#83 - Managing burnout by…working more?

Dan Shipper: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Talk Therapy, a podcast where two friends talk about their journey to start a media business together. I'm Dan Shipper.

Nathan Baschez: [00:00:06] And I'm Nathan Baschez. And I hate to say it, but I'm feeling pretty good.

Dan Shipper: [00:00:11] You hate to say it.

Nathan Baschez: [00:00:12] You know, this is a podcast where we complain, so.

Dan Shipper: [00:00:14] [laughs] I love that you're feeling good and it's-it's kinda surprising because you've been working harder than ever.

Nathan Baschez: [00:00:18] Yeah. I spent a lot of time this last weekend writing code, but it was like fun. It was like I actually woke up in the morning kinda pumped on Saturday to like continue what I had gone to sleep doing on Friday or it was just weird, especially in contrast with like, I'm not the kind of person who always is like that. Like I was feeling really kinda deeply burnt out earlier this year and I think I realized something about, I don't know, my own psychology that helps me manage my burnout a lot better. I think it's too early to tell. We should check back in in like six months or something, but I don't know, I just feel like I had a little realization this past couple weeks and that it would be worth sharing here.

Dan Shipper: [00:00:54] What did you feel like you realized and how did it come together for you? How did it click?

Nathan Baschez: [00:00:58] Basically, I've been thinking a lot in the background about ADHD and how it works. Because when I was a kid, I was diagnosed with ADHD and I took different medicines or whatever for a little while and in college stopped at some point and kinda started thinking like, "Oh, you know, ADHD is over diagnosed especially in like young boys." Like, "Whatever, it's probably not real."

Like, you know, the medicine was maybe kinda helpful, but I'd rather just find stuff that I'm passionate about and like work on that and use that to manage my ADHD rather than like... And like, I wasn't even sure I had... I just honestly didn't think about it for like 10 years. And then about a year ago, some months into our partnership, how did it come up? 'Cause I feel like you were like, hey, I was like reading about ADHD and this stuff sounds like you or something like that. Like what came up with that?

Dan Shipper: [00:01:42] I actually don't remember. I do remember you kind of talking about how you had it and obviously towards the beginning of our partnership, we were kind of figuring out different working styles and how to work together basically and so it just seemed like a salient thing for me to look up. And I looked it up both in the context of like, what is ADHD? And then in the context of how do ADHD like partnerships work specifically for couples but I figured there was going to be some good stuff that could apply to us as you know we [crosstalk 00:02:11].

Nathan Baschez: [00:02:11] Yeah, we're a couple.

Dan Shipper: [00:02:12] Well, you think of ourselves as a couple in a lot of ways and yeah, I'd started reading it and I was like, "Wow, this feels really relevant." Not in the sense that every single thing is like completely applies to-to you or completely applies to us, but in a sense that there are patterns that it was like, "Wow, this is important for us to know about."

Nathan Baschez: [00:02:26] Right. So basically because of that over the past year, I'd kind of had like in the back of my head, just like learning about ADHD as like a threat or thinking of ADHD as maybe a more obvious way to understand myself, I guess and I just hadn't thought about it in a long time. And so as I was thinking about it, we've been like experimenting with different ways of working for me like different kinds of things to focus on.

And I realized like there's this core unit of ADHD experience which is like an impulse to do something that feels like a great idea to you and you have a lot of energy to do it. At least for me, this is how it manifests. I just like, I will get impulses to do things. They will feel like great ideas, I have tons of energy to do it and it's not necessarily that the first formulation of that impulse is always good, but there's usually something in there that like does make sense. And so as long as I'm not wildly off with my impulses, it can be really productive to the business for me to just follow them.

Dan Shipper: [00:03:21] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:03:21] Because it's the kind of thing where I can spend a whole weekend building a new feature, which we haven't announced yet and it feels really fun to me and actually actively refreshing. Like you know what they say about meetings or whatever, it's like, oh, some meetings, they feel like they drain energy from you and other meetings with other people, they feel like they give energy to you?

