I recently watched a brutally honest video report by my friend Robert Leger. His video is generating some waves in our mograph community, for good reason. I’ll post it here, but can sum it up quickly. Robert found himself in the situation where he was commuting 2 hours a day, working days, nights, weekends and holidays trying to keep up with his deadlines. He missed many of his new babies “firsts” and was relegated to watching his child and wife via Skype. A pretty heartbreaking situation. His immune system literally shut down and he had to have surgery and was incredibly sick because of the stress and pressure.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. This seems to be more and more common, especially in our industry. We are being swept up in the pressures and speed of our world and are being gutted, cleaned out and washed up by our thirties. This is pretty disconcerting for all of us. So the question is, how are we supposed to make this career a long term game, not just a sprint to the burned out premature finish line where we are forced out because we simply can’t do it anymore.

For me my relief is nature. Camping, fishing, getting away, leaving the cell phone at home. I just got back from a week long canoeing adventure and feel much refreshed. I think it’s incredibly important for each of us to find the thing that recharges us and make sure we don’t forgo it because of the pressure of our job. Our longevity and career depend on it.

So I have some questions for you to answer in the comments:

1. Do you feel like you’re in the same boat as Robert?

2. How many hours do you usually work a week (I work about 50-60 a lot of the year).

3. What can you do to avoid a devastating, tail spinning burn out? Take a vacation? Find a new job? Ask to work from home to avoid commuting hours? (I turn off the computer/cell phone and go into nature).

Whatever it is, make it happen. Stand up for yourself and figure it out. Our work is important and it defines a lot of us, but there is more to life than our careers. I would love to hear your input!

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” –Tolstoy

16 Responses
  1. Ricky

    I’ve been in a similar situation due to overlapping deadlines and spent a couple of months working night and day.
    The only time left was for sleeping.
    After that, I felt all my energies and inspiration left me, and completely abandoned the internet thing.
    Nothing comparable with what happened to Robert, but I felt pretty bad for a while.
    I wasn’t able to spend more time than necessary on a computer, if not for wandering lazily around the web looking for inspiration or big things, which I was never able to find,

    About the numbers of hours of work per week, it really depends, but I guess 50/60 as you.
    Worst case is 12/14 hours per day, as it happened during those two months.

    Best way for me to recover from those long work sessions is to do some sport or either spend some time without having to think of work, whatever that thing is.
    For sure, my first rule is not to stay at home and completely shut down my mind.

    It’s so difficult when you are a freelancer not to take jobs, and when you think you did well in balancing the number of works taken for that period of the year, most of them delay and you suddenly find yourself juggling with the works that were planned to be done later on.
    And clients want the video done.

  2. Dan

    1. Do you feel like you’re in the same boat as Robert?
    I made a conscious decision several years back to no longer pursue fancy “design shops” for jobs after seeing the industry to begin to tailspin itself and hear of grueling long hours. I still do mograph work, but I also shoot and edit at the business I work at. I don’t get to work on the latest Coke ad or music video, but I think I’m happier in the end. If I feel like experimenting in C4D I do it on my free time.

    2. How many hours do you usually work a week (I work about 50-60 a lot of the year).
    I’m lucky enough that I only have to put in 40hrs a week at my job and if I go over I get comp days.

    3. What can you do to avoid a devastating, tail spinning burn out? Take a vacation? Find a new job? Ask to work from home to avoid commuting hours?

    I live in a major city with a high cost of living and a long commute for many. For seven years now I’ve made the decision to pay a premium on rent to live within two miles of work so I wouldn’t have to sit in a car for two hours a day. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to make it work but in the end I get home in 10 mins if I dive. 20mins if I walk. Most days I even go home for lunch. I don’t have a fancy car and don’t get to go on fancy vacations but I do get extra hours in the day that others don’t have.

    It is possible to find a job in this industry and not get burned.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Dan. What an inspiring and hopeful comment. I love how you have been very thoughtful about weighing and balancing your life and making the compromises needed. It’s always better if you decide what you want and don’t let others push you into a corner. Good work sir, I’m very impressed with what you’re doing!

