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burnout in a small business

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Uri Soglowek
burnout in a small business
on Jan 3, 2010 at 8:52:53 am

i am producing a series of business tips for a client and wanted to ask you guys a question:
from your point of view - why do you think an owner of business can get into an overload or burnout situation?

i've been collecting data on this for the last 10 year and for some reason now i get more and more demand for consulting....

2010 started with a blast!



Uri Soglowek

Business and design tutorials
Inspirationpod.com


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Nick Griffin
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:16:55 pm

Short & Sweet:
IMHO, the primary cause of burn-out, whether it be small, mid-sized or even big business, is un-realized expectations and un-met goals. And the rah-rah business cheerleader in me says that the most likely cause of not meeting goals is not setting them in the first place.


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grinner hester
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:25:07 pm

I could not have said it better. We all get bored. That inspires some to create new opportunity. I've seen it feed depression for others. They begin to do nothing than will mention how bored they are. Sit stagnant and this will happen in any industry in a company of any size. There is no room for bordom in challenge. Failure doesn't hurt. Not succeeding does.



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Steve Kownacki
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:52:10 pm

Uri: why do you think an owner of business can get into an overload or burnout situation?

Been there numerous times. Because the hardest thing in business it to "lead" and have others instinctively have/share our drive, passion & determination. We strive to succeed; we are our own worst critics. We want to exceed client expectations. Sometimes the client is ourselves. Setting a goal of 5% increase in net profit - we are hard on ourselves. This is stressful, others go home at the end of the day. I hate the phrase "put in 8 and hit the gate." When those around us "are not part of the solution" brains go into overdrive. Why am I writing this on a Sunday morning at 11:45? I agree with the lack of goal-setting. One also has to realize the need for coaching. Business is tough.

Now I'm re-thinking your question and are you talking about an owner OR owner-operator? What functions does the owner you ask about do in the business? Are you targeting any specific size organization? The last guy I worked for 19 years knew absolutely nothing about video, but was an amazing salesman. I don't think he ran a good business necessarily. The e-myth is a must-read and one must understand the importance of working "on" the business not just "in" the business.


Steve



Jump to the FFP Website



View Steve Kownacki's profile on LinkedIn




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Bob Zelin
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 3, 2010 at 10:37:15 pm

Hi Uri -
this is my typical psychotic answer.

Burnout is for the weak. "oh, I can't take it anymore". I have been thru it all - zero business, lack of knowlege, death in the family while you are in the middle of a big job, marital problems that distract from your business, cash flow, and not getting paid all together, getting screwed financially, etc, etc, etc.

GET OVER IT, get your ass into gear, be a man (even if you are a woman), get back to work, hit the streets, pound the pavement, succeed, even if you die in the process, succeed, even if you have to take drugs, or take alcohol. Learn that new equipment, even if you hate reading new manuals. Collect that money even if you are too shy to be aggressive. Win at all costs, no matter who dies in the process (including you).

It's all attitude. I am currently doing a job for a client that I am completely not qualified to do. I have been in this situation many times. No matter what, I will do it, I will succeed, I will ask all the stupid "newbie" questions, and get insulted along the way, and make mistakes, but I will succeed, I will do the job correctly (ultimately), and I will look like I know what I am doing, even thought I don't. There is no excuse for losers ("oh, I can't learn that stuff anymore"). Am I stressed - YOU BET I am stressed - all the readers of Creative Cow (and other forums) know I am stressed, and abusive, but I WILL SUCCEED, even if I die in the process ( and everyone else around me dies in the process). All that matters is that you win - you succeed, you accomplish your job, you accomplish your mission, you get paid, you accomplish your goal.

Of course, many people don't feel this way. This is why there are opportunities for some, and "bad luck" for others. My personal hero's are those that "died in battle", and Charles McConathy (ProMax) and Bob Turner (prolific writer in our industry) continued on, in spite of their terminal cancer. These are my role models, these are men, that keep going in the face of death, that strived for excellence, that DID NOT KNOW THE MEANING of "burnout".

Bob Zelin




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Mike Cohen
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 3, 2010 at 11:28:17 pm

Things to watch out for in any business:

Not delegating enough. It's your business, you do it better than anyone. But you need to grow the business, and teach others in your shop to do as good a job as you do, of good enough to get the job done to the client's satisfaction.

Becoming stagnant. I'm not talking about seeing a drop off in new work. I mean you need to keep expanding your business. What new services can you offer your clients?

