Rhee’s Blog | Advice on Burnout

Dear Rhee
I am pooped and feel like quitting this business. I first started 17 years ago because my two girls needed a ballet studio to go to and there were none in the area. My youngest daughter graduated four years ago and now is graduating college. She shows no interest in taking over the studio and I guess I have lost my love for it because I think she wants to move on and get a job out in the world for the first time.I have been through a lot this past year: a lawsuit with a studio neighbor (which we won); starting a company for the dedicated students; taking a trip to Jamaica with 125 people; presenting the May show in a theater instead of in a high school; and hiring two grads and offering benefits for the first time. I am still teaching 36 classes a week and putting in around 75 hours a week.

It seems the studio is growing faster than I can keep up with, and I am exhausted with trying to keep it organized like my customers are used to. I am seriously considering selling it all and walking away. I am 52 and have been in business for 17 years, and not one year has been calm. This is a really tough job and I am growing weary of it all. Am I getting too old or what? I feel so overwhelmed and down. Help, please, Rhee.—Bonnie

 Hi Bonnie,
I’m sorry you feel the way you do. You mentioned that you started the school because you wanted your daughters to have classical ballet training. It sounds like you expected one or both of your daughters to take over the school or become part of the business someday; perhaps part of your frustration is due to the fact that they don’t want to do that. It’s not unusual. I’ve seen many dance teachers lose their steam when their children grow up and move on to find their own niche in the world. I think my mom was frustrated with the same thing at times. My brother, Rennie, and I had our own aspirations, and my mother found herself running a large school alone. I think she always expected that we would take over or become her partners. What’s funny is that Rennie did end up with the school many years later, but first he needed to do what he wanted to with his life.

If you think that this is part of your frustration, then it may be time for a change. You need to do what’s going to make you happy. With all the changes you’ve made and the hours you work, you have a right to be exhausted, frustrated, and insecure about how you’re going to continue to manage it all. You have no choice but to get through this season. Then it may be time to reevaluate. Could it be time to take in a business partner to take on some of the responsibility? Could it be time to cut out some of the activities or put a halt to any new projects? Or, as you said, could it be time to sell the business? You need a clear head to make the right decision. Although I don’t regret selling my business and changing my life, I do wish that I hadn’t been so emotional and I regret that I wasn’t more business minded in my decision. Think it out, and then think it out again before you do anything drastic.

You are not too old—you’re overwhelmed! But the good thing is that your business is growing, which is a sign of a successful leader. Obviously you’ve been doing something right. Now you have to look for the good things in your school and your life while you figure out how to use your success to make your future more enjoyable. Make a list of all the school-related things you love to do, and then make a list of what you don’t like or want to do. Once you know what those things are, you may have a better idea of how to head into the future. Remember, change is a part of life. Sometimes it feels hard (to say the least), but once it happens we often find ourselves wondering why we didn’t do it long ago.

I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best.

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11 Comments:

  1. Great advice Rhee! :) I agree that serious, life-changing decisions shouldn’t be made when you’re in the heat of emotions, stress, or frustration. Sometimes your emotions can magnify the issues that exist, and direct your focus away from the core problem. I agree that Bonnie should take time to write down a “things I hate to do” list, and consider whether or not having someone else handle those tasks will help her to feel like things are more manageable and enjoyable. The fact that Bonnie is teaching 36 classes a week, and working at the studio 75 hrs a week, is admirable, but also a little crazy! lol I mean, Bonnie, do you sleep my dear? I got tired just reading your letter! lol

    Bonnie, I think you need to also make sure that there is balance in your life i.e. enough sleep, leisure activities, time spent with loved ones, time to relax and rest, and not think, etc. I find that when my life is 75% one thing that the imbalance makes me crazy! I wish you the best of luck, and know that you will ultimately make the right decision. You are a very intelligent, wise, and successful individual. You didn’t come this far by accident. Good luck Bonnie! :)

  2. I just stumbled upon this blog because I was looking for advice on the burnout I am feeling with my own school, turns out “Bonnie” is the woman I bought my studio from!!! I’ve had this studio for three years now, I teach about 30 classes/rehearsals a week and my entire life is consumed by my school. I just recently got engaged and I have barely even thought about my wedding because who has time for that?!! At the beginning of this season (and the last) I scheduled days when I could be off and have others teach for me, but I have had to open up new classes when the current ones filled ( we have a third “overflow” room that is very small but works for the little ones)and I am at the studio from 9am til 9pm almost everyday of the week. When I am not at the studio, I am thinking about the studio and when I am not thinking about the studio I am probably asleep and dreaming about it. I have 5 other teachers working for me now, but I guess that is not enough! How does everyone else balance their lives while owning a studio? Or is this every studio owners life? I plan on having children in the near future and I want to be able to take them to soccer practice on a Wednesday afternoon or possibly :gasp: have a dinner at the table around 6pm at least once a week!

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