Preventing Burnout: A Cautionary Tale

My first in-person meeting with Charlie Hoehn. Zion National Park, 2009.

Charlie Hoehn first reached out to me in 2008 through Ramit Sethi.

Shortly thereafter, I hired him as a part-time intern. Eventually, he became a full-time employee.

For three years, we worked together on a number of projects, most notably the The 4-Hour Body and the Opening the Kimono event. Charlie’s responsibilities ranged from “professional” tasks (planning VIP parties, assembling scandalous guest posts, coordinating logistics for 15,000 orders during the Land Rush campaign, etc.) to productive tomfoolery (epic grocery shopping spreesediting vajayjay photos, photographing giraffe make outs, persuading me to swallow 25 pills at once).

It was one hell of a ride.  We had a lot of fun, and we had some huge successes.

From day one, Charlie expressed a constant desire to become a hyper-efficient and effective entrepreneur. His role expanded as he requested more responsibilities (“What else can I do to help?” he’d ask me repeatedly), and we often found ourselves juggling several projects at once.

Most of the time, we handled it well. And as Charlie’s comfort zone stretched, his confidence increased, his communication and abilities improved, and our day-to-day operations were generally strife-free. We worked well together.

Then — in the middle of making The 4-Hour Chef — he suddenly quit.   It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Finding work-life balance (or work-life “separation,” as I prefer) in a connected world is challenging.  Speaking personally, I’m either 100% ON (for book launches, creative deadlines, etc.) or 100% OFF (such as my recent excursion to Bali). This ability to hit the shut-off switch helps me remain sane, separate work from pleasure, and it usually prevents me from burning out.

In this post, Charlie will share his story: what it was like to work with me for three years, and what led up to his burnout.

For all Type-A driven readers — especially those who struggle with the shut-off switch — this one is for you…

Enter Charlie

My brain felt swollen, like it was pushing against my skull. I looked down at my iPhone. Good lord. 60 hours straight. Wide awake, no sleep, for 60 hours straight. Yet I was still lively and sharp, thanks to the magic pill.

For four days, I’d supercharged my energy with a powerful nootropic; a brain drug typically reserved for fighter pilots and narcoleptics. If you’ve seen the movie Limitless, well, that pill actually exists. The drug’s primary function is to silence the body’s pleas for sleep. Lucky for me. Rest was a luxury I couldn’t afford.

I’d secretly taken this brain drug, without my boss knowing, so I could be great at my job. I was in charge of coordinating the Opening the Kimono event — a private conference on next-generation content marketing, hosted by Tim Ferriss.

Most attendees knew Tim for his two mega-bestselling books: The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. The driving themes of Tim’s work were effectiveness and efficiency — getting better results, in less time, with less effort.

In The 4HWW, Tim gave readers step-by-step blueprints for creating online businesses, generating passive income, outsourcing work, and taking mini-retirements.

In The 4HB, Tim revealed how to lose 20 pounds of fat in one month (without exercise), how to triple fat loss with cold exposure, and how to produce 15-minute female orgasms. Both books sold more than a million copies each, and Tim was a star in the publishing world.

In addition to being a bestselling author, Tim was also a successful angel investor and advisor (his portfolio included Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Evernote, and many others). He was also — and I’m not exaggerating — a Chinese kickboxing champion, a horseback archer, a world record holder in tango, and a polyglot (fluent in five languages).

I’d been working with Tim for nearly three years as his Director of Special Projects. It was a dream job that I’d worked hard to land, and I’d reaped countless benefits. In the time we’d known each other, he’d personally introduced me to a wide array of amazing people: mega-successful CEO’s, brilliant tech entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, world-class athletes, inventors, robotics engineers, pickup artists, jet-setting casino owners, supermodels… The list was endless. My network went from “average” to “insane” simply by being around him.

Dinner party at Tim’s with guests ranging from MDs to tech innnovators. And me! (far left)
Surprise weekend trip to Zion, Utah.
Trip to Kenya with Samasource.
In Napa for Opening the Kimono.
Tim: Want to grab lunch? Me: Sure. Tim: Cool. Oh, and the Mythbusters are going to be there.

He’d also given me a world-class education (I’d guess 3-5 MBAs combined), and helped build my portfolio into a showcase of incredible work.

