Now that I’ve lured you over here thinking this post is going to be another romantic saga  - it is Valentine’s Day after all- about how I’ve toiled in my endeavors to find true, passionate, everlasting LOVE, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it won’t be.

I saw the bear sitting on the floor at Wal-Mart the other day while I was shopping for cold medicine, and I had to take a picture. Hate me for tricking you, but as you continue reading, you’ll discover that the premise of the post isn’t too far removed from the title — the picture, eh, that’s a different story — there, I’m guilty of irrelevance. Sorry.

As I alluded to earlier, I was at Wal-Mart shopping for cold medicine, but it wasn’t the only store I frequented these past two weeks in search of an OTC (over-the-counter) remedy for what seemed like the illness that would consume my life. Sparing you the details, as a result of my sickness, I spent 14 days in a fog-like, cough medicine induced loopiness. My appetite was minimal, and I seemingly could not drink enough coffee to ever feel fully awake. But like the loyal soldier of capitalism that I claim to be, I forged ahead. Although the quality of my work may have been questionable, the quantity was not. Over my 14 day sickness stretch, I worked 13 days (including weekends), which I’m realizing only served to exacerbate the pestering cold… oh and I tried (but ultimately failed) to keep up with my blogging, reading other blogs, going to the gym, and participating socially in my community. Big mistake. My advice: If you get sick, stop, completely. Get well, then resume life.

By Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 6), I had begun my recovery. Symptoms remain, but I felt full of life and energy again….”Wait,” you say, “if you had recovered by two Sundays ago, where have you been? It’s two Monday’s later.” That means I’ve been gone for 8 (count them, I’ll wait) 8 whole days! Eight days with barely a Tweet, Blog comment, email response (unless it was a pressing business matter), or phone call made.

I sat around. I watched movies, like 2-Star Nicholas Cage movies. Movies that make you question if the commercials present better content than the film. I sat on the couch. I watched cartoons. I sat on the couch. I ate bags of popcorn… you guessed it, while sitting on the couch. I got up from the couch. I got in bed. I watched movies. Are you getting the picture yet? I did nothing. Have you seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall? You remember the scene where Sarah ridicules Peter for spending an entire week in sweatpants? Well here’s an edited clip because that was pretty much me — except I did quietly go about my work, so had to get dressed at least once per day.

I became a bum for seven whole days, and I’ll tell you why. Hint: it’s the entire purpose (other than captivating your attention and thoroughly entertaining you) of this post.

For four years, I have been the Director of Marketing at Eco-Protective Products. My responsibilities have been wide ranging from Distributor Recruitment to International Market Research to Social Media Director to Sales and so on. Since 2008, my partners and I have built a business that manufactures and sells eco-friendly architectural paints. Our industry can be described as cyclical, and we tend to slow both with seasonal changes and because we produce premium products, as a result of economic sluggishness.

In August, as an effort to grow our brand awareness and market reach, I moved to Charleston from our corporate offices in Atlanta. Although my efforts have proven successful in aligning us with promising business opportunities, my sales numbers have yet substantiated my recommendation for this branch expansion. However, I was taught early in life, it is in times of adversity that those that sit on their laurels are the ones who falter and fail and those that excel are the ones who make the decision to work even harder; so harder & smarter, I would work.

Between sales calls and handling my duties as Marketing Director, I noticed I had ample leisure time, and I was spending that time at the beach or enjoying the pleasures of my new city of residence.

Although I’m a proponent of mixing leisure with work, I could not rightly justify free time, while my partners continued to diligently work and maintain our business back in Atlanta. By October, I had opted to take on a second job in order to cover my expenses since the business was spending money in order to support my sales efforts here.

For 5 months, I’ve spent the M-F teaching at a Private School from 2-6 PM to students K-3 (no, I do not have any education experience). Even though the position has connected me with wonderful families and given me invaluable perspective on life through the eyes of my kids, I knew quite quickly that I wouldn’t be able to stay long-term. The school was too far away, and (for anyone with children, imagine 17 of them) mediating and resolving daily conflicts between eight year-olds is mentally taxing and a strain on my patience. In December, in order to transition out of teaching, I began working at restaurant in Charleston. Since December, my typical day has been as follows

  • 5AM – Rise
  • 5:30 – Run for 3-5 Miles
  • 6AM – 1 PM Conduct meetings, make phones calls & perform necessary duties for Eco-Protective Products.
  • 1PM-6:30 PM – Teaching & transit
  • 7-8 – Gym to work out
  • 8:30-12 – Finish any remaining work for EPP & work on this blog
  • Obviously meals are sprinkled in when time is available

From a business and financial perspective, my toiling has provided ample breathing room, and as I write this blog, our business has well weathered the barren winter months. Today, with heartfelt sorrow to leave my kids, I will tender my resignation from my school (i.e. give my two week notice), and although I will continue at the restaurant, it is not from a position of financial necessity that I make that decision but of genuine enjoyment of the job — the people and the perks. I know relatively few people in Charleston as a result of my busy schedule, and the restaurant is a nice medium to interact socially.

Are you still here? Ready for the real message? Tired of all this back story, right?

Three weeks ago, I wrote a post that received much praise; it even was mentioned in Ingrid Abboud’s Super Post Sunday. In that post, I wrote about not stowing away your superhero cape, in other words to never grow too old to dream big, crazy big, and work your ass off to become something great, but on our journey to become the Super Heroes of our fantasies, we need to realize that even Bruce Wayne retreats back to Wayne Manor to relax every now and again.

We entrepreneurs –( I define the term loosely — whether you own a small business or are driven to find opportunity others ignore in your CAREER JOB, you’re an entrepreneur) chose to travel this path. This unknown, dimly lit, often riddled with potholes, path. We could have had vanilla careers, driven our SUV’s to our 9-5 then checked out for the day, but because we wanted more, we wanted the freedom of owning our own business and our own destiny, we simultaneously plagued ourselves with the disease of never knowing when to shutdown the work day.

