Dr. Wayne Pernell: “You can’t give what you don’t have”

Third, you can adopt one of my sayings which is, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” And that means two things: 1) you can’t serve greatly if you’re running on fumes, so block a “meeting time” with yourself. Even if it’s ten minutes during the day, go get outside for a little air and […]

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Third, you can adopt one of my sayings which is, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” And that means two things: 1) you can’t serve greatly if you’re running on fumes, so block a “meeting time” with yourself. Even if it’s ten minutes during the day, go get outside for a little air and to be in nature and refocus. And 2) you can’t serve greatly if you’re not deliberately growing. Look for areas you can learn or do something new each day.

Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Wayne Pernell.

Dr. Wayne Pernell, (aka “Dr P”) the Breakthrough Success Coach, is known as one of the top mindset coaches and speakers in the world. He is a seasoned leadership advisor, helping entrepreneurs, executives, and their teams to break through to great new levels of productivity, profitability, success, and fulfillment. He is a highly valued Breakthrough Coach, a #1 international best-selling author, a noted relationship expert, a noted mindset expert and international speaker.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up on a windy hillside, opening my jacket to let the gusts hold me up as I leaned in to soar with the hawks. I felt like anything was possible. That feeling got stuffed down, but it’s still there. I think it’s there for all of us. We ache because we know that we’re bigger than the lives we’re leading!

I always had a sense of synesthesia, having a kind of crossover of senses. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that not everyone could taste colors or see hot and cold. I was trained to pay little attention to these senses, though they helped me understand the world and the people in it.

My dad was a dentist and played a large role in local civics, becoming a city councilman and mayor. He was a forward thinker and demanded high performance from the people around him. My mom was a humanitarian and supported my interests in human potential.

I studied hypnosis when I was 12 years old, discovering that what the mind could conceive, the body could achieve. I began my journey in martial arts around the same age.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My parents didn’t always get along, but they lived in a time where you just had to suck it up. My mom was sense oriented and I realized that I modeled myself after her.

In seventh grade (when I was 12 or 13), I sat in a Career Explorations day, listening to a psychologist talk about what he did and how he helped people. That was a thing? Could I do that? I knew that’s the direction I wanted to head! While I didn’t know where it would eventually lead, it was a great path to take!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My parents were my primary support. My dad loved academia and pushed the notion of acquiring knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge. My mom’s manner and humanitarian efforts led me to listen to people differently. I harnessed my intuition and then began fine tuning my direction.

The support that’s been the most profound however, has come from my wife, Shannon. She’s amazing. She sees me growing and pushes me to do more. She sees me starting to get lost and she’ll bring me back — not to her, but to me. It’s what makes the relationship great. We support each other in becoming stronger individuals so that we can be better together.

Along the way, I’ve had several mentors. And when I work with someone, I’m all in. I go to the VIP level because who really learns anything sitting in the back of the room. I’ve worked with Mike Koenigs, Lisa Sasevich, Brendon Burchard, Jeff Walker, Bo Eason, Roger Love, Tricia Brouk, and David Neagle to name a few. I’ve invested quite a lot in my education over the last decade. My growth has been exponential, and I’ve been able to synthesize my learning for my clients! Keeping myself sharp helps me to truly live into my mission and vision. It’s what’s allowed me to become The Breakthrough Success Coach and be called one of the top mindset speakers and coaches.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Well, it’s awkward. It’s not funny, but I sure learned a lot. I was running an organization with about 120 team members. The mistake I made was that I wanted to believe in one of my team members more than he wanted to do his job. I essentially risked my job covering for his inabilities. He was a good person, I thought. But there was evidence that he might have been stealing. I didn’t want to see it. He was young. I wanted to give him a chance. And another chance. And another chance.

By not confronting the things I had heard might be going on, I lost the respect of my other team leaders. And what I learned was that there’s a difference between “nice” and “kind.” It doesn’t always serve you to be nice. You can always be kind. And it’s important to be able to have courageous conversations instead of tolerating things that you know might be a little off.

