Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #21


Ryan Rutan: take a minute and ask yourself how am I feeling today? Chances are as a founder some version of tired, worn out, mentally foggy stretched or rundown is part of the answer today on the startup therapy podcast, we're gonna dive into burnout, how to see it coming, how to avoid it and how to recharge when you've gone too

Wil Schroter: far.

Ryan Rutan: This is Ryan Rutan from startups dot com. Back for another episode of startups, Therapy. I am here with Wil Schroder and my partner and Ceo of startups dot com. We are going to talk about something today that all of us face to some degree or another at some point or another, which is being burnt out and and will you just, just like yesterday day before had a very meaningful conversation with somebody on, on just this topic?

Wil Schroter: Yeah, so this is super top of mind, friend of mine, a founder friend calls me up and said, hey man, I'm really burnt out. Kind of like fold the tense game over. I'm all done. I'm Audi kind of burnt out. Right? Not just like, you know, having a tough run and obviously it will keep him out of it as far as who it is. But it, it doesn't matter because it applies to pretty much every single person listening to this podcast, but basically, here's what he said, he said, I've been at this for four years, you know, business is doing okay. You know, it could always be doing better, but it's doing okay. But I'm at a point now where I am so fried. I just can't operate anymore. I'm beyond the point where I can get up tomorrow morning and you know, run through the wall yet again, right? And he's like in this case he says, hey man, I think it may be the case that I'm done with this business, right? You know, I need to sell it or wind it down or you know, whatever the outcome might be. And he said, you know, what would you suggest I do here? And I said, listen, I don't want you to, to, to shut the business down because you're burnt out. And and what I think needs to happen is you just need a break. Maybe, maybe a really long break. Right? But but what I'd like to talk about today is the fact that everyone gets burnt out. Right, Ryan, we all do you and I do, we all do, but that's okay if we know how to handle it and I think we need to start like, like putting a plan together about when it happens. What does that look like?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah. I mean these entrepreneurs were famous for stepping on the turbo the entire time. Right? And just like FIFA, there's a limited amount of that you can use before you just start running really slow or have to stop altogether.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And I don't think we, we are considered of that, right? I know I'm not, I run to failure. It's a horrible trade, right? And and you watch it on a consistent basis. You can watch the will video game where we'll just will all of a sudden running really fast now he's blinking Mario Mario

Ryan Rutan: the board gone

Wil Schroter: every single time. And by the way, this isn't, this isn't me suggesting any of that's good. Like this is a massive, fatal flaw. This is by, this is my Kryptonite. It's by no means my superpower. But I think what happens is for a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of founders when they hit that burnout point, they're often shouldering the whole load of the business, right? So them hitting the burnout point Isn't like employee 10,000 at Google, right? Who just needs to take some vacation time, right? When they hit the breaking point, they feel boxed into a corner because they're like, if I'm burnt out, this is the future of the business that's at stake, not just my health.

Ryan Rutan: That's right. Yeah. It's, it's not, it's not something where they feel like they can, that's part of what accelerates this, especially as you get down towards the end where you're already at the end of your energy, you're probably not making great decisions at this point anyways, you're mentally emotionally drained exhausted and now you're supposed to be self aware enough to do something about that and often case you don't feel like you can do anything because I don't feel like you can take the time, right? You don't have a way to justify taking the break in the first place.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And you look at it as in, I'm burnt out because the business has been hard on me, Things haven't gone well. I mean, you couldn't be burnt out when things are going well, but you get a little bit of a second wind, a little bit of stamina when things are going well. And I would even argue, even when you are burnt out, you do have those power up moments, right? If we're using our super Mario analogies here, right? Where, where, where, where you hit the power up and all of a sudden, you know, you're big and strong for a second until it wears off, but you're still burnt out, you're just getting that, you know, that little bit of boost,

Ryan Rutan: You're rocky 42 head shots in

Wil Schroter: Exactly right now. I think where our challenges are many fold here, I think part of it is when we start to get into the burnout state, we have the capacity to make exponentially bad decisions, right? And, and that scares me right, because we start to equate being burnt out with maybe the business isn't going isn't gonna move forward, etcetera. And it could be true, but we might be making it for the wrong decision. I'm sorry for the wrong reason. The other thing is that in that time if we're saying we're burnt out, we can't perform right all the ships that we need to do really important things, service clients or build product or whatever it is that our business needs to do, we actually just can't do it.

Ryan Rutan: I can't do it. This is where it gets exponential, right? Because now those things start to stack up when now you're looking ahead at the pile of things that you've got to do, that you are already falling behind on. And it just starts to make build this this incredible barrier that it's really hard to break through, right? If what you keep trying to do is run into it head on.

