In this episode I outline the lessons I’ve learned in budgeting my emotional energy investments and expenditures. You can read the full post on the topic here.
I experienced a burn out in 2015. I was emotionally and physically depleted. In my struggle to articulate what I was experiencing and how I got there, I began imagining my emotional energy using this idea of emotional calories. I started connecting my emotional energy with my physical energy, food nutrient intake, caloric requirements and energy management.
Aaron McHugh: Friends. Welcome to Work Life Play. I'm your host, Aaron McHugh. I'm here to help you find work you love, learn to play, live adventurously, become curious and live your life with joy and purpose. Ready, set, go.
Welcome to another episode of Work Life Play. We are somewhere in the 107-108 episodes. Now, awhile back I decided to stop worrying about announcing exactly which episode it was because they don't always get released sequentially. I record them. They might sit in the can for a while. I reshuffle the deck. Nevertheless, it's been a lot. I was telling some friends last night, some of my buddies that for me, the new year always starts closer to February 1st than it really does on January 1st. And for those of you who have listened before, you've heard that our family has marked a milestone celebrating our middle daughter's passing six years ago. And that happened on January 28th. So as a result, I'm keeping it real with you.
The real story is February 1st is always welcomed more than January 1st because we're always working on a countdown. That being said, one of the topics I want to talk about is the idea of managing our emotional energy and lessons. I've learned about managing my emotional energy at a calorie level. You've heard me talk about this concept before, but I've never really gone deep into the topic and really fully flushed out the idea with you. Before I do that, I want to provide a couple of thoughts, ideas, updates on some things. One is I just released a podcast on our joy bus and what we've been up to really for the last month or so we've been refurbishing it and we've ripped out the interior front to back and we bought it about a year and a half ago, and we've been refinishing everything from the rust to the paint, to putting in sound deadening stuff, to reef, finishing the upholstery with covering the fabric that's in there for our little let-down bed, really kind of getting it ready for the adventure season that it makes it a lot easier.
When you live in Colorado to have a bus that's warm in the heat actually works and doesn't have too many drafts in it. Which if you lived in Southern California and you drive a bus or a warmer place than Colorado you can attest that a VW 1974 VW bus is a pretty drafty airy ride. So we've been working on that and kind of giving her a, you know, she's 43 years old now, I guess, giving her a little bit more life and bringing her back to life on the inside. So that's been a really fun project. My daughter and I've been working on together. I've had a couple of buddies pitch in, but spent a lot of time in the garage and it was just really nice to not be on a computer. I haven't really spent a lot of time on social media, which has been really nice.
I took a break from cutting some podcasts and releasing field reports and doing some writing and just doing nothing for a little while just to bring my life back to idle on that note, I've been working on a new mini course about restoring balance. I did a podcast series some months ago on restoring balance. I think it's a four or five part series you can go back and listen to, and essentially turn those into an actual mini course that you could take where it hoped to have that release here the next really two weeks or so. And you would just be able to opt in and then every day you'd get a new kind of course idea, big idea for the day something you can cruise through and five to 10 minutes, and then with some kind of small mini assignments and adjustments that you can make in your life to experiment with, what does it look like to restore balance, to discover balance, to recover balance in work and in life and in play.
And I think you'll find that it's very unconventional in that. I'm not going to provide you a list. This here's five tasks, they're more implementation of actual behaviors and attitudes and habits. Because if you start layering on the actual tactical things of how to get more stuff done or how to change a career or how to fix these relationships that I have, or how to get more sleep, I think you have to first start with these foundational ingredients that I've outlined for you. So I think you'll find that really helpful. A couple of things I want to share with you that I've been my garage project working on the joy bus and the garage. I thought I'd just share with you a couple of book titles of stuff I've been listening to on audio and maybe fun and encouraging for you.
I know for here for us in the West and Western hemisphere, it's cold. I have a buddy down in New Zealand and right now it's summer and they're out enjoying themselves in the long days of sunshine and the beach. Here in Colorado, we were getting dumped on with snow, which is great for our snowboarding pass, but definitely makes for shorter days and some more time where you're just indoors and it's cold and dark. So as a result, I ended up listening to a lot of audio books. I listen to quite a few podcasts that I share a couple of those with you to just provide you a repertoire of options. So I'll give you a couple of books. I've been listening to. One is called Grit by Angela Duckworth, and it's the power and passion of perseverance, phenomenal book heady in some ways, because it's about research.
And the research of grit and grit, meaning like tough fortitude. People who see it through. She does a study on a West point grads. And at the time of her study for about 10 years, they had about an 18 to 22% fallout rate in their freshmen cadets. We live across the street from the Air Force Academy here in Colorado Springs. So I can see that the chapel and the fly overs for the games. So when she was talking about West Point, that's a similar university for military. And she was trying to figure out why so many people were dropping out. And what she found over 10 years was that there's a difference between skill and talent and grit and fortitude and not everybody has both.
