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Redefine success: My top tip for quitting burnout

If you don't define success as an accumulation of money and power, this one's for you
Redefine success: My top tip for quitting burnout
Photo by jean wimmerlin / Unsplash

Sustain issue #27 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

Today marks week three of four in our Fall Reset series on working without burnout. The first two weeks we went a little more tactical talking about doing only the highest priority work that fits into 38 hours per week and taking short and longer breaks throughout the day.

For the last two weeks in this series, we’re going to get a bit more philosophical. Today we’re discussing what I believe to be the single most important way to prevent burnout.

However, if you’re looking for a quick hack to shelf burnout, I have bad news for you. The answer is not to meditate for 10 minutes a day. It’s not that simple.

My essential starting point for getting burnout under control is to change your definition of success.

It’s a seemingly simple idea, but massively difficult to act on.

In my experience, success gets bucketed into two general definitions:

  1. The money and power definition: Work insanely hard through long hours to regularly get a newer and fancier title, more money, and more power. This is the generally accepted western definition.
  2. The agency over time definition: Work hard enough to earn what you need to live a comfortable life aiming to have as much control over your time possible. This is the definition that the pandemic has helped elevate in popularity.

It became clear that I wanted to pursue the second definition when I realized my career ambition was not to be the most senior person in the department. Even though conventional wisdom says climbing the career ladder is what makes you successful, I looked at those people at the top and they were working at all hours, traveling for work constantly, and seemed perpetually stressed. That was so far from what I wanted in my career or, more importantly, my life.

So I flipped the script in my head and started to change my behaviors at work. But truth be told, it took me around two years to see it actualized. Turns out, it’s really hard to unravel the hustle culture narrative of success that oozes out on social media.

So I’ll ask you, when you really think about it, what does success mean to you? Not to the persona you play on social media. Not to the persona worried about what society thinks of you. What does it mean to you in a judgment-free world?

Once you get that clarity, work to align your actions and how you spend your time to that definition.

Remember, redefining success doesn’t make you less ambitious or lazy. You’re making the courageous decision to put your life and health before what you give to your work.

If you have all the money but no time to spend it, what good is it really worth?

At a sustainable pace,


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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