The burnout syndrome is one of the most dreaded things by people involved in product creation, like product designers, architects and software developers. The burnout effect is making it’s presence felt ever so often in our workplace and our lives.
I’ve meant to write this for a while, but I didn’t have the courage to. I wanted to express this issue and share it with everybody else, but I was afraid I was going to be judged. With this article, I’m trying to explain what I’ve went through, in order to further redeem myself as a person, to what I used to be, before this happened to me.
While still being a college student at a major technical university in Romania, I believed I could create something better than what school prepared me for. I was seeing the likes of several other people being at the same age like I was, making it to success in the WordPress market. I thought they aren’t that much better than me and I can do that too. At the age of 20, I started my own WordPress theme business, creating products to be sold on the platform of ThemeForest. I had the hunger, I had the motivation and I felt there’s nothing that can stop me from achieving my dreams. And I worked hard for that goal.
I was living the dream: creating products that I love, when I wanted to, how I wanted to.
I was going to classes & labs during the day, while maintaining my WordPress business during the night. I was a workhorse, sitting at evenings in the front of the computer for about 10 hours, trying to bring my latest idea to life. I didn’t neglect college, because I wanted a safety net, in case this WordPress business was going to backfire on me. I was happy that I never had to work with customers directly, since I wouldn’t have time for that. It would’ve been too much time consuming and could have meant not sleeping at all, instead of the 6 hours per night I was having.
I was living the dream: creating products that I love, when I wanted to, how I wanted to. I created successful products which were loved by my customers, because I was helping them reach the solution to their problems faster. I saved them money and lots of time. Well, I gained their money, but I lost my own time. Completely. And little did I know about burnout, but it started settling in my life.
I didn’t have the drive anymore, I was missing the passion.
Being a one-man show company (to this day), I took pride that I can do it all: design, development, marketing, support, accounting. I always thought of myself as a happy & healthy man, so I never feared the burnout. I was feeling proud of my accomplishments and I knew there weren’t that many people in this world who got the degree of success I had, considering my age. Even though I was and I still am doing one of the things that I love, I didn’t give enough importance of being rested each day. And this backfired on me, big time.
After working hard for two years and creating several successful products like Smarald, or Parlament, it seemed that I reached a dead end. The burnout was real. I was feeling completely exhausted, I didn’t have the drive anymore, I was missing the passion. The market started shifting to a more multi-purpose, 100+ demos WordPress product, and I just couldn’t do it all alone. It wasn’t feasible anymore. Hiring someone to help me out, was not an option (I should’ve hired someone way earlier). The money wasn’t coming in, like it used to, in the golden days.
The burnout was affecting my everyday life.
It looked like this was going to be the end of journey with creating web products. The burnout was affecting my everyday life. I began being extremely impatient, I yelled at people who I love, I was frustrated. When I was receiving emails from my customers, those went straight to the “Mark as Read” folder. I took extended vacations just in the hope that this feeling would pass, but it didn’t. I was a mess. I thought I could bring my motivation up, by purchasing expensive equipment for my work. That didn’t work so well. Even though I had saved money from my earnings of ThemeForest, it didn’t bring me happiness in my work life, at that moment. Something needed to change in my life.
I moved to Germany, to study for an electrical engineering Masters program. It was something new, it was meant to bring back my motivation levels. I was living in a basement and I felt miserable for the first year I was here. I didn’t get to enjoy the nice warm touch of the sunlight so much and that was making me sick. I was away from my family and friends and I was deep down depressed. Even though I wasn’t showing it, I was feeling it. The burnout syndrome brought me to my knees. This wasn’t about WordPress anymore, this problem got extremely personal and it was affecting my life in an extreme way.
My solution for burnout: Never settle until you find something new that brings you back on track!
The third semester of my Masters involved making an internship at a company. The stress of finding a place to live, in a foreign country, all by myself, and convincing a company to accept me as an intern, wasn’t helping too much with my condition. But fast forward over the summer of 2015, after one year of miserable existence, moving to Stuttgart to work with some incredible people, was probably the best decision I’ve made in the past two years. The burnout is gone, almost completely, it just left some small little scars on my soul. But the scars are there to remember myself, what I’ve went through.
My passion for development, for great products, started showing up again. I started designing again. I started listening to my nowadays rare customers and helping them. The WordPress market did turn in a whole different direction during this time, due to it’s popularity. But I believe there’s still people that want to put the EASY back into Website making with WordPress. Everybody is already tired of this 1,000 options themes, which make their websites look like crap. People want convenient solutions in an easy way. I believe I’ve got the power and the resources to provide that in a new product, all with the help of God, if He keeps me healthy.
I would like to thank my girlfriend and my family for providing me unconditional love and support during this phase of my life. You’ve been there for me and you can forever count on me that I’m always going to be there for you.