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Burnout: All Gas, no Brakes

So last week, I sent you an intimate email with my thoughts about dreams, why it’s important to work on them, and why I was committing to start an arduous journey to write a novel. My goal was to be as transparent as possible with how scared and insecure I am with the whole endeavor, and that hopefully, you can relate; Ultimately finding some courage to start working on your goals.

I got many positive reactions to that email, which is lovely and makes me very happy. Yet, I feel like there was another side of the story I didn’t explore. The side in question is our tendency to overextend ourselves to meet arbitrary perceptions of productivity and its taxing effect on our minds and bodies.

All Gas, no Brakes

Here is the thing. I am a busy guy. I like being productive and prolific with my time. Now that I have begun exerting my creative muscle, I never want to stop. I love it. And, to be honest, keeping myself occupied keeps me from exploring the dark depths of my psyche.

For the most part, I have learned to manage my time to explore all the things I want to do. In addition, my years of work have granted me the opportunity to work from home and accommodate my schedule. I am blessed in some ways, and because of that, I feel that I have to take advantage of my time and do as much as I can. 

So I said f*ck it, now or never, let’s start writing that novel.

I was excited, scared, motivated, all the above. I felt like I was finally stepping into the garden of high achievers. And then, I started feeling a bit off.


As if I had conjured some sort of debilitating spell on myself, the scale of the journey made me literally sick. I was suddenly suffering ailments I have never had, and my body was feeling feverish and heavy. I genuinely believed that either COVID got me, or my body suddenly reached a tipping point where it all goes downhill. 

Photo by Alina Rubo on Unsplash

Of course, it didn’t help that it was like 900 degrees in Tokyo.

Luckily, after some downtime and chilling with Wendy, I realized that most of the symptoms were caused by stress —and heat. 

Currently, I am writing as a freelancer for some websites, offering consulting services for two corporations, and running the website and podcast. Additionally, Wendy and I produce tons of content every week, work up to 12 hours on busy days, and schedule more stuff for future content. Only a megalomaniac like me thinks, “Yeah, I can squeeze writing a novel in there.”

I was going 1000 miles per hour on a car designed for 800 and contemplating slamming the gas all the way. All gas, no brakes. It was just not going to end well.

Creative Bandwidth

Now, you might be in a similar situation or maybe contemplating it. And if that is the case, please stop. Instead, consider that not everything has to be done in parallel, and we all have a certain amount of bandwidth for our creativity and productivity. If you exceed this bandwidth, the end product starts losing quality quickly.

Look at your life in seasons, and allocate goals according to your capacities and the immediate impact they have on your life. For example, maybe you have always dreamt of writing a novel like me, but you are too busy with your current responsibilities and goals in school. That education season is not very accommodating to big plans outside of it, so maybe leave it for a later season in life. Moreover, you can focus on preparing yourself for that season and be ready to knock it out of the park.

The most important thing is to listen to your mind and body. Be aware that you are an unlimited being living in a limited body, existing in a world with constraints. So dream big, but also dream smart.

Control your Expectations

To be honest, the moment I decided to commit to the ambitious goal of writing a novel, I didn’t really make any concrete plans or strategies to go about it. I didn’t set specific writing goals, timelines, or even expectations. I just decided that I was going to manifest it.

Commonly, that would be perceived as a weak commitment on my part, and I would agree. But the goal in my mind was to start by setting a goal post and put my sight on it, knowing that doing more than that would probably overwhelm my already saturated brain. Knowing yourself and having self-awareness is a great asset, after all.

Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash

Finally, I don’t want you to think that I am backing away from my commitment; Nothing farther from the truth. Now that some time has passed and I had the opportunity to digest my feelings and think about what the journey will entail, I have a clearer idea of how to go about it without destroying my sanity. With the right approach and ample support, I know I will get there. And you can too.

Stay safe; Stay well.

Cover photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

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