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Who Declares "burnout" Official Malady.

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by George, May 28, 2019.

  1. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    I love you young guys pooh poohing the idea. Sort of like the Africans ridiculing the hyena knowing that one day it may run by and bite their faces off.

    Burnout is when you simply dread the idea of opening the shop door or you get a piece half done and you force yourself to finish it. It's not the temporary thing like "I'll bag it overnight and get it tomorrow" type thing. When your backload is so great that it wears on you but you don't have sense enough to turn work away because the guy who calls has always been a faithful customer.

    I know of 3 personal friends who committed suicide and every one of them left a freezer full of work. Two of them I helped their wives move the stuff out. Richard and I have long agreed with an old diagnosis that said that all artists are bipolar. Taken to extreme, that malady kills people. You all have some days you can hardly wait until you open that shop door. Then there are days that you get nauseated when you reach for the keys. How many times have you wanted to take a piece and toss it in the trash? Never experienced that? Then you haven't been in business long enough.

    And before you start. Guys doing this as a second job need not respond. You always have a diversion and have the lesser of two evils to work with. Big shops deal with this all the time. The huge studios always have a big turnover of people. For years I'd beat it off by attending a convention or working for them. Then one day you realize that all the new innovations are simply restructured old ones. My OLD taxidermy friends have all commented on how I just walked away. When it happens to you, you'll find it extremely liberating. I still love to TALK taxidermy, but I'm not shortsighted enough to step back into it.

    And I'm happy some of you haven't a clue about burnout. I wish you well and hope you never do.
  2. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I can promise you that my burnout did not come from lack of funds in my case. I was making great money at my taxidermy business. My burn out came from working a full time job during the day and working a full time taxidermy business in the evenings and weekends. I go out to my shop now and look around. Look in my freezer at all my personal stuff I said I'd get to someday and fight the urge to toss it all in the dumpster. I just stay out of there unless I need a tool for something.
    George, pir^2h and Richard C like this.

  3. pir^2h

    pir^2h Retrievers give you the bird

    Burnout occurs in every profession at some point I think; same old routine, day in a day out. I don't have to worry about burnout in taxidermy because I don't do commercial work. I work on my stuff when I want and how long I want. Many have asked me to do their mounts, I choose not to except for two friends. If I need a break from it, I take it.
    rigbobby likes this.
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Life Sucks.....Then comes the death roll!!!!

    I turn away more work now than I take in and I have still worked 7 days a weeks for the last 7 months without taking a single day off. Not one! My burnout factor is so bad I think it is affecting my health...physical and mental. I am so pissed off when ever someone drives up now that I know they can sense it. Its like I have to get control of myself to be nice! And that &^%$ &^%% phone rings every &&^%$ing time I have my hands in bondo or foam! Almost makes me cry! So yeah......I dont know what the future holds for me!!:(:oops:
  5. Dave Byrd

    Dave Byrd Active Member

    Burnout? Suck it up. Man up, put your big boy britches on and quit your belly achin'. That was my reply at one time. Then I got a good heaping dose of it. It hit around 15 years or so into a 25 year career. I spent the last 10 years in my profession being miserable. It's no way to live.

    I think what finally got to me the worst was being "on call". You can't get away. You're tied to it like a ball and chain. You work your tail off all day and go home to try and decompress...guess what...phone rings right in the middle of supper...time to get up, get dressed and go back to work. You finally get back home and reheat your food(if you still have an appetite) and sit down to an empty table to eat because your family has already gone to bed because of the time. Then you try and call it a night...feels good to be off your feet but your mind is still racing. It's now 3 a.m. and you're jarred awake by the phone ringing after what feels like ten minutes of sleep. Time to get up, get dressed and off to work again knowing full well you have to be at the office bright eyed and bushy tailed by 8 a.m. to now meet with two families and a service at 2 o'clock. All the while knowing you're still "on call" for the next three nights back to back. It didn't happen that way every night but for an awful many it did. And all the missed Holidays and family functions...don't even get me started on that.

    It certainly took its toll. I felt like a cage animal with no way out. It affected me both mentally and physically. I was irritable as hell and constantly tired. I was getting more forgetful and less able to concentrate. I took it out too often on my family and seemed not to care how it was affecting them. I was way past burnout...I was in scorched earth territory.

    I decided to finally take control of it. I chose to get in it, so I was going to choose to get out of it. Somehow I managed to build a small taxidermy business during that time. After about 8 years I was making the equivalent at taxidermy as I was at my full time job and was able to go full time in business for myself. It has been three months now. BEST thing I ever did! I can't believe the difference it has made. Life is finally enjoyable again. I've been blessed beyond measure.