Dan Shipper: [00:03:38] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:03:38] It's kind of the same way with tasks. Like some types of work just exhaust you and some types of work it feels like it adds fuel to your system. And for me, being able to follow the thing that I'm super excited about and like go really deep into the rabbit hole and ship something and complete the task that's like big and it's like, "Wow, you did that in like three days." And it's like, "Yep. I did that in three days." Like that is what makes me feel proud and excited and fulfilled in my work.

And I realized that I wasn't doing that for a long time. And I kinda had this period, a period early in the business where I was doing it, some with writing, although writing is much more stressful for me than coding. There's a lot more like other stuff involved at stake for me of like how people perceive me or whatever. But when I can do something with programming or getting into some of our numbers or our finances or whatever, I can experience these really just like great feelings about myself.

It's like good for self-esteem. It's good for the business. I don't know, it just feels like really good. And I realized paradoxically like with my burnout, part of the solution probably is once I'm in a bad place to just like take a break, but okay, what happens after the break? You know, for me, I realized I need to guard for myself just the fact that every week I need to be able to look back and be like, yeah, I was able to spend a lot of time doing something that genuinely was really exciting to me.

Dan Shipper: [00:04:49] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:04:49] And like to ship it because I don't feel so good when it spins out of control and it's like becomes this huge project that I don't ship. I feel really good when it's like, I power it all the way through and I ship it and it's like a surprising amount of work to be done in a short amount of time or whatever. That's like this interesting thing where it's like, "Oh, to like avoid burnout, work harder?"

Dan Shipper: [00:05:06] [Laughs].

Nathan Baschez: [00:05:07] Like, it's not as simple as that. Obviously it's like work on very specific types of things that just tickle my fancy. But it's like, yeah, I should work on things that tickle my fancy 'cause my fancy is pretty accurate usually and like I want to like present the ideas that tickle my fancy to you for feedback on this kind of stuff. But like usually it's like in the terrain of something good and maybe could use a little additional shaping or whatever.

Dan Shipper: [00:05:26] Yeah. I'm curious what you think are things that fall into that category for you. Like what are the units of work that can feel like they tickle your fancy and you have a ton of energy to just go do them and just go into a rabbit hole for three days and come out with something amazing?

Nathan Baschez: [00:05:40] Honestly it's a huge variety of types of things and it's hard to predict what is or control what sort of things are going to get me excited you know? Like when I do get excited about something, I think that I should pay more attention to it 'cause a lot of times what'll happen is I'll feel inspired about it and then I just won't, it's like it doesn't fit the plan.

Dan Shipper: [00:05:59] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:05:59] Like, I dunno, maybe we should think about some other way of doing it that's like all of a sudden all the excitement's gone, all that stuff is just like all of a sudden it just becomes totally not the thing at all that was exciting to me.

Dan Shipper: [00:06:10] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:10] There's usually specific things that are exciting about it to me that are related to the overall vision for what we're doing, you know?

Dan Shipper: [00:06:16] Right. I kind of wonder though like what-what was it about that period of time that you didn't find anything that, you know, delighted your desires?

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:25] I think I was in a place where I thought that I needed to take anything that was exciting to me and put it through some other process before I did it.

Dan Shipper: [00:06:34] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:34] Which basically killed the fun, so.

Dan Shipper: [00:06:35] Got it.

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:36] Yeah.

Dan Shipper: [00:06:36] So in order to keep your impulses inspired, you have to just be able to do it.

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:41] Yeah. I mean, I don't know if that's like the best for the business. And maybe I should develop other ways of going for it, but it definitely like in terms of if we want to get out of me the thing that's like, "Holy crap, you did all that in like three days."

Dan Shipper: [00:06:54] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:54] The place it comes from is basically doing it pretty quick.

