Burn out

A common problem in our field. I’ve seen it chew up many good Systems Administrators over the years, and I’m sure it will take a corresponding toll on the NT SEs as well. Why?

No matter how good you are, there are always more fires, more machines to install/upgrade, more users to assist. It is the classic problem in just about any customer support position. No wonder SAs have a history of only being in the field for about 2 years, or in a company for 2 years before moving on. (I can not speak for NT SEs, but only time will tell…)

Long hours, fire fighting, unhappy users, emotional labor, and stress all add up to burn out in time. How do we avoid this?

By following the “Principle of Balance”. In the Seven Habits parlance, it is the core of “Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”. Habit 7 ties all of the habits together and builds the strength we need for our lives. It also can renew and rebuild a life that has seen a few, or too many, hard knocks.

What is Balance in our lives? Quite simply it is TAKING the time, to do all those things you need to do to balance out your life. In our careers and society, with all the demands being placed on us, there will never be enough time to “have the time to do whatever”. If we remember the first three habits:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First

They provide the foundation for self-mastery. I believe this is the key. If we have self-mastery, we take responsibility for our lives and actions (Habit 1), know what we want in life (Habit 2), know how to do (Habit 2) and are doing it (Habit 3). By taking the time to decide what we want in life, and setting out course, we will move directly in to Habit 7. If we have purpose, we can not avoid Balance. If we have Balance, we have purpose and mastery. Sound like something an old Eastern Master of Philosophy or Martial Arts would say? Well, that may be true, but it is also the same thing the Christian Bible says. As well as the Koran. And the Tao Te Ching. Not to mention more modern works as well. Why does this keep coming up? Because it works! And builds strong lives and strong people.

If you have that balance, fight to keep it. Balance is never something you “just have”, it is something you have to fight to have. But anything worth having is worth fighting for. This is actually the easy route in the long run.

If you do not have balance, this is the tougher road. It is the one I am traveling.

If you are a fellow traveler on this road, welcome. You have picked a tough one. But one with many valuable lessons and experiences. Some of them I am glad to have had, even though the better road would have been to keep the Balance and proceed forward.

It is tough to overcome imbalance in your life. The problem with imbalance, is that it is an easily self-perpetuating situation. One that can rob you of your personal power. I know, this is the second time for me. I guess I like falling off of wagons. 😉 The first time took a wake up call of Infectious Mononucleosis (mono). I recovered and rebuilt. This time, I fortunately did not need a wake up call, but saw the signs. Unfortunately, this one is tougher. The first time I was not married and a home owner with all that comes with it. Nor was I a consultant, and all that it entails.

Why am I spilling my guts to all of you? Well, I stood in front of many of you and claimed to be a “expert of sorts” on the 7 habits material. Whether or not I wanted the title, I claimed it by standing in front of you claiming to believe in the material. So I have to be honest with all of you. I’ve been out of balance for almost four years, and walking the edge of burn out the whole time. (OK, so I’m slow at waking up.)

Because of this, I am working on getting back away from the burn out stage. Not an easy road. How does one do this?

Well, by getting back to the basics. For me, that is re-immersing myself back in the 7 Habits material. (Now you understand why I am studying the material and encouraging others to do so.) Where do I go from here? For me, it is to return to my various studies, mostly philosophical and spiritual, some physical. In this way I am starting to feed 3 of the four areas we all have, the mental, spiritual, physical, and the social/emotional. The latter one is being partially filled by my wife, Charrie. It is also being partially filled by “talking” to all of you in this fashion. It enables me to give a piece of myself to others. I have a lot of work to do, but I hope this message will help some of you, as it does me. I helps me by reaffirming myself to my purpose and committing myself in front of my peers. I have a lot of work and welcome all of you to join me on my journey. All of you have a journey to travel, and I hope that your journey is filled with Balance and Purpose. (And don’t forget the fun along the way!)

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