So definitely worth a read. Another one I've been listening to is Blue Highways, and it's by William Least Heat-Moon narrated by Joe Barrett. This is about 15 hours. It's a long listen, but man, it is musical. It reminds me a lot of John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie. It's a book about this guy who takes off from Columbia, Missouri. Where I actually grew up as a kid and he takes off and takes what he calls the blue highways versus the red and what they are is the small back roads. And he goes on this journey of America and it's a more modern-day version than Travels with Charlie, if you ever listened to that, but definitely a phenomenal book. And just really, you know, what he finds is behind every community, behind every diner, behind every blue highway, he finds real people that want similar things that you and I want, which is to love our people well, to enjoy our life too, you know, have a meaning and a purpose and, and a connection to the place that we live in.
And it's a beautiful book. Another one is, I actually have as an upcoming guest here in the next few months is Vagabonding, you've heard me mention this before an uncommon guide to long-term travel and his name is Rolf Potts. If you've ever listened to Tim Ferriss's podcast, the Tim Ferriss Show, he raves about Rolf Potts in this book, the Four-Hour Workweek - Tim's first book. This was largely inspired by, by Rolf Potts book. I contacted Rolf and he'll be on the podcast sometime this spring, he's finishing up a book that he's getting ready to publish and was doing some long-term travel, but would be more available sometime in March, April. So what's fun about this book is I think it's very challenging in one of the stories he tells early on is a Chinese Proverb and he talks about the story of these guys that have infinite choice and infinite flexibility and infinite options.
And every year they say, well, when the weather improves next year, we'll do that when the harvest is well, the next year we'll do that. And they go on to subsequently year after year after year, put off the things that they dream about and talk about, and then never actually happened. And he talks a lot about that story. I think it challenges the norm, the norm of thinking of how we, especially as Americans, it's very common for us to work 50 weeks a year and take off two. And I just had a friend come back from Europe after living over for three years. And he just said, it is an entirely unthinkable concept to not use all your vacation days. If you live in Europe, he said, they actually have a Work Life Play rhythm and balance that's sustainable. And he said, I used to be the guy who would have unused days in those, the idea of like carryover of, I get three weeks a year, but I carry over a week every year for the just in case, but that is just an insulting idea to Europeans.
So for our friends here, and I was just looking through a geography list of listeners of where you guys are coming from and listening from. So for those of you that I see in the UK, I'm on my list here and Belgium and Germany and France and Netherlands. Thank you. Thanks for showing us the way. Thanks for leading the way for us. Because as you know, we Americans, we can very easily get wrapped around the wrong axle and our life, all about work in achievement and very little about actually living and enjoying our life. And when we have this concept of retirement that we're supposed to hold out for, and that then, you know, when we turn 60 X number of years and we retire, then we get to begin living our lives with all this freedom. And it's just a farce. And I think that the whole thing is FUBAR is my word for it. So those are a couple of titles that I think you might enjoy.
One of my favorite defaults that I go back to very often is Steven Pressfield's The
War of Art, and it's about winning the war of what I just call creating things. I have lots of people that I interact with that are creating things from non-profits to books, and websites, and musicians. And it's just so uncanny how the same it all is. I have friends that are pastors. I have friends that are therapists. I have friends that are athletes. I have friends that are engineers and architects in everything under the moon and the sun and beyond. And it's all the same. It's really hard to continually create new things and put yourself out there. And I find that Steven Pressfield's narration of our internal dialogue about that war and what that's like is really helpful. So I listened to this book probably, I don't know, two to four times a year.
The reason I do audiobooks is that I tend to run and be active a lot, not necessarily always sitting in a chair, I tend to fall asleep pretty quickly. If I sit down in a chair and start reading. So I tend to read less and listen. Okay. A couple more. Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud and the concept and idea is about the idea of things are intended to have necessary endings. Sometimes there's a relationship. Sometimes those are jobs and careers. Sometimes those are employees. Sometimes those are, you know, endeavors that you're working on that are not working phenomenal book. I marinate in this one, pretty frequently.
I�ll mention two more: Falling Upward a by Richard Rohr. The idea is spirituality for the second half of life. He's a Franciscan priest in New Mexico and has written countless books. But this one has been really, really helpful. I'll turn 45 here in a couple of weeks. So the idea of being on a second-half is interesting to me and I had a friend recommend it and I found it to be very helpful. And he basically talks about how in the second half of your life at a spiritual level, you begin to ask different sets of questions or you should be and living differently. And then the final one I'll mention is Bird by Bird, which is by Anne Lamott. And it's about writing. And if you've ever heard of it, I think it's a Traveling Mercies is one of the titles of her books. She's a really interesting creature and phenomenal articulate. She's an amazing storyteller and writer.
And she talks about writing in this book. So if you want to be a writer and I actually had a friend of mine suggested this to me and talk about what it would look like to be a writer. And she talks about how she works with her students. Again, phenomenal book. And I've been taking my time through this one and relishing through certain chapters. So anyway, there's a handful to get you started and hopefully, you'll enjoy those and pick one off of the audible library or order on Amazon or however you consume books. So I'd like to ask you for two favors. One is I would love for you to share this podcast out. What I've noticed is in the last year, a year ago, January, the number of listeners downloads that this podcast had was in the hundreds.
