Burned-Out on a Tropical Island

How to burn-out doing what you love.

Burn, burned, burnt, burned out, burn-out.

I’ve had the plan to start writing about my adventures as an online pianopreneur, my life behind the scenes of Piano Couture, so to speak, for quite some time now.
Ironically enough, this first article that is an actual update on my current affairs, and not a story from the past like the behind the couture posts, talks quite a bit about why this hasn’t been happening yet. Primarily to a less than glorious discovery that recently got shoved in my face: I managed to burn-out doing what I love.

Damn do I feel like a fucking whiny-ass pussy writing that down, excuse my French.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the burn-out isn’t something to be taken lightly and have a lot of respect for those who have experienced it and managed to fight their way through it.

However, most people I know don’t get to call making music “work” and burn-out because they have stressful, demanding jobs. Also, now I experience what I’ve heard from stories only: once it is you, you feel like you’re overreacting. Whining.
I on the other hand have always thought that running an online business revolving around my biggest passion was more fun than work. In a sense it definitely is. Unfortunately I recently discovered that one can in fact get too much of a good thing.

Juggling around, contemplating, managing and creating all the world-improving ideas that my never-still mind is constantly conjuring up has gotten the best of me. I’m admitting defeat. I’ve just recently discovered this, now that I find myself in a situation that most people dream about finding themselves in more that often. Now that I’m on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, where my girlfriend sent me after yet another crack following a 70-hour work week, to finally get some rest.

Yes. It was obligatory. She’s wiser than me you know. Saw what’s wrong, what was coming at me, growing inside my brain, my state of mind like a nasty pimple that’s about to collapse, for quite a while already.
She’s been warning me. Comforting me. Telling me that things will be alright, when I was stressing out over some not-made deadline again. Telling me to slow it down. Take a break. I didn’t. Couldn’t.

This time however, she practically forced me to take a break and take it good. Fly halfway across the earth to go and find peace in a place where worries seem to be non-existent. From the sun that doesn’t seem to have any competition in his quest for sky domination, temperatures that are never suppressed below the uncomfortable, to the people around here. Either those that are here to escape their sorrows at home, or that are lucky enough to actually call this their home.

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Although she pushed hard, stressing her advice to treat this trip as an actual brake in stead of taking my work with me and simply continuing from these more pleasant surroundings, I did get to take my laptop with me.
My plan was to do some of the more fun work-related stuff that I simply didn’t get to at home because of all the obligations. Stir it up. Do something different. Cooler. Be creative.

Now I’m here, almost 2 full weeks and I suddenly realize that it has in fact hit me. I haven’t been able to open my computer even one single time (typing this post on my iPad).

While this in fact means that the things that have been causing the stress in the first place -to do lists that keep growing, tasks piling up etc.- have actually only gotten worse (I really apologize to those of you that still see their email unanswered after more than 14 days) I do feel some kind of liberation.

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The thing is, when your hobby is your work, you don’t get time off. Since you usually fill a large part of your free time with.. your hobby, right? Also, running and managing everything on your own, in my case means that I’m thinking about improvements and “to-create,” “to-fix,” and “to-change” non-stop. Non-stop. There’s always something that needs to be done or requires my attention.

Time off, as it appears now, seems to be more important than I thought up until now. Stupid. Constantly having these work related matters linger somewhere in your brain really eats you up slowly. Tires you down like crazy, without you even noticing.

This has made my focus very scattered over the past year. Resulting in a LOT of new ideas (you should check out my to-do lists; the sheer length is quite funny and worrisome at the same time), yet very little output.

Now I’m here and finally able to take a fresh, sort of “overall” look from more of a distance as it seems. It really feels like quite the tranquil form of clarity.

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Why am I writing this? Not to whine. I really hate doing that to be honest. Not to brag or conjure up envy because of my current surroundings. I hope it doesn’t come off that way.

On the one side, it’s more to inform. Since I know I have been saying stuff would be published, updated, changed etc. and then it didn’t, which resulted in many of my valued followers waiting for things they’d expected to appear, which then didn’t.
On that side it’s meant as an apology and a thank you for you loyalty and patience.
The amount of interaction, even when the in- and output from my own end is at such a low, biding level really is quite astonishing and heart warming. Please know that I really do appreciate it like you can’t imagine.
And as an announcement. I think I’m almost back. The output will follow :).

On the other side, although I know this whole article is kind of a ramble -I really need to grow back into the rhythm of writing on a regular basis- which I didn’t want to edit too much to sort of keep the “vibe” of the carelessness around here, I hope it can serve as being the first tip, lesson even, for those of you that are either following, or planning on taking a similar approach in regard to work, entrepreneurship and/or teaching.
Since the plan of these “live” posts is to help and inspire other musicians and (online) entrepreneurs with certain aspects of their endeavors, I guess I’m trying to give some small insight in the fact that doing something that you love is not only awesome, but also dangerous.

Please listen to your body and your basic sense of logic. It can be very tempting to spend countless hours working on some passion project, but you have to eat. You have to sleep. You have to take breaks.

Once you start working on what you really love, realize that taking brakes with what you love (in my instance: playing piano, writing music or whatever, as a “break” from creating a lesson) means that you don’t take actual time off from the subject and the hours in fact just keep counting.

Go for a walk. Take in some fresh air. Call your mother, father, brother, sister or a friend. Spend time with your loved ones and don’t neglect them because you “have no time” are “too busy.” Take a break.

Oh! I found that working out works really well. Having a fit body, means having a fit brain. Clears the shit out of your mind. I’ve been goin’ at that like crazy here. Really nice.

So, as if this story wasn’t enough of a ramble already, there you have some random remarks regarding this “tip” that I wanted to share. Live.

I want to conclude by saying that I really am starting to feel tranquil. I can feel the urge, the enthusiasm, the driving flame behind this whole project again … almost. I feel I can almost say that I’m rested and good to go again.

Almost.

Take care.

Cheers, Coen.

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