I was 25 years old at the time, living in Russian Hill in San Francisco. Each morning, I’d walk over to my neighborhood café, sit down with my laptop, and work until nightfall on my weekly tasks. Whenever I finished a given job, I’d ask Tim for more work. Things multiplied quickly, and I soon had a plethora of responsibilities: assistant, researcher, editor, marketer, videographer, photographer, customer service, project manager… And then, I was his conference coordinator. Opening The Kimono was my biggest challenge to date.

More than 130 authors and entrepreneurs, from all over the world, paid $10,000 apiece for admission to Tim’s conference. And while I was confident we would successfully make it through this four-day event, I was also completely overwhelmed by the complexity of the task. There were so many moving parts.

I was terrified of screwing up. If something went wrong, I would need to fix it with superhuman speed. Somehow, I had to stay awake for the entire event…

And so, in my desperation, I visited an overseas pharmaceutical website, where I ordered the most powerful brain drug on the market.

The pills arrived just before the event. I took one every morning. Each day, I expected to pass out randomly from exhaustion. But it never happened; I stayed alert and wide-awake the whole time. The pills really, really worked. During the course of the four-day seminar, I slept a grand total of six hours. And just as I’d hoped, I was great at my job.

Discussing details before dinner, at the Kimono event.
Resting at the Kimono event with my co-conspirator, Susan Dupré.

The event was a whirlwind, but we managed to pull it off. On the final day, everyone gave us a standing ovation. Attendees ran up to hug us and said it was the best conference they’d ever been to. Our inboxes were filled with dozens of glowing reviews and thank you notes.

I was in shock. After months of working around the clock, we’d exceeded all expectations, including our own. Tim gave me a hearty congratulations, and said he was amazed how well we’d done.

I was proud, happy, and very tired when I arrived back home. But later that night, my body started sending out emergency signals, warning me that something horribly wrong was happening.

My heart was racing. My vision was blurred. I had a pounding headache that wouldn’t stop. Sounds drifted sluggishly into my ears, and I could barely stand upright.

For the first time in my life, I felt completely and utterly burned out.

# # #

A few days later, I went back to work. We were just getting started on our next big project: The 4-Hour Chef.

Two years prior, I helped Tim edit and launch his second book, The 4-Hour Body. I was immensely proud to have played a part in the book’s success; it was the pinnacle of my career. On the other hand, The 4-Hour Body had been the most stressful undertaking of my life. Tim and I half-joked that the book nearly killed us. I was hesitant to jump in for round two.

Ace Hotel in NYC, where we worked during the lead up to The 4HB launch.
Taking a break from work on cheat day. Gorging at Hill Country Chicken.
Moments after The 4HB hit #1 on New York Times, with Chris Ashenden and Steve Hanselman.
Celebratory cheat meal: Six-layer chocolate motherlode cake at Claim Jumper.
Hudson’s Booksellers in JFK, during the week of the release.

Tim offered to double my salary if I helped him complete The 4-Hour Chef.

It was a generous offer, and I was immediately interested in taking it. I’d be making more money than I’d know what to do with, and I’d have another cool achievement under my belt. What did I have to lose? After a moment’s pause, we shook on it.

I felt incredibly fortunate to be in that position, especially since so many people I knew were either unemployed or working in jobs they hated. My family and friends all congratulated me. From a distance, things looked great.

But on the inside, I was flailing. I’d completely lost balance, and I couldn’t see that I was destroying myself.

I was addicted to my work. You see, I liked to think of myself as busy and important, so I tethered myself to the Internet seven days a week. I communicated with everyone through screens. I spent all day long sitting indoors. I drank coffee all week, and drank alcohol all weekend. I only stopped working when I was sleeping. And then I stopped sleeping.

I just couldn’t stop myself from working all the time. I wanted to be indispensable, the best in the world at running operations. It didn’t matter what else was going on in my life or if I started feeling sick; work was everything to me. Practically everyone I met in the tech scene behaved the same way.

So many of my friends and colleagues were workaholics.

Several buddies of mine were pulling 16-hour workdays. My friend in medical school was popping Adderall like candy. All of us were destroying ourselves during the week, and punishing our livers on the weekend. We didn’t take vacations. We didn’t take breaks. Work was life.

Checking email at 3:00 AM in Buenos Aires.

Here’s the thing: I was a workaholic long before I met Tim.

I’d always stayed up late. I’d always spent hours at a time staring at screens. The difference now was that my state of mind had changed. Now, the results mattered more than the process. I took everything very seriously because I thought I was so important — there was money and success on the line! And I wanted to be the best at dominating life.