And so I've been at it for, you know, four or five years. It wasn't impressive by any stretch. However, what is impressive to me and I'm proud of is that, you know, I started this from scratch and turned it on and found a way with juggling day job and family and all the other things of career and all the challenges that I've consistently shown up and done the work. So a year later you know, 10 times that in terms of people that interact with this podcast and how that gets measured is by downloads. It cannot actually know who the people are, but I know that in terms of numbers of downloads per episode, downloads for all episodes, what countries they're coming from geographically and breakouts that way. So that's really just been super fun to see, you know, essentially a 10 X growth.
And recently I've had the opportunity to be interviewed on a couple of podcasts. So I wanted to mention that if you ever have heard of Zig Ziglar, he passed away a couple of years ago, but definitely in the likes of a Tony Robbins of an inspirational speaker, they have a podcast that they carry on now in Zig's name that I was interviewed on back in October. And I want to say that it, yeah, if you look up the Ziglar Show and it's about firing your boss about the book that I wrote and really just a great interview, Kevin Miller, who runs that podcast is a friend of mine and just did a phenomenal job. And I think, as a result, we had some really meaningful content that you'd enjoy. So you want to go check that out and we'd love for you also to share out episodes here of Work Life Play. And what's important about that is it's. I remember when I first started in a sales job, 20 some odd years ago, that sales trainer that we had and actually Zig Ziglar was one of those back in the day is they would talk about, it's not important. What's important is what other people say about you. And that's what they call a third-party endorsement is what they termed it back then in what that was about was basically just saying that's what makes impacts happen is if you go around banging on your chest and saying, Hey, I'm so great. That doesn't get people to listen, but it's not near as compelling is what someone says about you or your work or the impact you have on their work or their life, their family, or their play. When they say it about you. Because when I tell you guys peer-to-peer about these five books, I just rattled off. It'd be way different than if I have the author on here for all five of those. Now it would be compelling to listen to them, but I can say, Hey, these are really great books. You should check these out. That's that third-party endorsement because saying that, Hey, I think this is worth sharing.
I think this is worth leaning into. So I would love for you to share this out to people that you think it would be helpful. I do this fairly frequently with other podcasts that I listened to, other books that I listened to and just say, Hey, I thought about you. I thought that this would be
Kind of cool for you, or I listened to this topic the other day and maybe the whole entire podcast may not be spot on for them, but I know a particular episode may be spot on for where they're at in their life. So I would love if you would help continue to share and continue to expand the impact and the reach of what we do here together on work-life play and sharing these ideas and concepts to others that you think would be helpful.
Okay. So second ask, I would love for you to write me directly and write me and tell me about your experience and how this podcast has been helpful to you and the purpose. And the reason I want to do that is actually want to take those, with your permission and be able to start incorporating some of those sound and slivers here into the podcast. So I have a couple of guys and gals that I've reached out to already. Just say, hey, would you mind recording a little snippet for me or writing in an email and what I'm going to do too, for those of you that written in before, I'm going to write in a response and ask your permission directly to use some of the stories that you've shared with me. So let me tell you what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a personal story of here's how I've started to approach things differently. Here's how, because of the ideas that we explore together on the podcast or through my field reports on the blog or through my books that I've offered, here's how you've started to engage your work differently. Here's how you've started to engage your life and relationships and health differently. Here's how I had a gal right in a couple months ago about restoring balance and about changing her atmosphere and how much that changed the way she approaches her day. Now I'll go back and hopefully get permission to use her name on that and give you a more full story on those. But I think what's helpful is I want you guys to know how other people are actually incorporating in these ideas and concepts that actually make it in practically into their life. I have lots of friends that I've gotten to know over the years now that will ping me when they're in a geographic location throughout the country and the world and say, Hey, what microadventure do you know about in XYZ backyard? Where I'm at right now, I'd love to go check something out. And so that's been really fun. So what I've found is that living more adventurously wherever they end up on their business travels, that they start to think about business travel differently than just going to dinner and, you know, going to eat sushi, going to see a hotel, a conference room in an airport, and then calling it good. But if they can find 30 minutes to an hour and a half to go check out a museum or go find a run or do whatever thing is in the backyard of where they're traveling. So those are the kinds of things I'd love to be able to share with you from a practical standpoint of how people are trying these ideas on and then implementing them in their life. And then the subsequent result is that they end up living a life that they're more stoked about, find more enjoyment, more satisfaction, and more just being present to actually suck the juices from the life that they have right now versus always waiting and deferring for some fictitious life they might have in the future. So if you could do that for me, if you can contact me at email@example.com. That's my personal email address, it will go straight to me and I promise to read all of them and get back with you. But we'd love to hear from you and love to start sharing some of the select stories that I might curate from that. So it'd be really meaningful and helpful to me if you do the both of those things.