Wil Schroter: So compound all these things, I'm burnt out so I can't perform as well by virtue of not performing as well. I can't move the business forward. And so I feel like the business isn't doing well or maybe that's the cause of it and then on top of it I'm feeling boxed in because if I don't keep performing this business won't be around either. So there's no version where I'm looking at, you know, like I again, I feel trapped so let's talk about what to do about it, right? Like how to like unwind this thing a bit and kind of get you out of this boxed in situation so that we can actually move the business forward without letting our moment in time burnout determine our entire future.

Ryan Rutan: Sure, let's do it.

Wil Schroter: Alright. So I think that the first question just to hit it head on is you know, how do I take a break if I've got so much stuff to do, you're saying you take a break and recharge, but I'm like if I take a break the business will be out of business, which is what's burning me out to begin with. Right?

Ryan Rutan: Exactly. Right. Well I have been here for five years and I haven't taken any vacations. So as the founder, I've accrued nine weeks of PTO Let's take it right? It feels good

Wil Schroter: just that easy. Um And so I think people uh founders Look at this, take a break and maybe two Literal or to intensive of away. For example, if we're working at Google and were employed 10,000 and we need time off, we just take vacation. Yes, we have that luxury because google is not going anywhere

Ryan Rutan: right? Were one in 10,000.

Wil Schroter: Right? And so what we think about are things like, okay well I want to take two weeks off two consecutive weeks and that will solve the problem. Um And it might, but you don't you you can't take those two weeks. So let's talk about what you can do right? Um What I found when I start hitting this level of burnout and it happens all the time is if I'm working at Like 110% and you know maybe it's more but let's just use 110%. I am I'm running on fumes, right? But if I could just get myself To 90% CI think people think I need to get back to 0% right, you know I need a full reset recharge, ensure. Yeah, ideally you do right, but if for whatever reason the business can't afford The 110% down to 0% recharge, How do you get to 90 right, like what does that look like? How can you incrementally start getting yourself out of the red zone? Right and and Ryan, you and I talked about this and literally we talked about this over the past couple of weeks, like how do you get a friday off?

Ryan Rutan: Right, just right sometimes it's all you need,

Wil Schroter: you know a couple of weeks ago you said that that you had taken some time off and it was a full week or a few days or what? It was

Ryan Rutan: like 3.5 days,

Wil Schroter: okay 3.5 days, but what did 3.5 days due to you?

Ryan Rutan: Oh man, it bought me an incredible amount of bounce back energy and I had just come off something that for me was particularly stressful, right preparing for a speaking engagement and then delivering that um which is a as a part time introvert um takes a lot out of me, right, I've realized over the years like I always need some some refresh time after that and so you know we went out to the lake and spent a couple of days and I came back then, you know, halfway through thursday feeling like I could run through a wall, right? Just, just took a little bit of time where I could decompress and, you know, work out all the issues that arise after I do something like that and just feel good again, right? It doesn't take a ton of time, but it took dedicating a little bit of time to push the reset button. In this case, it wasn't really like that long drawn out run down, it was things had come to a head physically and emotionally for me and I needed a few days for that to just kind of unravel for that pressure to disappear so I could move forward and I did

Wil Schroter: right. And so I think we often think about the break has to be this long period, right? It's not called a break unless it's, you know, x amount of time, what I tend to find is the brake doesn't necessarily have to be a long period of time, but if there's no break whatsoever, if there's no, you know, time to get off the ice and recharge using a hockey analogy here, you're screwed.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, right, you're sprinting all the time, you need that breather and it doesn't take long, right? You need a couple of minutes to refresh and then you go back in the game.

Wil Schroter: I wish somebody had told me this earlier in my career because I always felt like actually I'm pointing to earlier Microsoft, somebody told me this like three weeks ago, I have this, this, this bad habit of just running into a failure. Like I said earlier, right? And for me, the brakes that I'm allowed to take, we'll get into justifying breaks in a second, but like the brakes, I'm allowed to take our being sick, having some sort of like external emergency and or reason that I have to be gone right, or back to being sick, right? My longest breaks have to do with me being unwell.

Ryan Rutan: Those are my three reasons, right, being sick, something external or being sick, right?

Wil Schroter: And, and what I think we've started to learn over the past couple of years, you know, here at startups dot com, is that doing a little bit of preventative maintenance, just saying like, hey, I can tell something's off. You know, I feel like I just, I need a day here, I need a couple of days here is really starting to make a huge difference, right?