Predictably, life stopped being fun.

Each week, I felt increasingly sick, exhausted, and apathetic. My eyes sunk back and grew dark circles beneath them. My forehead developed thick stress lines.

My hands started shaking. I felt like I was always on the verge of crying. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me, so I just tried to work my way through it.

Then the deadline for The 4-Hour Chef got pushed back three months.

Then a family member died.

Then a close friend attempted suicide.

When Tim and I met up for dinner the following week, I told him very meekly:

“I can’t do this anymore. I have to quit.”

# # #

Tim didn’t argue with me.

He understood where I was coming from, and offered his support in whatever I was going to do next. It was a massive relief to part on amicable terms, but I felt weaker than ever. I was already feeling the pressure to get back to work, but what would I do? My identity was gone. I decided to take a couple weeks off. Then another week… And another…

I spent the next three months being unemployed and feeling awful. Every day, I’d go through the motions of my old routine without actually doing anything. I compulsively checked email all day long, stayed up until 4:00AM, and slept a few hours each night. I received a handful of job offers and turned them all down, recoiling at the thought of having to go back to work.

The worst part was the guilt. I felt enormously guilty every second I wasn’t doing something that could advance my career or earn money. I would pace around like a neurotic rat, coming up with random chores to distract myself. When the chores were finished, I’d think, “Okay… Now what?” Any activity that didn’t feel productive – sleeping in, watching TV, taking a trip – filled me with regret. There was this gnawing sense that I was wasting time. I was losing money. And yet, I had no desire to work.

I started wondering if I’d screwed up my life very badly. Hadn’t I been living the dream? Did I just throw away everything I’d worked for? I started feeling very anxious. I wanted to do something big, to reinvent my career, to make a name for myself so I could be successful. What that something would be, I didn’t know.

Then one day, two of my friends, Chad Mureta (whom I’d met at the Kimono event) and Jason Adams, suggested that we start a mobile app company together. They were both sharp entrepreneurs and savvy marketers, and Chad was already making millions from the apps he’d developed.

Finally, I thought, here’s a job that makes sense. I could be one of the founders of a cool tech startup, working on fun projects with my smart friends, in one of the most exciting industries on the planet. The Draw Something app had recently been acquired for $250 million, then Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. I thought, This gig might make me a millionaire by the end of the year! This is it…

I was so relieved to feel productive again. I strolled into the office each day to work on my laptop until late in the evening. I sat down, stared at my computer screen for several hours, and drank coffee. When I got home, I worked on my laptop until 4:00AM, slept for a few hours, then started all over again.

We spent the first month putting together an online course called App Empire, which walked people through the entire process of starting their own app business. It required many sleepless nights to get it finished on time, but we managed to pull it off.

Chad Mureta and Chris Whitmore (cameraman) during filming of App Empire.
Launch day, filming in a San Diego hotel suite.
Support team on App Empire’s launch day.

The launch of the course was a success, raking in $2 million dollars in revenue over the course of 10 days.

If you said “WTF!” after reading that last sentence, I don’t blame you. But our results were somewhat typical in the high-cost information product world. When you combine a $2,000 course with a huge list of potential customers (and three guys who know a lot about online marketing), you get a multi-million dollar product launch.

We spent the next two months doing weekly webinars, walking customers through each lesson and answering their questions. In our spare time, we worked on our app ideas.

At some point in the third month, I realized: I didn’t care about apps. I knew how to make them, and I knew how to succeed in the app market, but I just didn’t care. I didn’t really use apps and I never got excited about them.

I asked myself, Why am I really doing this work? Well, the job gave me an excuse to hang out with my friends during the day, rather than being holed up alone in my apartment. But that was only a small part of it. The honest answer was:

Status. Money. Guilt.

I wanted to impress other people with my “success” of founding a company. I wanted to be rich. And I wanted to avoid feeling bad for not working.

The problem was… I didn’t really care about what I was doing. There was this weird disconnect, like apps should have been the natural progression in my career. But it just never felt right. It felt forced.

I quit my job that week.

Once again, I experienced “success” and walked away from it. Only this time, I was riddled with anxiety.

I started to think I was going to be punished for not being productive, for not making money, for not having my life figured out. I didn’t know how or when, but I was certain it was going to happen. Everything was coming to a head. It was only a matter of time before something terrible happened…

# # #

I was in a bad place for a long time after I quit those jobs.