Okay. Onto today's big idea, the big idea is rethinking how you manage your emotional energy. And when I originally wrote this, I was actually having a conversation with a friend. And he and I were talking about this going in 2015. I experienced a significant burnout and just full on depletion and found myself at a place I'd never been before. And in this conversation I was describing to my friend and just saying, I think the best way I know to say it is, it's like rethinking my emotional energy at a calorie level and beginning to manage my emotional calories, just like I do my food and where this idea came from. As I've spent 20 some odd years as an endurance athlete, you spend a lot of time figuring out how many calories your body requires in order to fuel a race. So in a triathlon, for instance, I've done an iron man triathlon in 2005, and you have to figure out what your calorie burn rate is per hour in order to fuel and power yourself over this long distance course, 140.6 miles.
So what I discovered in that was that my calorie intake rate versus my calorie burn rate, what kind of calories have to go in? And what I mean by that is you get really specific about what's protein versus what's carbohydrates versus what sugar versus what's fat, all those types of things. And you begin to learn what your body processes well, and especially over a race course that's that long. And I've done marathons and I'm training right now for an ultramarathon through a race or an organized run adventure run I'm doing with a couple of friends in April in Zion National Park. So this idea of thinking of calories and thinking of intake, food, nutrients, the type of nutrient you take in, and then also then the burn rate or depletion rate, or how many calories per hour or per, you know, my case, swim, bike, and run.
Each of those had a slightly different calorie. Like when you get to a run on a triathlon, I can't eat the same thing I can on the bike. When you're swimming, you obviously can't intake that many calories. So because you're swimming, you can't put water in your mouth and food at the same time. So I think that, that my experiences as an athlete has helped me think about emotional energy differently. And that's the idea I want to share with you guys about, let me talk about emotional energy and what I'm referring to, meaning how this translates to your every day. So I believe that when you wake up, I think this is a mysterious, difficult to measure at a cellular level. I don't know where in ourselves, where in our DNA, where in our anatomy structure, emotional energy is contained. I don't know. I'm not a scientist for one. And secondly, I'm not sure where it's stored, but I know there's a lot of research and I've done some research myself on it, of this idea of we have a physical self, and then we have an emotional, spiritual self and the physical body that we're reliant upon to power our endeavors.
Well, it's also true about our physical body, our physical, or rather our emotional capacity. So the idea is that at the bottom, at the end of the day, we have a finite amount of resources emotionally to invest every day. And that's the starting place is that I did not believe for the first half of my life that my emotional energy was limited and that my capacity was constrained essentially. And what I mean by that is think of it in terms of like a diet.
If you have a 2000 calorie diet a day where you could intake in 2000 calories, and that usually then equates to the same required calories for living an optimal output in your day. So if you go to work every day, if you take your kids to soccer, if you go for a walk at lunch with friends, if you go to a party in the evening, if you have a chess club on Friday afternoons, all of that takes power, all that takes energy and all that has to be consumed and taken in, in the form of nutrients and calories and it has to come from a stored energy place. So all of us understand the concept of food, nutrients, burn depletion. Why I believe the same is true about our emotional energy and the flaw in my thinking for years was that if I went to bed that tomorrow morning I would wake up and that I was a hundred percent replenished from the previous day.
And I've found that for me, that's not true that I could live any way I chose. I could go at any pace I chose to go at. I could have endless supplies of, yes. Hey, can you help me with this? Sure. Can you sign up for this project? Sure. Hey, you mind if we promote you and add you to this org chart? Sure. Hey honey, can you help me fix the car? Sure. So every day I'd go about my day and I just took everything as it came to me. And what I mean by that is everything that came my way. I fielded it.
And I really looked at it like spring training for baseball is about to begin and spring training. You see guys that are just sitting in hitting to the Fieldman second base, second base. Here's another grounder. Here's a puff flies right field. And you're just ground. You're fielding grounders. You're fielding balls all day long. So the guy that's sitting there at bat can just keep cranking out balls in spring training to the guys on the field ball after ball, after ball, after ball, after ball, after ball, after ball. And that was how I lived my life. Whatever ball got hit, my way, inbound email. Great. I better respond to that text. Great. Better respond with commitment. Okay, sure. I can do that. Oh no. Okay. I'll move these three things around. So the answer for me, it was just kind of always, yes, I'm always on. I'm always available. I'm always coming through and I believed if I go to bed tonight, then I should be able to restore and replenish a hundred percent of my emotional energy. And it's just not true. So at 45, I can now say almost 45, that a hundred percent of my renewable available energy emotionally.
And my emotional energy is the stuff that powers that gives me the, the wherewithal, the, the grit, the excitement, the passion, the sustainability, the creativity, the ideas, this is so critically important to be able to actually do the things in our life we want to do. And that includes in our relationships and loving people. Well, when I have operated relationally out of a depleted place with my family, my wife, with my friends, with my job, with people who work for me, when I operate out of a depleted mal-nutritioned place, emotionally for my emotional energy, then I have had subpar results in all cases. So just like a race when I've had triathlons or marathons that I've done my very first marathon, I tried, I didn't finish. I made it to mile 24. And I had this ingenious plan that I had read in a magazine article a few weeks before that I was going to demo and trial on race day and that beautiful, wonderful plan that sounded so good in the magazine was to wake up three or four hours before I was going to get on the racecourse, eat a plain bowl of spaghetti, go back to bed, wake up.
