You're not burnt out, you're bored! And other reflections from January

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👋 Hi, I’m Ross, an ex-Management Consultant and current ‘what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-with-my-life Master’.

Welcome back to Collecting Dots.

My 5 takeaways from January in this update:

1. BEWARE! The recency effect

2. Freelancing is NOT entrepreneurship

3. FREEDOM is not what I thought it was...

4. You’re not burnt out… you’re BORED!

5. Sometimes you MUST STOP to go forward

For those that have been here for a while, you’ll have noticed there has been quite a break since my last newsletter.

I started this month's newsletter writing out why this was: "I started with a few clients", "I was trying to work out the value I was offering", "I wanted to make sure I was offering real value in what I was sharing", "I wanted to make sure I knew my audience, who was I writing for?"……the list could go on. Although I have had a  successful month with client work, leading a 3-day Product Design Sprint with R3, a blockchain FinTech, these are not really true reasons for not getting something out the door.

In all honesty, and now after a week taking some time off, I realised the true reason is that after 4 months freelancing and hectically trying to figure things out, I felt I was not getting any 'closer' to what I wanted.

In reality, the very process of trying out what I have been is part of the journey - knowing what you want and don't want. So, staying true to what this newsletter set out to do - share my journey - this is going to offer some honest refections into what I've been thinking about.

First up, the newsletter. What’s changed then…

From now on, on the first Tuesday of each month, I’ll share my key takeaways from the previous month - all centred around helping people understand and gain greater compassion with their own unique journey - whether considering a career change, major life change, total overhaul of their existence, or…just fancy some truthful thoughts.

My goal is to offer some guidance to others that might be struggling with the path they are currently on or looking for a change. Restlessly trying to achieve, and looking to bring more awareness to what they want - to become more mindful with their ambition.

This month has been a bit of an awakening for me. Awakening might sound a bit much, but what I mean is true so I’ll try to keep the bullshit to a minimum. So here are my January takeaways:

1. BEWARE! The recency effect

For some time at Accenture, I thought a lot about being able to work remote, manage my own time, and 'be a freelancer', a 'digital nomad'. The idea of living where I wanted, working with a range of clients, have 'my own business', work in cafes, in beaches, upside down in a treehouse, on mars, etc...

The trouble is, when you arrive somewhere you had aspired, you realise the things you didn't know, and perhaps the reality of what you thought you wanted. Although its hard to say the current world we're leaving in is an accurate picture of the normal freelancer life, I still felt and feel there is something missing.

As a consultant, when thinking of ideas outside of the Accenture I always ended up thinking of things that were not all that different from what I was currently doing, just packaged up differently. Methodologies, processes and systems that had worked with FTSE100 companies that I could repackage for myself. No surprise here and if anything this is a good thing - you should build a business based on a problem you have witnessed, not a solution you think others need.

However, the tricky thing with this is that it may not really be what you want to do. What you're good at is not necessarily what you care about; they sadly don't always automatically go hand in hand.

The recency effect is the tendency to remember the most recently presented information best. For example, if you are trying to memorize a list of items, the recency effect means you are more likely to recall the items from the list that you studied last. I feel this applies quite well to careers and career change. On the one hand, it's great to build out a business or freelance in areas that you have previously worked in, as this is of course an area of knowledge and a skill you will likely be respected in and trusted to deliver. Yet, on the other hand, there is likely a reason you made the decision to make a change, so you sort of owe it to yourself to actually make that change happen.

The change away from the most recent is the hardest - the classic getting out of your comfort zone.

It's like seeing two paths away from your current life/job.

One path looks very similar to the previous. You recognise it. The trees, the rocks, the signs. You've walked it before - it's comfortable. Likewise, you see other people you know on this path that can guide you and give directions - yet, really it's just more of the same.

The second path is more treacherous. It's dark, you can't see things you recognise. It looks unfamiliar, slower, more testing. It's much harder to take this one, but, at the other side, there is something new waiting - not necessarily some golden parallel universe - if anything just going through the tests themselves and into the darkness is the path - its the learning and challenges that build you.

This leads me to my next point...

2.Freelancing is NOT entrepreneurship

So freelancing vs running a business. My current ponder. I've worked with a few clients since leaving Accenture and soon realised that as long as I am going in without a clear methodology or productised service, soon I merely become an employee living and working on their 'dream' or vision.

Seth Godin explains the difference well: "Freelancers get paid for their work. If you're a freelance copywriter, you get paid when you work. Entrepreneurs use other people's money to build a business bigger than themselves so that they can get paid when they sleep".

Although I'm not a huge fan of the 'paid when they sleep'  part of this, I do think it's useful to make the distinction.

There is nothing wrong with freelancing, it's just a realisation to me that it really isn't all that different from 'employment'.
It's certainly a crucial step, and something to dip back into to continue building funds for an idea.

