The Other Side Of The Burnout Debate

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We want to thank Carrie Caulfield from Ya Ya Podcasting for taking the time to write a well-thought-out response to our column about burnout, which generated a lot of feedback. Some of you disagreed with the column, some agreed, others just got plain ugly and angry. Here’s what Carrie had to say…

I feel to make an accurate assessment of whether you’re speaking from savvy or privilege, I’d have to know more about your background and personal life. So, I’ll just be Devil’s Advocate instead…

Burnout doesn’t happen for lack of passion or because of some personality defect. Burnout happens for a variety of different reasons and takes many forms, but in talking with lots and lots of podcasters on social media, in my business and for my show, I think it boils down to some key things:

1) Vulnerability. Most people aren’t comfortable putting themselves out there. There’s a lot of science that backs this up. We don’t like exposing our underbelly and that’s exactly what podcasting forces us to do. I’ve talked to some podcasters who actually talk about having “vulnerability hangovers” after launching their show or doing anything big with it… they need more sleep, have less energy, enter a funk… Some even end up getting physically ill immediately after. Add in how effortless the podcasters make it look… and it’s a recipe for a lot of “why do I suck?” moments.

2) They have zero experience. I mean none. They are literally learning how to create, edit, distribute, and market a podcast. They are learning to build websites. They have no idea what buttons to push where. They’re learning new software. And there’s a ton of noise to wade through to figure out what to use and how work everything. There’s five new languages to learn. They’re learning by doing, which means there’s a lot failure. (See point 1 for the extra layer of hardness.)

3) They have a full-time job, maybe side hustle, are in school full-time, AND are doing a podcast… with zero help. Those can be 100-hour weeks. Most humans can’t sustain that sort of schedule for long and something has to give. Passion or not. It’s tough on the body and mind, not to mention relationships.

Also, comparing professional radio hosts to podcasters is apples and oranges. Radio shows typically have a person to handle the engineering, guest booking, marketing, website, etc. There’s staff and resources that the average podcaster does not have. And I’m assuming 99% of radio hosts get paid to show up. Ninety-nine percent of podcasters pay to show up.

4) They have kids. Those little humans require a lot of time. You have to do everything around a certain schedule. And kids eat up a lot of emotional energy. Layer on points 2 and 3 and I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

5) They are the primary caregivers in the home. I won’t limit this to moms or women because it’s true for men as well. They have to do the laundry, plan and cook the meals, clean the toilets, care for the pets, doctors and dentist, PTA, family functions, and if they have a family member with a disability it makes time and energy scarce.

For instance, I have an autistic kid. There’s no hiring a babysitter for a few hours. There’s no asking him to wait a minute while I finish this task. And we spend a crazy amount of time with doctors and therapists or on the phone with the school. Dude, I live in a constant state of stress and worry. It’s exhausting.

6) They’ve got stuff. Life is hard. Sometimes, people deal with issues you can’t imagine. Even podcasters. Sometimes that thing they’re really passionate about has to do with that. Not everyone is equipped to compartmentalize or throw themselves into work to deal with it. Sometimes they learn how to deal through podcasting. And that’s wonderful!

I think we need to talk about burnout. I wonder how many podcasters have read your article and now feel like shit, for lack of a better word. They’ve now been discouraged, feel defective and may even be inspired to quit because they are inherently defective. Is that really your goal?

Perhaps, instead of posting about WHY you can’t understand how it’s a thing, maybe talk about HOW you make it not a thing? Because a lot of people would like to know how to show up with more energy to better serve our message and audience… like the pros do.

Carrie Caulfield is the creator of Ya Ya Podcasting and can be reached by e-mail at carrie@yayapodcasting.com

9 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for sharing this perspective Carrie. (And thank you Ed for publishing it) Having experienced both sides myself, apples and oranges indeed. In my limited podcast experience, I’ve seen a lot of what feels like ‘shaming, for lack of a better word. It would be great if we would all remember everyone in this space had to start somewhere, experienced or not, with teams or not. You summed it up very well here: “I think we need to talk about burnout. I wonder how many podcasters have read your article and now feel like shit, for lack of a better word. They’ve now been discouraged, feel defective and may even be inspired to quit because they are inherently defective.”

  2. Thank you for this article, Carrie. Right away from your beginning descriptions I can’t help but feel a strong correlation to the feeling of being a teacher in America. I left my career as a high school English teacher last year after 15 years and moved to Los Angeles to finally focus on learning the ins and outs of the podcasting industry. And like any teacher used to having to balance reading with learning technology with developing relationships with managing schedules with understanding formats and structures and how to project yourself in front of an audience waiting for you to to deliver, I have poured myself into this work in multiple avenues and with unabashed commitment. And after recently leaving my first industry job for another, more focused position, I am starting to venture into more relationships on my own, independent of the work I am doing during the day. And I’m actively working to amp up and improve my own little podcast. And a giant portion of that is embracing vulnerability. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and how one of the things that always endeared me to the 16-18 year olds I taught was that I would talk about almost anything with them. But somehow, talking into a mic in my home studio by myself feels more exposed than talking to a room of 32 teenagers staring right at me and assessing every word I say and thing I wear. And maybe that’s all it is – the instant feedback I was used to (either good or bad) is now slow and dripping through a million filters. But, I digress. The purpose of this response is to relate the experience of of working as a teacher in a school to that of trying to make it as a podcaster, because I think the two worlds attract a lot of the same types of people: those passionate about making a difference in the lives of their audience members. And passion is hard.

  3. Amen, sister! I related to two of your points and definitely believe that is never for lack of passion. This was a well-thought-out article that made me feel better about my own thoughts surrounding my podcast. Thank you!

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