Aaron J. Crowley

Stone Industry Consultant

"I think I’m burned out.” 

That’s a direct quote in an email to me from a reader of the Slippery Rock.    

I know those words have entered my mind and left my lips on numerous occasions so I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that more than a few fabricators who entered, weathered, and are now emerging from the Great Recession are experiencing burnout too.  

A picture that comes to mind is that of a tanned beach bum who, while wading in the surf, is swept away from the beach and nearly drowned by a violent and unexpected rip tide.  After what seems like hours of straining against the sea, he stumbles forward and collapses onto the sand in exhaustion.  

While he knows deep down he was born for the beach, going back into the water is the very last thing on earth he wants to do.

The picture’s the same for fabricators who have experienced years of prolonged stress and frustration straining against the sea of violent economic currents. Emotional and physical exhaustion have set in and the thought of “going back into the water” is overwhelming. 

But for those who know deep down they were born to run a stone business, restoring the physical and emotional reserves expended during the struggle is essential to leading companies with vision and vitality. 

Here are five steps you can take to begin the process of reversing Burnout:

Choose to Press On – Momentarily entertaining thoughts about alternative sources of income or dwelling on the green grass of apparent opportunities are natural diversions for our weary and frustrated minds.  But wisdom of the ages says that a double-minded man is unstable in all he does and that a man can’t serve two masters. Abraham Lincoln said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is peace in choosing to press on, so forget the “plan B” thinking and replace it with single-minded focus on finishing what you started.

Re-define Success – Old measurements of success and unrealistic expectations of performance become crushing disappointments. And an uninterrupted string of perceived defeats leads to despair. The standards that define victory must be recalibrated to reflect reality, and when newly defined victories are achieved, they must be celebrated and built upon!

Drink Less – Rest More – Alcohol sales soar during recessions for obvious reasons, it’s an over the counter medication that takes the edge off.  But its side effects are obvious too and they are not performance enhancing. Sleep and rest seem to be the inverse of alcohol in that when we need it most, during periods of great stress and frustration, we are more apt to deprive ourselves of it. So take baby steps in reducing the alcohol and increasing the time in bed with the lights out.

Join a Business Leaders Group – Misery may love company and knowing that you are not alone can be therapeutic, but simply swapping stories of woe with other owners can deepen an already dangerous cynicism. On the other hand, forging relationships built on trust and confidentiality in a controlled environment enables us to feed off of the encouragement and energy of those who understand our plight and are cheerleading our success. Groups like C12 and Entrepreneurs Organization have chapters in most major cities (I’ve been members of both and enthusiastically endorse them both).

Appeal to the Almighty – Winston Churchill said that Americans always do the right thing…after they’ve tried everything else. It seems to be true of our human nature, too, as we will exhaust all options in the physical world before considering the spiritual. 

Whether we’ve just washed up on shore gasping for our next breath or are up on our feet wondering what to do next, another wave is coming.  It may come in the form of more unexpected difficulties or it might take the shape of new opportunities to grow. Either way, it will require much of us. The outcome will depend on how much we have to give.

What we have to give will depend on what we have done to reverse “Burnout.”

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please feel free to call me at 503-209-2580 pacific time.

Aaron Crowley is a stone shop owner, author, speaker, and consultant to mid-size stone companies. Contact him at aaron@fabricatorsfriend.com.