“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Some people were born to run marathons, but most of us weren’t. Some of us were born to work long hours, but you – you weren’t.”

Six months out of college at my first job in investment banking, I started to get shooting pains down my arms. Terrified of losing my job, I tried to fit in 3 hours of weekly physio to counteract the impact of my 100 hour workweek, a hopeless mismatch. When an occupational health doctor told me there was no solution – that I had pushed my body past its limits – I was crushed. Hard work was a virtue instilled in me since birth. Now it was undoing me?

My recovery from burnout was a grinding process. I was exhausted, struggling even with once-basic tasks. While slowly rebuilding strength, I realized that I would only fundamentally heal by accepting my limits.

A year later, I left my job.

The long recovery, though, gave me the space to reflect on my priorities. I had always cared about public health and environmentalism. On my old path, would I have acted on those passions? Now, with a traditional career no longer the default, suddenly it felt easy to dive in.

Hard work and determination have gotten me far, but it was only when I was compelled to pause that I remembered my true motivation. I’ve now learnt that choosing the right path is more fulfilling than running a marathon.

— Barr Even