Ryan Rutan: And I'll say this man, it doesn't even always take the, the full day off and I don't mean, oh well a half day off would work as well, just sometimes changing the environment when we made the decision to switch over to work from home Wednesdays, which has now become, you know, 33 full work from home days. When we first made that decision, I noticed a lot less of this sort of normal weekly burnout and something bigger happened, which was that I no longer had my major failures, which like you, I would just go, go, go, go, go and then there would come a point where like for one weekend or maybe like a three day period, I would just be out like fall asleep next to the bed with my shoes on kind of exhausted. And, and that would happen every probably like once a quarter. And since we know from the time we instituted that policy that stopped happening, it was just enough. Right to your point, we don't have to go from 100 and 10% to 0, Going from 110% to 90 made a huge, huge difference for me. The other thing that I noticed that did was in periods of burnout and this might be specific to my personality, But one of the things that's hardest about burnout for me is not looking like I'm burnt out to everybody else. And so having a day where I could just be at home and be like, I'm fucking burnout and I'm going to look burnout, I'm gonna feel burnt out and it's not gonna matter because I'm not, I don't feel like I'm affecting anybody else.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. Well, and I think too, as founders and often as leaders of the company, you know, you don't want to show that kind of, that kind of scar, right? Like you want to be able to say, hey, you know, I'm down. So everybody else should be down and in all fairness, I, I won't understate the fact that the leadership in the organization does reflect the resolve of the entire organization, right? You know, there's a reason top generals, top coaches, you know, top ceos run top companies, their resolve does have a very real effect, however kind of useless when that resolved is packaged in an empty shell of somebody who's long since

Ryan Rutan: burned out. Yeah. If you do get wounded on the battlefield, bleeding out in front of your troops, probably not the best way to handle it.

Wil Schroter: Exactly. And so I think part of what's been helpful and I'm glad you brought this up is I know among the leadership here at startups, if someone's fried, they just say as much right, They don't have to justify it. They don't get lambasted for it and we all look at it because we're all kind of workaholics in our own way as just I want to work more. This is how I work more right. Is that the right justification? Probably not right, But, but, but but we're at least communicating it. I I think as we mature as an organization and as people will probably get better at just understanding from a health standpoint why that's great. Not that we don't understand it now, but I think we still have a little bit of, I have to work justify it. But here's the important point when folks are saying I have too much to do to take a break, you're right, you do have too much to do to take a long, full stop break. Okay. Hopefully you don't, hopefully you can take a break. So I'm not, I'm not knocking a break. What I'm trying to say is, dude, if you're at 110% right now, 100 whatever percentage doesn't matter, you're over 100% of what you can do, You gotta get sub 100%. Even if that's just down to 90 because the way I see it, If we're gonna look at like, you know, the green zone, yellow zone, red zone in red zone is anything over 100%. The longer you stay in the red zone, the longer you're going to pay this back in spades later. Not in

Ryan Rutan: a good absolutely. Yeah, I think that's a really, really important realization and I think that once you get past that and you sort of, your enlightened on this particular point, It allows you to go harder. I think that there's, there's this interesting thing, it's like, well I'll go 110% because I can probably sustain that longer without totally clean and then I'll try to back off just a little Whereas if you know that you can go all the way to the breaking point and then just raise your hand and say like I need, I need I need out. You can come out. So that way you can run as hard as you want to, as long as you're willing to take that time when you need to. I just realized there's a, there's a great analogy to one of my new hobbies, Brazilian jiu jitsu, you can go full on sparring in Brazilian jiu jitsu because of the tap out mechanism, right? You don't have to wear headgear, you don't have to take other preventative measures. You're not prohibited from trying any of the moves at any time because everybody is protected by the tap out mechanism. I think founders need to recognize that not as not as something that, that that's a weakness, but a way to go full on as hard as you want and then be able to take yourself out of the game when you need to. I also want to circle back on one other thing that you said, which was, you know, this, this notion that within our group, within our leadership at startups, we have this ability and we do use the tap out mechanism. But there's another subtlety to this that I think was really, really great when I realized it when when you or Elliot or anybody else on the team raises your hand and says, guys, I I'm I'm a bit burnt, I'm gonna need some time. The last thing on my mind is, oh, geez again, I'm thinking, all right, how can I push a little more of my turbo and support this, right? That's the immediate feeling I get, and that's the immediate feeling that I get from you guys when I need to be the one raising my hand and saying, hey, time out that everybody else is there and actually wants to pick up that slack because they know they can and because they know that when it's their turn for the break, that they'll be supported in doing so, and I think that's really, really been powerful for us.