Dan Shipper: [00:06:59] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:06:59] And if we schedule it for like two weeks from now and then we change it significantly to be like not the thing or whatever, I don't know. And then on the other hand, I'm like, I have some ideas that I've been kind of like nursing for a while that like we're finally starting to build that's like, you know, new stuff or whatever that is also still very exciting to me. It's like, it can be shelf stable.

Dan Shipper: [00:07:19] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:07:19] But I think it's less about like, do I have to act on it immediately? And it's more about, are we really like deeply changing it to be something that's I think less of a good idea.

Dan Shipper: [00:07:27] Yeah. I-I think that's really interesting. And it just connects to this like broader question or topic area around ADHD, which is one way that I can manifest is just this feeling of like, "Oh fuck." Like, "I just can't get this thing done that I'm supposed to do and it's, I've been supposed to do it for a long time and I just can't bring myself to do it."

Nathan Baschez: [00:07:45] Right.

Dan Shipper: [00:07:46] But the flip side of it is, shit, I can dig, do this thing that is like monumentally difficult in like a very, very short amount of time and block out everything else. And being able to manage that I think is-is real interesting 'cause I think a lot of, you know better than I, but like a lot of people who have ADHD that just like struggle with feeling bad about not being able to do the things that they feel like they're supposed to do and feeling like they don't have enough willpower or whatever, but the flip side of it is they can do incredible things if they're interested. And so, yeah, it's been interesting to try to a-allow you to find the things that like inspire you rather than just harping on things that are, "Oh man," like, "I didn't get that done and I should have."

Nathan Baschez: [00:08:23] Yeah. I think part of the burnout feeling was basically trying to force myself to be a different way versus exploiting the benefits of the way I am and managing the downsides, but accepting, fundamentally accepting the way I am is like a little bit different. And accepting the way I am doesn't mean at all costs or whatever.

Dan Shipper: [00:08:42] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:08:42] Like you do have to manage the downsides. You do have to manage the upsides in a way that's like kind of rational or whatever, like for the business.

Dan Shipper: [00:08:49] Right.

Nathan Baschez: [00:08:49] And for beyond just my own enjoyment. But at the same time, I mean, my enjoyment is pretty much deeply correlated to what I believe is good for the business and my judgment on that is like generally pretty reasonable. And you know, once I have a chance to like talk it through with you, usually it doesn't diminish my excitement if you say something that changes my mind, I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's a great idea. Let's do it that way." You know, like there's a lot of instances where that happens. So I don't think it's like this fully out of control thing. I think what I've realized is I used to have this goal of like being this total, you know, will-powered master that just does exactly what he thinks he's supposed to do or whatever and like shouldn't have to feel excited to do something well.

Dan Shipper: [00:09:25] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:09:25] And now I'm like... Well, I dunno, maybe, but like for now what I want to focus on is have the time every week to like go really deep and do something that made me feel proud of something that I'm like really excited about.

Dan Shipper: [00:09:35] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:09:36] And also build systems and processes for myself and habits for myself that allow me to not drop the ball on the other important things and like continue to basically function well and-and make sure that, you know, if I am going to go down a rabbit hole on something, that it's as fit for the business as possible and that it's something that you're also excited about and all the stakeholders involved are like, they don't feel like I'm disrupting their lives or whatever.

So I think the more we can learn to like talk about that stuff, the better. And one thing that may be helpful to talk about is how in the past, and I think maybe still some to this day, when I get really excited about something, I think you just feel this intense danger around my excitement for it.

Dan Shipper: [00:10:13] Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:10:13] 'Cause it feels like I'm not going to be able to listen.

Dan Shipper: [00:10:17] Yeah. Your excitement definitely in the past triggered my anxiety. And maybe a little bit now, but honestly I think it's way, way lower than it used to be first of all. When people have a really, really strong emotion about something, it kind of makes me kind of turn off a little bit or it makes me feel a little bit afraid because it feels harder to have what I consider like a reasonable conversation than something that's a little bit less emotionally charged. I mean, you know this, like I-I kind of am by nature, I want to argue against any strong opinion.