Thinking you know everything. You may know everything about your business, or at least about the way you do business. But sometimes you need to hire someone who knows more than you, or at least ask questions of someone in the know to make sure you are on the right track. Sometimes as a business owner, you can't see the forest for the trees - you need an outsider's perspective.

Resting on your laurels - google it.

As Mr Zelin said - you need to get out there and get business. Selling is an everyday activity. You need a lot of prospects. Do some market research and get on with it. Being busy should keep you motivated, unless the business you are bringing in is $250 local car dealership spots! Bring in the business you want. In the interim, learn new skills or techniques. Develop a process for getting stuff done, so when you get a lot of new stuff that needs to get done you will be ready.

Happy New Year.

Mike Cohen


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 6:49:29 pm

It never ceases to amaze me the number of "artists" that think that talent and craft will win out in the end. It ALMOST never does. Oh there are exceptions to every rule -- but maybe there is an exception to that, too! -- and I wouldn't want to bank my future or the future of my family on the Rule of Exception.

There is a reason that people talk about "starving artists."

;o)

Too many artists are "above" selling themselves, to them, that would be tantamount to "selling out" -- and so by not selling themselves, they sell themselves right out of the market.

Ron Lindeboom


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Nick Griffin
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 6:10:32 pm

[Bob Zelin] "I WILL SUCCEED, even if I die in the process ( and everyone else around me dies in the process)."

Bob-
Here's a tip: the coffee pot with the green handle is usually decaf. You should try it sometime.



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Todd Terry
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 6:28:04 pm

[Nick Griffin] "Bob-
Here's a tip: the coffee pot with the green handle is usually decaf."


Congrats to Nick... the first person to genuinely make me laugh out loud in 2010.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ron Lindeboom
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 6:37:26 pm

[Nick Griffin] "Bob- Here's a tip: the coffee pot with the green handle is usually decaf. You should try it sometime."


Here in California, the black handle is regular coffee and decaf is the orange handle. But that said, I'd hate to see Bob reach for the orange (or green) handle as we'd likely miss all these wonderful Zelinesque quips, quotes and posturings.

Ron Lindeboom


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Bill Davis
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 9:37:28 pm

A few months ago, after a long period of inner struggles, my son came out and announced formally what his mom and I had suspected for a long time - he's gay.

What a relief for him and everyone else around him. Including both his mom and I who had been telling him for literally years that we didn't care one whit either way.

I'm reminded that no amount of thinking, rationalizing, hoping, training or planning can change certain innate human realities and that until they are accepted, the path of life is very, very rough.

I honestly believe that being an entrepreneur -or not - has a LOT in common with that.

You are or you aren't. You either wake up one day and realize that you'll NEVER be happy unless you're given the opportunity to sink or swim on your own effort and wit.

Like gay or straight, right handed or left handed, tall or short, if you're wired to be an entrepreneur you're an entrepreneur. And you'll never be truly happy being anything else.

That's how it was for me anyway.

So the answer is simple, really. If you pretend you ARE and you're unhappy - you're not. And if you pretend you're NOT - and you're unhappy - you ARE.

And if you're unhappy either way - you're simply not grown-up enough to make a grown-up decision.

So let up on yourself and give yourself more time. In the end you'll figure it out.

"Burnout" is transitory if you're actually doing what you're meant to be doing. And after the pressure diminishes you'll be right back. If not, than that will be self-evident as well.

FWIW.





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Tim Kolb
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 10:11:58 pm

My personal take is that someone who is a video editor or video shooter as an employee mistakenly thinks that by striking out on their own, they'll do all the same things, but they'll simply receive the gross receipts instead of what they consider a meager portion of those gross receipts in the form of a paycheck.

There are many non-billable activities in a small business such as ours and a great many activities that don't fall into the stuff we're passionate about. These activities (accounting, selling, taxes, managing employees, etc.) can be stifling when they're done properly and devastating when done improperly or neglected.

Combine this with the fact that most of us starting out end up under charging for our services as the world seems to make "paying your dues" a virtuous thing...and the stress can mount.

After 23 years on my own, I'd say I've felt burned out a number of times...and it's been during both huge successes and failures.

It takes some effort to pull out of the "deer in the headlights" feeling of being overwhelmed or the "What the hell am I going to do to get out of this one" despair and roll your sleeves back up and get to work, but often pondering what else you would consider doing for your occupation makes you realize how good you've got it.

