Despair, Paralysis & Quitting

I’d like to say that after this moment, I sought help and it fixed everything. But I didn’t seek help. And nothing got better, since nothing changed in my life.

Success, Rhythms & 2nd Burnout

26 By 26, I had 45+ direct reports and was leading 2 functions at the startup, and I’d started the life-changing practice of taking quarterly silent retreats to reflect, tech detox and prioritize my life. (Subscribe here for my guide to silent retreats I’m launching in November!) By 27, I’d found a great therapist that I’ve now seen almost every week for a decade. These two practices (and journaling extensively) grounded me for the next decade and were my preventative care against burnout — with the one small exception where I fainted from exhaustion and dehydration at a SF bar. (You can hear the story in my TED-style talk.)

  1. Emotional exhaustion — the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long
  2. Decreased sense of accomplishment (or inefficacy) — an unconquerable sense of futility or feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.
  3. Depersonalization (or cynicism) — the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion

My relationship with work

You need to know that the roots of my workaholism are deep and multi-threaded. I remember learning in middle school about the concept of “Protestant work ethic” where Christians felt they needed to earn their salvation through good works, and I thought, “Yes, I can relate.” My friends complained about their parents watching over their shoulders — my parents didn’t, but there’s nothing like the fear of an omniscient, everpresent, judgmental God to keep you toiling away on your AP European History assignment at 2 AM.

  1. What did I learn from my family of origin about work?
  2. What is my current relationship with failure? Where in my life can I play and practice failing in a safe space?
  3. How can I make room in my life for rest? Even if it’s just 10 minutes.



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Tiffany Teng

Tiffany Teng

Former East Coast, now West Coast. Lover of books, baking and all things beautiful. Writing & reading about identity, growth, and leadership. Stanford ’07, ‘19.