Matt Drinkhahn had a few tough breaks in his life. I guess we all did? But it's always great to hear from a man who got things back into shape and found a new sustainable model for life.
Matt talks about:
Burning out at 34 years old, working 110 hour weeks;
The hidden cost when your work "damages every relationship";
Finding balance after a showstopping life event;
Corporate entrepreneurship & coaching;
Cell phone jail;
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Hi everyone, my name is 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, and I'm very happy you're here for this episode on following your heart and creating work that you love. Because I really do think it's vital to find enjoyment at work, even the sense we have in burnout of the blood, sweat and tears we devote to it going unrewarded and often unacknowledged. Even though what we say at that point is, "Well, it seems like an immense sacrifice and sufferance to work." And naturally, as I work with professional burnout, people do come to me wishing they could leave their job, or their boos, or their career. Or the bureaucracy, politics, overwork, under staffing, conflicting demands, endless paperwork. Maybe it's increasing regulation, loss of flexibility, lack of support or whatever the most painful parts of the experience are. Most of my people, anyone in burnout, yearn for more respect, trust, autonomy, recognition and reward. I think often, such a person has really lost the energy and motivation to make the required change to actually be the person who can work with that anyway. They're generally pretty shut down and isolating, lost to anything that might be enjoyable, and they've kind of ended up more cynical and bitter and hopeless. And I totally feel sad every time I think about it, the sheer number of people experiencing burnout. So let's get to the gist today. I do actually work on enjoyment of work with every student because doing a job you dislike that doesn't align with your values and aspirations, in an unsupportive environment, that's just what I call drudgery. And to be on honest, that's what they call drudgery too. Even talking about it, their faces drop and their eyes kinda go blank with this grey despair. So if that resonates with you, right upfront what I'm gonna say is, before they finish working with me, they've re inspired themselves, they've relit the flame of their passion. They've gotten reinvigorated, often change their minds about their own work or the possibilities at work and quite often, they fall back in love with the work they're already doing, as unlikely as that may seem. I mean, not everyone, of course, some of them take their new passion elsewhere, but I think the point is that when we restore our power at work, we get to choose whether to stay or go from a place of sufficiency and self confidence. Because really at the end of the day, most of what we like in our jobs comes from inside us, and that's why we so desperately need our mojo back. We want our passion so that we can enjoy our jobs. And we're the one that does that, it's not the job that does it for us. The job really, fundamentally is just a label, just words on your social media profile or a badge. It's just a channel for your energy and expertise. It might say "CEO" or it might say "clerk" and we think it's the job that confers that status on us. But the job doesn't define us as much as we thought, we define it. We animate it and we bring it to life. It's all us. Because of course, you can bring your A game to any wrong, and for those of you who've got some other altruistic pursuit, maybe like coaching your kid's football team, you know what I mean already. Ultimately, the richness of reward comes from your energy, not other people's energy. And this, my friends, is kind of the amazing thing about coaching. You can get back that passion that you thought was gone for good, even if it's buried six layers deep in this kind of cold night of cynicism. This is the gist of coaching. What we do is in coaching, we scrape away the layers of suffering to reveal the light of your heart, and it shines out when you can love your job. And I can teach you to love your job, by the way, by teaching you to love yourself at your job. So I don't know, is that an attractive idea to you? I have these days, passion all the time at my work, ever since I stopped bashing my head on a rock. And it doesn't mean now I love every single individual task. There are still dull parts of any job, right? But I'm very, very highly motivated, highly engaged and rewarded, and really glad that I get to do the job that I do. And even if you're about as miserable and stressed as a person can get and remain semi vertical, even if you're fed up to the back teeth, as my dad used to say, a dark shadow of your previous self, recovery will happen. 'Cause here's how you got here. The only person you can be in this world is you, and that you started out brilliant, gifted, smart, invincible, lots of amazing dreams. And success almost certainly followed in your wake and it was fun, I bet. But the chances are, as the years went by you invested a lot of yourself in your work persona and the responsibilities that you held, and to keep up that image, you played the game. You bent yourself further and further out of shape to fit the demands of your work, to please others, to climb the ladder, to remain secure in your job. Over time, the very nature of your work has probably changed enormously and you've probably leaned over further and further to fit in with it. It seemed like your duty. You're a professional, never say no kind of person. You like to fix all the problems. But somewhere in there, you probably hit a tipping point and parts of you kind of started to break off and fall over the edge into the abyss of work demands. And you did this 'cause you're a pro. You had to, right? But also because work had become who you are, your ego became invested in it. You're meant to be the hero in this work movie. People are supposed to respect and admire you for that. But they don't, right? 