I worked hard at MIT. I routinely took seven to ten classes per semester and filled whatever hours were left in the day with part-time jobs and tutoring. It was a fairly stupid way of going about my education, and I missed out on many of the learning opportunities that MIT offers outside of classes. I don’t recommend what I did to anyone. But as stupid as carrying double course loads was, it had one advantage: After all the long hours I put into MIT, I believed I was invincible. If MIT couldn’t burn me out, nothing else ever could.
It took roughly three months before BCG disproved my “burn-out proof” theory. Putting together PowerPoint slides was easy, the hours were lenient, and the fifth day of every week usually consisting of a leisurely day away from the client site. By all accounts, I should have been coasting through my tasks.
What I learned is that burning out isn’t just about work load, it’s about work load being greater than the motivation to do work. It was relatively easy to drag myself to classes when I thought I was working for my own betterment. It was hard to sit at a laptop and crank out slides when all I seemed to be accomplishing was the transfer of wealth from my client to my company.