It was very late and I was exhausted but I was too wired and charged up to sleep. You know the feeling!
We had launched an ambitious year-long program for young guys with potential to grow inside our company and all the participants were getting together in the morning to discuss their individual projects and key learnings. It was going to be an intense day of discussions and activities.
Scrolling through my phone, I came across a blog post by someone who’d gotten burned out in her job at a high-flying startup and finally made a heart-wrenching decision to quit. “No Glory”. The author perfectly described a feeling I knew very well. I was frequently worn out by long hours at work but I loved it. It’s an amazing experience to be engaged by creative problems that need urgent solutions and to lead teams and confront challenges and advance an agenda. But it can take a personal toll as well. Sometimes the line between “pleasure and pain” gets very blurry.
Would I even recognize it when work wasn’t making me happy any longer? Would I have the courage to walk away if I did?
The woman who wrote the article talked about how hard that decision was for her. She loved feeling essential. She loved feeling totally used up. She loved being part of something bigger than herself, something purposeful. But eventually she got completely worn down, and realized that she needed to cut herself off. It was incredibly painful for her but it also allowed her to see life differently, and she was building up a new and better life now. I was so touched by her honesty and openness and her willingness to explore what was right for her.
So I shared her post and wrote her a brief message thanking her for telling the world her story, then I finally fell asleep.
The next day was as busy and full as I’d expected. What a great experience. All of the young “cadets” in the program had lived a year of adventure, satisfaction and hard work. They’d pushed themselves intellectually, creatively and even physically really hard.
The last ceremony of the day was filled with awards, thank you’s and good vibes. I was very happy. But even as the others celebrated, I was already thinking about the next steps, the next bet, the next asks for a bigger experiment that would be even broader in scope.
In a beautiful room with a magnificent lake view, we continued to talk about the year, drinking wine, taking selfies, sharing memories and promising to stay connected. Coming down from all the excitement, I was feeling very tired and decided to say goodbye and head home when I found myself surrounded by the program cadets.
One of the cadets, Georgia, brought up the post I’d shared the night before.