In the end, having your own business is exactly what the employed masses dream it is...it's the ability to achieve success limited only by your potential.

Many of us slightly over-estimate our potential...






TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,


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Mark Raudonis
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 11:15:21 pm

[Tim Kolb] "These activities (accounting, selling, taxes, managing employees, etc.)"

Don't forget "taking out the trash"... seriously!

Mark



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Bob Zelin
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 11:32:51 pm

Mark Raudonis writes -
Don't forget "taking out the trash"... seriously!




This reminds me of a great story, that separates "the men from the boys".

At 24 years old, I worked for the Panavision rep in NY - General Camera. The wealthy president/owner was Dick Debona (and Milt Keslow, whose son runs Keslow Video in LA). Mr Debona was always dressed nicely in a sports jacket and tie. The cleaning guy (the janitor) was doing a poor job mopping up a mess on the floor, and Mr. Debona said to him "here, let me show you how it's done". He took off his jacket, grabbed the mop, and cleaned up the entire mess on the floor. And yes, that shut up the janitor. THAT is what business is all about - you do WHATEVER it takes. When I see these kid interns that think they are going to be directors in 6 months, I think about this little story. They haven't a clue as to what is takes to succeed.

Bob Zelin





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Chris Blair
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 4, 2010 at 11:57:55 pm

While I generally agree with everyone (especially Bob!)...I think burnout is a little more complicated than everyone is making it out to be. You can absolutely love what you do, be very good at it, be a good businessman (or woman), and still experience burnout.

You see it all the time in sports (think John McEnroe taking a 6 month hiatus at the height of his career, Bjorn Borg retiring at 28), the music industry (artists like Shania Twain and Garth Brooks disappearing after 5 or 10 years), and in countless other industries.

If any of you are golf fans, maybe you've read Bob Rotella's books on sports & business psychology. He's big on goal-setting and positive reinforement but he points out that everyone reacts differently when they reach various goals. For some, it spurs them to greater heights. For others, it signals the end of their journey and we don't hear from them again. Nick Price, Curtis Strange and David Duval are examples of guys who worked relentlessly to get to the top and win majors, and soon after they won one or two or three....they virtually disappeared from not only contention in majors, but also the leaderboard at virtually any events. The same thing can happen in business.

There are also people who are extremely good at something, but they don't particularly like that activity. Again...if you've read Andre Agassi's recent book (which is actually very well written and interesting), from the time he was a teen he hated tennis...but he was smart enough to realize he was incredibly gifted and it could open a window to fame, wealth and other opportunities.

Plus...many people also have partners in business (as I do), who don't always think the same way you do when it comes to running and growing your company.

Lastly, as hard as it might be to believe, not everyone aspires to be wildly rich, or incredibly famous, or even the very best at what they do. Many people just want to be good at something and make a living. Can they succeed in business?

Maybe....probably....especially if they're reliable, persistent, and at least capable at their skill or craft.

I agree with Ron in that talent alone is no guarantee of success.I think you must have some talent...and at the very least you need a solid skill set, but often people with lesser talent and better work ethics and marketing skills become bigger winners in the end.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 5, 2010 at 1:21:08 am

[Chris Blair] "talent alone is no guarantee of success.I think you must have some talent...and at the very least you need a solid skill set, but often people with lesser talent and better work ethics and marketing skills become bigger winners in the end."

Creedence Clearwater Revival are a perfect example of this phenomenon. They were not the best band in the world and many people joked that they wrote the same album, over and over.) But they worked hard and had enough talent to find a groove and work it successfully.

In the end, they proved that you don't even need to write three-chord rock n roll to succeed -- as some of their songs only had two chords, as I recall. ;o)

But I see people in the COW all the time whose parents are paying to put them through film school or art academy and it is clear that they have next to no talent whatsoever. It is sad, as you know that the parents are working their fannies off to put them through school and it is going to be another case of "holds a degree that they'll never use" in the end.

You may not need tons of talent to make it, but you have to have at least some talent -- and then work your butt off from there.

Ron Lindeboom


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Bob Zelin
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 6, 2010 at 3:28:29 am

Ron writes -
Creedence Clearwater Revival are a perfect example of this phenomenon. They were not the best band in the world and many people joked that they wrote the same album, over and over.) But they worked hard and had enough talent to find a groove and work it successfully.