Wil Schroter: And I think if, if the other team members recognize the value of a break, it goes even further, right? You know, if if, if, you know that, hey, you know, will does a lot of creative stuff for the organization. If he's creatively burnt out, the organization isn't going to be able to get more shit done. Right. Last last year, we had this really interesting moment where, you know, I lead the creative team here and our creative director, who is just an absolute workhorse, The work that was coming across was still good work, but it wasn't his best work, right? And, and we go back and forth all the time and kind of, you know what his best work looks like, but when he's on, he's really on into his credit, he's usually on around this time last year work starts coming across, this is over a period of a few weeks or so and it's just not his best work, right? Not totally phoning it in, but you could tell, you know, he's not at full strength. So I said to him, I said, hey man, how about this, take two weeks off and mind you, he wasn't even looking to take two weeks off. He had no interest in taking time off, he had no plans, he had nothing, right? And at first he thought it was me being passive aggressive like your work is you may as well might as well not be here and and here's what I said to him, I said, you know, and he's been here for years. I said every time, every time around this part of the year, right where we get into kind of like mid to late summer where we've been going full sprint since the restart in january. Our stuff starts to kind of taper off a bit and so I know what's going to happen when we get into august september october and then we started looking toward the tail end of the year. Our work is going to slow down even more. It's just not gonna be as good as it used to be, it's not gonna be as fresh, we're not gonna agree on as much stuff just because again we're not bringing our a game, take two weeks off this time just as an experiment. I don't care what you do, just make sure it's not work and let's see what happens when you come back. Right? And again, he was a little taken aback because it felt like a forced vacation. But like, you know, nobody feels that upset about it. But what was interesting about it was he felt justified. You know, he didn't in this case it was me pushing it, not him, but he felt like, okay, well yeah, if you want me to take a break, I'll take a break. No shock. He comes back two weeks later and he's like, dude, I had no idea how burnt out I was right. Like I did nothing but watch TV for like 16 hours a day for the first few days because my mind was just mush. Right? And what a shock he comes back and does some of the best work ever. I think as managers, if we don't build a system in place to give our to, to give our employees this, this built in justification to kind of just take this reset break because I think particularly in the US are breaks are so tied to events like externalities like I'm going on vacation. Ergo I'm going to take a break, right?

Ryan Rutan: Right. It's Memorial Day weekend. It's labor Day weekend, which often for me are as draining as they are refilling. There's always some implied additional work or planning or something that I have to be involved in.

Wil Schroter: I don't think we have a culture where we recognize you're just fatigued. Right? And of course you're fatigued. Like if you're gonna be working super hard at a startup, how could you not be fatigued? Right. You know, I grew up playing team sports like you did, you played soccer? I played hockey. The idea was you could be on the ice for about 60 seconds to 90 seconds, right? It doesn't sound like a lot try getting on skates and skating competitively. It might as well be 10 years, right?

Ryan Rutan: If I can stay on my feet on skates for 10 seconds, like take me out now, I haven't fallen down yet. The

Wil Schroter: coach would always say, He said at 60 seconds, I've got all of you have 90 seconds. I've got most of you have two minutes, I've got none of you. Right. He knows that the moment I hit that threshold no matter how hard I played, maybe even despite how hard I played, I'm no longer going to be effective. So his job is to get me off the ice right? No different than ourselves as founders or certainly our teams. But let's focus on the founders because I think in their case they are the coach and no one is deliberately trying to manage them to pull them off the ice,

Ryan Rutan: right? Coach. You're looking tired, you want to be on the

Wil Schroter: bench for a little while.

Ryan Rutan: Exactly, right. It never happened.

Wil Schroter: And so I think if nothing else, if we socialize to our coworkers, if we have any, if we don't have any, it could be our loved ones, our spouse, you know, whoever is important to us to just say, You know, at 60 seconds I was at my best at 90 seconds. I'm a little bit tapped. I'm at two minutes. I'm probably at 10 minutes. Right? You know, for for most founders, I can't be effective. I can't win this game. If I continue to stay on the ice, I've got to take a break. And I think for a lot of folks, we have a hard time admitting that to ourselves. Like we, we understand it, but we don't do anything about it. And I think it makes us shitty founders

Ryan Rutan: when we can pull the problem right? Realizing it in the first place. And then to your point being willing to find a justification to actually do something about it. And so I think the recognition piece and it just gets easier with time after you've failed enough times simply because you're burnt out. You start to realize it's like having gone through those cycles, uh, with the creative director at some point, you realize, hey, every year around this time we have this little performance drop off. Why don't we just cut that off at the pass? But that took years to develop, Right. And so I think over time you will start to realize some of the patterns in what your burnout looks like. I feel like the harder leap for people is to actually do something about it. And so you may have people around you kind of helping you to signal like the coach seeing your tired again. I think we need a good mechanism for turning that relationship around. Like how do the players tell the coach that he's tired? Where can he or she as the founder gets some support and, and be told, hey, look, you know, we're seeing this, we, we, we understand that you're in a position where you probably need some time and then find that justification. So what do you think that we could do better as founders to enable the people around us to help us feel good about doing this stuff?