'Cause they're playing in the same movie and they want to be the hero too. It's not working anymore for either of you. So you wanna save face and you try really hard, but it's kind of gone out of whack. You are no longer the king of all you survey in your head or in the world. You're probably in burnout, losing status and losing respect of others. And then what happens is you're probably starting to hide away, to avoid people a little bit. You're doing whatever your brilliant thing is a little bit more in private. But you've also lost heart. Eventually, helpless, exhausted, you're gonna almost give up. And then that's when kind of the Superman pants go back in the closet. And that's when you come to me, with so much of you adapted to fulfilling your work role and upholding your reputation, that actually you've probably got no real idea who you even are anymore or what you like doing. Your mojo's long gone, nothing in your life is enjoyable or satisfying, your soul's pretty much left the building. So I think the question becomes, who the heck are you? How are you ever going to like work again, let alone be your real self and thrive? So that's really why I'm making this episode, because luckily it isn't that hard. You're feeling terrible. Yes, understood. And it seems chronic and unendurable and endless. But actually, what you are is you're a very strong person who's slightly dented. You're not dead, right? And you're placing the world, still is to be you. So what happens is you just start making your decisions now from what you do want in your life, not from what your fear is gonna go wrong next. You start to dress the wounds of years probably of burnout, by listening to your own suffering to hear what's gone wrong for you. So you unearth all of your silent wants and unfulfilled needs. You listen to that suffering self to find out what they want. And very gently and with compassion, you're gonna heal the wounds. And this compassion and listening really honour your true self, and that's been a bit wanting, hasn't it? You begin to trust that you care about yourself, that you would do the right thing by yourself, and you start to feel a little bit safe in your own skin. You stop making decisions from fear of loss, and instead you ask your heart what it wants, and you'll receive, when you do that, you receive an instant answer, which is very rarely wrong. And you're gonna discover, kinda bit by bit, that your life is workable after all. That each day there is actually a lot you can do for yourself as well as for other people, and to do that will start to seem pleasurable. Connection is going to be restored. This fractured self that you're running with, that's been partitioned off defensively into silos over the years, will start to re integrate and work together. You'll begin to feel safe around people, so you no longer need to self protect. Your anxiety, stress, frustration, irritation and resentment will all diminish. And the energy that was leaching from you, falling down those cracks of despair, is gonna be restored. You're gonna start to feel physically more energetic and better again. You'll start to notice what your true values and desires are, and align yourself very gently with them. And that's going to create vitality, but also a sense of purpose and fulfilment in you. Passion and energy both come from this place, it's the opposite of burnout, where you've really, probably over a long period of time, been suppressing your own desires and you've really... When it's very, very painful, what we do is we dissociate from ourselves to avoid that pain and that's probably been happening too. And so you begin to champion yourself, supporting and even celebrating who you are. Your mojo is reinstated, your passion for work is revived, and you start to see your work and your life as a place that you enjoy being, place that's got a future. Got your passion back, and when that spills over into work, you'll remember why you got into this whole career you're in in the first. You're back then as you, assuming really what's your rightful place in the world, because there is only one you. You have to fill that spot. And from that place, my friend, you can make any adjustments you need to to your work life to bring it to a better place for you. And that's why my coaching program is called Burnout To Leadership. I spend the first half of the program helping clients out of burnout, and the second half, helping them establish or re establish a career that they love. And generally speaking, what that means is it's probably gonna involve a really big and satisfying leap forwards or sideways or upwards or wherever, because although that's true, the details are different for each person. But if you're in burnout, I just wanted you to hear that. I wanted you to know that that's available. Because it sure don't feel like... You know, it's gonna be difficult to access that idea if you are still at the crunchy end of burnout, despairing and cynical. But I promise you, many pleasant surprises away if you use coaching to re establish yourself, first of all. So if that's something you want, if you want to start, if you want to come out of burnout, number one, and if you wanna start loving your work again, number two, and looking forward to going to work in the morning, come and talk to me at dexrandall.com. Let's have a chat you and me. I'm gonna listen to all your frustrations, your difficulties, what's not working for you, and then we'll go on to make a personal plan together for your recovery, just so you can see what that will look like. You'll see what's on offer for you and then you can decide what you'd like to do next. Even when I'm saying that I'm just gonna put in this. If someone had offered me this when I was in burnout in 2017, I would have jumped at the chance. I would have been really overjoyed to, first of all, find something that actually works to cure burnout, but also a burnout expert who knows how to teach it to me. So I thank you for listening today. I appreciate your time and energy very much. If you've enjoyed this episode, please do subscribe, rate and review the podcast so it can reach other people who are suffering. And if you could forward it to anyone else you know who needs it, that would also be terrific. And I recommend new people listen to, probably the first four episodes of the podcast to get a sense of what can be done to help. And if you yourself are in burnout and you want out, listen for the link at the end. Come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably from burnout and to get back to your best performance, leadership, most full enjoyment at work. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout To Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.