I was too ashamed and proud to reach out to anyone for help, so I bottled my feelings up and stumbled around for the next year. It was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life.

It’d be very easy for me to manufacture a villain in this story. I could tell you that I was pushed too hard, or that no one cared about how I felt. But that’s not the truth. I was the one who chose to stay up until 4:00AM. I was the one pouring caffeine down my throat four times a day. I was the one who secretly ordered brain pills. I was the one who isolated myself from friends and kept my feelings hidden. Everything I did that fueled my anxiety was my choice.

The truth is that all of my emotional issues would have unfolded for me at some point in my life, regardless of whom I was working with. I was the creator of my own anxiety, and I was the one who broke myself with my workaholic habits. I just didn’t recognize how destructive my behavior was because I thought it was normal.

I wish someone had held up a mirror to show me I was the problem, but that never happened. No one knew the full extent of my situation but me, and I was in denial. It’s worth taking a moment to ask yourself:

—  Do I feel guilty or anxious when I’m not working?

—  Have I stopped playing with my friends?

—  Do all of my daily activities revolve around building a more successful career?

—  Am I always sleeping fewer than eight hours per night?

—  Am I consuming stimulants multiple times per day to hide my exhaustion?

—  Am I sitting still and staring at screens for most of my waking hours?

—  Do I interact with people primarily through screens?

—  Am I indoors all day long, depriving myself of fresh air and sunlight?

—  Do I depend on alcohol or drugs to cope with social situations outside of work?

If you said ‘yes’ to most of those questions, you are not alone. When I was at my worst, I was doing all of these things on a daily basis. I was fueling my own anxiety and I couldn’t even see it.

My perceived lack of productivity, lack of money, and the unknown future kept me in a constant state of panic. Every day was a haze of fear and exhaustion. For more than a year, I tried everything to pull myself out of this state of living death. Nothing seemed to help, and I nearly lost hope.

Then one night, I had my first major breakthrough, which laid the foundation to cure my anxiety. This breakthrough happened in a flash. The emotional burden of non-stop worry was lifted, and I could finally breathe again.

It wasn’t hard. It didn’t cost me anything. It was only a choice.


TIM:  To be continued in Part 2, where Charlie will describe the step-by-step process he used to reverse his descent into darkness (and we’ve all been there, including me).  

I also learned a lot from Charlie’s struggles.  First and foremost: As a boss, you cannot assume that someone is resting and recovering properly. You must ensure it. Employees out of sight does not equal employees out of the inbox.

Don’t want to wait for Part 2?  Take a look at Charlie’s new book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety, which includes all the techniques he used to get his life back on track.



The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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212 Replies to “Preventing Burnout: A Cautionary Tale”

  1. Poor guy, workaholism is a very real thing and over productivity does not always yield the best results in the world. I remember a quote by Annie Dillard “The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less.”

    It’s so sad that we need to be pushed beyond our limits and the limits of our bodies in order to realize such important things about ourselves.

    I’m looking forward to the second part!

  2. As a current Sophomore here at your Alma Mater of Princeton, I feel like this article is the prime of what the majority of us are experiencing–those who care a lot about the future at least.

    I have put my time into a start-up, attempting to use the MED on both it and school so I can be intentional about rest and fun. But even with that, I find my self reading, and rereading something I just wrote on my start-up draft site, just wasting time away. My classmates do the same with reading pointless school work over and over again.

    This article, about killing dualism and learning to make work and play the same thing has been absolutely awesome for me. When work and play become the same thing, then that’s so awesome. Its no longer work hard, play hard for me, but work and play hard (simultaneously), and then play hard (meaningfully and intentionally).

    I will from this point on try to make sure everything in my life that is work is also play, this will go so far as to decide my future career and my future classes.

    This has been the epitome of a blog post, a real and honest behind the scenes of a rockstar type life. Thank you for this.

    ps: 1 year long stalker… first time poster. Go Tigers!

    1. oh, and Charlie, half of this post is referring to the linking article on your site!–about linking work and play or die. Thanks bro!

  3. Appreciative for this post. I, like so many, also struggle. Some of the reader feedback has been profound and as useful as the article itself. Thank you for having some of the most insightful fans and thoughtful to boot!

  4. I totally get you Charlie. I had depression as a result of burnt out and stress. It was / is a hell of experience, but that being said, one learns a lot about oneself through these life challenges. I embrace the depression, for it has taught me what are my priorities, and also to unlearn a lot of habits (such as working like a maniac).