Daniel DiPiazza says here - "Freelancing changed my life (and I recommend anyone looking to leave the 9-5 first find work for themselves as a freelancer on the side), but freelancing is only halfway there. It’s a necessary bridge to get you away from your day job and into independent living. On the other side of that bridge is full-fledged entrepreneurship"

3. FREEDOM is not what I thought it was... starts with knowing what it is you want and don't want.
It is about deducing what you don't like as much as it is about finding 'your calling'.

Numerous times over the last few months friends and family have said to me:  "ah I bet you're loving this freedom / this sense of independence" and so forth which, I am of course, but I'm also unsure if I was really giving myself all that much more freedom.

One of my learnings is that freedom is not so simple as in a company or outside. Freedom is actually somewhat of a mindset and an act of disciplined execution of what it is you want.

To do this, to have more freedom, requires an understanding of what you want. For, as soon as you're not doing so much of what you want, it's likely you'll become less free. That is not to say you have to enjoy everything you do - certainly not. But at least the things you don't enjoy doing should work towards a bigger picture - not just doing it for the sake of it, or because someone says it needs to be done.

I've mentioned how important experimentation is before, and have thought more about what it really is. Experiments are trying to prove something wrong, more than prove something right. So, why can’t we see life a bit more like this?

All too often we hear purpose, passion and what I am starting to find a nauseating obsession with the start with why culture.

What I now have come to realise is that there is a balance, entropy. We, of course, need to find out what we like, however, the easier and perhaps most efficient way to get there is to find out what we don’t like, what we don’t want.

Therefore, the point here, is that if you're searching for freedom, perhaps consider thinking about what it is you mean by freedom and what you really want. If you’re ever asking yourself too often what you want to do with your life, and what you want, perhaps reframe it for a moment, and establish some understanding of what you absolutely don’t want! Let me know how this goes - maybe our lists match up.

4. You’re not burnt out… you’re BORED!

Love him or hate him, I do find that Gery Veynerchuck does come out with some pretty good gems. On a scroll one evening when I was peak mind fuck I came across a video of a woman, my age, asking him about burnout:

"I’ve lost my passion, I don’t feel interested in what I’m doing, I can’t see myself doing this, I don’t want to work long nights".

Already this resonated with me. His response, blunt as ever, was that we need to stop with the heaviness. Stop with this pressure and seriousness about work and, what I took from it, get a bit more intuitive with what we are doing for work, what we like, and what we don’t like.

"You’re not burnt out!! You’re bored!!!!" he shouts. At first, I thought, hey, here we go, but then it clicked.

I wouldn’t have been able to describe myself as burnt out the last year. Yes, I had some long nights and tough times on the odd project, but I was not burnt out. I had and have loads of energy, loads of enthusiasm and am so eager to do something with it. I wanted, and want ‘the hustle’ (sorry if you’ve just dry vomited).

The trouble is, I was not finding myself able to stick with it because in all honesty, I was bored. Coming up to 3 years of ‘management consulting’ (this week actually - 5th Feb 2018 I joined Accenture) going round in a loop of the same issues constantly coming up, same responses, same processes, tools, systems methodologies, scrum, agile…….it's endless.  I’m not saying this stuff is bad, I was, and am, just a little bored of it. It's all incredibly valuable and I will without a shadow of a doubt apply it to my own business and how I help others, but I need to reframe it.

This realisation has actually been incredibly freeing.

Which leads me to my final point…

5. Sometimes you MUST STOP entirely to go forward

A final thought, and one which I think is pretty easy to see from the ramblings above - in fact, its sort of a summary.

When deciding to make a change in life, often we can rush into the next part of the story, force the next chapter, without taking time to realise that unless you give space between the two, neither will benefit the present or future will benefit.

Leaving Accenture, within a week I already had some freelancing lined up, and in no time at all I was feeling short on time, out of control and not really taking time to work out what I wanted. For me, I couldn’t see many other options other than what I was doing at Accenture; it was obvious, safe, comfortable.

It took me 4 months to realise and now, after deciding to stop freelancing for a bit and working with anyone, I am finding a new sense of clarity, connecting plenty of dots (gotta throw that in there at least once), and feeling much more aligned that my ideas, and the things I am doing out of choice, are what I genuinely want to do.  

+ Personal side note

If you've read to here then you might genuinely be enjoying what I've got to say, so, with this in mind I thought I'd share some personal news outside of the learnings above.

I'm now living in Porth Towan, a small town in Cornwall near St Ives. I've been fortunate to be able to enjoy lockdown exploring the amazing coastal path and getting into the sea a fair few times. I'm certainly starting to get the hang of surfing - and witnessing personally why it as a sport is such a great metaphor for life. I'm also cracking on with converting my van now  - just finished stripping it out and drawing up plans for the build.
Shoutout this month to Jess and Frank, my housemates, for listening to me ponder, to Ankur and Max for their constant support, my most recent clients for their encouragement, guidance and kindness, and to my family, all nudging me along.

All the best and thanks for reading.

See you next month, if not before.


Written by
Ross Power