Nathan Baschez: [00:10:46] Yeah.

Dan Shipper: [00:10:47] [Laughs]. Like strong opinions make me have a strong opposite opinion, [laughs], or whatever.

Nathan Baschez: [00:10:49] You definitely do the devil's advocate thing a little bit.

Dan Shipper: [00:10:51] Yeah, I do that.

Nathan Baschez: [00:10:52] I think you sense if someone's really excited about something it's almost like inherently their judgment is poor.

Dan Shipper: [00:10:57] Basically, yeah. I have this intuition about that. Um, which I think that there's something to that, but also it's-it's annoying and bad and I probably shouldn't do that in all cases and-and the-

Nathan Baschez: [00:11:05] It's interesting though 'cause is the excitement the output of judgment or the input to judgment? If it's the input to judgment, then probably your judgement's going to be poor. But if you're thinking through some stuff and then a conclusion occurred to you based on your reasoning and you're like, "Oh wow, that's exciting, maybe we should do this," then it doesn't mean inherently that their judgment is poor.

Dan Shipper: [00:11:23] I mean, I do think that the way that human judgment works is that you'll start to put the pieces together a little bit and then often what happens is you just like jump to this like thing that's like, "Wow, this is like really, really awesome." And then you get kind of attached to it and it can be harder to update when you have new information or you have different perspectives if you're super excited about it that's-

Nathan Baschez: [00:11:41] I mean, of course, generally humans do that.

Dan Shipper: [00:11:43] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:11:43] But, uh, I don't, I never have.

Dan Shipper: [00:11:45] You-you don't, obviously yeah. This is-

Nathan Baschez: [00:11:46] Not, never once.

Dan Shipper: [00:11:46] Yeah, yeah, this is purely theoretical about other people. [Laughs]. But anyway, so it definitely s, it stoked my anxiety and we just had a lot of conversations about, for me, we would have conversations where it felt like, you know, we had an understanding about something or what we were going to do and then you would come back with like an idea that was like 10 steps down the road from what we had discussed. And there was like kind of a logical chain to it, but you would be solving like four different problems that we didn't even discussed and then you would present the solved problem to me.

Nathan Baschez: [00:12:16] Right.

Dan Shipper: [00:12:17] And then I'd be like, "What is..." Like, "I don't even know what we're talking about here. This feels really scary." Like we were just talking about this one issue that we're trying to solve and you're kind of pitching this completely thing that I-I don't really understand. And then if we unpacked it, it was usually like, "Well, I saw this problem and then I saw this problem and I saw this problem and I solved each one this way and this way and this way, and then I got to this and then it was like, "Oh wow, we can really have a great conversation about this because we can talk about the problems and-and which ones we think are most important or which ones we think are real or not and then how does the solution fit?""

And I think that... I'm not sure exactly what's changed other than I feel a deep amount of faith that even if you're excited about something, we will eventually be able to, if for whatever reason I have some reservations about it, we'll be able to like address them. And that kind of just like lowers my general anxiety about this kind of thing. I think also you've been a lot better about when you have something big kind of being like, "Hey," like, "I know this is like a big thing, let me explain to you how I got here so that you can understand it and then we can talk about it."

Nathan Baschez: [00:13:15] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dan Shipper: [00:13:15] And that is really, really helpful for me. So you tend to present these things a little bit differently. I think also, which is maybe kind of sad, like the frequency with which that you're like having these big moments is like probably lower than it was at the beginning of the business.

Nathan Baschez: [00:13:28] It's a lot lower.

Dan Shipper: [00:13:28] Yeah. Because we're just kind of like running around putting out fires a lot all day and it's harder to have those big moments, I think.

Nathan Baschez: [00:13:35] Well, it's interesting 'cause like to me exciting doesn't correlate to big or small in terms of its impact on our strategy.

Dan Shipper: [00:13:41] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:13:41] Like there's things that have almost no impact on our strategy and are just like a cool opportunity for a good execution little thing that get me equally inspired to go do.

