#73 Utter burnout and a tiny brush with death – not my best week in China
In my interviews, I hear it over and over again – success as an expat depends greatly upon your community, on how willing you are to dig in and dig deep with those around you. There’s no such thing as a successful ‘lone ranger’ here or anywhere else in the world for that matter; life sometimes just hands us burdens too heavy to shoulder on our own. This week, I was the one in need of help and I experienced miracle after miracle, angel after angel, who turned my desperate situation into an uplifting and empowering message on the unbelievable power and impact of a strong community. Tune in to hear how a number of real-life angels swept in and saved me from the brink of break down this week.
You’re here for a reason; you’re important; you’re valuable, and valued; and there’s a fight, a battle that is yours to win. Your fight will be different than my own perhaps, but whatever you do, don’t give up.
Check out this episode’s sponsors
First, let’s do some housekeeping and talk about growth in the business. We’re up over 13,500 downloads to date and we’ve added quite a few countries to our list of download locations since the last wrap up! We’re now listened to 67 nations around the world. Those numbers are mind-boggling. Did you know that there are 196 countries in the world? That means that we’ve been downloaded in over 30% of the globe! How fun is that!
Biz development – Concordia special project!
Also, this week I began a contract project with Concordia International School Shanghai. They’ve asked me to interview 10 of their educators, all across the grades, to capture the stories of incredibly interesting classes or projects that happen in the school. I sit with each educator, hear the history of the class or project, the impact it has on students and the global community, and basically the ingredients necessary to make each program work in any school environment. The idea is that Concordia will provide these podcasts as a free resource to other schools, equipping them to initiate these programs themselves. To be honest, when I developed the business model, this sort of contract work, wasn’t really in it; but it’s been so neat to have the chance to capture unique stories under the Limitless brand and Concordia has graciously given me permission to re-purpose the content. So over the week of our spring break I’m going to launch 5 of the 10 episodes under the Educator/Administrator category on LimitlessLaowai so you too can tune in if it interests you!
What’s with the drama?
So, it sounds like it’s been a great week so why the dramatic title of this podcast? You might ask. Well, I don’t know if you read my first-ever weekly wrap up. (And as an aside if this is the first Friday episode you’re reading, I hope you’re not expecting a guest! It’s just me on Fridays and I talk about my week, the business, and anything else relevant to life in China.)
So in my first weekly wrap up I talked about the great potential of burnout if I kept going on the current trajectory of doing the whole business myself and I got about 99% of the way there this week. A couple weeks of full-on days and night after night of self-inflicted 1AM bed times, I was seriously on edge, short-tempered, and at times even nasty. Apparently I needed a reminder of how amazing my life and the opportunity to serve through the Limitless Project though because my self-pity party ended in me almost being smashed by a massive construction vehicle at 12:30 AM early Wednesday morning so after that I was feeling extra grateful for this fantastic life in general. But let me tell you what happened before that and introduce you to my ‘angels’.
The fateful night
So it was Tuesday night and I still had to cut Wednesday’s podcast episode. I was looking at about 3 hours of work ahead of me and it was hard at night. The girls really want mommy to do the bed time routine… as they should! And it seems to draw out longer on nights where I know I’ve got hours of work left.
So Tuesday night wasn’t any different. I finally sat down to begin edits at about 9:15PM. Do the math there and I was facing yet another midnight plus night. So I sit down to my computer, grumpy yet resolved to knock out the episode and shockingly my internet was out. Like out, out. Kaput. Dead as a doornail. Our month was up and there wasn’t enough funds in the account to recharge for March.
I was crushed. Despair rushed at me like a frantic wave. I felt panic creep up into my lungs and for a moment, it was hard to breathe. What was I going to do now? Coffee shops close at 10PM. It’s 9:15PM. That’s not enough time. I need toothpicks to keep my eyes open. My contacts are sticking to my eyeballs. I’ve got three hours ahead of me and every minute that passed seemed to weigh heavier on my shoulders.
When in need, call a lifeline
So, I used a lifeline and called friends who have turned into family in Jinqiao and asked if I could camp out in their dining room til the wee morning hours. She agreed without hesitation and even popped me some popcorn and prepared a little bowl of nuts to snack on as I worked.
I bundled up for the frigid scooter ride over and defrosted over a cup of tea at their dining room table, oddly awake (I think the cold scooter ride did me good actually!), munching on the snacks, and finished up the edits by 12:15AM. Now don’t get me wrong! This isn’t about the post-production process of the Limitless shows. Editing the episodes is actually one of my favorite parts of the process and I always love to hear my guests share their stories and wisdom again. I always catch bits and pieces that I missed or forgot about in the thick of the interview the first time around. It’s just as I said before, the burnout happens because it is a labor of love for sure and honestly, my strengths aren’t necessarily being utilized in that process. There are people out there who are waaaay more skilled than I am, and faster, I’m SURE! We’ll get to that in a minute, too!
Deadly green monsters
So, back to the story. It’s 12:15AM, I suit up again and hop on the scooter, pleased as punch that I’m done and bed is within sight before 1AM which has been the new definition of victory. So I’m driving home and there’s a construction site a few blocks from my house. Parked outside, there were these two unbelievably massive, green construction vehicles. They looked like monsters, well maybe I was seeing things in my exhaustion, but these are the kinds of trucks that don’t drive on regular roads during the day because they literally take up a lane and a half easy. They were so interesting in fact, that I slowed down to take a closer look and then I went on my merry way.
