How to overcome burnout as a speaker

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Maryalice: Hey everyone, Maryalice Goldsmith here, Director of Student Success at The Speaker Lab and today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Nour Khatib. She has an amazing story to share and I’m so excited that she’s here to share with all of us today. How are you today?

Nour: I’m doing very well. I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Maryalice: So let’s just dive in and get to the goodness here. What do you speak about?

Nour’s Speaking Journey

Nour: Sure. I help overworked and jaded professionals overcome burnout so that they can fall in love with their profession again. We’ve seen that time and time again — you go into a profession, you’re all like bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to go. You’ve got passion in your job. But as years progress, People start losing that passion, people start losing that hope or those goals. And I want to bring that back. I felt it myself and my own story and I felt burnout myself and I lost touch with why I’m in my profession. And slowly I was able to come out of that and I want to help inspire people to do the same.

I’m an emergency room doctor. The last two years have taken a toll on everyone, whether it’s employees, patients, doctors, nurses — people are leaving the profession. I see it every day in my colleagues coming to work, kind of dragging themselves to work and really we’ve kind of lost touch as to why we do this, because of our systemic burnout, our system, our healthcare system that is crumbling really worldwide.

This isn’t a one country issue. And I see this day in and day out, and the fact that I am a professional speaker on this has helped me get through this and I’ve helped my colleagues get through it too, because my burnout was well before COVID. My burnout started many years ago.

So here’s a little anecdote —  I introduce my talks by saying, “Hi everyone, my name’s Dr. Nour Khatib, I’m an emergency physician, but I’m also a med school drop-out.” How does that work? What — how are you allowed to work? What’s going on here — right?

So I actually got into med school at the age of 18 through this fast track in Quebec. I’m from Canada and there’s this way to get into med school when you’re younger. And I got in, I worked hard, I had that in mind, and I got in and within just a couple of months I thought that path was scary. And you know, you’re so young, you don’t know as much, you’re not as mature and you haven’t had the life experience. And in fact, two months into being in medical school, I dropped out and I went into business school and I loved it. I worked in finance, I did an MBA, I did lots of presentations, and that’s where I realized my passion for speaking.

Yet all throughout, I still felt there was something missing, and this is part of my talks, is when you feel like there is something missing, do not ignore it. No matter what age you are, if there’s something missing, sit down with yourself and ask yourself what’s missing. What is it that I can do to add that passion?

Because like I said, you start work. Bushy tailed and bright eyed. And then as years pass, as responsibilities progress, you start losing that passion and you want to make sure to maintain it and whatever is missing you need to address for me. I was meant to be an emergency doctor. I was meant to become a doctor. I left my excellent, stable, wonderful job as a financial analyst in the middle of a recession in 2008, I left that job and I went into medical school like a crazy person. But I do not regret it whatsoever. It made me who I am today. It made me the speaker I am today, and I’m able to help my clients and my audience much better.

With that background and with that knowledge and now through a pandemic, I can tell you I know what burnout feels like. I know what my colleagues are going through, why the nurses are leaving, overall what the profession is going through. And I am here because The Speaker Lab really helped me be ready as a professional speaker to help others bring that passion back and love their work.

Maryalice: You are throwing me for a whirl right now. I don’t even know what to say. You are so smart. I mean you made it through a financial epidemic, a medical pandemic – wow. So tell me, what is something you say to people who are experiencing burnout?

What to do when you’re experiencing burnout

Nour: I tell people to sit back and think about how, if you don’t have work this week, what would you be doing differently? What would you be doing? Let’s say you don’t have work this week. How do you feel? And write that down. Write down how you feel. I feel relieved because of what? But answer the question, because everyone’s going to feel relieved if their responsibilities are gone for a week.

I’m not talking about a vacation week. I’m talking about imagining you do not have work this week, but you’re also not somewhere in the Bahamas, right? You’re not working. Tell me why you feel relieved, and look at those whys and see if there’s anything you can change in them so that you can mitigate a path towards burnout. Because look, the pandemic, hopefully we’re going to be over it soon – if we stick together, we work through it, hopefully we’re going to be over it. But it’s taken a toll on everyone and we’re inching towards normalcy.

But productivity and morale have not had the same trajectory. So we need to work on that ourselves. Bosses and managers need to realize that they are feeling this, but so are their employees, right? So sit down with yourself. Grab a pen and paper or a blank Word document and go through this exercise. If I didn’t have work this week, why would I be relieved? What are the things at work that are pushing your buttons and harming your mental health?

