My burnout was one of the best things that happened to me

Source: Unsplash

Once upon a time

2007. 19 years old at the time. I was doing community college, studying multimedia. I always liked working with the computer and saw myself having a career in game design down the road. So multimedia felt like a good first step. I learned the absolute basics of 3D modeling. I also learned building websites, coding, and design, but that never seemed to really capture my attention.

Spreading my wings

2010. I started studying Computer Sciences at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, majoring in IT Management. Still living with my parents at that time. I started the studies mainly because of the idea that he could do better than the manager at the internship. It couldn’t be real that a manager makes plans that are so outrageously out of bounds, right? Boy, was I in for a surprise. This stuff is hard!

  • 05 AM — getting up
  • 5:30 AM — start cycling to train station
  • 6 AM — train to Amsterdam, with a transfer somewhere in the middle
  • 7:45 AM— subway ride
  • 7:50 AM — walk to the university building
  • 8:30 AM-4 PM — college
  • 4 PM-6 PM — repeat steps 3 and 4 back
  • 6 PM-6:30 PM — cycling to work
  • 6:30 PM-10:30 — work
  • 11 PM — finally in bed

Into the wild

2013. I got my first real job! PMO (Project Manager Officer) was my stepping stone to make my goal of becoming a project manager true. The organization was this relatively large IT consultancy. All-you-can-learn on the certificate and course part, at the expense of the company. It only required your own personal time during the evenings to be invested. But eager as I was, I did every course I could. It looked good on my resume, resulting in me having no problems finding an assignment at a client.

Aaaaand… Crash

After a while, someone told me a didn’t look so good. I looked tired. “Ah, I’ll be fine. I just need some sleep!”. Uhu. Of course, I continued in the space I always did. Bringing my energy. Working during the day, taking courses in the evening. But my focus was starting to go. A client’s manager approached me and told me;

Source: Psychology Today

Crawling back uphills

The absolute hardest part of this whole story was the acceptance of the fact that I had hit rock bottom. At least, that’s what it felt like. I felt like I gave up, I felt like a failure. It took all of the energy I had left to accept it. That really broke me, but it was also a massive relief. At least now I can twist around the facts anymore.

  • Do nothing. Nothing would change, and I would be miserable for the foreseeable future.
  • Try to work things out by myself. Hmm, challenging and with a high probability of doing the wrong things or dragging for way too long.
  • Get professional help. But that’s scary. I have to be all touchy-feely.
  • Just for the sake of argument assume that someone is out of the picture for 8 months/34 weeks.
  • This translates to 1360 working hours
  • The average hourly rate of my organization at the time was 85 euro/101 dollar
  • My gross salary was roughly 4100 euro/4800 dollar per month
The actual trial. Source: Amelisweerd Facebook
Source: bluedwarfs.com

Every day now feels like a holiday

Here’s are my biggest takeaways from the whole ordeal:

  • My whole life I’ve been focussing on the wrong things. I wanted status, money, and looking cool.
  • Both my scholarly life as well as my career until that point have been revolving around getting high grades and high-scoring performance reviews.
  • It’s a lot easier sandbagging and not looking at your problems than facing them dead-on and working with them
  • Therapists are a lot more useful than I ever imagined
  • I learned a lot more about myself in 5 months than I did in the previous 28 years

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Sander Dur

Sander Dur

PST at Scrum.org. Scrum Mastering from the Trenches. Podcast host at “Mastering Agility”, found on all big platforms. LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/sanderdur