was that distraction I needed.

Recently a colleague has been posting short covers on guitar on a regular basis and it got me thinking. I need to kick that up again. Since, I’ve bought some new gear to get this going and it seems to have done the trick. It’s sparked me drumming multiple times a week and getting that distraction and pent up anxiety from trying to do so many things relating to my career out of me.

Now I’m trying to get some side projects going, just recording some music and laying down drum tracks.

In fact, it’s sparked a couple of other habits that I’m rather enjoying. I always wanted to continue (well pick back up I guess) where I left of from taking freshman level German in High School. It’s a simple 15 minutes a day I spend on a website but I have done a steady 16 days in a row and honestly look forward to that time every day.

I don’t think I was in an actual burnout mindset. I honestly still loved doing what I was doing everyday. I still loved learning the new things. It was just a fact that I wasn’t doing anything else. It was becoming to routine like and predictable which made me anxiously unable to focus. That’s probably a strange way of putting it but it makes sense in my mind.

A reset was specifically what I needed. I didn’t need to stop doing what I was doing, or even time off or a shift in my career focus. I love what I do. I love the advancements and all the new and exciting things coming out every day. I just needed to reset my day with a little time on something that was mine. My hobby. My hobby that I can do at my pace when I want and as often as I want and there is no expectations from anyone other than myself.

If you are finding your self in this lull my best suggesting is find your thing. Some people play music. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar. Some people love wood working, start making some things. Maybe you are a car individual and have always wanted to work on a restoration. My point is find something that is you and not your job. That doesn’t mean it can’t be job related. I know a lot of great people in this industry that have a passion for creating educational materials. That’s their thing. That’s them. They do it to the outcomes they want and often on the side. For me, I needed one of my longest running passions back in my life. To create and play music.

If you’d like to support my hobby my wish list can be found here.

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  1. Great post and insight. I’m glad you’ve rediscovered the energy that drumming delivers. I need to do some of the same with my personal writing… Rock on

    1. Thanks Kim!

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