Kin North founder Tresna Lee shares her story of burnout and how ritual has become a cornerstone to her life.
Do you define yourself by your work and your job title? I sure did, and it took me a long time to figure out why I caved into unhealthy work habits that sacrificed my wellbeing. In my quest to find out, Kin was born.
After seven years of working in the corporate sector, I transitioned into the agile and innovative startup world. It was different and exciting work, but I quickly learned both work cultures celebrated working around the clock, climbing the ladder, and giving everything to your professional life. I was surrounded by the message that I had to Hustle Every Damn day to be successful. Social media portrayed hustle like some kind of celebrity. The startup culture in particular exposed me to a lot of unhealthy attitudes about success. Things like... "you can sleep when you're dead" "grow at all costs" and "good things come to those who hustle".
There was an unspoken understanding that you had to give up everything in your life if you wanted to get investors, increase profits or build something of value. While I wasn't building a business at the time, this thinking really got under my skin and fuelled my work-o-holic tendencies. I fell into the trap of defining my worth by how much I worked, the impressive title I held, and how many balls I could juggle at once. People would often say I was "the ultimate hustler" and I felt good about it! Little did I know I was headed down a dangerous path and all that fire-y hustling energy was going to set me aflame.
In 2017, I went out on my own, starting my own consulting agency motivated by the idea of flexibility and creating something of my own. Only one year in to running my own business I was more stressed, anxious, and exhausted than ever. I was still hustling my little heart out and I was miserable. I'd spent so long in the hustle mode that I didn't know how to stop. Hustle had finally consumed me.
I was burnt out
After some deep reflection, I knew I needed to rethink everything I knew about success and I set about a process of rebuilding myself. For a few weeks I weighed up the pros and cons of taking on a new client or being satisfied with what I already had. I ran all sorts of calculations - how much income did I *really* need to keep the bills paid and a certain level of comfort in my life?
What would happen if instead of taking on another paying client, I prioritised myself? What if I tracked the hours that I spent on myself the same way I tracked the hours I spent on a client project? And what if that focus on myself allowed me to partake in activities that were restful and nourishing?
So began my experiment... I exercised every day. I spent more time cooking healthy meals for my family meaning we ate really well but I also indulged my passion for cooking. I read voraciously - for learning and fun. I connected with friends and prioritised spending time with my parents. I did loads of things other than hustling and above all, I found ways to build more micro moments of pleasure into my life through ritual.
I’d start the day slowly with a cup of tea in bed. I would carefully select an incense to light based on my mood and then take the time to sit and enjoy the scent. I’d sit on the backstep in the sunshine and pat my dogs. Small everyday rituals that made each day that little bit brighter.
To begin with, I carried a lot of guilt and feelings of unworthiness. If I stopped several times in the day for 15 minutes, did that make me lazy? Was I less successful if I actually worked “less”?
As it turned out, the answer way no. The more I prioritised these rituals a made space to just be with myself, the easier I found my work. I was sharper and more alert in meetings. I was inspired and had more frequent bursts of creativity. I procrastinated less and could get tasks completed in less time. My clients got better results and my output was as high as when I was working almost double the amount of hours.
The simple fact was:
Pausing the hustle and making space for ritual made me not only happier, but more successful in my work pursuits.
As well as feeling less anxious and exhausted there were other positive outcomes that I hadn’t anticipated. My whole perspective on success began to change and I started to realise that I was so much more than the work that I do.
These experiences are what led me to create Kin.
There’s enough people talking about how to hustle harder, get stuff done and be massively productive so you can be a success. If that’s all you hear, then it’s easy to assume that taking care of yourself isn’t part of the success equation.
I’m here to tell you that not only does this need to be part of the equation but it’s essential if you want to be your best self in the world.
In a culture that has celebrated being busy for so long, it’s time to recognise all the other facets that make our lives an enjoyable adventure.
We can do this by punctuating our day with ritual, honouring our need for rest, and finding time to tune into our inner being - our essence.
No one gets to the end of their life and says they wish they worked more. Instead, they say “I wish I’d followed our dreams, been kinder, took more risks or spent more time with loved ones” Daily rituals are a gateway to accessing all of it and I hope that Kin inspires you to take the first step in creating your own.