Ep 8 - "The Burnout Zone"

Last time on ArtistCEO, Shannon was letting go of her artist studios to focus on building her branding and naming agency, House of Who. But with everything moving so quickly, it soon became clear she was getting off-balance and into "The Burnout Zone."

Shannon gets an insight about the underlying nature of a growing business and sees how the way she works influences her team (including the host, Kerri), You can't hide your consciousness when you're a CEO.


Shannon: It’s Monday and things have been somewhat actually lightening up. I’m no longer working 7 days a week, so check mark on that.

Kerri: Hi, It’s Kerri, your host of ArtistCEO. Shannon spent the weekend moving out of her artist studios, (the business she let go of) that we talked about last time.

Shannon: Yes, I spent all day moving but I have to say it felt really good to move my body and not sit in front of a freaking computer or screen, chained to a desk. Because I’m so freaking tired of sitting at a desk! I’m trying to get my meetings so that I don’t have to look at the screen and I can take a walk while I do my meetings. So note that. Anybody have advice on how to make sure to get more physical movement out of the day when you have a very computer heavy company.

Kerri: But not getting enough movement during the day, is just one of the stressors Shannon was experiencing. Here’s what she told me was also going on at that time.

Shannon: I’m living in a place without electricity and then I move into a highly overpriced 600 sq ft apartment, 500 ft from a freight line that runs trains at three in the morning and blasts its horn because there are multiple crosswalks on either side of the apartment building, sleeping with earplugs helps only slightly, and I’m also trying to wrestle with the artist studios, the situation with the sprinklers...I’m also in the middle of bringing on new people and working with them at Who and pitching projects for clients that we have the capabilities for, but are definitely stretching us into new places. And with all this going on, I’m finding myself once again getting back into the burnout zone.

Kerri & Shannon: The burnout zone.

Kerri: ie: the place where you’re in danger or physical or mental collapse, caused by overwork or stress. Funnily enough, it’s exactly what I was experiencing as I was trying to put together this episode.

Shannon: Yeah, just this morning I’m just like, I so do not want to work. And I went back to my calendar and realized that I had scheduled out Monday mornings for my CEO visioning time, which is now. And again, I don’t feel like I’m learning new things, I’m just learning that the things I learned before are actually true. It’s just a matter of slowly incorporating them into my being so that I can actually practice them.

Kerri: How many things do you know that you should be doing, but don’t? Like get 8 hours of sleep, drink enough water, have time to relax and socialize. Unplug for a minute?

Shannon: And I really think that it’s experiential. It’s learning by doing, it’s trial and error. And I know that all kinds of famous hacking productivity experts like Tim Ferriss and such are all about not learning by doing because it’s not very efficient, it’s slow. Note to self: Look up some of those techniques because I don’t want to go through the failure every time just to learn the lesson and yet -

Kerri: And yet - sometimes you don’t know there’s a problem until you experience it.

Shannon: I got a really great reflection about how if I’m not balanced, that reverberates throughout my entire team and the company. Almost as if the business itself has it’s own consciousness.

Kerri: Whoa, Shannon. You’re getting a little far out. We’ll get back to this business consciousness thing. But what actually happened?

Shannon: I start losing my center and finding myself saying things to my team that shouldn’t be disclosed, treating people in a way that is not from a place of centeredness and compassion, letting my ego throw a tantrum when things are not going the way I want them to go and feeling totally reactive and off-center because everyone is needing my attention and I feel obligated to give it.

This continues to go and I see the reverberations in the business. People start emulating my behavior, either by working reactively and not taking care of themselves, or prioritizing the work above health. They see me set an example of working until 2 in the morning to deliver this client project and then waking up again at 6. And some of them are helping me do it and while I appreciate it in this rare instance when we had to do that to make the project go successfully, it’s also something that I can start seeing in the eyes of my team where they start worrying that this is the new normal.

Kerri: When I burned out, I didn’t realize how hard I had been working. It was just the new normal. Work on client work. Then work on your own business that you’re building. And don’t forget to make your own art, right?

Shannon: I’m just really taking stock in the importance of my own self-care and clarity and balance and what’s required for that. And how it frustrates me to no end how much downtime I need in order to be on when I’m on. And of course I want to be able to work 12 hour days, 7 days a week at full sprint, but I can’t. At least not forever. I can for a little while and then I have to recharge. And shifting my thinking around that. It’s no longer about doing it for just my personal health but actually for the health of my business.

Kerri: That can be a lesson that is so hard to hear. But whether you’re a CEO, a freelancer like me, an artist, or all of the above - your work can’t thrive when you’ve reached your limit. When there’s nothing left to give.

Shannon: There really is no extrication. When you’re running a business that is close to your heart, that you’re passionate about - which, I hope you are - because oh my god I can’t imagine running a business and putting in this much work for something I’m not passionate about. There is no separation between me and it in the sense of balance and health and clarity and creativity.

Kerri: So your business has a consciousness and if it’s your business - it’s kinda has your consciousness.

Shannon: I don’t know how that’s going to work necessarily moving forward but I know that I absolutely have to find it, that balance, for this to work.

Kerri: Next time on ArtistCEO see what happens when Shannon attempts to avoid burnout and delegate. And before that, you’ll hear our interviews with artists and professionals on how they deal with burnout.

Kerri Lowe