REPLY
I am not sure if I like Ron's example. John Fogerty from Creedence worked very hard, and continues to work hard, in spite of limited radio airplay in these modern times (where most others have given up). On the other side of the Creedence coin, Creedence Clearwater Revisited is the reminants of Creedence, without John Fogerty, that continues to this day, playing state fairs, and any other place that will have them. John Fogerty continues to write new material.

SO what does all of this mean. It means that Creedence (both Fogerty and the remaining members, now playing apart) have a PASSION to work hard, because they love music - this is what they do. While most other musicians (who didnt' become rich like Shania Twain) when to work for WalMart, or UPS, or some other job. If you have a passion for what you do, there is no burnout - you continue to make music, make art, make movies, be in our silly business - because you love it, and if you WORK HARD (like a 50 - 60 year old band that still tours around in a van to festivals), you can continue to do what you love.

http://www.creedence-revisited.com/
Doug "Cosmo" Clifford, Stu Cook and Creedence Clearwater Revisited are pleased to lend their support to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International which has included the band's version of the Chuck Berry Christmas classic "Run Rudolph Run" on JDRF's CD "Hope For The Holidays." The CD is a charitable album to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

These "boys" didn't burn out.

Bob Zelin




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Ron Lindeboom
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:21:36 am

[Bob Zelin] "I am not sure if I like Ron's example. John Fogerty from Creedence worked very hard, and continues to work hard...SO what does all of this mean? It means that Creedence (both Fogerty and the remaining members, now playing apart) have a PASSION to work hard, because they love music - this is what they do. While most other musicians (who didnt' become rich like Shania Twain) when to work for WalMart, or UPS, or some other job."

But [Ron Lindeboom] originally said "Creedence Clearwater Revival are a perfect example of this phenomenon... they worked hard and had enough talent to find a groove and work it successfully."

And only the musicians that needed to eat and who were ignored by the music industry and radio and who got tired of playing to 4 and 5 people, went to work outside music.

I have worked with far too many musicians who have had their careers stolen by corrupt attorneys, accountants, record company moguls, managers -- and left with nothing.

They persevered in the music because they loved it. But the looked elsewhere for their groceries.

Nearly none of the musicians I know gave up, they just looked elsewhere.

My point about Creedence is they didn't write symphonies, they were not the best musicians on the planet, either -- but they worked hard and committed themselves and they were good enough to succeed by doing so.

There is a lesson in that for artists in any ilk.

Ron Lindeboom


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Philip Imbrenda
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 6, 2010 at 2:01:57 pm

To manage a small business,and avoid Burnout know the difference between profit and cash flow, create simple and effective marketing, and keep employees and customers motivated. Run a small business more efficiently than a larger business .Small, privately held companies have done an admirable job keeping their businesses afloat during the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, but now data suggests they are feeling pressure that could lead to more layoffs and more small business failures.and Burnout. It got me thinking: Even in this recession, small-business owners cannot be afraid to shed their problem customers. It's not always as clear-cut as someone violating your terms of service sometimes the situation falls into more of a gray area -- customers pester you for extra Dubs or DVDs or free editing hours or, take more of your time than anyone else, are rude or never satisfied or perhaps repeatedly pay their bills late. Sometimes it's not so gray... like when they're dishonest or verbally abusive. and threaten you with that they have a friend with a Camcorder & that they can do the same job for way less, don't buy into it once you lower your rates it's almost imposible to raise them again, this kind of thing can make almost any small buisness stressed out The practice of dumping paying clients like a bad relationship may seem to go against the conventional wisdom of holding on to every customer you have, especially in the worst recession since the 1930s. But really, when is desperation the hallmark of a good decision? Cutting loose the big offenders is simply smart business.


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Chris Blair
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:17:42 am

Philli Imbrenda: Even in this recession, small-business owners cannot be afraid to shed their problem customers.

I see this sentiment expressed a lot on this forum. I see all the posts about "grinders" and I've read the Cow article about it. I don't disagree that some clients are exactly that...grinders. But I disagree that it's always best to cut these clients loose.

If they're a small client and they don't spend a lot of money with your company, then hire a freelancer to do the work and mark it up. And when they're a large client, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with you a year...I simply disagree with this philosophy.

Virtually every large client we've ever had or have is very demanding. From wanting things done on short deadline to demanding multiple revisions and changes, often after a project has been approved, to yes...sometimes even treating us not so fairly.

Despite this, I've never looked at these clients as liabilities. I look at them as billing machines. When they ask for things, we charge them...full rate and overtime rates...with rush charges if they apply. Two of our company's biggest growth spurts came while we were servicing clients like this. It allowed us to buy a building, add new and improved equipment, learn new skills, and generally raise our profile in our region and industry.