So be carbo loaded, wake up, drink water, pound, some Advil. So I think I probably took four to six. Let's just say four Advil. And then my racecourse nutrition was going to be to drink water only because Gatorade gave me heartburn and to pop Advil every hour or so. So this beautifully
planned strategy was the assumption that as I was going to be powering a marathon from stored energy. And then I would take in zero calories, zero nutritional benefit. And I would suppress the pain with Advil to get me to the finish. Well about mile 17. I started up chucking that combination of spaghetti water and Advil. It did not agree with my system because at mile 17, I turned the corner and grabbed a grape, which in racing, triathlon marathon and Durant sports, you never experiment on a racecourse. You always implement what you've practiced before. So that was very similar to how I was living. My life is I don't need any nutrition. I can power through this. I'll slim some Advil and suffer through the pain and I'm going to get to the end. And the irony was I was able to do it a lot.
Did it actually work? I found a way to suffer well. And what I didn't realize was that every day as I read every email that came in my inbox, I responded to every person who wanted to go have lunch or have coffee. I attempted to be, you know, Superman, super dad, super employee, super everything that it was depleting me at a cellular level, one calorie at a time, one emotional calorie at a time. And I was able to live this way for a good solid 10 years, maybe 15 today. I'm not proud of that because I've reached a limit of what I can now say is a more honest range of capacity that I have to live within. So the reason I want to share this with you is if you're at a place where you were there, there's a little bit of a crux of the beginning of a new year, and it's kind of this supposed to be this Yahoo! Yahoo, it's New Years, start over. I hope this year is better than last, and I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that. And there's a lot of planning and Gusto! and Yahoo! that goes into forward-looking. But for some of us, for some of you might be just super tired and worn out feeling a little dull and just kind of, not sure why you�re flirting with burnout. And when the idea of looking down the long tunnel of a New Year is actually depressing and hard to think about. Maybe you've been pushing way too hard for way too long. I can attest to that. I was too strong for too long, and I was just bone tired. Maybe you just finished a long, insane season of work of you just accomplished some really cool thing in your work that you just have lots of people I know, and friends that launched new products start new companies, but it's depleting. It's hard to keep sustaining that forever.
And maybe you've just had a ton of personal life crisis in the last few months. We have a friend right now that my wife and I were just speaking about this morning that she has breast cancer just diagnosed back in November. And I ran into her right before Christmas holidays. And she's just absolutely on all levels depleted emotionally, physically, spiritually, and just zapped.
So if you're finding your self in a place like that, and maybe it's just not severe, maybe it's just a dull gray headache, dull grade level. That it's not enough for it to be like, it's a nuisance more than it's like a prevailing dominant theme, but nevertheless, you know, it's there and you can't shake it. So I think what's helpful is if we kind of take a step back and look back at our life and our work and our play and our relationships and our health and these different categories on the dashboard and try and start looking at, okay, where, where am I burning way more calories than I'm putting in for nutrients. And this idea of nutrients is really about containing an either in stored energy or in nutrient intake in order to power, the things you want to do. So let's just make this super simple. Let's just say you got back from a two week vacation in Greece and you and your family ate and drank and slept and took naps and long walks on the beach. And you were in this ancient place that's been going on for thousands and thousands of years before and you just were at ease in your email box. You came, first of all, it was turned off for a week. So you didn't check email one time. You didn't have one conference call, nobody needed anything from you. And you were a hundred percent present to the people that you were with. And then when you came back, your inbox read zero. So it wasn't 642 emails waiting for you, which is just nonsense. So you just came back and you're back at work. And when you start thinking and dreaming about your life in those long pauses that you had in the beach chair, you began to wonder and think like, man, this could be really cool. If I, if I could live like this, I remember myself. I would say, man, I could be really good at this. If this was my job, I could be, I could be really good at vacation.
And what I was scratching at, what I was tilting at was I could be really good if I could live with this kind of a full tank. If I had this kind of a full tank all the time to pour into and power out of this emotional reservoir, that's been filled up of my emotional energy, then man, I could, I could actually lead well, I could actually be patient. I could actually be better about my choices in my health about my diet, about my sleep schedule. I could actually probably be more optimistic. I could be super excited and believe that abundance was the overarching narrative of my life versus scarcity that I lived under for so long. So if you think of it in those terms, and when I mentioned emotional calories, when I'm talking about these as little tiny fragments, just like a new nutrient calorie that this piece of stored energy will, somehow that energy has to come from somewhere so that the positive contribution, the positive deposit of energy that goes in is then used to power something you do with it.