Wil Schroter: Well, I think the first thing we do is we start to say, what does peak performance look like for us right now, for some, for some groups in the organization, it's very numeric, if we have a sales team, you know, sales teams turning in numbers, those numbers through their at their peak or they're not right. In other cases, we might have a development team, you know, our, our team of engineers that are cranking out code sometimes a little bit harder to determine whether they're at their peak, but, but often when, when stuff's not shipping, that's kind of a reason, right? Uh, developers at their peak ship stuff when, when stuff's not shipping, there's usually a reason, Right? But so as you look around the organization, you're going to see different markers for for what that burnout looks like. But you've got to imagine, no matter what every single person in the org is at some level of burnout, right? Just some worse than others. Our goal as managers is to try to manage that downward to say, look, I'm going to look for opportunities, whether it's a day a week, whatever that looks like to be able to put some points back on the board for this person. Right back to my hockey analogy, I'm looking for opportunities to get people off the ice whenever possible because I know I don't want to put them back on and until they had a little chance to rest. I rarely,

Ryan Rutan: I feel like that's pretty easy to do though, right? Like I feel like that's easy enough to do because we're, we're typically looking downstream and we are monitoring performance. But as we shift this focus back to the founder level founder performance is often a lot harder to pinpoint, right? Because at the end of that were responsible for everything, which, you know, you kind of can't just the meter. There isn't clear enough to read to say that, you know, just because performance is going up or down that it's something intrinsic to the founder that's causing that, right? Because it's the management of the teams, it's the team selection? It's, it's, it's so many factors. So what do you think that we can use as signals for our own turbo meter? How can we do a better job of of that initial recognition that I'm burnt out?

Wil Schroter: Well, I think at the very least, in a startup in the formative years, there's so much ship going wrong, right? So part of you is like, oh, well sales are down. Some of, you know, I must be a little bit burnt out or you know, not at the top of my game or the company needs to grow. I need to raise money. And so, you know, if I was top of my game, I bet that would have already been done. You've got to recognize in the formative years, no matter how on top of your game you are, the sky is probably still falling everywhere. Sure, my buddy, who I talked at the top of the show, you know, said, hey, I'm burnt out. I'm thinking about maybe, you know, selling the company or doing something different. And my point to him was, you've been at it for years, man, there's no version where you wouldn't be burnt out right now, even if things were going 180° differently than you expect them to go, you'd still be burnt out. You can't operate in this game for that long and not be burned out,

Ryan Rutan: right? Did he drop, did he drop any signals that he did he talk about, like, I have been feeling burnt out because of X, y and z. I know a couple personally, like for me, there are certain things that I always look forward to within, within our business and if I find myself like getting a little, you know, a little lax or a little, like, I'm just not that excited, for example, I love every time we have a chance to get together and do one of these podcasts, if there comes a day where I'm like, I don't really feel like that's going to be to me and be like, oh, I'm probably burned out, right? Because if there's something that you really love, you know, kind of running towards and then you find yourself not looking forward to that. I think that's it for me, at least that's a great indicator. But did did he drop any of your conversation?

Wil Schroter: Well in his case, he said, hey, a couple of things in the business lately haven't gone well. And while that always takes a little bit of energy out of you, he's like, nothing's happened that's put some of that energy back, right? You know, so, so it's just, it's a, it's a bunch of hits, you know, beating up my, my, my hockey analogy, you know, he's just got four points scored on them in a row, right? It's just, it's, it's, it's demoralizing, right? And so he's thinking of it in terms of, hey, you know, if I'm fried and the business isn't going well and this is taking longer than I expected by the way, it always takes longer than you always does way more. Like aren't these the signs that, you know, something's not right? And, and truthfully, yes, some of them are. However, if you're reading those signs at a time when you're also most burnt out, everything just, it becomes exponential, right? You're like, oh man, we lost that client. God, not another. When you've got fresh legs, you've got a couple of hit points to spare, right? You can take a couple hits and keep on moving, which is what you need, if you're going to put yourself into this game basically half injured. What, what else do you expect to happen? You're gonna get crushed.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, he gets that. That's the, that's the real conundrum, right? Which is that sometimes we need rest the most when we can afford it the least. And it's such a hard decision to make,

Wil Schroter: which is why we're saying, don't look at a break as being this long kind of toes in the sand kind of break. If you can take one of those, you wouldn't be listening to this podcast, right? Your challenge. Uh, I'm assuming that you can't take a break, although, although in a little bit, I think we should get into some different ways. I've seen folks take extended breaks without, you know, just leaving the shop altogether. But what I think breaks for us is that we don't believe that we can justify the break. You know, my friend just had a couple setbacks in the business. There's nothing about that that makes him go, You know, I think the answer to that is take some time off, but here's the way I look at it and I've dealt with this head on when setbacks happen and we're in the business of setbacks. If you're gonna start up with no setbacks, I would probably probably not running a startup, right? I look at the set back saying, hey, what's it going to take? What kind of energy do I think it's going to take in order for me to kind of have to make up for all of those and inevitably it's more than you have right now. So my first plan is what can I do to kind of recharge a little bit right? For for me it's twofold. Right? When I'm, when I'm looking to justify the break and when I'm trying to take the break part of it is what kind of break I need. And I think we should probably talk about that, whether it's a mental break, a physical break, a creative break, etcetera. And then the other part of it is more or less how I'm going to take that break. You know, you said you went to the lake, right? It was just this badass zen kind of place to unwind, right?

