“If I only had the words to tell you…” I would tell you what’s brought you to this point of burnout in your work and life. But for a change, instead of using my own words, this week, I’ll be sharing the words of Billy Joel. 

Although Joel is a romantic and many of his lyrics center around love and romance, we will be looking at them through the lens of professional burnout. And I hope that you walk away from this article with the knowledge that you’re not alone, having some actionable advice, and renewed optimism. 


So You’re Burned Out


“You’re having a hard time and lately you don’t feel so good.” When you come home, you look in the mirror and think, “Now I’m home…and I’m weary in my bones.”

“Do you feel like you’re searching for something, perhaps something sacred you’ve lost? Something taken out of your soul, something somebody stole?”

“You’ve been bought, you’ve been sold. You’ve been locked outside the door. But you stand there pleadin’, with your insides bleedin’, ’cause you deep down want some more.”

“You’ve been slashed in the face. You’ve been left there to bleed. You want to run away. But you know you’re gonna stay.”

“So you got everything…but nothing’s cool. Still you’re aching for the things you haven’t got.” 

“You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need.”

You’ve walked through the “valley of fear,” “the jungle of doubt,” and the “desert of truth.” 

“But now you’re tired and you don’t want to walk anymore.”

It’s hard when you’re always afraid…A constant battle for the ultimate state of control.”

“The cold remains of what began with a passionate start.”

That’s what burnout feels like sometimes. 


How You Got Here


There’s an expression that says, “All roads lead to Rome.” This is not necessarily true of burnout, but certainly there are multiple roads that can lead to burnout. 

“The closer you get to the fire, the more you get burned.” If you find yourself burned out, it can be due to a lack of balance between your work and life, as in the case of going to extremes and dissipating all your energy at work so that by the time you get home, you’ve got nothing left to give. Eventually, you show up empty to work as well and are unable to keep charging ahead.

You might be burned out due to the struggle in your mind, due to imposter syndrome, or the fear of not fitting in. Perhaps, your job expects too much of you and the pressure is getting to you. Or it could be the way you manage stress that is contributing to the problem.

Let’s say you’re someone who has a real fire in your belly to achieve. You put in long hours and keep plugging away despite the fact that you’re exhausted or that you’ve been sacrificing too much of your personal life to reach your career goals.

Do any of these sound like you? Sometimes…

  • …It feels like I’m going too fast
  • … I’m tired
  • … I’m shot 
  • … I don’t know how much more I’ve got
  • …I lie awake night after night coming apart at the seams…eager to please, ready to fight.

“Too high or too low. There ain’t no in-betweens.” “It’s all or nothing at all.”

If this describes you, ask yourself, “Why do I go to extremes?” This is important to uncover because as Joel reminds us, we “thoughtlessly…dissipate our energiesand when it comes to performance, energy is your biggest currency.

So why do we do this? 

When you’re a super achiever, you do what Joel describes:

“I was dreamin’ of tomorrow so I sacrificed today.” We all do this to a certain extent and sometimes it’s necessary. We can’t just live for the present. But sometimes it can be too much, and in reflecting on his personal experience, Joel says “it sure was a grand waste of time.”

Sometimes it feels like no matter how much you put in, it’s never enough, right? It’s as if your boss is saying “You’ve given me the best of you. Now I need the rest of you.”

But the demands don’t just come from the outside. Sometimes, it’s pressure from our own heads that creates stress and anxiety as in the case of imposter syndrome. 

Do you ever think, “I’m on the outside. I don’t fit into the groove”? Do you ever panic with the thought, “What if nobody finds out who I am?”

All of this weight from work and your inner world can weigh you down. The question is, how do you cope with it all? Do you find yourself, “breaking down when the tension gets high”? 

When you’re stressed to the max and you just want to relax, do you think “just one drink”? That voice in your head says, “Captain Jack will get you by tonight.” “I’m sure you think you got it all under control” but in truth, you’ve “run out of places to hide.” 

Remember, if you’re “sleeping with the television on,” “tomorrow morning you’ll wake up with the white noise.” In other words, there are consequences to the decisions you make today. 

For all these reasons, you might find yourself burned out. Once you’re there, let’s explore what it looks like.


Cynicism and Resentment

In addition to exhaustion (which we already covered), one of the hallmarks of burnout is a negative turn of attitude. 

If you listen to Joel’s music, there’s a lot of cynicism in his writing. He gets it. 

  • It took a lot for you to lose your faith in this world.”
  • “Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard.”
  • “These days it’s harder to say I know what I’m fighting for.”

And if these statements at all reflect how you now think, once you realize you’re burned out, you might also believe that “it costs too much and takes too long to find out too late” what you need to know, or that “all the king’s men and all the king’s horses can’t put you together the way you used to be.” But this simply is cynicism at its best. 

Perhaps you think this way because you’re resentful. 

Billy Joel believes, “There’s a place in the world for the angry young man.” Here’s how he describes him: 

“With his working class ties and his radical plans

He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl

And he’s always at home with his back to the wall.

He’s proud of the scars and the battles he’s lost

He struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross.”

Sounds like a real martyr, someone who lacks flexibility, feels blocked by himself as well as his circumstances, but ends up losing the game. Because when you’re blocked, “you’re gonna be crashing into stone walls again and again.”