    I can sympathize with anyone who is going through it and for those who haven't...I hope you never do.
    MixedupMel, Skywalker and Ron B like this.
  6. I think for everyones health and wellbeing you need to put a line in the sand and only work 5 and a half days a week, LIFE is too short guys. F### the money
    MixedupMel and Ron B like this.
  7. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    And charge enough to make the money you need and want during those five days so that you don't "have to" work those extra days. However, I do recognize that during deer and elk season, A five day work week is almost an impossibility.
    MixedupMel and rigbobby like this.
  8. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Dave, that's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard from you. Telling someone with a mental issue to "suck it up" is so far misguided that it shows your total lack of understanding of psychological problems. Certainly not all of us resolve burnout by suicide, but many have. Pooh poohing it is a disservice. Look around and see how many FORMER taxidermists you know. I will tell you from personal knowledge of being in taxidermy for 60 years how it worked for ME. For the first 10 years, I was Jack Russell terrier. Simply couldn't get enough. The second 10 was a sponge trying to absorbing information to imprrove. The next 15 was the eagle where i was higher than "regular" guys, confident in my work and giving information more than taking it. The next 10 were used as a surfboard. I'd ride a wave that would play out. I'dpaddle back out but each time got harder as i was caring for a wife who had cancer, a stoke, and only 3 feet of intestine. The last five were gutshot. My shop was the only escape for personal issues and now i didn't want to be there either. When my wife passed, the truth hit me hard. There was simply no hiding that dealing with asswipe customers, deadlines, and dealing with all the paperwork, licensing, and taxes had destroyed the excitement. When i took down the shingle, I've never felt more liberated. The burden was lifted. I still enjoy talking taxidermy but I have ZERO intentions of jumping back in. I was wearing big boy pants before most of you ever picked up a scalpel. If you eat, breathe, and sleep taxidermy, I'm happy for you. But IF it happens to you (even though most likely WHEN you do) it's not because you weren't warned.
    pir^2h likes this.
  9. Dave Byrd

    Dave Byrd Active Member

    George, did you read all that I wrote or just the first few sentences? Yes, I was misguided BEFORE I got hit with it myself. I went on to explain how it affected me and how I NOW completely sympathize with anyone going through it. It is a very real and destructive malady that can potentially cause serious harm...not only to yourself but also to those around you.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
    MixedupMel and George like this.
  10. Skywalker

    Skywalker Well-Known Member

    Burnout is real and no one is safe from it. I would have never thought it would happen to me 20 years ago, but a number of factors took a serious toll over the years. I've managed it in the last few years but I sense it's lurking presence. Often.
    George likes this.
  11. Joe Kish

    Joe Kish Well-Known Member

    Like most topics on this forum, no two people have quite the same definition of burnout. Burnout to one man could be boredom from doing deer heads day in, day out, to another the work has simply lost it's challenge and hence not as satisfying as it once was.

    A real biggy is going to work every day, knowing that there are so many government agencies with their laws, rules and paperwork requirements regulating a taxidermist and on top of that you must, let me repeat that word - MUST, turn over an unconscionable portion of the money you earned with those long hours and hard work without them lifting a finger to help you earn it, to those parasitic leeches (aka - revenuers) or suffer their force and violence if you refuse or neglect to do it. If starting your workday with that thought lurking in your subconscious every time you enter your shop isn't a catalyst toward burnout, I can't think of what would be.

    Burnout is most likely self-inflicted, hence curable by the patient himself. I can't say I've ever suffered it myself. If I ever had it at least I didn't recognize it. Everyone knows the old saw that goes, "Find an occupation doing something you really love and you'll never work a day in your life." Of course that isn't 100% true, but I think we all get the point.
    Glenn M, Ron B and Micah Howards like this.
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Life Sucks.....Then comes the death roll!!!!

    I guess one should expect to get weary of doing anything 80 hours a week for 30 years and owning your own business is five times more stress than just working a job, regardless of what profession you chose. But one thing I find discouraging about taxidermy, especially as I get older is knowing you are never going to make real money. Unlike some other jobs where you can at least hope some day you will hit the big time. With taxidermy you pretty much know what you are going to be making the rest of your life! And dont say raise your prices because I could double or even triple mine and even if I didnt lose a single piece of work it still would not be real money!