Dan Shipper: [00:13:51] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:13:51] It's basically like the way I describe my motivation is it's like it has a low-pass filter on it so it's like in zoom when it like silences the background noise and like amplifies the voice.

Dan Shipper: [00:14:00] Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Baschez: [00:14:00] It's like any signal below a certain threshold basically goes to zero. So like a small task that most people would be like, "Oh this is like 0.3 valuable," that's fine. 0.3 value means I'm 0.3 excited about it.

Dan Shipper: [00:14:12] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:14:12] So there's like kind of a parity there. For me, it's like 0.3 uh, that rounds down to zero, you know? [Laughs].

Dan Shipper: [00:14:18] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:14:18] So like I have no motivation to do it. And I can get myself to do it, I can create habits, whatever, but like it leaves me feeling exhausted when I'm doing that all the time.

Dan Shipper: [00:14:25] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:14:25] But when something gets past like a 0.7, then all of a sudden my motivation is like cranked to 11, you know? And um, it just stays there. It's glued to the highest setting basically for like awhile.

Dan Shipper: [00:14:36] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:14:36] So like that can totally happen for small things. I think the small things don't, they're not as anxiety inducing for you. Like if I get really excited about, you know, building a invite to our Discord system for paid subscribers.

Dan Shipper: [00:14:49] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:14:49] That's just like, "Oh yeah, that's a nice... we've been sending out these manual invite links and like we should just automate that." Like I got excited about it for like specific reasons or whatever, but like it's just kind of fine. Whereas if I had like a whole like let's change the way our business works idea, that obviously has more damaging potential and is just a much bigger decision to evaluate whether you should just go and do it or not.

Dan Shipper: [00:15:07] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:15:07] I think I definitely used to get more concerned about even some of those little things because I was like, "Maybe this is a sign of things to come." Like if he's just like super excited about this little thing that I feel like is kind of off the beaten path, even if it's only marginally from like what we thought we were going to do, like going back to our is Nathan unmanageable episode, like it brings up those fears of, "Oh man, are we just constantly going to be building lots of different things that are relevant but like maybe just tangential to the real thing that we need to be doing in my mind or whatever?"

And over time I've realized that that fear is not real. Like you're not going to just go do a bunch of random things that are completely uh, unrelated to our business. And to the extent we're making big decisions like we're always going to talk them through and whatever. So that has been a learning experience for me.

Dan Shipper: [00:15:50] Right.

Nathan Baschez: [00:15:50] Do you think it's more that my judgment is better than you thought it was initially or that my communication skills have gotten better or around it?

Dan Shipper: [00:15:57] It's definitely both. It's interesting 'cause I wouldn't have necessarily framed it as judgment so much as like almost lack of judgment. You know what I mean? It's like if you can get into a mode where you're super excited and maybe you haven't thought it through, then that feels scary to me. But I've started to realize that there is a lot of thinking about it even more than is even conscious to you when you start to really unpack it. There's a lot of decisions that you've made. And then yes, we can always talk about it and that is really helpful for me to be brought along.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:26] I didn't fully understand. When you said it, uh, it's not so much about poor judgment but lack of judgment, what does that mean?

Dan Shipper: [00:16:31] Yeah. What I mean is the worry is that you're not even thinking about it. It just occurs to you that there's a really good thing to do and then you're just doing it.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:37] Gotcha.

Dan Shipper: [00:16:37] And there isn't a chain of logic behind it.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:40] So now it seems you have a little bit more confidence that there is a chain of logic behind it.

Dan Shipper: [00:16:44] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:44] That like-

Dan Shipper: [00:16:45] There's always a lot of logic.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:46] There's reasonably-

Dan Shipper: [00:16:46] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:46] It's like reasonably sturdy and I can explain it pretty clearly.

Dan Shipper: [00:16:49] Yeah, yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:49] Usually, maybe I didn't always present it initially in like the best way.

