Recover from burnout

Work as I say, not as I did

Three years ago, I lived to work. 

I was an economics student frustrated about my possible life after college—unemployment or working for one of Latin America's most prestigious banks for $500 per month. 

In an effort to find a third option, I started revolving my life around digital marketing.

While teachers discussed the use cases of econometrics, I read about how to rank on Google. I picked social media experiments over friends, recording podcasts over naps, and online courses over leisure activities. 

After a few months, I developed carpal tunnel writing thousands of words for blogs and my dissertation daily. 

Maybe I could have avoided this. Perhaps I could have listened to the intense pain I felt when washing the egg stuck on a dinner plate. Maybe that pain never could have been louder than the pain of an economics student with an unknown economic future.

But I kept going to see the results from my effort in the shortest amount of time.

At 21, the results showed up. I reached the monthly income I dreamed of for my 30-year-old self. A few months later, I was on par with the U.S. folks from my industry.

Yet, I felt empty. 

My friends were still in college or searching for jobs. None of them could relate to my industry, work, or ambition. To make it worse, I was in Cartagena, a city where entrepreneurship equals opening an Instagram clothing store.

Exhausted from a mind tired of hustling, I concluded that trading my health for growing my income wasn't worth it.

Having learned the error of my ways, when friends came to me frustrated over their unideal financial states, I said, "You are in your 20s, and you'll live till 90. So you could live with your parents for the next five years and still launch a million-dollar startup by 30."

After several times suggesting the same idea to friends, I realized I was acting under some form of optimism bias—an inclination towards thinking negative events are more likely to happen to others than ourselves. In my case, I believed others could succeed without the adverse outcomes I experienced. Most self-made high achievers I know operate under this form of optimism bias. 

You can see it when Elon Musk admits to working up to 2 AM on weekends and then sleeping for six hours. But still not recommending others to do it.

You can see it when Ali Abdaal, a 7-figure YouTuber, tells you to enjoy the journey while publishing weekly despite losing his interest in filming.

Lastly, you can see it in me telling friends that unemployment is common even though I worked most nights for two years to avoid unemployment after college.

Elon, Ali, and I aren't hypocrites. On the contrary, we are sparing people from avoidable suffering that we discovered the hard way. Yet, even though we didn't follow our advice, I believe we can still guide others' paths towards a better (and healthier) financial state.

So what's the framework to share advice that satisfies most people's quest for financial success while keeping them healthy? That's a question I'll spend the next years solving and that I hope to solve alongside you.

If you know stories of financially independent people who didn't work long hours or compromise their health to succeed, share them with me on Twitter. I'd love to talk to you and them.

I write for intellectually curious young adults striving to balance hustle and joy. If you are one, subscribe to my newsletter and learn to make life more fulfilling.