Maryalice: So sometimes we’re too much in the spiral of burnout to even realize there’s a way out, and you actually need someone to lend you that hand and pull you out. So walk me through some strategies. Because when you’re feeling completely overworked, overwhelmed, not yourself, and you need someone to just help you realize that there is a way and that you can work on it. And you just have to keep working on it until one day you wake up and you think — I feel like I want to do this. I want to excel in my job, and I want to be the best version of myself so I can serve my community, serve my family, my friends, and be the best version of me. So what are some strategies you share?

Nour: Absolutely. So I remember this clearly, actually, I was giving a financial well-being talk to a group of young, frustrated professionals. You know they’re in their careers and they’re already ready to quit. They’re like, not even five years in. And I was speaking to a room filled with uncertain doctors and how seeing their faces go from skeptical to believer, from confused to clear, knowing that their wellbeing, their happiness, their mental health is just within reach made me realize that I was doing something right and that I wanted to continue doing this.

And that joy, that spark — I have to say that high of speaking to a crowd and seeing that impact happen, of seeing faces look up straight at you, no one on their phones, realizing that they are being impacted by your words means everything to me and this is why I do it and this is why I’m going to keep doing it.

Maryalice: Yeah, so good. Ok we talked about how brilliant you are. But eventually you found The Speaker Lab. So talk to us about that journey.

How The Speaker Lab Helped Nour’s Speaking Success

Nour: Absolutely. So I remember it very clearly. It was last year. I was sitting at my computer going, “All right, I’m sick of being told I am a good speaker and I’m not doing anything about it.”

And every time I give a talk I feel wonderful after and I can’t believe some people do this for a living. And I never thought this could be for me. I never thought that I could do this for a living. I thought I’d be giving one-off presentations here and there, doing rounds at the hospital, doing a good job, and keep moving on..

And I was on my computer and thought I better make a website. So I started Googling how to make a website and I was like, okay, so if I go on this and they’ve got a template, that sounds about right. And I guess if I start a website, people will come — not the case.

First off, I couldn’t even get through making a website and the more I looked into becoming a professional speaker my Google search showed The Speaker Lab and at first I was skeptical.

It sounded too good to be true, number one, but I decided to just put my name down and see what happens. And I got a call from Alan Peck and I was like, Wow. All right. So if I want to take this seriously, I should try. What do I have to lose if I don’t try this? I will never know.

And that was my biggest question. My biggest question to myself is, do you really want to be a professional speaker or is this just a fun little thought that you’ve been having? And it’s just a fleeting idea that’s gonna go away. So if I wanted to take it seriously, I was going to take the next step, and I’m very glad.

There’s a lot of things The Speaker Lab teaches you to do, and I would say my main thing is persistence and consistency. For me, it means every day going on my CRM, my pipeline, HubSpot, whatever you decide. And checking my list of leads and seeing who I have followed up with today. Who have I not followed up with, and when do I need to follow up with this person? It’s also thinking about who might benefit from my talk and am I reaching out to them and consistently thinking about that and working on that, but not making it feel like a burden. Because you need it to be something you open up and you’re happy to see, right? Not something that is a chore.

This is part of your dream. If it’s part of your dream, you best be loving doing it. And if you don’t, maybe it shouldn’t be your dream. So I think about that often. I try not to get overwhelmed. You have to incrementalize your work, decide what is the next step. And that makes it easier. That makes it easier for your brain, that makes it easier for your everyday to-dos, and you don’t feel as overwhelmed.

Maryalice: Right. People do that for sure.

Nour: Remember what I said earlier, find what is missing — what is missing for you? If you’re listening to this podcast and it’s because you want to become a professional speaker, work on it. Do something about it so that 10 years from now, future you knows that you gave it a chance and it worked, or it didn’t – but at least you gave it a real shot.

Maryalice: Yes. That is exactly true.

Nour: There is one thing I wanted to mention to people — it wasn’t a linear path for me to become a speaker. I was not even on grid for The Speaker Lab until I was in the middle of my VIP course with Erick Rheam. God bless. Greatest coach ever. I was in the middle of that and I was just like I cannot deal with working every single day and doing my speaking business. It just was not possible in the midst of the worst part of the pandemic. And so I requested to take a pause from The Speaker Lab. And they easily did that for me. And I took a pause and I kept hearing the successes of my colleagues in the VIP cohort and I kept just feeling so jealous, like, “Oh, I want to be there, I want to be there.” So I actually did nothing in terms of my speaking business between January and March, but I kept messaging the cohort and saying, “Guys, I’m not around, but I will be. I promise you I will be. And I kept giving dates in the future saying — this is when I’ll be back, and I did come back and I think the important thing is if you feel like this is your passion and isn’t just a fleeting thought, keep at it. Keep trying, and even in the middle of a pandemic, you can make it happen.