So I believe that emotional calories is a better description and at a better way to begin to think about nutrients we take in. And so let me describe a little bit what I mean about nutrients. So a key one for me is rest and sleep. I'm a solid, I need seven hours is about my sleep rate that I need to feel replenished. I can get by on five, barely eight is awesome, but seven is my solid. Now rest I've learned as part of that also, and rest can mean taking a five minute breather. So specifically about that, what I mean on rest is I did a blog and a podcast about restoring balance and resting was one of the micro arrests and just taking five minutes. It's like I've spent a lot of my career on the phone in sales and marketing. And what I found is it's super easy that Outlook will allow everyone to see your calendar. And when you're in leadership and people are counting on you, it is very easy, especially in a sales role for everyone to own a piece of your calendar so much so that you, that I owned none of mine. And I began to insert in my calendar five, 10, 15 minutes, even 30 minutes, an hour-long scheduled meetings. And I would pepper them throughout my week. It wasn't always the same exact time every single day. Cause people were like, Oh, I know what that is. That's his lunch. He's just trying to block that out. I know he doesn't need that. So, I started just adding them in so that I could have these micro rests. And the reason I was doing that is I realized, you know, what, if I don't have some moment caloric, nutrient intake deposits.
If I don't have some soul food, some emotional food, which to me is peace and quiet and rest. Then I'm not going to be worth anything. I'm going to be out of gas by the time it's two o'clock in the day, because one by one by one by one, one hour at a time when 30-minute call at a time, my emotional calories are being depleted by this conversation. Sales and marketing, it's super stressful because you're always carrying the weight of coming through. And the truth is if you're a mom, you're always carrying the weight of coming through for your family. You're always carrying the weight of grief of family's health, of laundry, of the house, that family calendar, there's an endlessness to it. So for each of us, we can find a story that points to how, how and where we get regularly depleted for me, what I began to realize is that I had such a small diet of positive nutrients to feed my emotional energy, that I could then store in emotional calories, that then would be available to invest that I was basically living in anemic, malnutrition life.
Going back to the idea of 2000 calories a day, I would burn 2,500 to 3,500, some days, 7,000 calories of emotional output and energy and all I'd get done. The problem was I was intaking, not enough for a human to exist on because I spent all of my time expanding and that expenditure over time, I would use the word eventually. Eventually for all of us, it's going to catch up with us. Eventually. I believe it's one of the governing laws of the universe is that eventually you will grow tired and weary. Eventually you and I will be out of gas. Eventually we will have to find some nutrition. Eventually it's going to catch up with us. And instead of living that forward life headed towards a cliff, I don't want to repeat that. I've already done that once. And what I want to offer on this idea of emotional calories, emotional intake is identifying what are the things that fill your emotional tank?
And this is not the time to think about how practical those things are. That's most people skip identifying what emotionally fills them up, what emotionally fills their tank. What's a positive emotional caloric nutrient for them because they go right to, well, that'll never happen. Push that aside. That's not helpful right now. Just move it aside. Who cares, what those excuses and reasons and practical, real life limitations are for right now, the first place to start is what are the things that actually fill your tank rewind the clock 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. What were the things that filled your tank for me? Their time with my family, adventure is a huge one. Quiet is a huge one. I need peace and quiet. I need to be able to withdraw and go away and ponder and think about things and then come back.
And re-engage them prayer for me, time alone with God doing work. I love I've found that there's a, a smaller reservoir for spending time during the day, during a work week on work that just doesn't fire me up. Like I have a smaller capacity. I used to be able to just say, Oh, whatever, I just got to do this. And when I was 25, that was true. And 20 years later, I have a few more choices than I used to have. So I can't afford to be more selective about some of the work that I do, but that also changes some of the selection of choices and options that I have. But what I've learned is that the calorie burn rate for me, the calories required to do work. I don't love is so much higher. I could do 10 hours of work that I love to every one hour of work that I don't love.
And I think, you know what I mean? I have lots of friends that by duty and obligation, which is super honorable, do work, they don't love. And the challenge is, and this is where I think this idea can backfire on us duty and obligation are full of integrity. And they're very honorable. The problem is if the duty and integrity and honor of what we're doing drives us and keeps us, you know, on the plow with two hands. If we become someone lesser than our best self, because of our duty and obligation, I think that's a different kind of loss. It's super honorable. And I did this for a long time. My hands on the plow I'm providing for my family, there's integrity in my duty. And then in my honor, and in my provision, and there always will be the part that I realized was happening.
Concurrently is something in me was being eroded. And so the challenge was my burn rate kept going up and there was no way I was going to be able to replenish those emotional calories day after day after day. So then I would go away for a week or two days or a weekend or whatever it may be to try and replenish some of these emotional calories and these nutrients by putting deposits of good friends and adventure and laughter and you know, all these things I mentioned, and I would try and replenish what was depleted in me. And it temporarily would work. It was a temporary bomb. And if you're anything like me, then you may be able to go do these temporary fixes, add some emotional calorie contribution, nutrients into your stored energy to come back re-engage. But then if in a matter of days, weeks, you're just back at teetering on bankruptcy again, and too many withdraws to the number of deposits that you can't, you can't, you can't live like that. It won't work eventually. I know that that creates a crux. It creates a problem because to expose a problem and a challenge in a crux without providing a hopeful solution is almost it's painfully cruel.
