Burnout and the Imposter Syndrome

As 2016 came to a close, I felt like it had been a successful year but also that the success had brought quite a few problems with it. I tried very hard to figure out what was going on – was it the increased complexity of my life that felt like a burden? The answer was to simplify – more time for myself and less obligations. Was I burned out? The answer was be a little less perfectionist and a little more patient (for sucess) and rest and relax. Was I feeling like an imposter (imposter syndrome)? The answer is to realize that others feel similarly, celebrate my wins and take ownership. Have gone through many different frameworks, I think the answer is quite simple – after a strong year, I wasn’t sure what lay ahead.

After 2016 brought enormous growth to my life, both professionally and personally, 2017 begins with the alarming feeling of a plateau. Where 2016 presented many new, first-time experiences, 2017 appears likely to simply present more of those same experiences. While both cases can be called growth, the distinction is that of Peter Thiel’s, between innovation (“zero to one”) and globalization (“one to N”). So if 2016 saw the purchase of my first house, 2017 is the type of year in which I will simply buy more houses. And if 2016 saw the establishment of two discrete, new friend groups (swimmers and Christians), 2017 simply promises more time with the same people. The projected lack of innovation leads to a lack of excitement/feeling of plateau, even when growth (in money, assets, skills, et al) is technically still achieved.

Why is this stagnation happening? In some cases, like my outdoor hobbies, the stagnation is natural – I was setting up a lifelong activities template in 2016 and I won’t really need any new ones beyond the 4 or 5 that I’ve chosen. In that case, I actually need the time to consolidate my skills, because to enjoy these activities to their fullest, I’ll need to achieve a certain level of competence. Elsewhere, however, the stagnation is semi-structural. For example, in investing, my firm does not want me to invest in areas outside my specialty. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place – either continue to practice the same skill or leave the firm altogether. Like most black and white things, the “rock and a hard place” portrayal is just a mental construct. The real truth is that if I want to work hard enough, I can convince my firm to try something new… I have acknowledge that that requires ‘extra’ energy but I have to believe that I have energy and it’s still possible.

As someone looking for innovation and excitement and learning, when stifled at work, I’ll naturally try to get involved in new things elsewhere. In some ways, last year’s forays into spearfishing and surfing represented attempts to innovate when other areas of my life had stagnated. And this year’s interest in poker is likely the same. But under these conditions, I need to be careful not to dilute myself. The five big goals that I’ve set for myself still have not yet been achieved. My lack of progress against these goals should not be seen as an indication to look for progress elsewhere but rather a warning to redouble my focus. I do feel structurally impeded though and I’m not sure whether it’s just an emotion, it’s true or whether it’s true only because I don’t have the right social skills to navigate systems and get what I want. In any case the short term outlook remains the same: swim well/stay healthy, schedule in some good hobby time, try to keep socializing and go hard in the paint on investing. Let’s be goal driven, darling.

As a side note, I continue to marvel at how complex social situations can be. While I feel great and totally in control at small group settings and conversation, there’s so much going on in large party settings that I can get overstimulated. There are so many different social dynamics at play – status-seeking, competition to be the most fun, sex/desire, alcohol, etc. I don’t seek it but it’s still quite interesting and I’d like to be able to find balance in those settings. I think the key is that although more of my life feels under control as I start accumulating wealth, to embrace the grind and grittiness, of life in general. To build resiliency. I think of two relevant articles to this –

The first an obituary to Prince – http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/darling-nikki

“No accident, then, that by 1986, when I started to want to be touched and touch someone besides myself, I picked out an incredibly small guy who wore eyeliner and lipstick and most definitively was an unrepentant sex fiend. Not in the way that so many teenage boys are, with their gross language about “boning”—you know, all the Brock Turners or medium-grade Brock Turners of the world. A sex fiend is someone who actually likes sex, not just the getting-off part but the dirty parts, the salty mess of it. And so my androgyne boyfriend liked the mess, and so did I. Grinding that’s good enough you don’t need to tell anyone about it. He certainly didn’t tell anyone about it, because the other eighth-grade boys mocked and ostracized him for being small and femme and freakish. But he was the only one getting it.”

The second, an article on the complexities of flirting (which I may have shared before) – https://newrepublic.com/article/133034/flirting-humanity


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