How to Beat Workplace Burnout Like a Marathoner

Hidden in the canyons of Mexico’s Copper Canyon lives a shy tribe of people called Tarahumara, or the Running People. The Tarahumara live quiet lives, growing corn and beans and living in family groups in huts and caves often perched precipitously on the mountain cliffs. They are also all ultra-runners.Marathon-Runners---Black-Silhouette-Sunset

At social gatherings and celebrations, the Running People will conclude the festivities with a friendly footrace. A footrace up to 200 miles, that is. For a guy like me that is out of breath after four miles on the treadmill, the thought of these people running through mountain passes in handmade sandals sounds more like a mirage than a reality.

In Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, he marvels that in the midst of a 100-mile ultramarathon they, “churned up the slope like kids playing in a leaf pile.” Laughing. Smiling. Somehow enjoying a 100 mile run. For the Tarahumara, running wasn’t a chore—it was a time to connect with their world and with one another.

Now lets step back from the Copper Canyon and into your city, your home and your workplace. You’re fed up with the job you used to love. Coworkers you’ve collaborated with for years are grating on your nerves. Projects that excited you in the beginning seem stale and dusty. Like the American runners racing against the Tarahumara, you’ve burnt out, and you’ve got 150 miles left to run.

How do you return to the blissful state where you began? Mental toughness.

I know, I wish I had a different answer too. But oftentimes the only element in our day that we can actually control is our attitude. And, when the boss is happy and the workload is light it’s easy to stay upbeat. Throw in an irate customer, a missed deadline and some extra rush-hour traffic, and then you have a training ground for mental toughness. Here’s a few tips from the Running People themselves

Take Shorter Steps—your burnout might be the result of overextending yourself. Instead of focusing on everything you need to get done this week, focus on the five things you need to get done today. Break larger projects up into small pieces and knock them out one at a time.

Lose the Shoes—After researchers studied indigenous groups like the Tarahumara, they discovered these groups experienced far less injury than Westerners with hi-tech and cushy running shoes. At work, sometimes the very things we think we need are the things creating problems. Have you gotten bogged down in party planning drama or chasing down someone by email instead of picking up the phone? Maybe it’s time to pick up speed by simplifying your processes. Lose the shoes.

Look to your elders—Would you believe that among the Tarahumara, the best runners are often the oldest!? Though it seems contrary to nature, it’s true. The runners with years of experience have honed their speed, footwork, diet, and strategy. The same is true of great leaders in any industry. If you want to avoid burnout, begin to note the habits of those a few years down the road, and a few rungs up the ladder from where you find yourself.

Never run alone—In Tarahumara culture, racing is a means of bringing the community together. How would our workplaces change if we viewed collaborative work in the same way? Sure you might feel like the project is about as fun as running uphill in the boiling Mexico sunlight, but there is some solidarity in enduring it together. Find at least one person at your workplace who you know you can lean on during a particularly tough day. But be prepared to return the favor.

Mental toughness is choosing these attitudes and practices over the feeling of burnout. It doesn’t matter if you’re running 100 miles or just trying to make it through the last 100 days of school with a rowdy classroom. When nothing around you seems to be changing, change your attitude. After all, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Success and 300 Unread Love Letters

If you know anything about college basketball, you may have come across the name John Wooden. The former coach of the UCLA basketball teams holds scores of unbroken records and numerous accolades and awards for his achievements as a player and a coach. Most significantly, Wooden led the UCLA men’s basketball team to 10 NCAA championships, seven of them consecutively.

Aside from his winning program, Wooden gained notoriety for his peculiar rules like, “Never be late. Not one word of profanity. And never criticize a teammate.” Today, one of the greatest achievements for any collegiate basketball player is winning the John R. Wooden award. Multiple basketball courts, leadership programs, schools and even a post office have been named after the “Wizard of Westwood.” Finally, although the coach retired in 1975, UCLA players still wear a patch with the initials “JRW” inside a black pyramid as a reminder of the coach’s legacy of success.