That goes for everything in your life: Don’t tolerate things that are a little off. Have that courageous conversation with yourself!

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

My dad used to say, “Do Good Stuff.” He passed away just before he turned 99 years old, so he’d been saying that since before many of us were around. People knew him for that phrase: Do Good Stuff.

It’s a great filter for what we each engage in during the day.

Feel like gossiping? Do Good Stuff is the filter and you won’t.

Feel like griping about politics? Yeah… it doesn’t serve you or anyone else to get riled up.

Feel like engaging in an educational program for the underserved? Ah… Do Good Stuff!

It’s a great filter for anything we do in life.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’ve been a pretty darn good coach, consultant, and trainer for over three decades. A couple of years ago I got serious about focusing on speaking more. I want my message of lifting others, Deliberately, Actively, Positively® to be heard. WE don’t make a difference, but a group of individuals who choose to be accountable can make a difference. It starts with one.

I have a desire to take that to Big Stages. And after stepping in and declaring that, this opportunity opened up to me — I was offered to become a part of a documentary following a couple of speakers on their climb. The name of the documentary: Big Stages!

I’m also working on a literacy program. In order to effect change in our world, people globally need to be able to read and think critically. That’s a big one for me, too.

And of course, my coaching program. I just shot a new masterclass — it’s a free online video for our readers to learn about the steps to take in moving from Daring to Desire through Destination! https://www.WaynePernell.com/PowerfulPresenceMasterclass

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

YES!!! I call them my Three Cs to Success!

CLARITY — you have to know what you believe and what you value. It’s where I start with my highest-level business leaders. Who you were isn’t who you are now. Most people recognize that. What most people miss is who they need to become in order to have what they want. When I got clear on what I wanted, in my life and in my business, everything shifted. And as a result, I got clear about who I needed to become. My values shifted and my behaviors around those values shifted.

COMMUNICATION — It’s one thing for you to know who you are becoming and what you value in your personal and professional life. It’s another to let others know. It’s only in sharing what you value and believe in, that others can choose to align with it or choose not to do so. That’s important in both your personal life as well as in your professional life. You don’t have to please everyone, nor should they try to please you. And, through all of it, be clear about what you stand for!

CURIOSITY — Some people know that I travel with a little stuffed monkey: Curious George. I’ll set him on the desk and he just makes me laugh. I’ll bring him into the board room and he makes people wonder what’s wrong with me. And that makes me laugh. The thing is, besides making me laugh, he reminds me to stay curious. Having him with me is different than having a sticky note as a reminder.

And the point of being reminded about curiosity is this: When you stay in curiosity, you cannot be in judgement. If you find yourself judging someone, you’re missing something. With the political s**t-storm that’s happening, it’s easy to get sucked in. And it’s a great example for where to use two key questions: “What am I missing about the other person?” And, “why am I choosing to experience this situation in this way?”

Practice those questions at work and at home. Watch what happens if you really step into a space of curiosity.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of burnout?

I’ve been burned out for years so… no, I’m kidding. I actually awaken perky… annoyingly so. My doctorate is in clinical psychology. About 35 years ago, I took a left turn into business and leadership. One of my first jobs was with a major utilities company and burnout was a thing. I began to study it, the effects of feeling apathy, losing libido, sleeping or not sleeping, eating what’s convenient, but then overeating. Or… under-eating because it’s too much work. When people don’t care about eating, sleeping, or sex, there’s something going on beyond the workplace. It’s about a loss of control in the world in general. There’s non-stop work. Starting earlier and ending later doesn’t help. But there are some key things that do help and I’ve walked thousands of people through that.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about beating burnout. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Burnout”? Can you explain?

Burnout is a complex feeling that combines overwhelm with exhaustion and detachment or apathy. It’s the feeling of, “there’s so much to do, it’s never ending, I’m so fatigued I can’t think straight, and I have zero f’s to give anymore.”

How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?