But I think the best thing to do is start with an honest assessment about how we live our life, an honest assessment with where, where are the nutrients coming from? And I do a lot of these things visually. So if you look in the show notes, there's actually a post I wrote about this as lessons I've learned in managing my emotional calories for optimal output. And you'll see some drawings that I created for this to try and visualize and flush this idea out visually. But I think the challenge is if we don't get honest first about what fills us up and what depletes us, then it's not, we're going to repeat the same behaviors. If let's say the solution is a job change, let's say the solution is cut half of this stuff in your schedule out and say, no, if you don't get to the bottom of the habits, behaviors that got you there in the first place that I have found, I just simply replicate my same bad behavior, same unhelpful beliefs and systems and all these things I do the next place, the next relationship I'm in with a friend or the next project I take on at work or the next career thing I do or whatever it may be.
The reason I want to start with this fundamental bedrock level idea of caloric, emotional energy, nutrition, caloric depletion rates of depletion is then begin to start naming what the costs and benefits are to maybe see if you could start evening them out. What if next week you lived on a 2000 calorie diet of nutrients coming in and you can kind of go through and I'm going to give you some starters on this idea and that then your rate of depletion, your calorie burn rate, your calorie requirement matched. What if they were just equal? They were just a zero sum game net zero. To me, that was revolutionary. I didn't live like that. I lived deficit def con three all the time, negative, you know, 500 to 2000 calories a day. And then I wondered why I ended up in the counselor's room in a therapist room and a week-long intensive and having to take a four month leave of absence and all these other things.
I was in a bad way. What I began to do was on my recovery. I started thinking through, okay, let's just think about this for a second. So I know what these things are that fill me up. And I think rest and sleep is probably for me like 800 calories. Maybe it's a thousand, I'm a good nights, sleep consistently. That's a positive gain. But then when I started looking at like caloric depletion, I'm like man business travel for three nights or more. I'm thinking that's like a hundred emotional calories per day, times three stressful day at work, just constant phone calls. Okay. There's 150 emotional calories per day. One difficult conversation of any kind personal professional. You name it a hundred emotional calories extracted my pace of life. When I live hurried and busy. Okay. I'm guessing that's 200 calories over or over a day or maybe 75. Some days I went through and said, you know what? What depletes me is a hundred new unread emails every day. Well, to me, that's a hundred calories, just chewed up, endless to dues. It drives me bonkers.
The idea of a to-do list that never has an end. I have to start new ones and throw old ones away. Just so I feel like I get something off the list, because if not to me, when I'm in a bad place, it can feel like an avalanche, like a conveyor belt that just won't stop. By identifying the things that deplete me, the things that are a challenge for me and actually naming how many calories, those costs mean it doesn't, it's not about math magic, perfection. It's about just attempting to approach our life differently because here's the challenge is that each of us have these things we want to do. I really want to, I just heard a great story last yesterday from a friend in a dentist's waiting list, a waiting room that about her grant, her parents taking her kids on a big mega trip when they turned 16.
Here's this cool power thing. They want to power this thing. Well, that thing takes money. I think takes time. That thing takes physical health and emotional health. And she went on to tell a story that they didn't have the fiscal health to go on the big trip that the kids wanted to go on because they're aging, but they had had the money and the time. So they kind of worked a deal out where the kids could go with the parents and the grandparents help power it. The parents, the emotional energy to be able to go do this. So every one of us has things we want to do. Well, it's a trip you want to go on. It's a state. We'd like our family to be in our relationships. It's physical health. We wish we had it's things we want to accomplish in our life. So if those things are going to require emotional energy in order to achieve those things as a reality, then the way to close the gap on where you are today and where you would like to be, where I would like to be is by beginning to get honest at a daily level like we do with our nutrition, like we do with our diet.
I think this has been super helpful. It's been a massive shift for me and it's not precise. That's not the point. The first point is awareness is acknowledging that each of us have a limited supply of emotional energy. That is, is renewable if managed correctly. And the best way I know how to describe that is like a solar powered battery and a solar powered battery or rechargeable battery has to be once it's been depleted, has to be replenished by exposure to the energy source. So we've got little AA batteries at home. They're rechargeable, you drop them in the wall, plug them in. They recharge overnight. You come back, you pull them out. But the interesting thing is even those batteries over time begin to have to get replaced because they won't fully replenish or their lifespan becomes shortened over continual use. I don't think we're that different.
