Pelser: Beware entrepreneurial burnout. Go on, have some fun.

Burnout, a concept that only ever hits someone after the critical point has passed. But given the pressures of today’s world, how does one prevent it? Journalist turned woodworker Hendri Pelser looks at the art of fun. A term he never heard of previously being associated with work. And in his latest column he looks at the value of it in keeping your doors open. – Stuart Lowman

By Hendri Pelser*

Hendri Pelser, former journalist turned woodworker.
Hendri Pelser, former journalist turned woodworker.

Highly stressful situations bring out the best, and worst, in people.

True character is revealed when every cell in your body is screaming to follow nature’s hard-coded fight or flight response.

Some people seem to simply cope better than others in tense situations. I always envied them.

Things are pretty tense at the moment. We have just moved to a new factory and we are on deadline with a number of highly demanding clients. The work is technical and only perfection is accepted.

So imagine my surprise when Cherryhill Woodcraft’s owner walked up to me the other day and exclaimed that we hadn’t had fun in a while.

‘Have you gone mad man!’ my inner voice screamed at David Meyerowitz.

A raised eyebrow gave my innermost thoughts away.

“Be careful of entrepreneurial burnout,” he said softly. “Otherwise, you are no good to me,” he added mockingly.

In the last year I’ve spent with David I have learned much about woodwork and running a woodwork business. But, it is those life lessons thrown into the mix, which have been the most valuable.

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It’s a way of approaching life and quite contrary to my nature.

In the corporate world, I enjoyed my job. It was satisfying and stimulating. And, highly stressful.

‘Fun’ wasn’t really part of the equation. It was something that happened…

sometimes. ‘Fun’ wasn’t part of the daily plan.

David insists on having fun.

Fun is finding a new hardware supplier and exploring the possibilities different handles could bring to our cabinets.

Fun is staring at a piece of interesting wood, imagining what it could become.

Fun is finding a 150-year-old olive tree at a building site and harvesting the wood on a Sunday morning before it ends up on the dump.

Fun is signing along to a good song on the radio while stuck in traffic.

Fun is just part of the equation; part of the routine. It is a way of approaching the job and life in general. And, it is completely against my nature.

A recent piece by Mandy Collins about her burnout and recovery struck a chord with me. Her approach to life and work is the same as mine – get as much done as quickly as possible and do it perfectly.

Mandy has decided to fight the burnout with ‘extreme self-care’.

David is teaching me to have fun. Having fun is not about simply being frivolous or ignoring one’s responsibilities. It’s about finding moments of fascination in the day to make it worthwhile.

It’s about discovering new possibilities and avenues of thought that keep the dark depression of stress at bay.

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In all the years of writing about small and medium enterprises and talking to entrepreneurs, the word “fun” didn’t appear too often.

Sure, many business owners said one should enjoy one’s job and have a deep affinity to the business you are in.

But, I can’t for the life of me remember a single business owner who said you should have fun.

Running a business will always be stressful. If you value your work, there will be tense times. Count on it.

But you should have fun. A lot of fun.

It is one of the most important ways to ensure that you keep the doors open and the enterprise headed in the right direction.

It is about finding a reason to jump out of bed in the morning.

  • Hendri Pelser is a former business journalist and editor, turned woodworker. He practises his craft as an apprentice cabinetmaker at Cherryhill Woodcraft, an exclusive bespoke furniture manufacturer. He shares some of the business’ adventures with the BizNews community.@HendriPelser is on Twitter and Cherryhill has just launched it’s own YouTube channel.