And, this is when disaster almost strikes. A little ways past the trucks, on my right, out of no where I’m blinded by blazing white lights and another one of these monsters comes careening out from behind the big doors to the construction site. I slam on my breaks, skid sideways trying not to bite the dust, and come to a screeching halt mere feet from the pathway of the beast. The driver didn’t even see me, despite my screaming and fist waving which just made me even more mad (It was not my prettiest moment, for sure) and he left me in the swirling dust, heart thumping and tears welling in the corners of my eyes.
You won’t believe this part
Now here’s the craziness of this story. Ron’s scooter has been parked outside our building with a flat tire for two weeks now. My scooter fix it guy lives adjacent to his shop about 100 feet from where this accident almost happened. Two days before this, I had stopped in on my way home and asked if he would come to our place to replace Ron’s flat tire that night after he closed up shop. He said yes, but apparently hours later he had forgotten so he didn’t show. So the next day, because he had forgotten, I went back again to see if he could come that day, and something told me to have him tighten up my loose brakes while I was at the shop. My brakes are perpetually slipping and I have to see him about once a month for a tune up. I tell you, if he hadn’t forgotten Ron’s bike, and I hadn’t stopped in the next day, and listened to that still small voice about him fixing up my brakes, I would not be here right now recording this podcast.
Home is where the heart is and tears can flow
So back to 12:30 AM, I rode like a snail home, shaking, trying to not physically break down on the side of the road. I got home and the door opening woke my precious Brie. She called out sleepily from her bedroom, “Mama, are you home?” and in the safety and warmth of my home, the tears finally began to flow freely down my cheeks and in that moment man, I was reminded of the incredible gift that life truly is. We all know at a head level that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, but that incident struck me clear in the heart and soul. I was most definitely protected that evening and I’m so grateful.
I wiped my face and crawled into a warm bed next to Ron who was also just settling down for the night and shared what I could of what just happened, trying not to break down again. In his arms, I felt safe and was reminded of the undeniable power of human connection and love. In those moments, my physical security was returned to me.
Gaining a new lease on life
Honestly, the next morning I woke up and viewed the typically mundane tasks through a new lens of gratitude, and it made even the usual morning rush seem exciting and gratifying. And then, the world got even better.
It’s been clear from the beginning of this business that I need a post-production assistant – someone who will take my raw audio files and slice and dice into the clean cut episodes you’re used to. In fact, I know someone can take this part of the Limitless Project and really clean it up nicely. I’m no pro at this technical piece and I’ve learned as I’ve gone along but I’m ready for some help in this arena for sure. Well, with the newly secured funds from the project I talked about before, I’m able to hire that person, which second to not being smashed flat by that truck, was absolutely the highlight of my week!
My next challenge was how? I unfortunately don’t have the time, nor more importantly the HR expertise to go through the process of hiring outsourced talent which is what I really need. And so another miracle happened this week.
Meet the virtual assistant guru
I have a friend, Adrian Cahill, who has used virtual assistants for virtually (pun intended) every aspect of his coaching business and many of his other projects, and in fact, has written a fantastic e-book on how to find qualified outsourced talent around the world. Well, Adrian, the angel that he is, offered to handle the entire process for me and literally overnight he has qualified bidders in multiple countries vying for the chance to work with LimitlessLaowai. Just like that, I’m a mere week or two away from being able to focus on interviewing amazing guests and reaching out into the community as my podcast episodes get finalized offshore somewhere. The thought makes me giddy as a school girl.
And the schedule master
Speaking of amazing guests though, that’s another miracle that I have to mention. A friend of mine, Len Pritchett, came on board on a short-term basis with the goal of absolutely chocking my calendar full of incredible people to interview. I recognized this role in the company – someone who is consistently reaching out, educating and scheduling guests – as a crucial need early on in the game too, and man, Len has been instrumental in connecting with and securing many of the amazing guests that you’ll hear in the weeks to come.
Leaders at the Ritz-Carlton, Ford Motor Company, Nike, Dupont, 3M and more have enthusiastically accepted our invitation to contribute to the Limitless Project and will be sharing their wisdom, experience and perspective with us all very soon.
Keep on fightin’ the good fight
So maybe you’re like me, and you had some bumps in your week. Heck, maybe your month or year. After such an awe-inspiring, reflective week on my end, there’s so much in my heart that I’d love to share and I’m not even sure how to close this wrap up other than by perhaps reminding you that you’re here for a reason; you’re important; you’re valuable, and valued; and there’s a fight, a battle that is yours to win. Your fight will be different than my own perhaps, but whatever you do, don’t give up.
Remember that each of us is ever given only enough challenge to properly sharpen, shape and mold us – never more than we can bear; never a load that will break us. And if you feel like you’re at a place, like I was this week, when your back would shatter at the mere sight of another piece of straw, reach out and share your burdens with another. We aren’t meant to live life alone, and life as an expat is no exception.
Best to stock up on some popcorn
In China, a true community of people who care and understand what you’re experiencing is all around you. Take heart and have courage to reach out if you need help and most definitely, if you’re doing A-OK, and life is peachy, that’s awesome. Just be ready, popcorn in hand even, to help and act as an oh-so-needed, nick-of-time angel when a neighbor in need comes knocking at your door.