Sh*t my brain says and forgets about

Getting Burned Out

It’s In Our Nature

The human body seems to have a natural instinct to burn itself out. We find something we like and want to continue receiving those brain signals so we keep on doing the thing. Eventually our brain grows weary and sometimes our body too. My scientific analysis has some gaps but you get the idea. We like to put blinders on until we feel pain that something is no longer fun.


At CocoaConf Chicago, Jaimee Newbury gave an excellent talk on Burnout and how she used her skills as a product designer to battle it. Not only was her talk informative, it was quite moving. She managed to incorporate stories of her family, her childhood and the movie Rocky to help us comprehend why she reached burnout.

Go the Distance

Rocky is Jaimee’s favorite movie and from it she remarks on one quote from Sly Stallone – “It doesn’t matter if I lose this fight. All I want to do is go the distance. Simply put you’re going to fail in life. The idea is not to let those failures consume you to the point of stagnating your creativity and drive to continue on. We learn from failures – how else would we know when we succeed?

The Four Steps

There are four steps in the plan Jaimee is following to help her spin the burnout back into creativity: understand, discover, design, iterate. These are the same steps she would follow when working with product development – why not reuse the tools you already know? First you have to really understand what the problem is you’re trying to solve. Then you have to discover the context of the problem – determine all of the variables, inputs, behaviors, technical issues that cause or interact with the issue. Next, design a solution to help resolve the problem but while keeping in mind the human condition – we can only change so much so fast. Finally, the last step is to iterate because as we go through the journey of change we’ll need to tune things as we discover more about ourselves.

Take Aways

There are a couple big takeaways from Jaimee’s talk that I wanted to share.

  1. Watch Rocky again, I don’t think I gave it enough time as a child.
  2. Read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – it describes the method of small changes to alter human behaviors. I’ve heard of this book before in a talk about creativity and inspiration so I need to get it and read it.
  3. Subscribe to Jaimee’s YouTube channel.
  4. Use hand-drawn artwork in my next talk’s slides.

I’ve gotten to the point of burnout a few times in my life and I’ve made my own internal rules to deal with situations like this. I don’t think I’ve ever analyzed my process enough to know what it was (or that it really even existed). This talk on burnout has made me understand more about how I approach problems and I’m glad that I do have some analytical assistance from my experience as a software developer. Hacking your own brain and life is quite possible! 🙂


Creating your Verse in the Play that is Life


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  1. Sweet post, sounds like a great talk too. Tough subject. I have my own set of internal rules, but I’ve found that it doesn’t make up for constant awareness, or one might fall pray to an “unexpected burnout”. The one you describe is the kind where you get to reach the “natural burnout”, the one you know will happen if.. What I’ve found more challenging is when one is in the middle of one’s own set of steps, and life throws a wrench in one’s spokes at another level. It can precipitate things into chaos pretty fast.

  2. Stephane, I *totally* agree. The talk is very much about the unexpected sort of burnout. Going along thinking everything was fine, in a career I’d very deliberately chosen by following my heart, unexpected wrench(es), and spending 2 years working through it by using the tools I already had.
    I love what Aaron took away from the talk. And I absolutely appreciate your comment. <3

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