Business owner burnout — it’s a serious problem and it’s something a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with but not a lot of people talk about it.
So in 2012 when my business was still brand new, I had a private client who was getting ready for a VIP day with one of the most well-known coaches on the planet.
As you can imagine, my client — let’s call him Paul — was super excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The potential value of this session was HUGE.
So I helped Paul come up with a list of questions so he could make the most of his time with this world-class coach.
When Paul and I got on our next call, I asked him how it went with the coach. I couldn’t wait to hear all about the game-changing insights, ideas and lightbulb moments he’d walked away with…
And I was totally unprepared for what he said next.
Not What They Needed to Hear
As soon as our call started, I remember Paul being really excited and he said, “It was awesome, Marisa! I had an amazing time… it was so much fun!”
And then I asked him the million-dollar question, “So what was your biggest takeaway, Paul?”
“Oh, he told me to change the font on my DVD cover and a couple words in the sub-headline.”
And I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me?! Change a couple of words and the font? That’s all he said?”
I’d been working with Paul for a while and I knew his offer had some serious problems so when he told me this “rockstar” coach had suggested micro changes that wouldn’t do much to improve the product, I was shocked and deeply disappointed.
And that conversation with Paul bothered me all day.
I couldn’t understand what was going on. Didn’t the coach give a sh$t? What was his deal?
And then it hit me…
I realized Mr. Rockstar Coach — the one everyone talked to because they thought he had all the answers — was experiencing business owner burnout and he’d opted out of being REAL.
He was pandering to his clients and at some level, he’d made the decision to tell people what they wanted to hear, NOT what they needed to hear.
And that realization made me MAD.
A Bigger Price Than You’re Willing to Pay
I decided then and there that I’d never let myself get to the “burnout” stage where I’d feel so exhausted that I ended up pandering to my clients just to get things over and done with.
I swore that no matter what, I’d tell people what they needed to know to get to their goals NOT just what they wanted to hear.
And I’m proud to say that I haven’t broken that promise.
And it’s helped me build a solid reputation and a successful mid 7-figure business.
While I haven’t reached the income levels of Mr. Rockstar Coach, my dedication to the truth has inspired the world’s top entrepreneurs to work with me and trust in my guidance and teaching.
It’s attracted a global community of some of the bravest, smartest, most passionate entrepreneurs in the world.
And it allows me to live with myself and keep feeling aligned with what I do.
And trust me, I’m grateful for all of this every, single day.
But here’s something no one told me and it’s something I wasn’t prepared for…
Standing strong, telling the truth no matter how hard it is for clients to hear and serving people at a consistently high level comes at a cost.
And sometimes it’s a bigger price than you may be willing to pay
When They Pin Their Hopes and Dreams on YOU
Being deeply committed to being honest, being a stand for other people’s transformation and helping them get real results is a full-time job that never stops.
And it can feel totally overwhelming when you have a tribe of hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of people that you feel responsible for…
People who are constantly looking to you for answers and solutions to problems you can help them with.
And here’s something you need to know…
You’re going to see lots of projections which is basically what happens when clients redirect their feelings and emotions onto YOU.
And this is because they’re pinning all of their hopes and dreams on you.
So there are positive projections where you’ll receive a lot of love and appreciation and then there are negative projections and it usually looks like finger-pointing and blame.
And here’s what’s true for a lot of people…
When they feel frustrated, discouraged or disappointed, when they fall short of their goals or don’t get the outcome they’re looking for in their business, they like to blame the coach, the teacher or the leader rather than take full responsibility for their results.
So, all of this might seem like great problems to have when you’re just starting out and you have 2 people on your email list (and one of them is your Mom!).
But trust me on this one…
Taking care of thousands of people can quickly lead to compassion fatigue and burnout.
And when that happens, a LOT of entrepreneurs end up feeling listless and desensitized about the work that they do.
They have no idea how to cope with the increasing demands on their time, attention and energy AND keep their sanity at the same time and so they choose to numb out and shut down to empathy and genuine caring.
And sometimes these entrepreneurs feel like they HAVE to numb out because they’ve been burning the candle on both ends for years and years.Lots of successful business owners, coaches and thought leaders end up having a short shelf life because they’re bone-tired from being the face and voice of their business and so they go into “hibernation” and isolation to recuperate.
So how do you stop from feeling totally crushed under the weight of people’s negative and positive projections (which can be just as exhausting)?
How do you protect yourself from feeling like “everyone wants a piece of you” and there’s only so much to go around?
How can you tell the truth and stand strong without giving up on your integrity?
3 Ways to Overcome Burnout if you are a Business Owner
“Every human act is either a gift of love or a cry for love.” – Patrick Dominguez
That’s my friend Patrick Dominguez’s quote and I love it because it’s 1000% true.
I’ve found that the most empowering thing you can do for yourself and your clients — the most effective thing to do when you’re set on standing in your integrity — is to understand and embody this truth:
Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.
Know that it’s absolutely critical that you respect where your clients are coming from and don’t try to change who they are.
As a coach, expert, teacher, or leader know that you can take responsible action to serve your clients without taking responsibility for them.
And while I don’t see a one-size-fits-all method to totally protect yourself from feeling burned out from the emotional toll that comes from working with, serving, supporting and helping a lot of people…
There are steps you can take to navigate the ups and downs with grace.
#1 Look for Healthy Outlets for Emotional Clearing
Some of the world’s top coaches and thought leaders I know work with energy healers and even Shamans to help them work through the spectrum of emotions that come up when you’re serving thousands of people.