  3. Alessandro Boncio

    Well see this video moves me, I understand your feelings perfectly, because I’m in the same situation. I have a small child that I see grow through the eyes of my wife ….
    In recent months, work up to 100 hours a week … I lose weight and fattening without understanding why, and I’m wondering how many years I can continue with this life.

    But perhaps there is a solution, if we created a consortium and we exchanged work, commitments, if we broaden our horizons beyond the threshold of our house?

  4. Todd VanSlyck

    About 13 years ago (before I met my wife) I was on the track of doing just this. When I met her, she explained to me how she lost a dear friend many years prior and therefore understood the importance of relationships and time with those you love.
    As a result of that, I’ve always made it a priority to have family time and time to myself. I work a full-time job with an hour commute each way, and also do freelance at night after my family sleeps. So the potential is definitely there.
    When I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I spend time with my wife and 5 year old boy, I spend time in nature (I live in the country) and I spend time with God. It refreshes me and takes the pressure off me. I realize I still have work to do, but I can do this same work with less effort when my mind and spirit are at ease.

  5. RS

    My deepest sympathy to Rob!

    I was in a similar situation (far less serious however) and I felt horrible. I managed to keep the deadlines (which most of us manage to do) but I would have rather faced the consequences of not having finished on time than go through the horrible experience of exhaustion. I was literally drained, slept 18 hours a day for a week or so after everything passed, and even ended up failing my final exams just because I was too tired to study.

    Keep strong Rob!

  6. Alae Hatoum

    1. Do you feel like you’re in the same boat as Robert?

    I’ve been feeling that a lot lately , I mean I , like many of us I’m sure , started this for the fun of it , I used to do a lot of photo manipulations and vector stuff even before I got into AE and C4D and I really enjoyed it for hours and hours doing forum banners , signatures , avatars and I really enjoyed that but I kept pushing to become better . The only reason I wanted to be better at what I do is to get more work and prove myself and now that I am getting more work and more challenging work , the deadlines are suffocating me and I no longer feel like I’m progressing as much as I used to . Everyday passes by I feel like I could have made better use of it

    2. How many hours do you usually work a week
    Its somewhere between 40 and 50 , but the boss is very very understanding that sometimes I would just come in for an hour or two , I could come in late or leave early and he will be very understanding so when I do stay for extra hours it will be of my own will ; however I don’t get paid the extra hours nor do I get asked about the missing hours

    3. What can you do to avoid a devastating, tail spinning burn out? Take a vacation? Find a new job? Ask to work from home to avoid commuting hours?

    My phone fell from the 3rd floor last week and for a whole week I was without a phone , just a land line and the internet connection at home and work . It was very refreshing and I really felt very relaxed specially in the weekends because the phone has added stress to our already stressful schedules , the bombardment of information and content from everywhere is just so stressful .
    I don’t have anything in particular to help me relax about my work that’s why I feel I’m always stressed . my work schedule doesn’t allow me to take long vacations so any realising I need to do it has to be in the weekends

  7. Izzy

    When I hit the big 40 last year, I had this same issue as Robert did. I had to go to the doc, and after that, I now have an inhaler, had to quit smoking, and had to force myself to raise my rates a little to account for a self-imposed 4-day to 1-week break during every month. I’m also moving to Ohio to be with my GF who’s @ school there, so I’ll need to ramp-up freelance a little to save $$.
    But I’m dealin:)

  8. Bob Thompson

    1. Do you feel like you’re in the same boat as Robert?
    Sometimes I do. I can’t say that I have reached that point to his (Robert’s) extent. Between work, kids, wife, mortgage, I am pretty well busy every second of the day; but I really like it that way. Without that, I find myself on the couch watching TV. The pressure I have is a good pressure..nothing I can’t remove myself from and take pause.

    2. How many hours do you usually work a week (I work about 50-60 a lot of the year).
    Between 50 to 60, when you combine my full-time job and all the freelance gigs I take at home. Can’t tell you how many of hours of my life are spend staring at a screen.

