Friday, September 28, 2012

Don't Fall Victim to Overstimulation (I Don't Mean Overwork)

Edmund Morris talks about Theodore Roosevelt's voraciousness for life. Roosevelt was a scholar (as a prolific writer, he wrote 18 books including what became a mainstay for naval academy students called History of the Naval War of 1812), an avid hunter and of course, a very successful politician.

Like many successful professionals, Roosevelt extended himself too far at times. Morris points out that in the summer 1906 Roosevelt was struck with extreme fatigue that was not a result of overwork, but rather, a result of overstimulation. He was experiencing the height of his presidential popularity and "with so much success in his system," approached a level of what Morris refers to as "executive hypertension."

A string of energizing successes almost led me to a state of "overstimulation." My reaction to these career high-notes was to continue pouring more and more emotional energy into my work until I finally crashed from physical exhaustion. It was not that I was working so hard; I was investing so much of my intellect, creativity, and critical thought in such a short but explosive period of time and its toll on me was physical depletion. From this experience I learned that it is important not to let success get in the way of clear and balanced thinking. I look to Bill Gates for validation when he says, 'Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."

This post is part of the "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.

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