I think if we don't expose ourselves to regular energy replenishment, for whatever fuels you continually, and if we're not shrewd and almost like Dave Ramsey, financial advisor is with budgets. He says about finances. You want to live like no one else today. So that later in your life, you can live like no one else. And the reason he says that is you have to be shrewd and calculated about how you live today because you work too hard to be this broke. So later in your life, if you want to be retired and have choices and go on a trip with grandkids or whatever it is you want to go, do you want to take off as Rolf Potts talks about the art of long-term travel and Vagabonding, well, you have to live like no one else in order to live like no one else.
So I believe emotional caloric intake managing our emotional calories is the same premise is the way to have the life. We want to have the work that we want to do in this world, that dent in the world. We want to make the impact, the lasting, meaningful contribution to what we do in our career, what we do in life. I really want to go at some point, work in an orphanage in an impoverished country. I have a couple ideas of where that might be. And I realize it's going to take time, effort, energy, money. And some of that's going to just take choice that I have to power that into how I architect my life in the future for play. I'm going to go on a trip with my brother next month. We're going to go sea kayaking in the sea of Cortez, which is down in the Baja peninsula of Mexico.
Something I've dreamed about for 10, 15 years, but that's going to take money. It's going to take time. It's going to take emotional energy. And it's going to take a carve-out to say, tell everything else in my life know for that period of swatch of time to go do. And my hope is that that is going to be a huge, big, old deposit to my emotional nutrients, to my emotional Calor calorie and energy system. And then I'm going to come back with a fuller tank that then will enable for me to power and invest and fuel and budget that cause I don't want to come back and just blow it all in the first week. I'm back into my real life and work again. I want to come back with a reservoir and building in habits in my life that are sustainably, renewable, sustainably contributing to my emotional energy bank account, and then begin to look at my days and my weeks and my months and my choices at a like I would budgeting, where do I want to invest?
Where can I not afford? Or when do I just need to schedule it for a future date? And just like you would invest in manage your money. I believe our emotional energy is a currency that has to be managed. And then going back to the idea of just fielding grounders at sports at spring training games endlessly all day, every day, just field every ground or that comes your way. No way it doesn't work. Eventually you're going to have enough in your arm's going to be worn out and you're not going to be able to Chuck the ball from center field to home plate. You can't, you can't keep it up. So you have to choose which balls are you going to go for? Which ones are going to let go? Which ones are you going to say? Push, pause. I need a break. Which ones do you tap out and say, Hey, I need a break. I think that those shrewd ways of beginning to live, help us begin to have better, more optimal output in our life. Which for me, here's the summary. I have been able to accomplish more meaningful things in my life.
In the last two years. I'd say the last year is probably more fair because it took me a while to get my legs back under me again in the last year than I have in previous numerous years, because I've become more shrewd, choosy, intentional about how I manage and run my life in this manner. And when you go to think about implementing this in your own life, I would recommend that you just start super small and maybe even start in quiet, because if you go out and start announcing to everybody, Hey, I can't afford to do that with you because that's an emotional spend.
I can't afford it may not be super popular. Maybe your point, you don't give a crap. And where I started was just pausing and pausing. When I looked at my day, when I looked at my week, when I looked at where I was going to invest my yeses through the course of a week, it was really helpful to begin to think of it in this way and really begin to calculate. When am I going to make sure I have some emotional nutrients, caloric, positive intake coming in and crapping out on the couch, watching some Netflix is cool. But it may be different than actually going out and having a half hour with a friend and just having a conversation and connecting, or I've been going rock climbing every other week or so with some buddies on Tuesday night. Tonight I'm going to hopefully join some guys by headlamp on the Pike's Peak incline.
And I know for me, those are soul filling. Like that's some fatty, really good long burn rate stuff like peanut butter versus the quick flash in the pan, you know, burst sugar which is what Netflix can be for me for half hour. So I think it's really important to comprehend. The starting thing is you've got a limited supply and you're here to do great things. Your life is meaningful to people and it should be meaningful to you and you should invest your life forward in a direction that you're proud of, that you've defined as meaningful. You've defined as relevant, and you've defined as your version of a good story. And that should find its way into this trifecta of work life and play. And in order to have energy to play and have fun and live adventurously and be curious and be off the clock, it has to be calculated.
There's too much choice in the world we live in and there's too many conflicting priorities to just naturally have this by-product of ease in our life. It doesn't exist or I've never found it. So I've found that the only way to have play and ease and adventure is to choose it and to be shrewd about how I find it. So I believe this is good for us. I believe this can enable for us to keep going in a sustainable way and enable for us to achieve more of the well lived experience of life, work, play health, relationships, connectivity, achievement, success that we have defined as important to us. And it will enable for you to experience more of it more often. Thanks for taking the time to hang in here on this big idea topic, you can do this. Keep going I'm Aaron McHugh, your host. I really appreciate your help. Really appreciate you being a part of this adventure. Let's keep going.
You've been listening to Work Life Play. If you like what you've heard, please do us a favor and rate us on iTunes. It really does help. You can get more information about this and other episodes at aaronmchugh.com. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being part of this adventure for being part of braving, the pioneering work of discovering sustainable work life, play rhythms, love your work, live your life and play a whole lot more. I'm Aaron McHugh. Keep going.
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