Ryan Rutan: Yes, it was, I spent half my day in a sweat lodge every day. It was amazing.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, man. And you know, like that's, that's specifically what you're supposed to do. Like the perfect break, right? There are other ways to take a break that aren't that restful now. I don't pretend to to tell other people what's restful to them, oddly for me when I need a break, I go in my workshop and I do carpentry nonstop. Like I burn 4 to 5000 calories a day doing far more manual labor possibly do

Ryan Rutan: your vacation is a different kind of work, right? And that, but it works for you. I've watched it over and over again, right? You come out with some amazing new piece of carpentry, a new closet something and uh, and a bunch of energy. I'm like, all right, awesome.

Wil Schroter: I do. Because what I find is that more often than not my burnout is creative. You know, I just hit a creative burnout. Like I'm sitting at the laptop, I'm trying to type up an article or I'm trying to do some, some piece of new product development and just nothing's coming out right? I'm still staring at the blinking cursor and I can't make that outcome happen. So I know when that happens and I only know this after so many years of getting it wrong that in order to get back on the saddle. I got to go do something else and I've got to find something that really recharges that part of my batteries.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. And I think, and and like you said, you know, this, this various person to person, organization to organization and it it isn't always a hard stop, right? You know, for you, you switch to your workshop, which is absolutely not a hard stop. You're still thinking working physically. I've found that there are even times where if I'm starting to feel a little bit burnt out and might often tend to be creative too. So if we're going through periods were doing like a lot of ad copy or or, or ad creative stuff like that, where it's it's generation of content. Yeah, that can wear me out. And so what I'll do is say, like, if I'm not, if I feel like I don't have the energy to bring my a game to that, I'll do some additional analysis, right, I'll dig into some data, I'll go, you know, you know, look at, look at our Mrr trends over the last six months, I'll do something that's a bit more analytical because that actually takes a lot less energy for me, some other things that I've heard recently. And this was an interesting one, I was talking to a founder friend here locally about a month ago and he said, I realized that our burnout and he runs a services agency about 250 employees in it. They, it's all B two B stuff and so they're working with kind of hard charging clients, he said, I realized that organizational burnout is what happens to us. He's like, it tends to happen kind of all at the same time for me and my entire executive team, but they felt trapped in the same way that you know, like, well one of them could be out at a time and they could kind of like switch off and and fill gaps and that was okay, but it wasn't really getting them to recharge, it was just sort of triage right, They were still bleeding, it's not as fast. He said what he figured out was like because this was happening like as an organization, right? The the entire executive team getting worn out at the same time, they started doing retreats and right there still working there, just changing their work environment much in the same way that work from home had a major impact on me. So like we find ourselves going, you know, once a quarter, sometimes more often if everybody really feels run down, we just moved locations, we go somewhere fun to be, we work during the day together as a team gives us time to spend, you know, to kind of shift what we're doing and then a big part that's where we're doing it and we got something fun and different to do in the evenings, he said, we come back feeling really refreshed despite having also worked for a week. And so I think there's a lot of ways that you can think about how to give yourself or your team breaks that don't involve not working

Wil Schroter: well. Yeah, Okay. I love that. And bear in mind there's lots of different types of burnout, right? There's, there's physical burnout, right? Uh, you know, my stepdad's a landscaper, right? He, he works 12 hours a day in the sun, right? When he comes home, he is physically burnt out. He's

Ryan Rutan: just literally

Wil Schroter: beat. Yeah. And so when, when he, when he comes home and he needs a break, he just needs to sleep. You know, the dude just needs to grab a beer and sleep, right? Um, for a lot of us, like while we do have physical manifestations for a lot of the folks that are, that our founders, they're often not in that physical, physically demanding of a job. So, so they have other types of burnout, although again you start, it starts to manifest physically.