    3. What can you do to avoid a devastating, tail spinning burn out? Take a vacation? Find a new job? Ask to work from home to avoid commuting hours?
    I have noticed that I tend to work in cycles. I may really push C4d on projects and show clients a way to go in 3d, and then after a while, I might start really ramping up new ideas in After Effects. Then I get into these modes where I feel I need to be certified in something. I start focusing on an Avid ACU, then Adobe ACE, and then I find myself back into C4d .What really gets me revved up and ready to go back into battle, so to speak, is watching some really cool effects either at the Movies, Vimeo, or any Mograph site. That stuff really gets me excited about this line of work and makes glad I chose it as a career path.

  9. Puglisi Gabriel

    Go to make a shitty job on a chantier or to Mac Donald’s and you will be happy to make 50 hour of this kind of work. I don’t understand your whining, Sometimes I work 70 by week on this job, but, shit, I have big money on the end of my work… Some people work really hard, broke their bodies to do shitty job, and keep the courage to wake up every morning. Life is hard, yes, and we work on creative and interesting jobs, you should be happy about it… And if you can not limit yourself and to look up the computer, go see a shrink, not make videos on the internet … ! Bisous Bisous

    1. diego

      chill out gabe people are just venting and ruminating about stuff. I am sure everyone loves design, and woks hard at it but posts like your are straight up buzz kilington. Dam player haters,

  10. Michael

    1. Do you feel like you’re in the same boat as Robert?
    Excellent post that many in mograph are afraid to broach. I think any mainstream product or service, especially entertainment is not usually glamorous work. Just being on the studio lots themselves can be like seeing the view from a high office tower or enjoying the campus. Seeing or hearing our work broadcasted on screen has some aspect of glamor. But it is so pressured by the flow of money that those who stay in it not necessarily the most artistically talented. It’s those gifted with diplomacy or making sure to always be politically correct.

    The politically correct are likely creating a tangled maze structure of behaviors meant to trip up their competitors. It seems a selfish ruse to gain power and money. In the west coast there’s a obvious gradient of fictional speech that becomes denser, more compressed and opaque like sedimentary rock, the closer you get to the sea. Weighted by the pressures of materialism and power. In the east the same thing happens towards large estates or cities.
    Mograph is a leading economic indicator for a number of reasons.

    1. It uses the most advanced technology developed for mass consumption.
    2. It’s highly competitive because many want to be artists

    Since it’s a leading indicator it’s coming to a field near you if you who are reading this are not in this field. It’s a leading indicator of what’s wrong with capitalism. Here’s what one leading analyst says is coming:
    Interview with Chris Hedges on The Alyona Show

    TC 8:50
    All the correctives came about in America through mass movements. They were pressured

    The last liberal President we had in this country was Richard Nixon, not because he was a liberal, but because he was frightened of movements. There’s a great scene in Kissinger’s memoirs, please don’t go buy the book, where the Whitehouse is surrounded by buses, huge anti-war demonstration, think it’s ’71. Nixon and Kissinger were standing in the window, and Nixon’s going “Henry, Henry their gonna break the barricades and get us!” Well that’s precisely where you want people in power to be.

    “Days of Destruction Days of Revolt” by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco

    Also mograph attracts managers who are Functional Psychopaths.
    Surprise! What jobs have the highest number of psychopaths?

    Thom Hartmann:
    So sometimes you know what you know. And sometimes you know what you don’t know. And sometimes, as “The Fireside Theater” says, everything you know is wrong!

    When your hear the words psychopath what do you think of? Probably some brutal serial killer who is out of his mind, right?

    What if I told you that psychopaths can function at extremely high levels and succeed in all levels of society. If you think that psychopathic tendencies and success have nothing in common, then everything you know is wrong.

    Joining me now is Kevin Dutton, author of the new critically acclaimed book, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths; What saints, spies and serial killers can teach us about success”.

    What is a functional psychopath?

    Kevin Dutton, Research Psychologist:
    A person with a distinct set of personality characteristics. Characteristics such as charm, fearlessness, ruthlessness, coolness under pressure, focus, and of course that trademark lack of conscious and empathy. Notice I haven’t said violence there. And notice I haven’t mentioned intelligence either. Now if you’ve got those traits that I just mentioned and you happen to be naturally violent and you also happen to be naturally stupid then your prospects, my friend, aren’t really going to be that great. You’re going to wind up breaking a bottle over someone’s head or stabbing them in bar. You’re going to end up in prison pretty quickly. But if you have that constellation of traits I was just telling you about and you happen to be intelligent and also not violent then as the Reuters famous headline once put it, you’re more than likely going to make a killing in the market than anywhere else.

