Are you burnt out?

December 2, 2020

If you are like most people today…

You are burnt out. Your teams are burnt out. You are sick of Zoom. Zoom meetings. Zoom parties. Zoom cocktails. Zooma, zooma, zooma, zoom.  

Thanksgiving weekend was nice but either you didn’t see the family and friends you normally would, or you did and felt worried or guilty about it. 

Meanwhile, if you have children, they are having a hard time stuck at home, and things are sometimes challenging with your spouse (or, if you live alone, it’s even harder). 

Yet, you are grateful to be working and have found some silver linings including, and in some ways contradictorily, feeling *closer* to your family — and, for most of you, the good news is your business is in better shape than you had feared at the beginning of the pandemic. 

This is a mixed-up hard to understand time. And I have some insights that might help clarify a few things.

And, for those of you *not* working, it’s even harder. 

Let me share how a typical 1:1 conversation with a member goes today (I’m doing about 5 of these calls a day). 


Phil: Hi, how are you doing?

Member: I’m good, thank you. My family and I are doing OK and I still have a job so I’m grateful…(and they go on to say all the things they are grateful for).

[Then about 10 minutes later…]

Member: May I ask you something?

Phil: Yes, go ahead.

Member: I know you talk to a lot of people. I’m just trying to figure out if I am the only one feeling the way I do. I don’t like to complain because, again, I’m working and I know a lot of people are out of work.

Phil: Sure. I understand that but go ahead. 

Member: Well, I’m burnt out. Are other people feeling this way?

Phil: Every single person I speak to is feeling that way. 

Member: Oh. wow. Ok. 

Phil: Can you describe it a little more? How are you burnt out? What does it feel like?

Member: I’m tired. That’s for sure. And I have a hard-to-express sense of dissatisfaction, maybe some unhappiness. Don’t tell anyone but I often don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. That’s so unlike me. 

Phil: I hear you. Are you sleeping well?

Member: OMG. No! And I used to sleep really well. My husband remarked on it all the time, “You are out moments after your head hits the pillow.”  But not now. I’m up and down all night. Restless. 

Phil: Ok. So, first, you are NOT alone including with not sleeping well. 

Member: That’s so helpful. Strange how helpful that is.

Phil: Also — not only is it true that this is a hard time for all the reasons you already know (pandemic, economy, politics, etc) …but there’s one more thing: you are being deprived of at least half the oxygen you normally breathe. That’s a big part of why you feel burnt out and are not sleeping well. Let me explain. 


And here’s what I tell them –

Pre-pandemic research by Harvard sociologist Mario Luis Small shows that *50%* of the time that we have questions, challenges, or serious worries we are *not* aware of what those are. 

But, that’s not all. Here’s the real kicker – we get *accidental* help with these latent questions and worries by *bumping* into people in real space. We bump into people in the office, on the subway, standing at the bus stop, in the hallway of a conference, walking across the Sky Bridge at Target in Minneapolis, running into another parent at a school event, at the grocery store, at an in-person council dinner, cocktails, etc. 

We are social creatures. Social learning is fundamental to who we are and to how we get answers, insights, and emotional support – including for the 50% of questions/worries we don’t know we have. 

Think about it. You know this is true. 

And this is key to productivity, innovation, and mental health. Doesn’t matter if you work MORE hours at home. If you are at home, isolated to interactions with just a few people, then you are NOT getting enough air. Do that long enough and you are truly and surely burnt out. 

What do you think – are you also burnt out? not sleeping well? feeling a vague sense of dissatisfaction that you can’t explain? 

Would love to hear from you.



P.S. We are working on bringing some more oxygen to members – i.e. creating some “structured spontaneity” that will help members (and their teams) “bump” into each other. It’s a non-trivial task. More on that soon (and if you have ideas, please get in touch).

P.P.S. If you are a council member and we have *not* done a 1:1 call, then please get in touch if you’d like to talk about the questions/worries/unhappiness that you know about (and the things you don’t yet know). 

Most Popular Recordings

Upcoming Sessions 

Email Britany if you’d like an invite.

  • Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products – Tue, Dec 8 @3pm ET
    Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin, co-Authors of Groundwork
    Talk Type: Product
    Audience/Roles: All Roles 
     Product leaders are all too familiar with the one to two-year period it typically takes to train and coach PMs. Product leaders hire smart people and then work with them individually, guiding them through how to think about product management, and watching them develop. Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin wanted a much faster way to help cultivate efficient and effective product managers that consistently create products that delight customers, regardless of the industry, the environment, and the development methodology that the team employed. They took years of experience as product executives and working with hundreds of teams as product coaches to create a framework to Get Better at Making Better Products.The design philosophy and methodology behind Groundwork was created to help product leaders be confident that their teams were committed to solving the right customer problems, minimizing costly rework by using individualized needs, and leveraging actionable personas in big and small product decisions. Vidya and Heather want Groundwork to help product teams have a much higher chance of success in the market—and help every product manager shine.Join Vidya and Heather as they share the background, principles, and methodology behind the Groundwork to help you, and your team, get better at making better products. 

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • Making the Case for Empowering Your People
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    Talk Type: Product, Leadership Development, Culture
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    From Marty: “I have long been interested in the difference between how the best companies work, and the rest. Working with both types of organizations for so many years, there are many differences ranging from culture to process to staffing to roles to techniques. But at its core, strong product companies empower their people, and most of the rest do not. My focus over the past few years has been tackling this issue head-on, which means the product leadership. In this talk, we’ll discuss why this model consistently yields better results, and what’s necessary to transform to work like the best.”

    Marty’s Bio:
    Marty Cagan is the founding partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group, which he created to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching. Before starting SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay.As part of his work with SVPG, Marty advises tech companies of all sizes and stages, stretching far beyond Silicon Valley. Marty is the author of the industry-leading book for product teams, INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and the upcoming book EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe.
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  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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