    Thanks for sharing the experience

    Noch Noch

  5. Tim,

    I am 38 yrs old and am 5’11 goal is dunk a basketball. I am currently doing the insanity program and a boat camp 2 x a week. I really am open t your advice on what I should be doing .

    Thanks so much.


  6. Charlie, you sound like you may be headed for adrenal burnout. I suffered with it for the past 15 years and only recently discovered that I had it. I’ve been using Nutritional Balancing to heal it which has been a godsend. Here is an article about it written by the Dr. I’ve been using: Not trying to sell you anything. I simply wish you well. Take care.

  7. I think best burnout remedy is rare seared venison with french fries and three healthy spoons of olive oil to wash it. Clears both body AND mind.

  8. Good post Charlie, thanks for sharing. I have experienced some burnout myself, ironically after I quit my day job and dove into the life of the “free internet entrepreneur”. Anyways, it’s good to see that there are others dealing with it and coming out ok on the other side…looking forward to the next post.

  9. “The worst part was the guilt. I felt enormously guilty every second I wasn’t doing something that could advance my career or earn money. I would pace around like a neurotic rat, coming up with random chores to distract myself. When the chores were finished, I’d think, “Okay… Now what?” Any activity that didn’t feel productive – sleeping in, watching TV, taking a trip – filled me with regret.”

    I don’t think of myself as a workaholic, so I was surprised at how well I could relate to this sentiment! I recently took some time off work to go on a backpacking trip, and I shocked myself by turning my work ethic on to the trip! My friend wanted to break each day up with plenty of impromptu breaks to have a snack, enjoy the view, and maybe even take a nap. Every time we stopped I was chomping at the bit – didn’t he know we had a goal for that day? Didn’t he understand that if we got there early, we could alter our route and cover even more distance? How could he just sit there while we could be making progress? Rather than enjoying the vacation for what it was, I had unwittingly brought my workaholic tendencies to the table!

    It was a five day trip, and I gradually became more accustomed to the concept of relaxing as I spent more time in the wilderness. It was a very instructive experience – I had no idea that I was so high strung. I’ve been working on achieving a better work/play balance since then, so I look forward to seeing what tips you may have in your next post!

  10. Excellent insight. I would be interested to see an posting with some best practices for managing employees as an entrepreneur.

  11. Interesting post. I can relate to the medical student who was popping Adderall like candy, but my drug of choice was espressos. When I was going through the nursing program at my local community college I was having at least two espressos a day while working at a warehouse on swing shift. Both were full-time endeavors. The experience was exhausting and I had to leave the job before my adrenal glands suffer.

    Stuff like this isn’t discussed much in society, because our culture reinforces this “work until death” mentality. It’s no wonder why people who barely get enough sleep, eat proper food, or have some fun in their lives behave in a anxious manner. Thanks Tim Ferriss and Brian Oberkirch for doing this blog.

  12. Mark Cuban said something in his book ‘How to Win at the Sport of Business’ that really resonated with me… he said ‘Relaxing is for the Other Guy’.

    I identified with this quote a lot – because I’ve often felt riddled with guilt and anxiety while doing something unproductive. But it was more about the pursuit of money and (perceived) importance than the work itself.

    Luckily, I’ve found new motivation. While those things are still important to me, with my current line of work I get to provide value to small businesses and non-profits in a way that makes their operations better, more efficient and more profitable. This motivates me more than anything ever has.

    So I guess what I’ve learned is that if the work doesn’t matter to you, than what you’re doing isn’t sustainable no matter the superficial rewards.

  13. Thanks for sharing this–I recently had been wishing that I was working more and a small part of me was even craving to do the all-nighter/all-day thing with some of my personal projects. I am going on a ski trip this weekend and was already feeling some guilt that I wouldn’t be spending any time working–reading this made me take a step back.

  14. I’m only 20% through Play It Away and I already get it. Charlie nailed it.

    I intellectually adopted Tim’s core concept of NOT engaging in work for work’s sake but could not connect the intellectual dots to the emotional ones. Charlie’s book fills in those blanks perfectly.

    Play It Aways has earned “must read” status in my eyes.

  15. Oh Charlie! Thank you so much for writing this.

    I am feeling incredibly blessed to read this today. It’s nearly 1pm and I haven’t begun my work day. I’m self employed and simultanously love my job and think I might have already lost myself to it. I want to find my way back to a place where I feel excitement towards making that next deal and know that I can have a life with great personal relationships at the same time. Today you spoke to me. Thank you! I am grateful!


