The word burnout gets thrown around like my unborn daughter’s Barbie.
If someone doesn’t feel good, burnout. If work is hard, burnout. If you want to start an online business, ahhh you’re gonna burn out. If you want to start a side hustle, ohhh that’s hustle culture that’ll lead to burnout.
The anti-productivity movement is quick to label things burnout because it’s the easy answer.
The way we label our work is crucial
When I do pain in the ass work it drains my life.
Soon, I’m hunched over my keyboard fast asleep. But when I do meaningful work I care about it never feels like work.
Fellow writer Ayodeji Awosika said: “Working hard at something that’s meaningful to you doesn’t burn you out.”
That’s exactly how I feel. Works that burns us out lacks meaning. And often, it lacks creativity. When I sat in an office and pushed buttons all day it took no creativity at all to do.
My mind was desperate to be creative. I had so many ideas in my tiny brain. As soon as I mentioned one to my boss, he’d go “sit down and answer calls. We got work to do and targets to hit. There’s no time for this stuff.”
I’d walk back to my seat deflated.
Pretty soon I did burn out from that job. I got a new job driving around doing face-to-face sales. That was fun for a while. Then I quit. I repeated this process for a long time. One day I had a big aha-moment…
If I don’t give a sh*t about the work, and it has no meaning or creativity, it’s 100% going to lead to burnout.
These two online movements hide the truth
The self-care and hustle culture movements hide this inconvenient truth.
They don’t want us to work hard at anything. They want us to cave in and become mediocre by taking breaks every 5 mins and doing yoga. They want to outlaw hard work and replace it with more time on TikTok.
I despise these movements.
Most people don’t need more screen time and unearned dopamine rewards from their phones. They need to do something meaningful with their life so they can truly live.
And they can reach that goal, the trouble is they first have to try it.
Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning — Malcolm Gladwell
Meaningful work doesn’t happen if you don’t do these things
Meaningful work doesn’t land on your lap and give you an orgasm. You’ve got to experiment and try a few things to find it. Makes sense.
1. Look for obsession
I’m obsessed with writing.
At night I like to break down other people’s content, then I nerd out on it. Now I’ve become less selfish and started sharing my takedowns with my private writer’s community.
I can’t burn out easily from writing because it’s all I think about 24/7 (that and my unborn daughter). It requires zero motivation, and I get enormous meaning from it because it helps other people start writing online.
This obsession becomes like exercise. I sit down daily to do the reps that create the sets that become part of my daily workout.
Think about what you’re obsessed with. I’m willing to bet meaningful work is hiding in the middle somewhere.
2. Share ideas quietly behind the scenes
Finding meaningful work on your own is hard work.
The fastest way to get closer to meaningful work is to surround yourself with people with similar goals. Or, if you’re proactive and good at persuasion, to get around people who’ve already found it.
Ideas are the magnet. You share them to attract people.
3. Make small bets
When I meet people who won’t even pay $20 for a book it scares me.
Like, what have you got to lose, pal? If you won’t even risk $20 to learn a new skill or collect a few ideas, what the bloody hell are you doing?
Meaningful work will never find you without risk. And even if you do accidentally find it, you’ll never go all-in and quit your job to do it. Therefore it’s a waste.
No one is asking you to bet the house on this new goal.
But seriously, have a crack mate and see what happens. Never knowing is a harder pill to swallow than knowing and it not working out.
Risk = More Opportunity
4. Change your beliefs and lower skepticism
The idea of meaningful work sounds like it belongs in a Disney movie with a cliche hero’s journey storyline.
I get it.
But unless you stop being so skeptical about every little thing, seriously, meaningful work is never going to happen.
The fastest way to find meaningful work is to remove the obstacle in the way known as your beliefs.
What you believe determines whether you’ll find solutions or simply more problems. We’ve all met a destitute problem solver who can’t stop spotting problems. It’s not nice. It’s bad for your mental health.
Millions of people do meaningful work. Why not you?
‘Meaning’ is the new luxury — Mark Manson
5. Embrace the hustle-haters naughty obsession
Those who are strangled by the cord of “hustle culture” obsession can’t stand the idea one should embrace discomfort.
They want life to be comfortable so it’s fair for all.
But discomfort is part of the process. Nothing worth achieving is easy. I didn’t find my passion for writing and a meaning for life by chilling by the pool smoking a fat one.
I worked my face off. Sometimes I did get exhausted. But just like running a marathon, discomfort doesn’t equal evil. A bit of discomfort can do you good. You get the rewards and feel like you earned them.
That’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Better than being stuck on the couch and drowning in Netflix regrets.
6. Choose your favorite flavor of sh*t sandwich
Meaningful work comes from doing hard things.
The point isn’t to avoid hard things, it’s to choose your hard. Find the version of hard you like doing.
Recently my business partner and I sat down. We assessed our online academy. We realized, while it’s doing well, it’s too easy. And easy means we run the risk of operating in a market where it gets too competitive and income falls off a cliff.
So we’re making our job harder.
We’re building an online business that is 10x harder than what anyone else has created so it’s more difficult to compete with.
Already, as we’ve raised the difficulty level, we’re seeing a rise in revenue.
Don’t make the work you want to do easier, make it harder.
It’s hard to burn out doing work you love.
All you want to do is find time to do it and get as deep into the game you’ve chosen to play as possible.
Burnout only exists if you’re doing work you hate. So spend your time doing work you’re obsessed with and you’ll never work a day in your life again.