We live in a culture of grand gestures. At first glance, these great achievements and grand monuments seem to be the pinnacle of success. But success is not achieved in the winning of a title, in a job promotion, or the name of a building. It is not a bestselling book or a viral YouTube video. You see, success is not a one-time event.

Coach Wooden understood this. In a TED talk given in 2008, he defined success as, “the peace of mind attained through the satisfaction of doing your best in a given situation.”

Written-LettersWhile many are familiar with his coaching career, what you may not know about John Wooden is that on the 21st of every month, he wrote a love letter to Nellie, his wife of 53 years. What’s more, even after Nellie’s death, Wooden continued to write her letters, adding them to a stack of unopened letters on her pillow. This stack would grow month by month for 25 years.

Wooden only stopped writing the letters when his own eyesight began failing in the final months of his life. The coach’s relentless dominance on the basketball court was merely an echo of his quiet, relentless pursuit of excellence as a husband and a man of character. Or, to say it another way, Wooden simply made up his mind every day to do the best he could as a teacher, a coach, a husband and a man of faith.

Wooden’s attitude towards success is that it is a process, a monument built and established over time, rather than the outcome of one championship game at the end of a season. Success is working hard at practice, doing the things you need to do every day on the job, and treating people well even if they don’t acknowledge or appreciate it. Every action, no matter how small or insignificant it seems, adds a brick to success.

It is the discipline of getting up early to write another chapter of the book. It is the four chapters of the Bible you read with your morning coffee instead of watching the news. It is doing the dishes for your spouse, even though you’ve worked all day too. Wooden himself said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Success is the by-product of patiently and consistently doing the right things.

Success is 300 unread love letters.

Addicted to Accomplishment

Dave Weber shares some personal insight into his addiction to accomplishment and taking time to enjoy life.

This video is also available on WeberTV if you are unable to view YouTube Videos.

What Donald Sterling can Teach us about Words

As the NBA reaches the end of its season, the news headlines center around a scandal far from the court, a recording allegedly of an argument between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his former girlfriend. The ignorant and small-minded comments about race have players, coaches and owners calling for the league to remove Sterling.

The comments—whether they end up confirmed as Sterling’s or not—are unacceptable, and the entire episode casts a poor light on the sport, where other owners, coaches and players were some of the original trailblazers and boundary-breakers in the civil rights movement. As the story continues to evolve, I hope it will generate productive discussion about racism, privacy, and business ethics. But, with the information we have now (which is not much), here’s a few things to think about:

  1. Words are powerful—One of the main thrusts of my book, Sticks & Stones Exposed, is the idea that our words can do more damage to others and ourselves that we’ve ever realized. Whether spoken, emailed, Tweeted, or texted these little black scribbles can wreak havoc in an instant. In the age of “friends and followers”, it’s wise to be even more aware of how far-reaching our words can be. The words spoken in the recording have hurt plenty of the people in Sterling’s life and many that he doesn’t even know.
  2. Words have consequences—So often we blurt out something without considering the consequences. Or, without considering that our words even have consequences. This is a HUGE mistake! Our careless and thoughtless words can wreck relationships, poison corporate cultures, and sink innovative ideas and projects. It does not matter if you are in public or private, “in the heat of the moment” or “just joking around.” You may not stand to lose an entire NBA team, but your damaging words might put your relationships with employees, clients and family on the line—and isn’t that really the most important?
  3. Words create collateral damage—Maybe you know that sometimes in the heat of the moment, you tend to say some colorful things that might hurt others. Get over it, you think. What you don’t realize is that you’re also hurting yourself. Similar to a boomerang, the hurtful things you say DO come back to you—in the form of a bitter spouse, resentful and unmotivated coworkers, fed up customers that finally disappear, and friends that begin to avoid your phone calls. When your words hurt other people (even unintentionally!), their opinion of you, and consequently their treatment of you will change as well. Your life is the collateral damage.