Category Archives: Personal Care

What Tony Bennett Can Teach Us About Burnout.

At 86 Tony Bennett is an inspiration. Besides his  latest album Viva Duets and just published memoir Life is a Gift , Bennett continues to tour.  How does he do all this without getting burnt out? The answer comes in an interview he gave Jacob Richler in Zoomer magazine. He said,

As soon as you get burnt out singing, you go over to painting. As soon as you get burned out painting, you go back to singing – and it feels new again, every time. Maybe if you just did one thing, eventually you’d say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to take a vacation and get away from this.’ I never feel burnt out. To me, I’m on perpetual vacation. I’m very fortunate.

How can we put these wise words into practice in our own lives?

First we need to be aware of the signs of burnout. These include exhaustion,  emotional numbness, lack of motivation, hopelessness, depression, and disengagement. Many of us have been there at some time in our working lives. That’s why people opt out of the “rat race” and become self-employed in professions like personal history.

But being self-employed and running a personal history business is no guarantee that we won’t get burnt out.  In fact being passionate about our work can  unwittingly draw us into bad habits – neglecting exercise, meals grabbed on the run, late nights, no down time, and over commitment.

What Bennett is saying about avoiding burnout is that we need to take a complete break from what we’re doing and focus on something entirely different.

Here’s how to put Bennett’s prescription into practice:

  • Make a “joy” list. Write down of all the things you like doing that bring you joy and make you happy. For me it can be as simple as a walk along a beach or a quiet hour reading.
  • Schedule “joy”. It may sound strange but if you don’t schedule in your “joyful” activities, it’s too easy to fill your time with more work. Take your list and build some “joyful” moments  into your daily and weekly schedule. I always make time in the morning to do thirty minutes of meditation followed by forty minutes of stretching exercises. Now I know that not everyone would consider that joyful! ;-)
  • Take a vacation. Plan a minimum of a week to get away from your office. Unplug from your wired universe.  Leave behind your laptop and avoid checking e-mails on your smart phone. Even if you can’t get away from your home, you can take a “Staycation”.  I wrote about this in a previous post, The Secret to a Successful “Staycation”.
  • Establish boundaries. Learn to say “No”.  Saying “Yes” all the time will erode more and more of your precious downtime.  Check out The Power of “No”. for more on how to say “No”.
  • Switch tasks. Pablo Picasso avoided burnout by making sure that his studio held an array of different projects. All were in various stages of completion and all within sight. When he got frustrated or bored with a project he could simply turn and pick one of his many others. Like Tony Bennett, variety kept him fresh. You can do the same thing by having a range of appealing tasks that are easily accessible and not time-sensitive. Feeling overwhelmed and tired just switch to something else.

To get you in the mood for a well deserved break, kick off your shoes, settle back, and have a listen to k.d. lang & Tony Bennett and  Because of You.

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Photo by Lee Bennett

Encore! The Best Advice Ever for a Personal Historian.

If I were able to go back to when I began as a personal historian, what’s the best advice I could give myself? Here’s what I’d say… Read more.

Encore! Are You Part of “The Great Vacationless Class”?

Are You Part of "The Great Vacationless Class"? Anne Morrow Lindbergh observed that,  for the most part,  mothers and housewives were the “great vacationless class”  because they had little time off. I would add the self-employed to her list. If you’re self-employed as I am, it’s often difficult to see your way to a holiday. You’re either too busy or too broke or both. Here are a few tips that you might find useful if you’re still struggling with the notion of taking a vacation. …Read More

Encore! The Introvert’s Survival Guide to Conferences.

The Introvert's Survival Guide to Conferences. I love people, but I must admit I can’t be around them continually. It drains me. Hello, my name is Dan and I’m an introvert. I previously wrote  “Attention Introverts! You Can Market Successfully.”  Now I’d like to turn my attention to another challenge for introverts – conferences. If the thought of spending days  submerged in a sea of people is daunting, don’t despair. This article is for you… Read More

Encore! How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated.