  16. Great read Charlie! I to feel like I am about to have a breakdown. I have a full time job. My wife has a successful full time job and we have a beautiful 16 month old daughter. Trying to be a great employee while also launching a new business based on Tim’s Muse, ( ) and also being a loving father and husband by doing my part around the house with cooking and cleaning, things get out of hand some times. It seems like you work for the weekends and spend the whole weekend catching up. I guess some times we just need to step back and refocus on the things that make the most sense.

    Great Read! Thanks

    1. Try hitting the page with some traffic from facebook, some fairly targeted ad.

      I wrote a draft ad because procrastination, something like

      Title: Don’t let them get sick. //some kind of variation of your appeal

      Text: Protect your children from dangerous germs, and never have to pick up a toy again. //something like that.

      Image: Distraught kid, or happy kid, or some other fitting image, best containing a person.

      Area: Where do you ship?

      Age: 20 or 30+

      Gender: Women

      Interests: //you’re a parent, so think about what other parents are worrying about.

      Additional Cathegories: Parents Expecting Children & Parents (Child: 0-3 years)

      Budget: Go low at first.

      Duration: Set manually //use really short duration OR set a low lifetime budget.

      Trying it out will cost you 10 bucks and may yield you some more backers. Good luck.

      1. Thanks for the info Oliver. I am trying to hit some press releases, but it seems they are a dime a dozen these days.

  17. Incredible post I’m sure so many can relate with your story and experiences of burn-out. I’m certainly no exception; can’t wait for part two so will order the book today. You have an exceptional writing style, Charlie – and from just skimming the comments see you’ve touched base with many readers. Thanks Charlie and looking forward to the book and future posts. I’m an instant fan! Best wishes

  18. Great article, I see myself in many of your experiences of going unbridled with your unrelenting drive forward. I admire your passion and drive yet don’t sacrifice your health and longevity in the process. Stay smart for the long and winding trail of life.

  19. Charlie,

    Great post! Having just started to work for myself, I realize just how common it can be to fall into these patterns. Reading about your experience certainly helps shed a light on the symptoms and enabling me to correct course.


    BTW, Nice job by you and Tim getting to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion. I’ve always loved that hike even if it took some arm-twisting from my Dad to get me to do it the first time.

  20. I wish I had a job I wish I was as successful as you I wish my only problem was working and earning too much. What you are doing is trying to find a solution to a niche problem a first world problem. Life is weird it rarely gives to those who need it and it rarely satisfy those who have it, but you are better off having all and not being satisfied than having to wear 4 years old shoes that hurt your feet brother.

  21. What an honest post… I’m looking forward to part 2 and just exactly what decision you made that changed your perspective.

  22. Hey Tim, Curious as to why you did not mention the drug in question specifically? Assumable your talking about Modafinil but why wont you mention it by name?

  23. I love Tim and all he does (coming from a 65 year old!!). The guy makes me feel YOUNG.

    I just bought the TRE book Charlie recommends and look forward to using it. I’ve worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, so I know what stress is about….:))) Once after Kandahar 2010 (yes, the folks there at the time know what I mean), I could only sit in a coffee shop in Dubai for hours… could barely walk to get there, had the shakes just looking at the people… never showed a symptom when I was actually IN the war zone…. Weird.

    But can I just say (only slightly tongue in cheek), a good SHAG (yes, even those my age do it!) also gives you the tremors:)))

    But what a great post and such a young man having the guts to come out and say he was burned out. Well done.

  24. Hi!. I would recommend you to read a little book called “the Myth of Sysiphus” by Albert Camus. Actually, you can skip the whole book and just read the chapter of the same name. I hope it helps you to find some answers and some well deserved peace.

  25. I’m a student at community college. Getting a good GPA in order to get into a good college that will land me a good job is the center of my life. I don’t sleep much. I don’t play with friends. I run off nicotine, caffeine, and very high glycemic carbs. I’ve lost about 15 pounds of muscle in the past two years (I was a top running back in high school, haven’t played any sport since). I now am in the transfer process, at the hinge to my prognosticated future.

    Now that I’m here, here’s what I think:

    I hate college

    I hate that society fills our ether with *must succeed* aura.

    I wish I can start over, beginning at 3rd grade.