    Thom Hartmann:
    There was an article in Business Week or something similar that psychopaths were over represented in the banking industry.

    Kevin Dutton:
    I did a survey in which I wanted to find out which was the most psychopathic profession. We had over five and half thousand respondees within the first three weeks. The top ten psychopathic professions? CEO’s turned out to be number one on the list. Radio and TV guys, I’m afraid to say, were also pretty high up there. We had surgeons. We had lawyers.

    But also rather surprisingly we had the clergy. We had church people up there about number 7 or 8. Not surprising when you look back on it. What we find is because psychopaths tend to excel in any kind of profession where there is a power dynamic. Where there’s and organizational hierarcy. Where they can wield control and manipulate others. Where they can play fast and loose with the rules. And to be honest, or to put it crudely, the church isn’t that different in that respect to any other business.

    Thom Hartmann:
    Your book is called “The Wisdom of Psychopaths”. Is there anything that’s positive that comes out of this?

    Kevin Dutton:
    We find that psychopaths have quite a number of positive characteristics. They are assertive. They don’t procrastinate. They look on the positive side of things. They don’t take things personally when things go wrong. They don’t beat themselves up when things go wrong. And they’re very cool under pressure too. So those kind of positive traits that all of us can benefit from in the course of our lives.

    Thom Hartmann:
    Now everything you know about psychopathy and success is right.

    2. How many hours do you usually work a week (I work about 50-60 a lot of the year).
    20-30 on mograph, and 20-30 on fine art

    3a. What can you do to avoid a devastating, tail spinning burn out?
    Nature is key. You can’t get away from the sickness of capitalism in any man-made environment.

    Mograph is advertising it’s not art. It’s commercial art. It will never be your art. Don’t make the mistake of confusing these distinctions. All great designers eventually become fine artists. So spend more of your energy on FINE ART not the commercial endeavor of some functional psychopath.

    3b. Take a vacation?
    Vacations are illusions that the functional psychopath would like you to buy into. You need to reduce your expenses so you only have to work about 20 hours a week or less.

    3c. Find a new job?
    Find the job you like working someone you’re sure is not a Functional Psychopath. It you yourself are a Functional Psychopath you need to follow Max Kieser’s advice here and have the courage to decapitate yourself.
    My new favorite fountain of zany truth, Max Keiser.

    Keiser Report Decapitated Consumers

    “You are what you eat. And I think this is an appropriate development in the mass produced chicken development world, to simply have chickens without any heads or chickens without any feet. Because this is what the consumer demands. The consumer… they don’t have the courage to decapitate themselves?

    3d. Ask to work from home to avoid commuting hours? (I turn off the computer/cell phone and go into nature).
    This is a question only a wage slave would dream up. It is fundamentally the wrong framing. Here’s a little anecdote for you:
    In the early 90’s I walked in on a quasi-artist who was doing this project and he showed me the reference he was using from an awards catalog in our industry. He said “Yeah I’m copying this gold award winner but I just need to get it done.” Later he entered it into a competition and won a silver award. I mention our earlier conversation but it was like it never happened. This person was ruthless is now the head of all artists in a place everyone has heard of. He got there not by being an artist but by being an efficiency expert using technology to consolidate where and how art gets done. Now myself and the gold award winner he copied from don’t work directly in that industry. I’m not sure the reason but I wonder. I guess it’s time to get back to the art.

  11. Daniel Kuras

    I use C4D for a hobby after recently retiring from 30 years of work in the electronics technology field. In 1984 I also came down with an illness triggered by job stress. In my case, this was depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. These now are under control with medication, but at the time it happened, I seriously was considering quitting my job. Remember no dying person has ever been heard to say “Gee, I wish I could have worked longer hours”.

  12. Chris

    Had this feeling for the past 2 months, Just decided, No, I stopped taking on clients, Worked through the ones I had, And had a break, It was pretty awesome.

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