It's that moment when fear blows up in our faces and suddenly we CAN'T hold it together any more. Things stop working and we're left alone with our feelings.
Life is trying to tell us something. In my case, that there is deeper post-burnout growth available, there's more truth to face. It's another layer of the onion and I'm choosing to stay open and present to that. Let the reinvention begin!
What's Happening at Work Part 1, Brene Brown
Reflections from my summer sabbatical, Brene Brown
When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron
Old Path White Clouds, Thich Nhat Hanh
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Hi everyone. My name's Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership Podcast where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello my friends. This is Dex recording a podcast episode, and it is a special episode today. And so I'm gonna begin a new series, series two, because today what I'm gonna talk about is really the ultimate taboo, the ultimate break point when the fears that's creeping up around the edges of our lives, it kind of lurking threateningly. It's been there for a long time and we've been trying to hold our shit together and hope nobody notices. This episode is about when that fear blows up thoroughly, completely incontrovertible in our faces, and suddenly we can't hold it together. Everything's gone dark. We can't avoid our feelings about this being kind of unworkable. We can't see a way forward. It's just all stopped working and we know, and everyone around us knows too. They can see we are not holding any Aces right now. In fact, what we're doing is we got this kind of death grip on a pair of juices, right? So we're just sitting there naked in the face of our fear like animals out in a storm. And it's the cold, hard, undeniable fact that things as we know them have collapsed and there's nothing much we can do about it. And we're looking around in shock at the wreckage, of work or of life or health maybe, or relationships. No matter what it is, it's wreckage and we are looking at it and we're just wondering what to do. We know the jigs up, right? I guess here's what's been happening for me, this is my story over the last, probably during the course of this year. So it's October 22 when I'm recording this. And really, I've had a terrific year. I've had enormous success. I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot. I've been loving my work, I've been developing my business. But I have to reference back to last Christmas when a few things happened that kind of knocked me off my perch a bit. Words were said by influential figures that undermined my sense of myself across both business really and my personal life. My sense of self took another, yet another knock. And believe me, it's had many. And perhaps that's your experience too, right? 'Cause this is human life. This is what happens to us. And I'm saying this as Brene Brown has just started her podcast after a hiatus from May to September this year. And I will put a couple of her episodes in the show notes reflecting on this break. But essentially she got fried and had to take time out. And here's what she says on her latest podcast episode. And I quote, "Every time we think we are completely alone in struggle. That's exactly when we need to remember that the human experience is never a singular experience. I'm sharing this reflection in hopes that it resonates with some, and to remind myself that I'm not alone. I'm glad you are here." Well, Brene, what can I say? I'm with your sister. This year, not coincidentally, our first full post COVID year where so many of us are still digesting the reality of human separation. And I suppose new normal of both life and work, I have hit my straps. And wow, actually as I wrote that, I just paused and I looked that up on Wikipedia 'cause I thought hit your straps meant hitting your limitations. In fact, when I look it up, what it means is hitting your stride, travelling at a consistent pace, becoming proficient, hitting your full potential. But it's so interesting. I love that. My mind has given me a lot of paradoxes and contradictions lately. And also it sings me songs with very telling lyrics. This is how I know, karma I'm onto something in this phase of my life. I'm into a reinvention when my mind is finding every means to communicate with me on a more subtle level. So today I'm gonna tell you some of my truth, and that's gonna be a little bit painful for me. But I feel being direct and honest, open, authentic about my experiences. It's how we move through life instead of getting stuck. So here's what I've noticed about my personal journey, really this year, this calendar year '22. And the first thing that I wanna cough up is really in my desire to bury the difficult truth about my experiences this year. What I've been working with, I've unwittingly made episode after episode on my podcast about When Things Fall Apart. If I look at episodes 44 to 50 a subject lines unbeknownst to me, tell a very interesting tale, and I'm gonna read some of them out. Growth versus fixed mindset. Working with trauma, how to fix stubborn problems. What's not wrong with you? And you are not broken. I gotta laugh at that list. Note to self, what the fuck? Anyway, it does read like, to me, when I look at that list, it read like an increasingly desperate plea from my subconscious mind to my conscious self are called to attend to my truth directly, to