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NBA’s Stein: ‘To Eliminate Burnout, Deconstruct Its Origins’

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In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Alan Stein Jr. explores the challenges posed by stress and burnout in the workplace and shares tips and insights for working through them.

When you spend 15 years working as a basketball performance coach alongside some of the greatest NBA players of all time, including Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant, you gather some pretty incredible stories about the dedication required to be among the best in your business. One of Alan Stein Jr.’s favorite stories involved Curry who, even as a young and unknown player, would not leave the court until he swished five free throws in a row. 

“Curry held himself to an unparalleled standard of excellence,” said Stein, himself a basketball player at Elon University. “The first step of raising your game is to raise your standard. Curry did not accept the baskets that hit the rim in those moments when nobody was watching him. He took complete responsibility for his own development to guide him in becoming one of the greatest shooters of all time.”

The author of Raise Your Game and Sustain Your Game, Stein successfully transferred his performance coaching skills from basketball to helping leaders at such organizations as American Express, Pepsi, and Starbucks apply his strategies to their daily routine. Stein has also become an expert on two of the most commonly felt downsides of the achievement ethic – namely stress and burnout. In Stein’s view, stress comes from a “desire for things to be different than they are in the present moment,” a losing battle because in essence, “the fight against reality is a fight we can never win.”

In a professional work environment, said Stein, the feeling of burnout happens when prolonged stress creates “misalignment between the hours you spend at work and the meaning of that work.” If our work loses its meaning, enjoyment or sense of impact, argues Stein, doing it no longer energizes us; instead, it saps our energy. Thus: burnout. The way to arrest burnout’s downward spiral is to “deconstruct” its origins to discover where and when the love faded. Then ask if the love can come back.

In the podcast, Stein taps into his experiences working with elite athletes and business executives to suggest how any of us can work to regain control of our mood, mindset, and perspective. Lessons include:

5:00 – How to raise your standards.

10:30 – How to understand where stress comes from.

16:00 – How to combat burnout at work.

23:00 – Why “basic” and “easy” are not synonyms.

34:00 – How to clearly define employee roles.

36:00 – Is what you measure in alignment with your desired culture?

“For me, the lightbulb went off when I realized that no matter what happens, even in the face of adversity or immense tragedy, I still get to choose how I show up and how I respond,” noted Stein. “And that the only person I’m punishing for being unhappy and unfulfilled is myself.”

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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