Exhaustion Does Not Equal Success


I had an incredible opportunity to attend the 5th Anniversary Lunch for the Center for Women in Law in Austin Friday.  The honoree was my long-time mentor, Mary Cranston, and the keynote speaker was Arianna Huffington.

She has a new book out, Thrive, which I received but haven’t read.  However, her remarks came from many of the lessons she shares in the book.  One came from an incident that occurred to her seven years ago when she was completely burned out.  I couldn’t believe the story.  She followed the retelling with this comment, “Exhaustion and burnout are not the price of success.” 


Preach it, sister.

But it’s becoming success currency.

We tie our exhaustion level directly to our place on the career ladder.  The more exhausted we are, the more successful we must be, right?

If we were exhausted after achieving that big win, then surely we’ll have to be even more tired to meet the next goal?

Can you lead and still be rested?  Can you achieve without ulcers and sleep deprivation?

The answer is yes.

The answer is you can’t lead without finding a place of respite.  Rest.  Relaxation.  Replenishing.  Restoration.

You won’t have a clear head.  You won’t be your most strategic.  You won’t be able to set an example for the women following your lead.  You won’t make it without burning out.

Exhaustion has to stop being the currency to greatness.  Huffington quoted President Clinton as saying, “Most of the major mistakes I made in my life, I made when I was too tired to know what I was doing.”  (She said he didn’t specify which mistakes.)

But it’s true.  It’s when you slip.  It’s when you fall.  It’s when you lose your clarity, your vision, your way, your drive.

Leadership means more than just what you do for others.  It’s how you treat yourself.  Find some time.  Find a place of rest.  Make a proactive plan to set aside time to refill your reserves so you can bravely step out into the next leadership opportunity.


  1. Tamara Meigh says:

    Hello, Gindi!

    I have been reading your blog for a while. I originally linked to it through Kelly’s Korner—You have spoken directly to heart many times, but today, your words have been whispered to my soul.

    Oh, how I have been struggling with pure exhaustion. Oh, how I have been feeling crushed, but fueled (with the wrong grade of gas) due to the drive of a classic overachiever. Oh, how I will try to rest this weekend of Resurrection and not feel guilt.

    Thank you! By the way, we are almost neighbors. I live in Baytown.


    • Tammy – I’m so glad you commented. I know – I preach this to myself. I’m in the same boat as you, overwhelmed and exhausted because of all that overachieving – this speech really resonated with me, we have to start drawing the line, or we will be worn out and won’t be able to succeed long term. Hang in their neighbor – praying for you.

  2. Brandy Copley says:

    Oh wow are you on target. Today I got chewed apart for a drafting bust, lawyer term, meaning I had two deal docs that didn’t match up exactly. I confessed my work sin, mea culpable, then looked at the time stamp on the doc. 215am, in a week of 2 am nights. Should my team really really be shocked that I blew it ? Should I? My day starts
    at 520 so I can make my intense 545 am workout, because for sure you gotta be what my pal calls a 4/6, by which she means a size 4 making 6 figure salary. That about the minimal standard in my hood it seems. Got to be a rock star at work, and super mom, and the breadwinner, and do charity events, and run that 5k this weekend, and cook a healthy home made dinner and pack the organic school lunch. Check check check. I did all that. And I am exhausted. Thanks for making me think about that.

    • Brandy -I’m successful, a wife, a mom, and fit and don’t have to work those hours. I volunteer but I’m selective. It’s a choice in defining what we want and then being very specific about how to get it and building the right network around us to get there. A speaker I saw last year at a women’s conference who spoke about life as a marathon ….not a series of sprints. Some food for thought.

    • Oh yes m’am – to all of that. And the more successful the more demands – it is when we slip and fail. Praying for you to find some time to rest and recalibrate.

  3. Mary Baker says:

    Thanks for posting on this. It’s a very valid conversation that we women attorneys need to have on a more frequent basis. We CAN’T do it all; we can just try to do our best in the time we have. I saw your CLE panel with Harriet Myers in Austin recently, and I’m glad that I found your blog – it’s nice to hear someone succeeding at LIFE, not just work.

Share Your Thoughts