listen to the disturbance in my heart, to look at my own story, my history, if you like. And to connect more deeply with my fundamental reality right now, to become in fact, courageous and fearless and to take a new path. And it's funny 'cause throughout this period I've been really energised and engaged by work. I've been enjoying many things. I've still been creating, exploring, connecting, having breakthroughs. So what's going on? Is it, is all this kind of a mirage. What's all the duplicity? It actually makes me laugh, when I've been reflecting on it today. Anyhow, the experience has been kind of painful this year, but it doesn't feel like burnout, in any way, that I would recognize. It's simply... I think, the collapse of illusion, the illusion of my story about myself, about who I think I am. Turns out, I'm not that person, not one bit, not even close. And that bit's the good news. So this year, I've been reading a lot of spiritual books actually, and energy healing books and finding a great deal of peace and solace in that. But I think, the primary book, that I felt compelled to read over and over and over, trying to connect with its deeper meaning, is a book called Old Path White Clouds by the Buddhist Monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. And I'll put that one in the show notes, as well in case you'd drawn to it. It's basically, a collection of Buddhist stories or almost fables, about the life of the Buddha, starting in his childhood, going on his spiritual quest, getting to enlightenment and how he taught and built a community after that. And it was the first Buddhist book, that I ever read. It was about 30 years ago, and it contains explicit instruction, on how to ease your mind and calm your emotions. Its the chaos and turmoil of daily life. I... And he does this by teaching you to directly, unflinchingly, experience yourself in your life. It's kind of a manual on, how to live elegantly, with what is in the present moment. And actually, I was thinking back, it was a gay man in his 60s, who gave me the book and we got talking, one morning at his house. Bear in mind, this is 30 years ago, now, we got talking at his house, one morning, with a bunch of random strangers, after partying all night. So naturally, I can't remember, his name anymore, but he told me about... I do recall this, he told me about his own spiritual journey and how he'd sustained a relationship with a man he lived with. He'd sustained that relationship for 25 years, unbroken. And through all of life's lumps and bumps, and he and his partner were both talking to me about their experience of that. He made a deep impression on me at the time. Anyway, that book's on high rotation with me, there is something in it, that sustains me, that I need to hear. It's been a little bit elusive, the content, but lately, the book on rereading, has taken on a whole new depth of meaning for me. I've started to, receive its wisdom more directly. I'm kind of on the wavelength, but still, those podcast episodes, I've been making, don't lie, aye. And I've noticed a lot of apparent barriers popping up in my life this year. Barriers to thriving, barriers to success. And some of those have been about... Have been financial and about business. My business statistics, for example, show that my wild enthusiasm and passion for work, for deploying new products and services, for teaching new courses, as in fact masked a drop in revenue. I've taken my eye off the ball somewhere, on the finances and also some of my road bumps have been personal and health related. And I've had to confront my own mortality, again this year actually. And it's kind of becoming a regular thing for me. And also, this one's kind of random, we're in the third season here in Australia of La Niña weather pattern. And what that looks like on the ground is, extremely, persistent and frequent rain, wild storms, winds, floods, throughout both summer and winter. And I live by the ocean, and it's been looking really livid and angry and dangerous, full of rips and loaded up with flotsam and jetsam and wild serve. And so, often during the last couple of years, I hardly recognize it from years before that. It's the water's unsettled and it's unsettling for me and all of us really who go down there each day. And the farmers in my state, so that's New South Wales, Australia, have been subjected repeatedly, often catastrophically, to floods, over the last two years. And even this morning, as I write this, flood water is still submerging whole communities and laying waste to crops and wildlife. I remember, in the '90s actually, it just put back to me, walking out over the lowland red dirt of a cattle farm. I was in a paddock by the river and I could see... All I could see over this kind of receding flood off the paddock was, this carpet of 1 2 m long brown snakes, that had been drowned in the flood. It was literally, one over few steps. And brown snakes are the second most venomous snake in the world. And yet, here they all were, dead, leaving me unmolested, thankfully, because they are a big cause of death in Australia. But they themselves were dead. And after, two years of this wild stormy weather pattern, now, it's kind of wild because it comes off the back of many years of very severe drought and abnormal bushfire seasons, including the 2019 20 Black Summer bushfires. This is just when COVID was started, where we had 5.5 million hectares, about 6.2% of all the land in my state, was