Ryan Rutan: You guys still grab, I still grab a beer and go to sleep. I think that's still, that's, that's an adequate cure.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, Right? But there's emotional burnout, right? Like it's the equivalent of, hey, I just lost this account or I just, you know, this employee just quit or you name it. I mean a million things, Everything we do. You get enough of those hits. Yeah, you're going to be burnt out. It doesn't matter how many hours you're working your mind and your, your kind of emotions can only process so much, You know, at some point you're fried.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, you just burn out. Can't do anything about it. In fact, you're in the, you're in the least likely position to do anything about it in terms of like trying to power through, you just can't

Wil Schroter: absolutely, there is a mental slash cognitive slash creative burnout and I think there's a bit of spectrum there, it's not just one lump together where you've been running your mind so hard for so long. It just doesn't have anything left. That muscle is tapped, right? You don't have another rep in you. And I think this list goes on and on. But what I think is interesting and I don't hear folks talk about this enough is there's a different recipe for each of those types of burnout, right? Like I was telling you, hey man, my most common type of burnout is just creative, right? Where I do a lot of creative work and I just need a way to stop doing that and I go do the most mundane thing. I had to go do carpentry in my case, right? Because that's what resets my meter. Incidentally, you know, it doesn't reset my meter, vacations, vacations are the bane of my existence when it comes to taking a break right here is why I'm on vacation. You know, now it's family vacation of course got kids. But even still I'm on vacation. The worst thing you can do to recharge me is, has had me sit in a chair and do nothing any period of time and just think about how many problems that I have that I can't be fixing right now.

Ryan Rutan: Let me, let me get a, let me get an anxiety attack faster than I get a suntan watch

Wil Schroter: And there are nine million reasons why that shouldn't be the case, but it's the case

Ryan Rutan: the case. It's your reality.

Wil Schroter: And so for me vacation means time with my family. You know, it's, it's, it's the goals are different, but it's not how I recharge. And the reason for that is because for different folks, they have different ways that they burn out. They have different counterbalances that they need. Right? Also worth noting for a lot of folks, the burnout doesn't necessarily occur solely at work. Right? I know a lot of folks were there burnout is 100 times worse at home with whatever, you know, with whatever may be going on with, with their spouse, with their kids, their families, with their friends, whatever that You take that burnout. And again, let's say you have 100% meter in 80% of its already burnt out before, you know, you leave the house in the morning. Yeah. And whatever happens at work, you've got 20% of of gas left, right? Any new parent exactly

Ryan Rutan: tell

Wil Schroter: a new parent that's been up for the last six hours with no sleep that their biggest issue right now is work. Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: biggest issue right now is staying alive.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And, and so, so in that case if the issue is at home then then what you, you may need is more time to go figure shipped out at home, right? You know, maybe the solution isn't vacation, it's just man stop stacking up at home and if I don't take some time to get on top of this, no amount of vacation is going to matter, yep.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Yeah. There was an interesting policy that they had in Cyprus when I lived there didn't apply to me because we were a multinational and we didn't, we didn't adhere to this, but the standard workforce, there has a half day off every Wednesday and everybody uses that half day Wednesday for running errands, going to the bank, doing whatever transactional stuff you have to do that you would normally otherwise do on a weekend or, or after hours if you can write and that's the thing or these things just stack up and stress you don't have time to do it. Um It was interesting how much less bothered people were by that even though they were wasting a Wednesday afternoon doing all these things, it left the rest of the week open, right and then their, their personal time was in their personal time. Uh and, and it was, it was obvious it was actually a great policy and it worked well for the people who who could utilize it.

Wil Schroter: And I think because at home we don't quantify the problems in the same way we do at work, right? Work if we lose an account it has a has a specific financial impact and we know we know that that's bad. If we get an argument with somebody that we care about, we don't quantify it, it makes us feel shitty. It takes hit points away. It does all the things that are just as bad if not worse in some cases orders of magnitude worse than what happens at work. But but we still look at it as we're burnt out with work. Right? Right.

Ryan Rutan: Because that's where we can quantify the impact of of this, of the challenge, right? But we can quantify the impact of the burnout. Burnout doesn't generate there, but it's still manifests there.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. So in some cases the answer to burnout is go spend some time with some people that don't see you anymore, right? Like that's actually what's burning you out. What's burning you out is you're not seeing your kid, right? Or maybe what's pretty as you are seeing your

Ryan Rutan: kid, Your mileage may vary. Yeah. Your mileage may

Wil Schroter: vary. But look what I'm really trying to get at is burnout isn't directly and solely tied to work, right? Burnout doesn't have just one version where I'm just tired, right? It has lots of different variant types and you need a prescription based on that type, right? You need something that specifically is geared towards that type of burnout right? In a solution and a solve for that. What I found is once I started to calibrate and kind of triangulate where my burnout was coming from, I knew exactly how to attack it again in my case workshop and guess what? I need like three days tops, three days is worth like three weeks to me because it solves that very acute problem for me, but it buys me 3-4 months, right? Yeah. In the reason it works and this is kind of like, you know, if if if you're okay making a last point here because it's starting to run a little longer. I'd like to say the reason that it works, the reason I can do that is because we've sat down with our team and socialize the idea of a break and everyone understands how to participate in a break, right? It's not just my break. It's everyone jumping in to say I got your back.

