“Burning a candle at both ends.” This is an expression I heard years ago when a rock star was talking about his life. The “burning” he pointed to was caused by an excess of a sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. But burning out is something all too prevalent in sports, entertainment, business, and life.

What is a burnout?

New York psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, PhD., coined the term, referring to a state of fatigue or frustration caused by devotion to a cause, a lifestyle or an undertaking that did not reap the expected results.

What is key is not what defines a burnout, but rather who is more prone to burning out, what its causes are, how one can recognize it instead of denying it, and finally, how one can put out the fire and get his life back on track.

Are you prone?

The same way we have Type A and Type B personalities, I believe that people can also be characterized as “pyros” and “aquas.” Aqua people (no real relationship to water signs in astrology) tend to be very laid-back, are content with the basics of life, and do not seek to push the envelope. Life can pass them by and they will not care, so long as their life is happy and joyous. The definition of happiness is subjective.

Pyros, on the other hand, are driven beyond the speed of light. They are not necessarily unhappy with their surroundings. Au contraire — it is because they seek a perpetually increasing level of happiness that they push the envelope. While they call time-out often (and some would suggest that their life is an endless recess), many see them as burning the proverbial candle at both ends.

These two categories are by no means scientific, they are meant to provide a framework or checklist for young professionals going forward in their careers, and lives. It is not a coincidence that many rock stars have burned out because of their reliance and abuse of drugs. While many so-called experts would like to extend this argument by saying that one category of young professionals is more prone to rely on drugs than another, for example, that is, in my humble opinion, false. I believe that both categories are just as likely to do drugs, but while one might do so for pure pleasure, the other may look to drug use for both pleasure and escapism.

Rub two stones together

When it comes to why people burn out, the reasons are as endless and varied as the stars in the sky. After all, some people burn out because they work too long and too hard. All work and no play spells burnout, and no amount of “special Rolaids” will help the case. If anything, not understanding the real causes of burning out and instead relying on substances will only exasperate the problem, like it has done for many executives, entertainers and athletes that I will not name.

But what I will list are some of the reasons behind burnout:


  • Too much pressure and ambition, and insufficient resources or means to pull it off
  • Too little control, and not enough rewards
  • Poor senior management not recognizing true talent and efforts
  • Misguided criteria for determining promotion and compensation
  • General stress


Get a grip before you go up in smoke…

You better recognize

The bottom line is, it’s not a big deal if you live life at full throttle. After all, you only live once and since time flies, why not make the most of it? The key is to balance life: business with pleasure, 24/7. Otherwise, you will sit in your chair and wonder why you never have any fun, hate your job, and wish to stay in bed all day.

If you tend to suffer from tunnel vision, you may never realize that you have a problem. You will carry on and on and on until one day, you break down. The best thing to do is keep your ears open and your eyes focused on what others tell you. If your family is worried, that’s normal, they’re looking out for you because they love you; if your girlfriend is concerned, that’s also expected because she surely misses you; but if your friends are also sending you warning signs, maybe it’s because you are, in fact, headed down a path of distress. So pay attention when those who care for you give you a heads up — that way, you can blow out the flame before your social and emotional life goes up in smoke.

Get your fix

Keep your lifestyle in check
The key to getting some control on the “fire” is to address your lifestyle. Do you ever work out? The gym is always good, although the “pyro” may consider being in an isolated gym a waste of time. If this is so, then gather some friends and fire away your competitiveness by playing a game of football, basketball, hockey, or soccer.

Eat healthy food

Another “easy” thing to do in order to keep your life burn-free is improve your diet. Sure, burgers and pizza are great, but a nice salad or bowl of fruit will help give you that energy when you’re burning the midnight oil, while junk food will only have the opposite effect.

Be aware of your threshold
Know your limits. That is the bottom line. If you can multitask, work at the speed of light and manage to get more on your plate, then keep doing what you have been doing — you will surely go places. But if you find that you can never finish what you start, drift off into space several times a day, and are becoming irritable and impatient in every aspect of your life, then call time-out — perhaps a temporary change of pace, self-analysis, and reality check are in order.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com.