Dan Shipper: [00:16:52] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:16:52] But like once you start to knock on it, it's like, "Oh, there's a structure here that does make some sense." And maybe it's not perfect or whatever, but like it's never totally haphazard.

Dan Shipper: [00:17:00] Yeah. What's really interesting is there's a lot of logic and you're always actually very interested in figuring out if the logic is good or not. Some people are not, you know? Some people are like, they have an idea, they want to do it and if you question it, they get defensive. I've never met anyone like that. I'm talking about me. Sometimes that happens to me. Uh, but you have this like mode that you can go into where you actually really want to know if something is right or not and if the logic is sound or not and I think that is really, really helpful.

Nathan Baschez: [00:17:26] It's interesting 'cause in my experience, a lot of people have interpreted me in that mode as being defensive because-

Dan Shipper: [00:17:31] Yeah, I know.

Nathan Baschez: [00:17:32] I'm asking a shit ton of questions and it seems like I'm like trying to prove a point or something. And like, honestly, there's like usually what happens is when I ask a certain amount of questions, they'll tell me something and I'm like, "Oh, that's the thing. Okay, cool." And it's like all of a sudden, my whole judgment about the thing can change once there's an important bit of information that like to me in my decision calculus changes things.

Dan Shipper: [00:17:55] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:17:56] But a lot of people it's like, they just kind of feel bad about it.

Dan Shipper: [00:17:59] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:17:59] And they really can't walk me through the logic. And so me asking them questions, it's stressful to them because they feel like I'm like being debatey or something or like cross-examining them.

Dan Shipper: [00:18:09] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:18:09] And it's like, I don't know how to get information out of people without it feeling that way, but that's a skill that I need to add in terms of like managing the downsides of the way my brain works.

Dan Shipper: [00:18:18] Yeah. I think we could do a whole episode about that. But over time I've come to learn that those questions are actually very genuine and they kind of make me feel bad a lot less and when they do, it's pretty easy to just be like, "Hey, like I need to just think about this a little bit, um, because I can't fully respond to why I don't know if this is a good idea or-or why this chain of logic doesn't make sense to me."

Nathan Baschez: [00:18:36] Uh-huh [affirmative].

Dan Shipper: [00:18:36] And yeah we've been able to deal with it much better over time.

Nathan Baschez: [00:18:38] Yeah. It sounds like maybe you've experienced just enough times where there was like a little thing that like, "Oh my God, that actually changes how I think about it."

Dan Shipper: [00:18:45] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:18:45] They go like, "Oh, he is... once some information comes through to him that like makes sense, like he will just change."

Dan Shipper: [00:18:50] You're also much better about with me trying to take my side for a second. And instead of just asking me questions that make me feel like I'm being put on the spot to explain everything, be like, "Oh, okay, let's try to explore why you're feeling that way 'cause there's probably something there that we should use to make this idea better." And that's [crosstalk 00:19:08].

Nathan Baschez: [00:19:08] Yeah, that is true. That is true. I definitely have in the past put all the work on the other person.

Dan Shipper: [00:19:13] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:19:13] So I'm like, "You tell me."

Dan Shipper: [00:19:14] Yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:19:14] And I'm like, "Well, okay, imagining that this is a bad idea, why might it be a bad idea from your perspective?"

Dan Shipper: [00:19:19] Yeah, yeah.

Nathan Baschez: [00:19:19] Maybe you think this and that really helps people a lot. If I can come up with reasons for them that they can then say yes or no, or react or whatever to.

Dan Shipper: [00:19:26] Yeah, exactly.

Nathan Baschez: [00:19:26] Yeah, that is definitely a way better mood. 'Cause it takes genuine work to do that and it makes people feel like, "Oh," like, "I really am trying to understand and I'm not just like being a jerk or whatever."

Dan Shipper: [00:19:34] Totally.

Nathan Baschez: [00:19:35] Well, here's to not being a jerk, I guess.

Dan Shipper: [00:19:37] [Laughs]. Yes, indeed. Until next time, see ya.