Were they fun clients? Nope. Were they well run companies? Nope. Were they a pain in the ass? Yep. Was it worth it to tackle these challenges despite the aggravations? Yes...very much so.

I've always been a big believer that you learn more from bad or difficult experiences than you do from good ones or easy ones. Growing your skills isn't easy and to do it you have to do things you're uncomfortable with. Just like Bob said earlier in this thread, we've often taken on challenges we had no real experience doing or any real reason for the client to choose us.

Burnout for me doesn't happen with these clients. Stress? Yes...but I'm too busy learning new skills (proving I'm up to the challenge) to get burned out.

I get burned out with when I work with people who are content to do the same thing over and over and over. I get burned out when I work with people who are still producing work while clinging to advertising and marketing principles that were taught 40 years ago. I get burned out when I work with people who perpetuate advertising and marketing myths like, "you have to use the client's name 3 times in a TV ad and you have to mention it somewhere in the first 5-10 seconds of that ad." I get burned out from working with complacent people who have no desire to grow and improve.

But I just don't think that cutting all your difficult clients loose is part of a good business model. Raise your rates to the point where they go elsewhere. Give them undesirable booking times. Assign your B team to do their projects, or as noted above, find freelancers to do their projects while you mark it up and make money for managing the project. Difficult people and companies are everywhere. Learning how to deal with them in my opinion is key to growth and success.

I can't tell you how many times I've been warned about a potential client or producer, only to meet them and work with them and have a great experience.

Anyway...burnout is just not an easy thing to avoid or predict. It can happen to anyone who works hard and comes across a rough stretch of productivity. But I agree with everyone that the only way out is to keep working hard. Sooner or later a spark from a project will bring you out of it.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Philip Imbrenda
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:12:07 am

Chris Blair, you are taking my blog out of context, this is about things that cause burnout in a small business, I gave one of many reasons that can do this, in my 35 years of business I could write a book about it, you are entitled to your opinion and so am I, I was of the understanding that these blogs were to help educate one another, not criticize.


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Chris Blair
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 8, 2010 at 1:19:23 am

Philip Imbrenda: I was of the understanding that these blogs were to help educate one another, not criticize.

I don't think anything I wrote was critical of anyone, especially the excerpt from your blog. Many people on these forums agree with what you wrote and subscribe to the "cut the grinder loose" philosophy. I'm just not one of them.

I'm pretty sure no one can claim that this philosophy is the de facto way to run a business of any size. It probably works for some people, and not others.

What good would these forums be if everyone agreed with everyone? How would that expand our understanding of our industy and promote different points of view?

I simply disagreed with the notion that cutting loose the big offenders is simply smart business. That's not an indictment of you, your opinions or the way you run your business. It's simply another point of view for people to consider who are interested in thread.

We're all adults here and disagreeing with someone should not be mistaken for criticism. I've been disagreed with MANY times on these and other forums. I've even been criticized on them. I rarely if ever call the other people out for that. Most of the time I simply argue my side and in the end, agree that we disagree and believe everyone is smarter for seeing different points of view.

The larger point is that burnout is complicated. High achievers can experience it. Factors outside of work can exacerbate it, especially emotional and psychological problems. So while much of the stuff people have written is true in general, most of it is just that... generalizations. That's the larger point I'm trying to make...that avoiding or overcoming job burnout is just not as simple as folks have made it out to be in this thread.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: burnout in a small business
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:06:06 pm

I had the opportunity to study with Kenny Aronoff when he was playing drums for John Fogerty. Kenny has a history of making it look easy while playing with musicians that sound simple, but are VERY serious about their performances, and very demanding on their bands.

A classically trained percussionist, and longtime member of John Mellencamp's band. Kenny has always risen to the challenge of finding that balance between being bored (from playing so-called "simple" music) and being overwhelmed by the challenges of playing for such stringent employers. It wasn't easy, but that is his forte now - and it's what keeps him in demand from everyone from Jon Bon Jovi to Johnny Cash... as well as many other well-musicians that are NOT named "John".

It's finding that balance between those two extremes of boredom and being overwhelmed that I still find to be the best solution for burnout. That... and a good vacation to a strange land every once in a while.

A few years back, I wrote an article about burnout for Creative Cow. It expands on this line of thinking a bit.

Here is the link: http://library.creativecow.net/articles/allen_timothy/burnout.php



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