A therapist can also help you work through the heartache and heartbreak that can come from being on the receiving end of other people’s negative projections…
And also the pitfalls of positive projections that can trigger “an neverending ego trip” or “a superiority complex” or the dreaded “God complex” where you start believing you’re untouchable, invincible and always right.
#2 Surround Yourself with an Awesome Support System
A community of loving, like-minded peers, life coaches and teachers — can also go a long way toward releasing difficult emotions.
I’ve personally found that physical activity is an excellent way to do some emotional clearing and I love going on long hikes in the mountains around my house (some people swear by Yoga and others love swimming or getting on a treadmill).
#3 Develop a Personal Spiritual Practice
Integrating a spiritual practice — a regular meditation practice for instance — can be a HUGE help in processing emotions in a safe, healthy way and in helping you stay centered and connected to who you truly are versus believing you’re the positive or negative projections of other people.
A solid, regular spiritual practice could be the difference between feeling happy, and grateful for your clients and customers, being willing and wishing they’d all go away and leave you alone
Plus being connected and tuned in to yourself and how you truly feel about your business can give you the clarity and confidence you need to try new things and the courage to pivot and switch things up, when you’re not getting the results you’re looking for.
The Path to an Unshakeable Reputation
I’ve seen a lot of “gurus” become a veneer — a shell — of their true selves.
They give up being who they are and opt to become the person their clients, students or customers want them to be because they’ve burned the candle at both ends and they’re experiencing some sort of burnout.
And in a way I can see why… they’re trying to preserve their energy and in some cases, their sanity!
But there’s another way…
Don’t let things get to the point where you end up with a serious case of business owner burnout and you start telling clients what they want to hear because you’re too exhausted to do anything else!
Instead, do whatever you can to take care of yourself and to nurture yourself so you can be fully, authentically you and stand for the truth for your clients
In my experience, it’s the only path that leads to an unshakeable reputation and long-term success…
It’s the path that lets you stay in integrity so you can continue to do your best work, create real transformations for clients and make a real difference in the world and that’s definitely worth the price.
And as I said before, surrounding yourself with a supportive community is one of the most effective ways to overcome the emotional toll of serving your clients and customers at a high level of integrity…
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We’ll spend 3 days together virtually, working on your business and YOUR unique growth blueprint. As my premium business growth and networking event, tickets routinely go for $1,000 since the information is that valuable.
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Love it? Hate it? Let me know...
I appreciate this truth-telling, Marisa. As I’ve on-boarded a bunch of new clients these past few weeks while also working on my business, my body has been crying out for more time off in nature, and more time to dance and do yoga
And my spirit is increasingly hungry (honestly a bit desperate…) for peer-to-peer conversations — where I get to RECEIVE some of the deep listening, insightful reflection & support that I give that to others. Plus my inner child longs to play making art and music….
I started to feel like I was running my battery down into the red… Even catching up on sleep didn’t fix it (though it helped). It’s only as I’ve begun giving myself these vital gifts, and finding the humility to ask for what I need from close friends and my husband, that my battery is recharging. I didn’t realize I was close to burnout til you named it…
So glad this post helped you see the signals your body and spirit were sending… and I feel you. One of my deepest ways to recharge is collaborative play — specifically group movement and dance. And it’s tricky not having those those outlets.
Yes for asking for support!
G’Day Marisa …. yes some more reading later but I note your photography gig and hearing those words . Same here as my first experience was to photograph a seminar here in Brisbane with Zig Ziglar and well as a first timer to get involved with Zig going hard at it hooked me . Then I spent a day with Jim Rohn and I really fired with Jim as his way of telling with parables worked for me. Once hooked on the seminar trail and buying books and tapes then that did it for me.
I never had the Mastermind on the yearly contract or paid anyone apart from the seminars for the one or 2 days . My Library is huge and covers everything I could get my hands on .Tom Hopkins was for sales and he fired me up like a furnace.Norman Vincent Peale is always in the mix.Dale Carnegie – Allan Pease with Body language – 450 Sales letters Karen Gilleand – The Persuit of Intermancy with Russ – The E Myth Michael Gerber yes a must have – Tom Peters – Chris Widner – Wayne W Dyer- There are a 100 others in the library and just now sitting and needing to move them on to ‘someone” .
It has been a fantastic ride and even with the health scare I came out okay . Bunkered down now because of this virus but otherwise just living the life.Different circumstances and with no kids it is different. Looking back IF I could have fond ‘someone” as you are suggesting I agree that maybe I could have achieved a little faster. I could have employed others to do specific jobs and possibly done then better than we did them ourselves. Yes depends on the style of business you have and some are sole operators and others employ the team . I was never the sprooker and even though I studied the book How to Be The Life of the Podium I was no Marisa. Happy days Mate .
Wow Len, great list!
No regrets, right? 🙂
Marissa I loved this article. It was a grounding experience to read it. As things take off more and more in my business (in large part because of what I’ve learned and experienced during your mentorship program) I am faced with deep choices about who I want to be and how I want to show up for people’s needs and projections – and my own. I’m so grateful that you wrote this an eye-to-eye level. It’s fella like solid advice from someone whose ahead on the path I’m on. Now I can make y decisions with more knowledge of what lies ahead – and knowledge is power. Thank you again, for empowering me with your knowledge and dedication to what’s true and what’s in my best interests. Love and gratitude for you being you. For living your message.
I love your sincerity.That is why I try to read your emails.Although I don’t have a business yet,I like your style.Thanks.