Well, I have a strong purpose, my “why,” and so I wake up in gratitude, happy, and perky. The opposite of burnout is a sense of control of one’s life driven by a sense of purpose.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some sceptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?

We need to recognize our humanity. Even soldiers are given rest breaks. Run the miles, get rested. There are severe impacts to our health if we live in a state of feeling burned out. From heart health to mental health, early heart attacks are no joke. Neither is depression. Sleep disruption affects everything. Sleep is needed for solid restoration of brain function, integration of memories, and muscle repair. Without that, the body fails to function.

From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?

Great question — on the surface, the main cause is the sense of overwhelm. There’s too much to do and it creates a feeling of cascading failure. Beneath that are the stories we tell ourselves. “If I can’t do what’s on our list, there must be something wrong with me.” We then look for other areas we’ve failed and we prove to ourselves that we will never get ahead.

Old stories and rules from childhood come up. You were praised for doing a good job. You got love and attention for finishing your project. You were told you were worthy.

And in the wake of never feeling caught up, we’re left feeling unworthy and unlovable. It’s kind of deep. No one really thinks that way. Just give yourself a chance to recognize that you’re living by old rules.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”. (Please share a story or an example for each.)

The first thing is to remember these three pieces (yep, #1 is a three-fer): Remember that 1) You are worthy, 2) You are lovable (and your workload has nothing to do with either of those), and 3) what you do each day does matter! You are making a difference. That’s hard to keep in mind sometimes when we don’t always see the end result of our efforts. You wouldn’t be asked to do what you’re doing if it weren’t needed.

Second, get very clear that you won’t get all of your to-do list done each day. I think that’s a huge problem for most people, they have these mountains that they think they must climb. Nope, the work will still be there. You can’t take on more without giving something up. If you’re unclear about prioritization, as your supervisor or colleagues for help with that.

Third, you can adopt one of my sayings which is, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” And that means two things: 1) you can’t serve greatly if you’re running on fumes, so block a “meeting time” with yourself. Even if it’s ten minutes during the day, go get outside for a little air and to be in nature and refocus. And 2) you can’t serve greatly if you’re not deliberately growing. Look for areas you can learn or do something new each day.

Fourth, redefine your purpose. Step away from your job and your home life for a second. Who are you and what are you here to do? Listen to yourself. What deep desire is calling you? There’s something in there that will tell you your big “why.” What matters to you and why is that important. Spend a little time on this. Block a meeting time with yourself. Put it on your calendar. It’s YOUR calendar, start choosing what meetings you’ll go to and what meetings you’ll circle back to for the notes. (This is a bonus suggestion: get control of your calendar. You’re in charge of what’s on it. Own that.)

Fifth, start each day with gratitude. Seriously, write down ten things each morning for which you’re grateful. It could be the aglets on your shoelaces or the amazing coffee you’re about to slam. It could be that breath you just took. It could be the feeling you have when your head hits the pillow. For what are you grateful? When you start there, the rest of the day flows more smoothly.

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?

The number one and two things we all want from work is: 1) to know that what I’m doing is meaningful and 2) to know that it matters. So if you can remind your burned-out friend that what they’re doing has an impact and if you can let them know that you see it, that’s a huge start.

“I see you, dear human and you matter to me” is a gigantic statement.

What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

A few things that are easily implemented:

  1. Keep your vision at the forefront of every communication. That’s the company’s big “why.” It let’s people align each day.
  2. Recognize that productivity (and profitability) rise when team members take breaks. Creativity increases as perspectives shift. Managers need to get with their team members to schedule vacation time.
  3. When I was the executive director of a healthcare organization, I made a point of scheduling time on the floor. It was in my calendar. I’d make sure that I saw everyone… everyone! And, I made sure that they knew that their work was important and noticed.
  4. Try the six-penny exercise: put six pennies in your right pocket. Walk through the day and let someone know that you saw them and give a compliment about their work. Just six compliments in a day. Every time you give a compliment, transfer one penny from your right to your left pocket. Most people in management feel like they are giving compliments all the time. The reality is, they’re in their heads and it’s not deliberate, active, or positive. Be that with the people around you!