Whatever the cause of your negative state, recognize that you weren’t always this way. This is burnout talking. Now, we just have to figure out what to do about it.



Billy Joel knows “advice is cheap.” Although he says, “ I know you don’t want to hear what I say,” he’s going to tell you anyway because, as he claims, “You can take it from me.”

If “you’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need,” ask yourself, “Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?”

Here’s his advice across a number of songs on how to regain your balance: 

  • “Slow down.” 
  • “You’d better cool it off before you burn it out. You’ve got so much to do and only so many hours in a day.”
  • “…take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.”
  • “It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two…”
  • “You have to learn to pace yourself.”

Although he wrote “Big Shot” for a different context, think of how it applies to work, especially if you’re someone who typically goes for the “white hot spotlight” in your compulsion to prove your worth or be liked. You don’t have to be a big shot and prove it to the crowd. Know when to leave it (work) alone. “Rather than go over the line, see that it’s time to go home.” 

Sometimes, we’re paralyzed with fear and anxiety, worrying about making mistakes, especially if we’ve made some in the past. That’s probably coming from this notion of “ I’ve gotta get it right the first time.” Billy’s advice? “Don’t be afraid to try again. Everyone goes south every now and then.” 

“You’re only human. You’re allowed to make your share of mistakes…you’ll learn more from your accidents than anything that you could ever learn at school.” Remember, “You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes. But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.”

Billy empathizes. He says, “It’s not always easy to be living in this world of pain.” 

So if you’ve noticed “You’ve been keeping to yourself these days cause you’re thinking everything’s gone wrong” or if “Sometimes you just want to lay down and die,” it’s because “That emotion can be so strong.” In that case, here are two pieces of advice:

1) “Leave a tender moment alone” 


2) “…Hold on, till that old second wind comes along.”

Bottom line: “Do what’s good for you or you’re not good for anybody.”


Your New Mindset


We already know what leads to burnout. If you’re not already aware, “​​Workin’ too hard can give you a heart attack” as well. So it’s important that we address not only how to slow down. We have to tackle your thinking so you can shift your approach to work. 

Perhaps you’re someone who is trying to climb the corporate ladder for financial security.  If all you do is work hard for the money, Billy’s here to tell you, “You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime. it seems such a waste of time.”

In the song, Moving Out, Joel shares the stories of two hopefuls who work extra hard to move up in life. And in his very Billy Joel style, then tears them apart: 

The first is Anthony, who works in a grocery store. After saving his pennies, all he can afford is a house in New Jersey. Joel cynically retorts, “Who needs a house out in Hackensack?” 

The second is Sergeant O’Leary, who works as an officer by day and a bartender by night. O’Leary’s version of moving up is finally being able to trade in his Chevy for a Cadillac. Joel recognizes that all this is backbreaking work and says, “If he can’t drive with a broken back, at least he can polish the fenders.” Cynical? Yes, but it makes you think about why we do what we do and how much of it truly matters at the end of the day.

On a more uplifting note, Joel gets to the heart of the matter – the thing that matters way more than money or what money can buy. 

“It’s all about soul. It’s all about faith and a deeper devotion. It’s all about joy that comes out of sorrow.”


Where You Go From Here

Joel shared what it’s like to be down and out. He’s given his advice about how to turn things around. But if you take one thing from this article, let it be this: Burnout doesn’t happen overnight and you don’t recover from it in a day. 

“Some people hope for a miracle cure.” Like Brenda and Eddie, maybe the best you could do is pick up the pieces and find a way to get by. But I believe there is so much more out there for you. 

Billy acknowledges, “That I’ve got to begin again though I don’t know how to start. Yes, I’ve got to begin again, and it’s hard.” 

Burnout can be a wakeup call of how to show up differently. With clarity and focus, you too can be “Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife” and feel like you’re in the prime of your life.



Billy Joel is not only someone who wrote about what leads to burnout. The way in which he writes also illustrates someone who’s quite cynical, a symptom of burnout. Perhaps Joel was burned out himself when he wrote his songs. Either way, they can serve both as a reminder of what traps in life you want to avoid and what burnout sounds like, so if you do start sounding like him, it’s a sign that you’re burning out. 

I, too, hope it doesn’t take the rest of your life to find what it is that you’ve been looking for. I know that life can be hard, but it can also be so sweet. I “don’t want to see you let a good thing slip away.” I want you to “Stay with me baby. I’ve got plans for you.” But at the end of the day, it’s your choice. “Either way it’s OK. You wake up with yourself.”


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Dr. Sharon Grossman, AKA the Burnout Doc, is a clinically trained psychologist and subject matter expert in burnout and mental health. Associations and Fortune 500 companies hire her to be their closing keynote speaker, to help their members and executives crack the code on burnout, and create custom-tailored solutions for recovery.
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Sharon has been helping high achievers who are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout go from exhausted to extraordinary by better understanding how their brain works and how they can design and run their programming on purpose to live the kind of life they want to live. She is the author of several books on burnout and mindset and host of the Decode Your Burnout podcast. Through her speaking, training, and coaching, she helps organizations keep their top talent.