Ryan Rutan: Alright. So we've talked about the various types of burnout and how the, you know, the the impacts of those are very different. So let's, let's face it, we're all going to go through this at some point, you're going to need to take a break. Let's talk about how you actually do that,

Wil Schroter: right? How you actualize it, right? Because for for many, there's, there's, hey, I can't justify it. We've already talked about, listen, you gotta put points back on the board. You have to recharge if you want to get back to peak potential. But then the next question is, okay, I get that. Like I get the concept, how do I actually do it? Well, what we've learned. Uh, and I think we're getting even better at this over time is you got to socialize in the team, right? Like everyone has to be on the board on board with the concept of, I need a break. Otherwise you won't take it and it doesn't work. You know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: It's funny because I think there's, there's often the, the natural inclination to obscure the reason for it, right? That you don't want to show that you need the break and it's actually completely counterproductive because then then nobody understands why you're, why you're out or why you're spending less time or why, right, you might just becoming disinterested, right? Is, is our founding team just spacing out like what's going on? I think if you tell them look, I'm tired and give them a little bit of context as to why, right? Like we just spent the last four months rebuilding every one of our sites. It took every creative cycle I had available to me and now I am just burnout, I need a little bit of time to recharge. So I can come back and we can kick some morass because then you'll understand here's what led to it, here's how it's manifesting himself. You're tired and you can't, you just can't put in your all and you want to and so you need a little bit of time off that they can relate to as well because they'll have gone through something very similar at some point or they may be feeling it right then. Um and that's the other, the other benefit to sharing it is, it gives other people the ability to raise their hand and go, you know what? Me too, right? Like I'm in that same boat right now.

Wil Schroter: Well, and what I think is interesting when folks are raising their hands, they'll say, hey, you know, maybe I'm burnt out. But another way they raised their hand and say, dude, I've got you write what I told my, my buddy, my founder friend who's in baptist for four years, I said give your team an opportunity right now to step up. Right, look at it and say, I don't necessarily need to be on vacation for weeks, but I will say this, I need a three month hiatus from all of my responsibility and what I mean, like, like I need to take some of these things off my shoulders for just a little bit, right? So folks, for the next three months, I'm going to ask each of you to step up in a different way to kind of take a couple of things off my plate, right? That is not only taking huge amounts off your plate, which gets you from 100 and 10% to 90% or 80% but it's giving those folks on your team the opportunity to step up and perhaps, you know, kind of level up in where they are on the organ, right?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Which is always great, right? Giving people that opportunity is amazing. Yeah. And you know, this isn't something that's all that foreign to us either. Right? Sorry. But this isn't something that's all that foreign to us either. I don't think we think of it in this same sense. But imagine when when, you know, the organization goes through something like a key employee leaving, right? For for one reason, maybe it's a maternity or paternity leave, maybe it's, you know, they're they're exiting the company, they're moving across country, something's happening. It's either going to take them out of the game for a period of time or for or permanently. Typically the result is that those responsibilities at least in the short term, get different out and pushed off to other people, right? And nobody, you know, nobody minds, right. This is just something you do. You carry the organizational weight together and then over time you, you put a plan together for pulling it back together, maybe bringing in another resource or handing it back to the person when they return and that feels very normal. And somehow I don't think we apply that same thinking and logic to burnout.

Wil Schroter: Right. Right. And, and if we do that, if we think about in this case and I think of all the things that me and my buddy discussed, that one resonated the most. I said try to give yourself a 123 month hiatus if you will from being fully stacked with all the duties. Right. And by the way, there's different ways to get through this. It could be pushing some projects off as far as the timeline of those projects. What I said is you need a sabbatical from responsibility for a minute. Right? You just not all responsibility, but this much responsibility, you know, were used to keeping our foot on the gas all the time to try to push these startups forward. Maybe just what you need right now is a month where your foot is just off the gas. Not you stop working, you just stop stressing about the fact that it's not growing fast enough for this or that you asked for some help elsewhere and you just say, okay, I just do, I just need to breathe for a second.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah, that's great advice.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And so, well, I'm hoping a lot of founders will take from this is burnout is going to happen. It's going to happen on a regular basis. The only way to do something about it one is to actually do something about it. But it's also put some, some foundation within your team to be able to recognize it, respond to it and support it in a way that kind of keeps everybody going otherwise. I think we're all screwed and you know, and I think it's a very solvable problem.

Ryan Rutan: It is. Well, what I hope people do after listening to this is take a break, right. You know, you need it. You know, you need it. Um, just go do it, stop listening to podcasts, go get some rest. We'll see you next time. That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch Rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash B E G I n. You'll thank me later.

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