From Burnout to Burning Passion

By Cole Atkinson

From Burnout to Burning Passion

This piece was also featured by The 8 Percent on their business & mindset blog. You can read their feature here.

By 11am, 29th August 2012, I was on my third coffee, about my fifth Facebook session, a few flick-throughs of the newspaper, and a mountain of work that I really should have been doing piling up at my desk and in my email inbox.

I wasn’t even a year out of University. I was working for a highly reputable IT company, earning more money than I knew what to do with, in what I always thought was my dream job. This was my morning, every morning. I watched the clock the entire day (not that I had to, I could work when and how I pleased). I put on 15kg in the space of a year. I never worked out. But I always got to the weekend exhausted and proceeded to spend the entire two days on the couch in fear of Monday and what followed it.

This was the same guy who just 12 months previous had graduated from New Zealand’s top University with an A average, after simultaneously studying full time, working 30 hours a week and representing his country. Yet by the end of 2012 I had become so lazy, personally and professionally, that I resented myself. This wasn’t me. Where had that guy from less than a year ago gone? Where was my motivation, my drive, my passion? I was sitting in a Supercar, unable to go faster than a Toyota. And I didn’t know why.

Over the course of 12 months that followed I spent a huge amount of time and money on hypnotists, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and coaches in a bid to help me with my “condition” to get me back on track. But my turning point came from a single moment in time when I read and proceeded to live my life by a quote from Mr Apple himself, Steve Jobs:


“You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve, a wrong you want to right, and it’s got to be something you’re passionate about, otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.”


When I delved into why I found these two lines so simple yet so powerful, I came away with two key principles that I’ve inadvertently started to live my life by, and I call it the two P’s.

The first P is for Problem

If you’re part of that 8% of people who truly want to make a difference in the world, you must be solving a problem (or problems) every day. A customer services representative solves problems by answering calls and helping customers with their issues. An Executive Assistant solves problems by effectively managing their boss’s time so they can be more productive. You’re probably not a CSR or an EA, but I guarantee when you meet one they are generally fulfilled in their job, even though they aren’t the highest paid.

If you work for a company that doesn’t allow you the freedom to address objectives by solving problems in a way that you want to, then I’d seriously start thinking about your future with them. I once worked for a company that wouldn’t allow me to run my own customer database and eDM list, rather they insisted I make 100 cold calls per day. It’s fair to say I didn’t last long. I know you don’t want to be working for someone else – one day you’ll come up with that app, product or service that makes you millions by solving a grand problem, but until then focus on solving the small problems, day to day and I guarantee your outlook on life will start to change.

The second P is for Passion

I used the example of the Customer Services Representative or the Executive Assistant earlier, but perhaps I should qualify that a little further – because if the CSR or the EA isn’t passionate about answering customer queries or booking appointments, the reality is they won’t be fulfilled. You might be the world’s greatest, hardest worker. You’re doing exactly what your employer wants you to do; you’re smashing targets and earning a lot of money. Your customers love you and your boss loves you. Why wouldn’t they? But if you’re not passionate about the problems you or the company are solving, then you will simply burn out. Conversely as an Entrepreneur, it’s critical that you apply the second P to any new business or product ideas. You may be filling a huge gap or solving a massive issue, but if you aren’t enthusiastic and excited about it, you simply won’t have the persistence to see it through to the end and it will fall over before it begins.

My issue in 2012 was double barrelled – I wasn’t solving any problems and I had lost every ounce of passion I had for the job. I was selling software (rather well, mind you) and although I was making a lot of money, I was constantly unfulfilled because we were no longer solving day to day problems I was passionate about. We weren’t customer focused, all we cared about were our own sales numbers, and as a consequence my professional and personal life spiralled downwards.

I don’t want you to finish this article thinking I’m another nutter telling you to quit your job and follow your dreams; everyone needs to pay the bills. But if what I was going through in 2012 sounds like you, I’d challenge you instead to start living by the two P’s, and see if your life changes. Start to make decisions professionally based around solving problems and doing what you’re passionate about. I’d predict that if you do, you won’t be in the same job in 12 months’ time, you’ll be the happiest & healthiest you’ve been in years and the reality of you creating that million dollar company will be far closer than it was before.


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