Bubbles, Balls and Burn-out

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Nobody makes me push so hard. I don’t work for the man, I am the man. I don’t hate what I do, in fact I absolutely love what I do. For the most part, I don’t work, I play. That’s part of the problem.

I’ve worked so hard for so long to create so many opportunities…

And, wouldn’t you know, it seems they’re all coming to fruition at the same time. I feel like I need to act on all of them, push them all forward simultaneously, to make sure they stay alive. To make sure it’s not just a passing wave, but a groundswell of enduring momentum that will elevate my baseline moving forward (how’s that for corporate speak, hahaha!?!). At times like this, I sometimes have to wonder just what I’m doing.

But, here’s the thing, in the end…

It’s all about bubbles, balls and burnout…

I have a certain philosophy about what I call the vital-edge, that place where you’re working at concert pitch, producing like never before, totally awake at the wheel. And, that philosophy has three elements:

1. You need to occasionally burst your own bubble.

Translation, you need to push up against the walls of your capability-bubble to really understand the point where it no longer gives, but, rather, pops. Challenge is, you never get the true answer without occasionally bursting your own bubble. That let’s you understand where the breaking point is next time you blow a big one. Better understanding your bursting point arms you so that…

2. With practice, you can learn to blow bigger bubbles.

Bubbles don’t ever stay fixed in size. They start small, then through the application of subtle exertion or force, they grow bigger. In life, that force is balls or a willingness to take enough risks and exert the force needed to test and eventually expand beyond your original capabilities. Learning how to finesse risk and exertion is the difference between a slowly expanding bubble and busted bubble. But…

3. You need to balance bubble-blowing balls with burn-out.

Trying new things, working the edge, testing your perceived limitations and taking risks is a good thing. It allows your bubbles to grow bigger over time. But, constantly working your bubble to the point of explosion, then re-blowing a new bubble without stepping back and creating space to re-balance and learn why the first bubble blew-up is, in the end, the fast-track to your ultimate demise. Frustration, burn-out and, inevitably, abandonment.

Ballsiness has its place. Testing has its place. But, so does creating the time and space needed to regroup, recover and discover.

But, remember, too, pausing and learning is different from slacking. What happens when you stop blowing a bubble? The moment the force that grows your bubble is removed, it collapses back into itself. It implodes. In bubble-land, as in business and life…

There is no sideways for very long, you are either expanding or contracting.

But, what about that age-old truth? All bubbles eventually burst, no matter how skilled you are at blowing them. True, again, In life, business and bubbles. It is impossible to sustain high-level operation or growth indefinitely.

But, here’s the really cool thing. When you get really good at blowing bubbles, you can start to make your own bigger, better bubble juice and then blow new bubbles inside the old bubbles.

So, when the old ones eventually burst, and they will, there’s a new, stronger, more flexible bubble waiting just inside that’ll eventually match and then surpass the original in size.

Bubbles, balls and burn-out.

It’s a constant tap-dance, one I toy with every day. Sometimes successfully, other times…not so much. But, the more I play, the better I get. In the end, it’s a dance well worth having!

And, of course, there’s only one thing better than dancing alone…

So, where are you on the bubble scale today?

P.S. – If you don’t buy my bubble, balls and burn-out theory, click here to have your mind blown by the ability of bubbles.

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21 responses

21 responses to “Bubbles, Balls and Burn-out”

  1. Walt Goshert says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    “…groundswell of enduring momentum that will elevate my baseline moving forward.” I don’t know what that means, but it did make me laugh out loud!

    Blowing bigger than ever bubbles without ’em bursting rocks! All my little annoying bubbles suck. Little bubbles that break piss me off! I’m working on handing off the little bubbles so I can focus on blowing big cool bubbles.


    P.S.—Fan Yang… Dude has some sick bubble skillz

  2. I know the feeling!

    I’m heading to SXSW on Thursday, too, and it’s a scary thing to slide into it tired, since I know there’s so much I’m going to want to be AWAKE for.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you there. Hope you can catch a few zzzz’s on the plane.

  3. That is one cool bubble post Jon,

    I’m so wanting to travel to Vegas myself soon. Sometimes it just sucks living in Oz. Our airfares are costing us half a fortune. But then like you I’m bubbling away trying to master all my bubbles to keep bubbling.

    Now how is that for bubble talk? 😉

  4. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Walt – go for the big ones, my friend. And, yes, Fan Yang is amazing, I saw his show in person and it blew my mind!