How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated. “When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.”  ~ Greg Anderson

Most of my working life I’ve being self-employed, first as a documentary filmmaker and now as a personal historian.  There have been ups and downs but on the whole I’ve been able to stay motivated. What’s the secret? Here are the things that have worked for me … Read More

From the Archives: How to Stop The Clock And Make Time for Yourself.

How to Stop The Clock And Make Time for Yourself. If you’re self-employed as I am, you’re probably all too familiar with the trap of filling most of your days with work. There are deadlines to meet, marketing activities, clients to see, and  administrative chores. Maybe you’ve found a way to manage all this and still have a life. If you haven’t, here are some lessons learned from my three decades of experience that you might find helpful. To be honest, sometimes I  “mess up” and don’t follow my … Read More

From the Archives: Shut Down Your Computer!

Shut Down Your Computer! If you’re like most personal historians, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. I certainly do. Lately, I’ve come across information that suggests that I need to shut off my computer and get outside. In fact, if I don’t, it could kill me! A recent Swedish  study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that  prolonged sitting can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While this isn’t earth shattering … Read More

When Should You Quit Being a Personal Historian and Move On?

I spend time here encouraging and supporting full-time professional personal historians.

But what about those of you who may be wondering if it’s time to give up being a personal historian all together? Remember there’s nothing wrong with quitting.  I wrote about giving up in a previous post Stop With The Productivity Pitches!

I’ve changed careers at least four times in my life. From my experience here are the clues that tell you enough is enough.

Lack of Passion

This is a big one. To establish and run a successful personal history business requires an ongoing belief that what you’re doing is vital. You must absolutely love your work. If you find that the passion has gone and your days are a grind, then it’s time  to move on.

Lack of Income

We all need to make enough money to pay the bills and have a little extra left over. For everyone that amount will vary. But if you’ve been working hard for a couple of years and you’re still having trouble making ends meet, you might want to reconsider being a personal historian. Nothing can kill your passion quicker than a dwindling bank account.

Lack of Energy

Keeping a business flourishing requires energy. There are ongoing marketing, networking, client projects, and administrative tasks.  If you find that you don’t have the energy because of poor health, age, or caregiving responsibilities, you might want to call it quits.

lack of time

A successful personal history business is a full-time job. If you’re trying to run it  while juggling other part-time jobs, you could face a crisis. While you may need extra income to keep yourself afloat, it makes it difficult to grow your personal history business. If you’re in this situation,  consider giving it up and  making personal history a hobby not a business.


Quitting is okay.  I would caution though not to quit too early. Collective wisdom says that it takes at least two years to get a new business up and running. So give it time.

Some of the challenges I’ve mentioned above might be overcome by altering your approach. For example,  a lack of passion may be a result of exhaustion rather than a lack of interest. Finding a way to bring some balance into your life might bring back the passion.

Before making your final decision to move on, weigh all the factors, look for possible solutions, and talk with trusted colleagues and friends. If it still looks like quitting is the answer, go for it!

Photo by Abe Kleinfeld

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From the Archives: The Power of “No”.

The Power of "No". Saying “no” politely is a necessity if one wants to lead any kind of stable life. ~ Richard Chamberlain

The “N” word has a bad reputation. It’s seen as negative and mean. Many of us find it hard to say. But saying No will help you not only with your work as a personal historian but also with your life in general. I’m getting better at saying No but there’s room for improvement. The reality is that saying No is a healthy way of providing us with  … Read More

From the Archives: Now for Something Completely Different: Calmness.

Now for Something Completely Different: Calmness. It’s time to stop  the rushing and working and worrying. You can always pick that up later. For now, as we come to the end of another year,  let’s all take a deep breath and calm ourselves.  As my holiday present,  I’ve put together a little virtual retreat for you. You’ll find some wonderful calming images, music, books, and quotations below. Start anywhere you like.  There’s the three minute Whispering Sea guitar video.  You can  feast your eye … Read More