Maryalice: Absolutely, one hundred percent. So glad you’re sharing this with our listeners. So for those that are thinking about taking that leap, what’s one step they can take – what would you say to those who are wondering what to do next?

Nour: Absolutely. So if you think you want to become a professional speaker, but you really aren’t sure, you haven’t tried it before, go ahead and try to speak in front of a crowd in any way possible. There’s community events happening every day. They’re always requesting emcees. They’re requesting people to speak or give small talks. There’s things around in your community, even if you’re going to do it for free, just go and try it out. See how it is, see how it feels. Is this something that resonates with you and that you want to do every day or let’s say 30% of the time? For me, it’s not going to be my full-time job, but it’s going to be at least 40-50% of the time, and that’s what I’m happy with.

Try it out first before you jump in. Next, go buy a book about speaking. To learn how to do it, to learn how to excel at it — if you want to delve into having a speaking business, there is Grant’s book, which I read first before signing up. And then go for it and set-up a meeting with one of the Enrollment Advisors. To learn about what The Speaker Lab has to offer.

It doesn’t mean you’re going to sign up now, it just means you’ll learn about what it has to offer for you, right? If you want to take it seriously, please go ahead, delve into that. Read the books. There are books for free in your community library about speaking that can help you get there, that can help you decide whether this is for you or not.

Maryalice: Yes. And people may not have the money today, but you know this is the program you want. And Nour decided when she was ready to sign-up, and took all the steps. She invested in herself. She invested in her career, and look at that. That paid off for months and months after. That’s incredible. That’s wonderful.

Nour: For myself, my dreams — I’m starting to see this goal and it adds that cycle back to your life. It adds that joy, and I can tell you that speaking has helped me not be a burnt out emergency doctor. When I diversify what I do at work, what I do for work, it’s just better. Sometimes as an emergency doctor I work up north in remote parts of Canada and to me diversifying it works. If I’m speaking for a few days, then I miss the emergency room, and if I’m in the emergency department, I’ll miss becoming a speaker. It is just for me, that variety keeps me going. If I was to be an emergency physician only, I would definitely be burnt out by now. And speaking really has saved me from burning out during the pandemic. That’s for sure.

And you know what? I gave it the real shot that I wanted to, and that was for me — that was the pivotal moment of , “Am I going to give it a real try or am I going to just fake it and try on the side to make a website.

I think the ideal situation would be speaking about 30 to 40% of my time, and right now, between now and the end of the year I have 10 community events that I’m speaking at. And I have a talk with Microsoft coming up that I’m really excited about. Their engineers are quite burnt out and so one of the managers has reached out to me to speak to them.

So if you’re working with overworked, jaded professionals, that’s who I look for. So if you’re out there, call on me. I’m happy to help. But you [Maryalice] will probably  never ask because you guys love where you work!

Maryalice: We really do. It’s amazing. It’s not a joke.

Nour: The pictures of your regrets – you all look so happy! So I salute you. Keep doing what you’re doing.

Maryalice: A hundred percent. We are. So I’d love to know as we wrap up, is there any last thought that you want to give to that person who is listening to the podcast and they’re wondering if they can really do this?

Nour: I would say let this be the last podcast before you take the leap. You can listen to more podcasts, but let this be the last one before you actually make an action, a real action towards your goal. All right? I really hope that this is going to be it, and this is going to be the podcast that makes you borrow that book from the library, sign up and speak to an enrollment advisor, or, you know, sign up to a community event to speak and decide for yourself. And I would say sit down with yourself. Be true to yourself. Be honest. Draw that circle with your name and the word happiness and go through those rays and what would be important for you to continue and choose to be happy and see what that looks like for.

It seems cheesy, but I can tell you this works. All this works. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out, you don’t feel it. You don’t see it. I swear to you it actually works. These small, cheesy actions towards happiness actually work.

Maryalice: Yeah. I love that you are encouraging listeners to really walk and then sit with it. That’s the best advice going. Thank you so much for being here today.

Nour: Thanks for having me Maryalice!

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