    My ambitions have left me friendless and emotionally stoic, meh

    What’s a girlfriend

    If I don’t get into a great college – I don’t care! All that work and vision-driven ambition has culminated into “I don’t care”! HA

    This post is a deterrent for my Columbia application, oh well

  26. Thanks Brian for sharing your story. I run a non-profit that provides education and support for compassion fatigue. Have you ever heard of that?

    Sometimes we try so hard to be “good” we end up screwed up. We lose our compassion to hep others and ourselves.


  27. Great read Charlie. I think I met you through Ramit around 2009 and have watched you working with Tim and Tucker on this incredible journey. Can’t wait for part 2 about how you shifted away from this insane lifestyle to something more balanced.

  28. Does anyone know a US or Canadian whrehouse/distributor for a small quantity order system looking to grow?

    I am bringing products in from china and want to source a distributor to warehouse and ship upon sale…

    any and all comments are appreciated


    Patrick Ahern

  29. Hi Tim and Charlie,

    Thanks for sharing this, I am currently working a Life Coaching project, targeted for people who want to re-create their lives. I quit my regular job. sold my motorcycle and ventured on this path for the past 4 months. It is no easy to “loosen” your self from a defined work framework of so many hours, so many tasks, x, y z to do’s, so it is understandable that Charlie had to go through a very difficult process. Your body was somewhere concrete, but your heart and your mind were somewhere else altogether and that kind of fragmentation causes serious trouble.

    Take care and hope to hear more from both of you,


  30. A couple of great quotes that come to mind as one who has suffered from a similar malady to Charlie’s, Seneca ~ “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” Jesus Christ ~ “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” me ~ The more I behave like a child the richer life gets!

  31. This is brilliant. Thanks for sharing, Charlie. I definitely answered “yes” to most of those questions. Again, thank you.

  32. Such a great read, can’t wait for Part 2. Don’t know how I feel about the Limitless pill, one that they exist and two after reading Charlie’s post

  33. Great article Tim & Charlie, it really resonates with my experience as a solo startup founder from 2010-2014.

    It was a great ride building the company and hitting many milestones along the way. In the end, there wasn’t enough traction to continue so we wound down the company. I experienced a burnout after the wind down and it took quite a while to bounce back. I am grateful for the experience however as it has helped me learn about the critical importance of maintaining work/life balance. When your own health is not the #1 priority, things start to go downhill.

    I’ve heard of your book several times and look forward to reading it!

  34. Nice to see two sides to the story here. Trouble with burnout is that you don’t know it’s coming until you are already in it. The more we press it into the foreground however, the more chance we have of avoiding it.

    It’s like preventative care for the workplace.

  35. This is a familiar story. I guess I was lucky that my body gave out as soon as it did so I could begin my recovery. It was and is long and challenging, but I love life so much more. I just had to walk away from one of my businesses. Keeping up with all of it was starting me down that terrible path….again.

    As I tell my audience- Love YOU More. More than the job, the pay, the FAME…

    Thank you for sharing. More people need feel validated by words like yours. Be well.

  36. Charlie,

    Great story man, glad you found your way out of burnout. I’ve lived there and it’s a terrible thing to experience. +1 to the recommendation to unplug from news. Micro-doses of mindfullness and meditation are a powerful tool. Just spending 10-20 seconds taking a breath, returning to the present moment and consciously releasing tension can be a game changer. Getting outside into open space and green also has a meditative effect.

    I often wonder how many mistakes and lost hours of productivity are lost each year to burnout… I’m not sure how to study this but I’m guessing the number is enormous. Companies like Google I think have figured this out based on what I’ve read about the innovative way they treat their workers.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  37. This is pure gold, thank you very much! I can relate to a lot of this, but thankfully, still didn´t go too far that road and this will help me keep it in check. Have also forwarded this to a friend who might need it even more! Thank you, crazy value right here!

  38. I have experienced burnout several times over my career, but now turn things off and take vacations to unplug. One sign you have burnout is that you google it to learn how to fix it.

  39. There must have been a reason I came across this today. I reached this point a few years ago but have been struggling with my recovery. Once you get to this point you start to see a pattern emerge at every new job or project you start.

    So how do you pull yourself out of this? How do you even explain to someone what is going on with you? How do you come back from burnout and feeling like a failure? I have NOTHING going on and I have NOTHING new to talk about. It’s good to stop yet but once you do you also lose your identity… your routine.. your day to day drive that gets you up in the morning. What else do you have left?

