Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Keeping the Flame Lit for Life

By Mike Wien, Partner Creative Growth Group, Inc.

Lessons Learned from a Competitive Triathlete about Avoiding Burnout

As part of our client development coaching at Creative Growth Group, we are often asked to help professionals who are feeling burned out. The volume of opportunities to “seize the moment” and the ability to be connected 24/7/365 has helped create pressure cookers for many of our high performing professional advisor clients.

One of the metaphors I like to use in addressing executive burnout is lessons learned as a competitive Ironman triathlete. A critical factor in successfully training for this type of event is having the ability to take on an increased amount of activity without burning out in the process. So as a sampler of the many lessons learned, here are the three most basic ideas for starting an effective fitness program, or for maintaining peak performance in a job – keeping the flame lit for life.

Set a pace that is comfortable, sustainable and avoids pain. The most common mistake is that most new runners start out too fast. This results in a high level of discomfort and a challenge to the sanity of this commitment. It is better to start out at a pace and distance that will keep you motivated to continue the program, than to start out too fast and force early burnout. The best way to determine the right pace for you is to start running or working at the fastest speed you can maintain while still being able to hold a conversation with someone running with you. It is that simple.

Find an environment that is enjoyable. If you are going make the commitment to put in the time on a regular basis, pick a venue that will encourage you to continue. For me, it is running on a route that has beautiful views or interesting things to look at and explore. It might be running on a path along a river, through a nature preserve, or through a well landscaped neighborhood. Some might even find a treadmill with a television set enjoyable. Remember, you want the environment to support and encourage positive behavior.

Include others in your journey. Running can be a solitary activity. It is a wonderful opportunity for many to find some time to relax and have time to think random thoughts. However, especially for a new runner or someone who has a big dream of running in a marathon or competing in an Ironman triathlon, the solo approach is not such a good idea. Big journeys are better traveled with at least one companion. Take someone along to share both the joy and pain. Someone who can encourage and help celebrate the little victories.

Now, how does this apply to executive burn-out other than maybe encouraging some of you to make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle? Well, these three principles can also be applied to the business environment.

Set a pace that keeps you moving toward your ultimate goal and still allows you to maintain balance in your life. Make sure the pace avoids pain and lets you keep a balance in life beyond just your work.

Make sure the work environment is enjoyable. Work with people and clients you like. Avoid working with people who do not share your same values. Be attracted to or create a work setting that feels
comfortable and is fun.

Finally, don’t go solo. Be a part of a team. Share your ideas with others. Ask for advice and suggestions for improvement. Celebrate the successes with others. Be generous in sharing credit.


Mike Wien is a partner at Creative Growth Group, an organization dedicated to working with executives at professional service firms in the area of business development. In addition, Mike is also a world class triathlete, having placed 5th in his age group in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in 2006.

1 comment:

Phil Rubin said...

Mike - great's a marathon and not a 5k, right?