Today, we talk all about that craptastic feeling of being buried. Underwater. Crushed by the weight of big ideas, neverending task lists, and elephant-sized goals. First, we’ll talk about what this really means and the ways in which this feeling tends to show up, along with a little on how we tend to behave as a result. Then we’ll talk about a simple way to handle these moments better. And finally, we’ll wrap up with a healthy pep talk.

Episode Transcript:

I’m Illana Burk, CEO of Your Life’s Workshop, coach to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs across dozens of industries and host of Good Business. With nearly 20 years experience helping hundreds of clients create profitable, ethically driven and sustainable businesses based on their life’s work, I’m here to teach you how to do great work, make great money, and make a positive impact without feeling like you need a shower afterwards.

Hi everybody. Today’s episode is dedicated to the life-altering work of my dear friend, client, and coach Audrey Holst from She taught me this lesson. I followed her lead, and it changed my life. More on that later in the episode, I promise, but today we talk all about that craptastic feeling of being buried. Underwater, overwhelmed, burned out, crushed by the weight of big ideas, never-ending task lists, and elephant-sized goals. First, we’ll talk about what this really means and the ways in which this feeling tends to show up, along with a little on how we tend to behave as a result. Then, we’ll talk about a simple way to handle these moments better. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a healthy pep talk. I promise it’ll be worth it.

What are we talking about? You know the feeling. You have big plans, big ideas, big desires, and for every goal, there are a thousand details, and for every detail, there are barriers. Specific ones, hard ones, real ones, money, time, motivation, energy, and all the things that slow down meaningful progress. Pretty soon, you’re sitting at your desk, staring at your computer with absolutely zero clues as to where do you even start to think about where to start? Even if you do know where to start, you don’t know how to prioritize what’s most important or what you need to learn or where to put your resources or what the best choices are to make when you have limited resources. So pretty soon, that little bit of time that you had to work on your business is gone — lost in a sea of questions that never seem to have answers. You head back to your real life, carrying all of it like a damn wall full of bricks piled on your shoulders in bags weighed down even more by the healthy dose of added guilt because you just feel like you should have gotten more done than you did — the story of my life.

Entrepreneurs either find a way to conquer this, or they fail. Some just hustle harder. They learn faster; they get more resilient; they get stronger. That’s not a big club. Some just find extra energy and resource reserves. They keep burning at the candle, both ends, and a few lucky ones, things calm down before they totally burn out. Some get desperate, they beg for resources, they whine on Facebook, they take up space asking for miracles, and then they sink into martyrdom. 

Now a quick sidebar. This is a topic I know a lot about. As I mentioned at the top of the episode, at one stage or another, I have been all of those not super wonderful people that I just listed. Occasionally, all at once. I have been the overwhelmed martyr working my ass off at three o’clock in the morning, pushing myself way beyond my limits, praying it’ll all work out somehow. I know what it feels like to forget to eat, to postpone peeing for hours until you end up with a bladder infection. I know what it feels like to totally ignore the people who love me and swear I’m doing it all for them, at the same time.

For most of my life, I have carried every brick in every moment. Like if I put down a few, someone will steal them. I was a pro at this. Every brick was a good idea, and if I put it down, I would lose it forever. If I didn’t work 16 hour days, I wasn’t a real entrepreneur. If I wasn’t everywhere and everything to everyone all at once, I didn’t want it bad enough. The whole time I existed this way, I never actually had enough. I never had enough time for anything that I said I wanted. I never had enough money. That was just the truth. I was always broke. I never had good health. That crippled me for a decade or so. And I never had enough energy. I was always exhausted because it was all bullshit. I was so busy carrying the burdens of everything that I thought I had to do, that I was barely getting anywhere. It choked my creativity. It destroyed my body. It stifled my relationships. And it made me feel like a ball of wasted potential and lost opportunities like all the time. Which I was, but not for the reasons that I thought.

I thought it was because I didn’t have the resources. Like if I just had more money or more time or something that it would all fall into place. I was wrong. In existing like that, nothing ever falls into place. You just keep banging your head against the same dumb things, and you keep existing in that scarcity place because, in the face of overwhelm, you have to actually learn something new. That’s what we’re talking about today. I got to the place where I couldn’t exist anymore that way, and I started learning. 

There are a few of us that are learning this one simple lesson, and that’s that you can exist and carry just one brick at a time and get comfortable with the uncomfortable slowness of real growth and real, sustainable business design. This is not something to master, though. It’s a simple concept, but it’s not a simple thing to do. It takes a lot of practice. It takes a lot of work, and I’ve put in the work, and I hope that it’s part of my ongoing practices to teach this work to my clients and the people who listen to me and pay attention to what I have to say.

The basic idea is rather than holding all of that pressure and pain all at the same time – rather than holding your breath and hoping, rather than entangling every task with every other task – you look at the thing in front of you as the only thing that’s being asked to view. The only thing you’re asking of yourself and instead of pushing all the things that give you strength and the real fortitude to the periphery, while you pay attention to all the things that you think you’re supposed to pay attention to, you embrace those things as vital. You let walks and yoga classes and knitting and building forts with your kids in, as an essential and necessary component of a well-built life. I promise you the life part is the thing that makes the business part possible, and there’s no gold star for succeeding in the face of strife. I would have earned it by now. 

We, most of us listening, most of us here, if you’re paying attention to me, you have done entrepreneurial martyrdom. We all have. Where we just think that that busyness and toughness that comes with saying, “I’m working so hard, I’m so busy.” All the things that we say in this dumb, overworked culture of ours, it’s all fucking bullshit, you guys. Nobody gives you a gold star for succeeding in the face of strife. They just don’t. I mean not when you’re up against people who lose legs and go on to run marathons. You‘re never going to compare with that. You’re like, “gosh, I worked really hard when my kid had the flu” story is not going to compare. So stop trying to compete. Stop trying to go after that some sort of kudos that are never going to come and that don’t even feel good if they do.

When you hit your money goals, no one gives you a cookie for nearly killing yourself in the process. They don’t even really care because they’re sitting there thinking about their own goals and their own lives. When you finally launched that thing that feels critical right now, it absolutely will not be more successful because you didn’t shower for a week and gave yourself an ulcer from the stress. There are no gold stars for juggling too many chainsaws at once. I promise you that even if you don’t lose a limb. No one cares about how much you’re carrying in every single moment. They care about what you can produce and what you can do for them. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. There is nothing more.

I don’t want that to sound callous; it’s just the truth of it. They’re willing to wait for it from you. Killing yourself in overwhelm is like driving 15 miles over the speed limit to get someplace that you’re not late for. You’re taking outsized risks with your health and your overall well-being as well as giving other people a reason to loathe you just to arrive a few minutes faster. You only have to carry one brick at a time. One. When you look at every task as a brick to be held for a moment, then you can calmly, slowly, and deliberately build something strong and amazing. Build with care, brick by brick.

Thank you all for your attention today, everyone. I hope this one sticks with you. It’s important to me. One last time, this was inspired by my dear friend and coach Audrey at Fortitude and Flow. She is a wise fucking woman, you guys, and you should pay attention to every single thing she says. She changed my life and helped me look at my business differently and even in my success. She helped me see that there’s always another way of feeling successful in yourself. So, do that. She’s rad. All right, everybody. Bye. Bye.

Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. For more information, visit or


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