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In September 2012, I first said the words out loud. I was sitting on a wooden bench, drinking with a friend at one of Albuquerque’s newer breweries, enjoying the crisp autumn air. I was startled to hear my own voice expose my secret: “I want to leave diversity and inclusion work.”

The timing of this confession was most inconvenient. Just weeks before, my handsome companion and I had shared the stage at TEDxABQ, and I’d passionately made a case to over 800 people that “diversity is necessary for human evolution.”

People aren’t supposed to do a TED talk on a subject, then walk away. My friend and I were meeting to co-conspire around our respective areas of interest. I wondered if my crush on him was making me say provocative things to impress or tantalize. I checked in with myself. Nope, I’d just dropped a truth bomb — mostly on myself.

It’s taken me over nine years to make good on those words. Leaving a field that has been my life for over 50 years, and my livelihood for more than half that, is no small feat. What kept me stuck for almost a decade was a combination of uncertainty about how else to earn a living, dogged commitment to The Cause, and a nagging question: What if I’m just burned out?

After multiple tweaks to my work, and deep soul-searching, the verdict is in: This isn’t burnout. I’m not “fit for duty.”

At this time of year, as humans speed up while the Earth slows down, many of my clients and friends are exhausted. Perhaps you, too. You, your colleagues, or your reports may be hitting a wall and wondering: Is this burnout? Am I “just” exhausted? Or am I experiencing something bigger?

Here are the three ways I knew I was beyond burned out, and unfit for duty. Read the three reasons on!


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