burned, in 11,400 separate fires. We lost thousands of homes, but also an estimated 3 billion wild animals. So put COVID on the back of that, plus political destabilisation, escalations in racial violence, mass shootings and so on. And we're in unusual times. And as Brene points out, we really haven't digested the human impact of the COVID area, as a population. You can listen to her, What's Happening At Work podcast episode. She's just put out with Simon Sinek and Adam Grant to hear more. I'll put it in the show notes. So I got up to all this turmoil in my head this morning and I sat down and I meditated and I chose to let in all of my fear. I let it come and I let it take me over. And I really just sat experiencing the sensations in my body, the clenching in my gut, my solar plexus, a lump in there, the tightness in my shoulders and neck and also the urges to resist all of this and kind of bunch up my body in defense against that truth. I just sat with it. I sat with it for about 20 minutes, and when I did I underneath it all, it kind of emerged an energy that is still clear and stable for me. Kind of peace if you like, because in the present moment, nothing is actually wrong. And I felt whole and wholesome and the storm was still raging in my guts, but it's not the full picture for me. And after the meditation, I picked up pay my children's book When Things Fall Apart. The title of this episode, I'll put that in the show notes too. It says It's heart advice for difficult times sounds attractive, right? Anyway, I've read it a bunch of times before as well, and I picked it off the shelf. It is an instruction book on connecting with fear and finding the essential good and growth that's hidden beneath it. So I will continue my journey. I will let my house burn down and see what new growth sprouts after that bush fire, see what's underneath all the drama, my mind throws up. And as I speak, I don't know what happens next. There's a challenge to connect with life, but I don't have any idea how that's gonna play out. I really only know that it's not optional for me that I don't want to hide away from it, it's necessary. And also that it's okay to be me right now exactly as I am doing this thing, taking this journey. I have a really kind of deep seated belief in the goodness of the universal flow. And I must join it, not fight it, because it always supports life expansion and goodness. So the journey is going to take courage that frankly, I don't absolutely feel right now, but life is asking me this question and I must be honest within it. I must yield, I must let my life touch me fully, and I must hand in my hopes and dreams because they aren't helping. I feel it's something better awaits, but I have to let go to get there. I've got to lean into that fear and let it engulf me and purify me and pass through. And from where I sit today actually, you might be thinking this sounds like burnout, but I feel that this experience is much deeper and more fundamental than burnout and burnout recovery. I feel like, in fact, for me, burnout was kind of stage one recovery, a return to effective function and enjoyment and normality to reconnection with values and resilience and power. A kind of grassroot self acceptance and a way to bring back those sense of being in service in a joyful way in my work. And I've still got all those burnout recovery tools, and I'm still using them and they're still working. So now I think what's happened is I'm ready for a deeper level of work, whether I like it or not, it's undecided on that one, even though I'm going ahead. So I think what happens now is it requires a deeper release. It's asking me to look into the reason I've been susceptible to burnout in the past, which is perhaps a lot chunkier than just recovering from burnout itself. But it does feel, my experience now feels completely different to burnout. I don't feel depleted, overwhelmed, aggravated, exhausted. I still love the work I'm doing, and my clients are still working their own personal miracles and going very, very well. But underneath that, I do feel like progress needs to be made. And that stalling it, stalling the journey is gonna kind of stunt my energy. So it feels rather that I need to go deep into my soul beyond burnout, recovery, beyond day to day function and simply living the joys and the pain of the minutiae of daily life. My need to access a deeper level of self acceptance. So that's what I have for you today. This is the beginning of the journey. My check in words are fear and renewal, and I'm gonna report back more as I go because this is real. This is what's actually happening. So thank you for listening today. Appreciate that. And as ever, if you're in burnout, you must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance leadership, most of all, enjoyment inside work and out. And stage one recovery, burnout recovery, is the recovery of all that's good in your life and workable in your life that you've lost contact with. It's gonna give you back your connection, your sense of humor, your basic workability. You're gonna get your mojo back so that you can relish life again. And who knows if you get beyond that, get that recovery, Maybe soon I'll be able to teach you about the deeper level of recovery. And myself am now marking you. You'll see. If you are in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership Program. You can book into talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.