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

The first is to recognize that the team members make the business. Investing in your team members is an investment in infrastructure for greater profitability. Even if your team is small, even if you’re a solo-preneur, you need to know that an investment in your mental health is an investment in your company’s health.

Second, use your HR department to establish wellness initiatives. I was fortunate enough to be the Director of Organization Development for a small consulting company. I helped guide the CEO on initiatives to drive the culture of the company. Do you create a culture of burnout or do you create a culture of health and stronger contribution?

Third, recognize that we’re moving to a hybrid workplace or “remote first.” That means that “butts in seats” is a thing of the past. Focus on the outcomes you expect; have regular meetings about how you, as the leader, can support your team members’ success. Your job as the leader is to lead. That means making the values clear and living into them, supporting your team members to do the same and in doing so, follow you, leader.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

Stop trying to focus on “time management.” It’s blameful and it doesn’t work. And, when someone feels blamed for not getting it right, you’ve only contributed to the problem.

We all have the same amount of time each day; we’re all given 24 hours. So, really, we need to be focused on project management, not time management.

There’s a strategy I love. It’s called, “Chunk It Down.” Break every project into chunks.

What piece of what project can be worked on first. THEN we can look at how we manage and truly own blocks of time.

If you think about how a meal comes together in a fine restaurant, it’s not all made at the same time. Different people are responsible for different elements. And each element is done in stages, from planning to procurement to execution, there are multiple pieces to each phase. Chunk it down!

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I actually started a movement! It’s called #StartsWithOne®

It’s about deliberately, actively, positively® lifting the lives of others, one person at a time. How do you connect with people at work, at the grocery store, or at home? When was the last time you actually had eye contact and smiled at someone? Here’s a quick quiz: the last person you interacted with, what color are their eyes?

Take just two beats to notice.

At the grocery store, it’s a great place to practice when you’re checking out, look the cashier in the eye, smile, and use their name when you thank them.

Practice that.

And if you wanted to take a free 21-day StartsWithOne® challenge, go to www.StartsWithOne.com

Let’s see what positive ripples you can make in the world when you lift just one other person today!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Wow, that’s an amazing thing. There are so many people I’d love to sit down with and just talk about their journey. As the Breakthrough Success Coach, I’ve been fortunate enough to have coached some serious leaders. As a podcast host (see One Sharp Sword, cutting through to what matters most), I’ve talk with people in all areas about their journey and leadership lessons they’d like to share.

So for me, now, I’d love to meet Lin Manuel Miranda to talk about his creative process.

I’d find it fascinating to speak with Bill Gates, because his vision and values have changed over time. I think his journey is fascinating and I’d love to know where he sees himself growing and developing next.

Steph Curry actually doesn’t live that far from me. He’s got his eyes on the prize and I’d enjoy learning about his routines for keeping his mindset sharp.

And Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — her story is amazing! She’s the first female president in Africa (she’s the president of Liberia) and her struggle is for women’s safety. She’s a Nobel prize winner, and I find her journey fascinating!

Also, I’d love to meet LaVar Burton — he stands for literacy and also some uncomfortable truths about American history. Both of those are so important. His history as an actor is amazing and his company’s values are inspiring. So, yeah! A sit-down with Mr. Burton would be amazing.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Oh, I would LOVE it if our readers would take a look around my website! I have so much to offer, from free blogs and podcasts to books and online courses. And of course, I have limited space in my VIP program, but would happily work with the right person. Check out www.WaynePernell.com and certainly find me on social:

Facebook: Dr Wayne Pernell www.Facebook.com/WaynePernell

Twitter: @WaynePernell

IG: Dr_Wayne_Pernell

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/waynepernell/

On my website, you can also download one of my #1 best-selling books, The Significance Factor, for free.

Be sure to go to www.WaynePernell.com to look around!

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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