    I have been searching for answers for 5 years now after my burnout. The passion and drive is gone. I don’t want to work long hours anymore. I don’t get a high from staying late at work and being a champion for the team. I sleep all the time now. I meditate and take long walks in the woods. Every time I go to sit in front of that computer it all comes back though. So my question is how do you rebuild your life after burnout? Is there a path out of this darkness? 5 years and still don’t have a clue.

  40. Charlie, it was great hearing it from someone else what I, and I’m sure many others are going through right now. The workload that being a Co-Founder and Lead Industrial designer among wearing many other hats is drowning me in a ocean of stress. The passion that has developed from trying to bring a project to life along with putting together a team is a dream come true, but it’s harder to manage than I thought. Do you have any tips on how to streamline your workflow so that once you finish your to do list for the day, you can step out of the office without having trailing thoughts about what you should be doing next? Thanks for being open and showing your true colors on this subject, I applaud your courage!

  41. Thanks for the honesty on a subject we so frequently are unwilling to talk about because it might make us look weak. It just takes a few people to tell their stories to create those “me too” moments that change and possibly save lives. I hit bottom with alcohol and that was when real change happened and now it is apparent that the same thing is happening in my professional life.

    Thanks for the great timing! Look forward to Part 2

  42. What I find amazing about the online space is how people’s authentic stories can help others. Charlie I know how much courage it must have took to share your journey, but if it helps even one person recognise something in themselves that they take action on to change and helps them recover you’ve made a huge difference.

    I worked for a unicorn startup for 5 intense years and when I was made redundant then decided to start my own business. I didn’t see burnout coming at me at 100mph and when it hit it was like nothing I’ve experienced and knocked me out for months. It immobilises you exactly as Charlie describes and takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, as if you’re being held back by this invisible force. Thanks to stories such as yours Charlie we can all understand what’s happening is part of the recovery process.

    Subjects such as burnout and mental health in general definitely need to be talked about so much more, and I’m very appreciative of Tim’s blog, the amazing open and honest blogs, podcasts and interviews Tim publishes, and the myriad of books Tim’s published. Talking, publishing, communicating however it’s done improves and saves peoples lives. It’s important work.

    Thank you Charlie, Thank you Tim. You make people feel human again. Thats a gift…

    Keep up the fantastic work.

  43. Great post. It’s actually inspired me to push harder in the day, so I have plenty time left to play, sleep, cook, relax in the evening. These things have such a massive impact on one’s happiness and we can be so much more creative at work and passionate about it when we are happy. Thanks Chrarlie that was very inspiring! I am looking forward to part 2.

  44. Hi Tim, thank you for sharing Charlie’s story. I am an Early Childhood Teacher and whilst I am not a ‘world mover’, find I cannot separate myself from my job, always striving professionally and wanting to please others. I have read your books and have enjoyed learning that you can follow many paths. I am 61 years of age and people assume that I am just working towards retirement, however I want more from my life, I want to be the best person I can be. Sometimes I do feel old, whilst other times I don’t. I feel that I can make a contribution and leave behind a legacy. Something to think about and also be kind to myself.

  45. That was quite a read! I don’t consider myself a workaholic, but I empathized with Charlie; I get it. You gotta have honest conversations with yourself. If not, you’ll just keep going in circles until the circle ⭕️ gets smaller, and smaller, and even smaller. Looking forward to part 2. Thank you for sharing this!

  46. Great advice. I could really use it. It is so easy to get caught up doing a million things. Thank you.

  47. I feel exactly the same way. Guilty when I sit down for a second to watch a movie or get on social media, guilty when I crochet instead of figuring out how to make more money, and guilty when I complain about my job, which I hate, but it pays the bills. I keep feeling this weird anxiety of being useless and not successful enough for my age (40’s) I constantly worry about what else to do, what business to start, I feel lazy when I take a break, but I have no motivation to work. I get job offers that I turn down because they don’t sound exciting at all but I’m desperate to quit my job. It’s like I have all this energy but don’t know where to put it and I hate using it at my current job lol. I just got the audiobook, I hope it helps, can’t wait to listen 🙂

  48. Great story with a great message, but what’s up with the “vajayjay photos”? Yes, I clicked on the link to read the paragraph on Flicker. Not professional. Not cool or funny. You’re a role model, not a teenager. You set the tone for your business. You chose to contribute to misogyny or to equality.