Driven to excel, we utilize every waking moment to further our quest toward success. We are in constant pursuit of greater efficiency at our jobs, in our homes, and while performing our hobbies. Quicker is better. We rush through meals. Curtail conversations. Send out concise 140 character messages. We finish presentations, pitches, or proposals on the plane, in the car, and on the train. We ponder business ideas while logging miles on our a run or swimming laps. Even if we are not working two jobs in addition to running a small business, we squeeze every ounce of our energies toward the pursuit of our dreams. We are ambitious. We are brave. We know pain, but we ignore it. We know exhaustion, yet we feed off of it. We skip meals; we sacrifice our sleep hours (we’ll sleep when we’re dead and gone, right); we work through that nagging cold. We ignore our bodies crying out for us to stop; we tell ourselves this is the price we must pay for success. We push ourselves to the breaking point both physically and mentally. This is what separates us. This insane work ethic is what defines us. But this is not sustainable. We will eventually crash and burn.

So where do we draw the line? When should we shut down and allow for me time? When do we hang up our super hero mask and allow ourselves a chance at unwinding?

I had wonderful conversations with Susan Finch of Creative Guide to Life throughout my cold crisis and ultimately, leading up to my BREAKING POINT. We discussed so much that it would require an entire other blog post to share with you what I gleaned from our conversations, but suffice it to say, Susan seems to be about 10 years ahead of me on a very similar path in life. If you like anything that I’ve written, you’ll absolutely adore her and learn so much from her posts. So what did Susan say that rattled me to my core?

Let me back up a second. In addition to our wild work ethics, if you’re like me, you place undue stress on yourself by obsessing with making the perfect decision. You analyze pros and cons of each option, you determine if fear is holding you back — then like me, you try to buck that fear — but see, as I stress over this decision process, I become afraid of allowing fear to overcome me, so alas, either decision I make, I do so based upon some form of fear.

In the end there is no right or wrong decision. Its just ‘a decision’ and what you do with it — Susan Finch via Twitter

Truer words have seldom if ever flashed before my eyes. Not only had I been burdening myself with an unsustainable work load, but I had placed a debilitating amount of pressure on every minute decision I made. Ultimately, my body had to give out so that I could come to this realization (with Susan’s help, of course).  I pushed myself to the breaking point because I thought I had to. I believed I had to tirelessly pursue every lead,  turn over every stone, and work every waking moment or else success would forever evade me. I thought that if I allowed a moment’s rest, I’d be on my heels when my moment of opportunity came knocking. However, Susan helped me understand that for every opportunity that we allow to pass us by, we open the door for another one to come into existence. So worrying, as the cliche goes, is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.

In business and in life, we mustn’t worry so much about the potential ramifications of our decisions years into the future but remember to live in the present moment. We must understand that no matter what happens, we will figure out a way to make it work.

I know I touched on numerous subjects during this post, so let me recap:

  1. Allow time for yourself
  2. Don’t wear yourself too thin
  3. Don’t worry so much about making the right decisions, as evidenced by many people around the world tonight that are celebrating being in love, I can promise you almost 100% of the ones older than 20 will have failed, heart breaking relationship story they can tell you about, and most of them will agree that had they not endured that break up, the love they now possess would never have been possible.

And remember to stop and smell the roses — the meeting, tweet, blog post, and webinar can wait. Life is more than work. Ambition is great, but don’t let it blind you to that fact.

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  • http://www.CreativeGuideToLife.com Susan

    Wow! An amazingly epic post, and so flattered to be included. Every time I wonder if I make an impact, someone reminds me it’s well worth the effort to keep writing.

    Right. When we utilize every spare moment and energy of our time and energy mulling over decisions, we definitely crash. I also have no idea how you didn’t crash sooner if you’re getting some 5 hours of sleep a night! Your mind, body, soul, etc all needs to rest or our body will shut down on our collective self’s behalf.

    Very much looking forward to seeing where your journey leads you. And so glad I could help! xo

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Susan,

      There’s more praise coming your way. To be honest, this post was such a mishmash of ideas. You know the kind of post where your mind’s pace exceeds your ability to type, so by the time you arrive at then end of one thought on the computer, your mind has already jumped to another?

      I also felt it necessary to preface any future posts regarding time-management or balancing life & work with a bit of knowledge about my current responsibilities — to give any reader context. I think it is useful to have an objective person to bounce ideas off (i.e. you & our conversations), but it is especially valuable when that person has followed a similar path. Your advice and counsel have been immensely appreciated, and I look forward to sharing my journey with you as it progresses ahead.

      Again, happy belated Valentine’s day my “Sister in Arms” on the quest to live a better, more fulfilled life.

      -Jamey

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  • Guest

    Very poignant post. Always remember that while you can do anything, you cannot do everything. How in the world have you been surviving on five hours of sleep while working nonstop?

    Spend some time enjoying those pretty beaches!

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m a Taurus. So while I understand what you mean saying, “while you can do anything, you cannot do everything,” I may be too stubborn to heed that advice.

      As for 5 hours of sleep? In addition to a caffeine addiction, it helps to visualize myself years into the future acknowledging the value of my hard work in the present as the crux of my success.

      I was raised to not only value hard work but also to distinguish the difference between hard work and useful hard work. My current work load may exhaust me physically and, at times, mentally, yet I recognize all the greater value that I can glean from my experiences beyond the financial gain, and I know that I will be a better man, a better person, for them.

      Again, thanks for your comment. It is truly appreciated. As for the beaches, don’t worry, Spring is quickly appearing on the horizon.

      Thanks!

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