On burnout

Burnout is one of those things that many people experience but few want to talk about. That doesn’t surprise me. Acknowledging burnout feels like admitting to a weakness or a flaw. When you're well-compensated or working on something that others would only dream of, taking a break to deal with feelings of stress can seem trivial or even irresponsible.

I’ve certainly struggled to come to terms with burnout from my recent experience building a startup, and to be honest, I still am.

My relationship with work has changed dramatically over the last decade. In my early 20s, I did just enough work to get by, so I could spend my time drinking, partying, and engaging in other forms of escapism. Things changed as I grew older and in my 30s, I’ve found myself doing work I actually enjoy doing, solving problems I care about, and generally becoming immersed in work.

That was especially apparent while building Edgi—it was the most connected I had ever felt to work. But it came at a cost. As the oldest person on our (small) team, I felt a self-prescribed responsibility to maintain a sense of calmness and control, even if that meant ignoring my own well-being.

Reflecting on it now, I went through something akin to the stages of grief. Of course, burnout and grief are very different things, but I would argue they bear resemblance in interesting and unexpected ways.


For a while, I ignored my feelings of mental and emotional exhaustion, rationalized them away, and just focused on the startup. Unconsciously, I believed that things would sort themselves out, even though the signs suggested otherwise.


I typically don’t get angry easily or display my emotions of anger. However, as you might expect, there were times of frustration while working on Edgi. In hindsight, these moments of frustration sometimes manifested as passive-aggressive comments towards my co-founders and colleagues, or even worse, as feelings of resentment that I held onto for longer than I should have.


I tried to deal with the burnout by attempting to create better boundaries and block time away from work, but that was always better in theory than in practice. I even convinced myself that my absurd sleep schedule was just a way to maximize my hours of focus. Sleeping at 4am became the norm for me and I’m still recovering from it.


This is the stage where burnout and grief may not align very well. While depression may be too strong of a term in the context of burnout, negative feelings can be quite common. For me, these feelings peaked when I secretly wondered if it would be better if we failed to raise more money from investors in order to keep going. That way, I could hit the reset button, close this chapter of my life, and get a fresh start without needing to make a difficult decision.


I quickly realized the selfishness of that thought and snapped out of it. But I also knew that something had to change. I was craving balance and had a strong desire to get to know myself better, both of which I wouldn’t have the luxury to do while also trying to build a startup. Even though it was hard, I ultimately decided it would be best for me to step back from Edgi and take a sabbatical.

Two months into my sabbatical, I'm glad I made the decision. Looking back on my time working on Edgi fills me with fondness and pride. Thanks to that experience, I have memories and relationships that will last a lifetime, and I can say without a doubt that it's when I grew the most as a person. I also have a renewed sense of excitement for what Edgi can become, and I'll be cheering on from the sidelines.

P.S. It took a lot for me to publicly acknowledge and share some difficult emotions in this post, so thank you for reading. 🙏