    @ Communicatrix – Sweet, look forward to hanging out at sxsw, I’m going to post a link to my schedule on the blog before I go

    @ Monika – Bubble away, my friend! You may not have sxsw, but OZ totally rules!

  5. Have you cultivated any employees that can take some of the weight from your shoulders? Are you necessary for absolutely every step of the process?

    Congratulations on all the amazing opportunities! Better too many than too few.

  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Hayden – great point, yes, I’ve actually got some wonderful people on my team and I couldn’t do it without them.

    The challenge for me is that there are times, like right now, where the bulk of what needs to be done must come from my own very personal creative output.

    For example, I have a book deadline looming and I care deeply about my writing, so that needs to come from within, while I trust my team do take care of whatever needs to keep humming along outside that process.

    Perfect example is the yoga studio I own. I have an amazing management crew and staff that keep the place going, while I am off doing other things. Without them, what I am doing now would be extremely difficult, if not impossible!

  7. Lisa Wilder says:

    I can’t count the number of times entrepreneurs have come to me burnt out and wondering why they no longer feel the passion for their biz that they once did.

    More times than not, one of two things are at the root of the problem…one…they’ve been trying to juggle so many projects that they’re exhausting themselves trying to keep up with it all and all are suffering as a result, or two…they’ve gotten so bogged down in the day-to-day grind of the biz, that they don’t have nearly the time they’d like to have to focus on the creative projects they’re passionate about.

    Being over-worked and exhausted will, in my experience, suck the passion right out of your days, taking the ability to be creative with it.

    While there may be no sideways, there’s got to be enough downtime and breathing room, to keep the bubbles afloat or to blow the next bubble. Love that metaphor, Jonathan!

  8. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Lisa – you make a great point. I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs who get to a point where they mistake burn-out for a lack of passion, too. One of the things my study of yoga and Eastern philosophy has taught me is that life can’t be all hard, you need to have a balance of hard and soft. That doesn’t mean you always play the mediocre middle, it just means you’ve got let the pendulum swing both ways on a pretty regular basis.

    In fact, there’s been some pretty interesting research done on innovation and vacation that shows that the more vacation you take (within reason), the more you get down in much shorter periods of time.

    THe challenge, and this is my challenge as well, is making the leap from knowing this to integrating it into the way you live and work

  9. Lisa Wilder says:

    “The challenge, and this is my challenge as well, is making the leap from knowing this to integrating it into the way you live and work.”

    This made me laugh aloud, Jonathan…so very true. Isn’t that the ultimate challenge with just about everything? It’s one thing to know something and another to live it, and even when we begin to live it, it’s not always consistent. Sometimes we need little nudges and reminders from others, such as your post, to remind us of what we already know.

  10. Love the article, and your ability to alliterate! The image of the bubble continuing to expand is a perfect metaphor for the tension and fear of going past our last achievements and learning new skills. But I hadn’t thought of how necessary it is to exceed our own capabilities to burst the bubble. Sometimes you need to stop bubbling and get more soap…you have to dip every time to keep making new bubbles!

  11. […] Fields’ Awake at the Wheel Blog offers a wonderful metaphor for managing time and energy: Bubbles, Burnout and Balls.  Blowing […]

  12. The thing I ask myself is: Why blow bubbles in the first place? I feel that many people (myself included) have a tendency to DO stuff, well, basically, to do STUFF. “If I get this project to work out, I’ll feel good.”. “If I get better at this, I’ll be happier.”. “I absolutely *have* to ___ before I die!”…and what I remember from when I was a kid, the bursting part of the process was exiting! 🙂 There’s something very addictive about doing things and creating things, finding novelties and discovering yourself- and most of all- be successful.

    What I got from Eastern philosophy is that there is no pendulum to begin with 🙂

  13. PS: You are giving and sharing a lot of energy with the world, I hope to give you back some of that *love* <3


  14. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Lisa – it’s always the bug challenge…knowledge into action!

    @ Charlotte – I think alliteration may be the one literary technique from high school that stuck with me!

    @ Annedien – you already have, my friend, you already have.

  15. Thanks Jon,

    I might sound totally stupid but I have yet to figure out what exactly “sxsw” stands for. LOL, I do feel rather stupid asking but since the topic has been discussed relentlessly on the web lately I need to know. 🙂

  16. Carrie says:

    I like to continually take on more projects than I think I can handle, because I know the most important ones will float to the top of my priority’s and I will managed the other ones as well too. It feels good to accomplish everything and a little bit more, even though it can be tiring, you know that for your next project cycle you can defiantly handle everything as well.

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