    Before i went full time I used to contract painting and there was always the hope of scoring a commercial contract that could make 100's of thousands. Of course it never happened for me but there was hope!:( with taxidermy.....not so much!!:rolleyes:
    MixedupMel and George like this.
  13. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    Great post George! I agree with most everything you say here. It seems to me the more artistic talent one has, the more extreme the mood swings. I have to wonder if the folks you knew that took their lives could have also been affected by the chemicals they used back in the day (and today still for some)???

    I think every person and situation is different along with their levels of depression and how they're dealing with it. I still think boredom plays a fair role in this business and burnout. After all, there really isn't "the next level" to strive to like in many professions - other than growing the business or achieving some personal goals (eg competitions). But, I will say lessening my workload and keeping ahead of schedule are two things that have kept my head up higher lately. And I was fortunate in having another income when I started out and also having a wife with a solid income with benefits all these years. Finances have never been much of a worry for me personally when it comes to playing with fish. I'm certain that would be a (huge) factor in dealing with depression (burnout is really just another name for depression I believe). Again, I'm generalizing here because I think it varies considerably from each individual and how they deal with it. One other thing. I also believe some really have the passion in this business and it is those that deal with things the best. Personally, I've always thought it was interesting and I wanted to learn how to do it. But, I could walk away from it tonight without ever mounting another fish or paint a fish replica and I wouldn't look back!
    George likes this.
  14. Richs Taxidermy

    Richs Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I would say one on only working is the problem,most taxidermist are a one man shop so alot of loneliness maybe,but what is worse working a 9 to 5 in a job you hate or working taxidermy full time,I see alot of full time taxidermist traveling to conventions while there wife's stay home working 9 to 5
    George and FishArt like this.
  15. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    Yes, good point Rich. No doubt little social interaction also contributes...
  16. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I made a comfortable living doing taxidermy. I was never bored. I think I began to resent it when I realized that the eighty plus hours a week I was putting into a day job and a taxidermy business was causing me to neglect my family, friends, my health and spirituality, house and property, vehicles, and just about everything else. Strangely, it was the taxidermy I resented. It took a few diagnosis' of life altering diseases to get me to kill the taxidermy business. As was mentioned earlier by a wiser man than me, I felt liberated.

    Every time I go into my shop or skinning shed I just stand there and remember the stacks of capes waiting for me when I got home. The late hours in that skinning/salting shed and start feeling almost angry. I used to love spending time in that shed hour after hour. I look at my show room and shake my head.

    I mounted a personal turkey a while back and it was just torture. I couldn't get into it and it was all I could do to get through it and make it nice. I fought the urge to just slap it together just to get it over with. It came out awesome, but, I don't want to go through that again. I used to love mounting turkeys, deer, elk, and mammals.

    Burnout is the only thing I can come up with, because the only thing taxidermy I want anything to do with is this site.
    MixedupMel, Skywalker, Ron B and 2 others like this.
  17. Dave York

    Dave York Well-Known Member

    All most of us want to do in life is work doing what we enjoy doing. The problem is all the other non related tasks we have to deal with that drive us crazy.
    When I first started my mechanic job
    I just worked on vehicles. I was happy, drivers were happy and my boss was happy. Then computers came along. By the end of my career 25% of my time a day was on the computer. The mechanical work load was the same but now the computer
    ruled my existence.
    I believe if taxidermists just had to do taxidermy and not deal with phones, texts, emails and
    Customers the burnout would be much less.
    I changed jobs for two years because I didn’t want to deal with people, I just wanted to work.
  18. The only burnout I deal with is I'm burned out on deadbeat customers. It never fails that the ones that want the most will be the hardest to get to come get their mount. Ron B is dead on that you'll never make real money doing this!
    George likes this.
  19. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    And the longer that you stay at it, the more of those clowns will show up in your shop. I told someone shortly after I took down the shingle was that if it were not for those people you mention, I might have made it a few years longer.
  20. Jerry Huffaker

    Jerry Huffaker Well-Known Member

    Going on 33 yrs full time what’s helped me combat burnout is every so many years I’ve had to change my “why” or motivation. My wife works in the business and it’s our sole source of income so I have to get it done.
    You go through the different phases as george layed out but eventually you use all those up. My drive at the moment is to make sure we have enough savings to not be a burden to our kids or society if and when the day comes and I can’t work anymore. I still love being a taxidermist but being in the taxidermy business is another story.
    Another thing that has helped me is I have other interests and hobbies that have nothing to do with the outdoor industry. This helps you get away from it.