Not Having an "Enough" Threshold is a Recipe For Burnout
Revel in being a "boutique” among the Costcos
Living in Paris schooled me in the meaning of “enough.” My education started with a global conference I organized for 100 HR Directors who flocked to France from 67 countries. Our goal as the org team was to foster a sense of community by facilitating knowledge exchange and establishing universal best practices—not an easy feat considering the range of cultural norms and regulations at play.
We were committed to striking a balance between global alignment and local adaptation. So we had our work cut out for us. But I quickly (and rather humorously) learned that cultural differences transcended the conference agenda. Case in point, a colleague who’d worked on the previous conference said feedback had been mostly great, but some of the American attendees had expressed “There wasn’t enough food.”
The French intern sitting next to me was incredulous. He stomped on the claim like a defensive driver hitting an emergency brake. “French people serve less food, but it’s superior in quality,” he retorted raising his index finger to punctuate his point.
The clash between French organizers and American attendees got me thinking about how “enough” looks different to different people. And per this Clint Borgen quote, we often fail to recognize how our home countries shape—and warp—our thinking in that regard:
“When overseas you learn more about your own country than you do the place you're visiting.”
Case in point, this Tweet contrasting workers in Europe with workers in America went viral for its perfect blend of absurdity and relatability—both rooted in what the average worker in either place deems “enough” work effort:
The poster hit the punch line even harder in a subsequent Tweet, writing “[B]ut do not worry [I] will keep my phone on during the procedure.” People found this Tweet hilarious and admittedly, I did too—at first. But once I processed how accurate it is, I just felt sad. Because many Canadians, like many Americans, work themselves to poor health and unhappiness as they vie to do “enough.” Hell, I’ve been one of them. And I wish someone had told me early in my career what my friend’s mom told her:
“Don’t overexert yourself. Because no matter how valuable a company makes you feel, they can and will replace you.”
We all like to think if we work hard and have a positive attitude, we’re invaluable to our team. But that’s not “enough.” Companies are designed to be resilient and unless you’re a co-founder with equity (a rare scenario if you’re a woman), you’re not as “safe” as you think. Economies change, layoffs can happen unexpectedly, and a wide variety of other factors can contribute to you having—or wanting—to leave a job.
Know Your Threshold For “Enough”
One of the coolest people I’ve met this year is a Montreal-based designer who teaches at a local Cegep (a pre-university college for Quebecers). She identifies as a creator and takes on the odd freelance project in addition to creating small digital products here and there. But given her exceptional talent, work ethic, and charismatic nature, one of the questions she constantly gets asked—from students, peers, and mentors—is, “Why haven’t you opened your own design firm?”
Then they proceed to tell her she could be making way more money while reaping a host of other benefits—namely, prestige. Her response is brilliant and refreshing. She explains that she doesn’t want to work more. She doesn’t want to manage employees or take on the hundred other things that come with launching and scaling a design firm. She’s fulfilled with the dynamic she’s created for herself. She has both stability and flexibility in her work and by keeping her hours to a minimum viable schedule, she can enjoy plenty of time with family and friends, not to mention time for herself—an aspect not to be overlooked given we can’t fill other people’s cups if we’re not filling our own first.
Knowing your threshold for what it means to have “enough” is the difference between enjoying where you are versus grinding with no end in sight—not to mention sacrificing your health and relationships for a future that may never come.
Circling back to the Clint Borgen quote (about how visiting a new country teaches you more about your own), writerexpands on this saying “I think it applies to going anywhere outside your hometown. It forces you to observe the behaviors you do automatically, that you may have never thought about.”
Even Canadian customs vary from city to city. Case in point, there’s a saying Montrealers have long used to distinguish our relationship with work from that of our Toronto counterparts:
“In Montreal, people work to live, whereas, in Toronto, they live to work.”
Having returned to Montreal in 2020 after the better part of a decade in London, Sydney, and Paris, I have a fresh perspective on how lucky we are to have a culture centred around working to live versus living to work.
90-Week Publishing Streak
Today marks a 90-week publishing streak for this newsletter and rather serendipitously, I just crossed the 900 subscriber mark. I published my first newsletter on Wednesday, October 13th, 2021, and it’s been a slow burn building up my subscriber list. I used to feel bad about it considering many newsletters attract thousands of subscribers within their first few weeks.
But as my wise writer friendsaid back when we launched our Substacks 90 weeks ago, we should think of ourselves as “boutiques” among the Costcos. As a boutique lover, I’ve cherished that analogy ever since.
Plus when I really think about it, I get “enough” from my newsletter as it is. My primary aim has been to use it as a weekly reflection prompt and picture window to share my journey with anyone interested in following along. It’s also an opportunity to stay top of mind with clients and prospective clients. And it’s done just that.
Once I realized I have “enough” moving at the speed I’m going, I felt less bothered by people telling me I should be more active on social media and work harder to promote myself. I do my best to be as active as I can on top of my core workload. So the idea of aggressively pushing for “more” is just a recipe for burnout.
My question to you is, are you clear on what your threshold for “enough” is and are you working in line with that definition to protect your health and happiness?
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week,
P.S. Happy 1st birthday to my sweet little nephew—the ultimate ray of sunshine. I love you.
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