It’s important for you to know my burnout story, so you can understand why I do what I do and why I’m so goddamn passionate about it. If you can’t be arsed to read the whole thing though, here’s the jist of it:
I worked my arse off for years trying to achieve my version of success – a massive boat, the perfect body and a business that made shit loads of money without me having to be there every day. Needless to say, I burned out. Although I didn’t hit proper rock bottom until after my business burned down – yeah, you might want to read on for that bit!
So long story short, after struggling to get the help I needed I decided to figure it out myself. And after that, I decided I didn’t want others to struggle as I did, so I created Uppy and coached professionals in the realm of stress management and performance. And now, after getting the shits with the coaching industry, I’m combining all my knowledge and experience with my English wit to help female professionals in a far more powerful (and fun way).
That’s the short version. Now get yourself comfortable for the unabridged!
The beginning of my burnout
Having moved to Australia with nothing but a backpack, I ended up falling into the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer (which was somewhat unexpected given my long and colourful history of abusing my body by going all or nothing in pretty much every way possible).
Looking back I realise this was probably the driving force at the heart of everything I did. I felt so out of place I figured the only way to fit in (and make up for my inadequacies) was to work my arse off (literally and figuratively) and be the best. I became obsessed with being the skinniest, the strongest, the fastest, the trainer who got the best results, the trainer who did the most hours and the trainer who slept the least.
Again what I later learned, was this was the catalyst for my burnout. However at that time I was too busy to realise I was fucking up my body. I was focused on becoming the manager of that studio and then opening my own gym – because being a personal trainer simply wasn’t good enough for me, I needed more.
When I got a call about a video store (remember those?!) in Maroubra who wanted out, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands – this was my chance to show everyone I was indeed the best. How good to be able to say “I own a gym” – surely that would earn me the respect and recognition I was so desperate for?
Just to be sure though, I worked EXTRA hard. I even slept on a swag in my office for goodness sake – so I didn’t have to waste time every day travelling (I lived 15 minutes away). Needless to say, this exacerbated my burnout symptoms – although I was still too busy to pay attention.
By this point I was suffering from persistent digestive issues (with extreme bloating that made me look pregnant…not cool), erratic energy (I was relying on coffee to get through the day), hormonal imbalances (I hadn’t had a period in two years), I was putting on weight even though my diet and exercise hadn’t changed, and my brain was consistently foggy – so I was making poor decisions and being a pretty sub-standard leader.
Although to the outside world everything looked peachy, behind the scenes I was running out of money and falling apart. And I was incredibly lonely. There’s nothing more isolating (and tiring) than trying to keep up the image that you’ve got your shit together.
So basically I was on a one-way track to Breakdownville, with no idea how to get off. Luckily though the universe stepped in and derailed the whole shit storm that was my life.
The day my business burned down
It was around 4pm on a Friday afternoon. I’d gone home early for once and left my head trainer, Michael, to finish the evening sessions and lock up. Just as I collapsed on the couch I got a call from Michael saying, “Hey Laura, there’s been a bang and there’s some smoke.”
After my initial annoyance that I couldn’t even have one afternoon off without there being an issue, I headed back to the studio. On the way I got a text message from my alarm system that simply read, “Overload”. And as I drew closer I caught the smell of smoke and saw a fire engine scream passed the traffic lights – “What the…”
As I pulled up I could see smoke billowing out the back of the studio. What the hell had I got back there that could catch fire? I didn’t have to wonder that for too long, as the owner of the Chinese restaurant out the front of the studio came running out babbling on about a wok fire that had gotten out of control. Phew, so I wasn’t going to have to field questions about it being an insurance job. Although at that point I couldn’t remember if I even had insurance. I sat in the street frantically looking through the emails on my phone for a policy, while my baby burned in front of me.
Fast forward a couple of hours and we ran back down the street (having been ushered away by the police as the smoke had become dangerous) just in time to watch the roof collapse. I could now see the inside of my gym from the outside…ouch.
You might be thinking at this point that I’d hit rock bottom. Not yet! Remember my need to be the best – well now was my chance to supersize that and be the phoenix rising from the flames (literally!) The next day we ran boxing class in the park, and by the end of the weekend I’d relocated the entire business to another gym.
I carried on operating for another nine months, but it was during this time I hit rock bottom. All the issues I mentioned earlier with my health were supersized and I was struggling to even get off the couch some days. I’d been so busy projecting this image of being the phoenix that I’d pushed myself even lower.
So eventually I shut down the business and embarked on a quest to figure out what the hell was going on with my body. I spent a truck load of time and money on therapies, courses, qualifications, books and workshops, and eventually came to the understanding that it was my mind driving my body. When I say my mind I’m talking about things like perfectionism, unrealistic expectations, my need to be the best and please everyone, and my ability to set goals that were too high to achieve and then beat myself up for not achieving them.
I realised that if I truly wanted my health and life back, I had to learn how to manage and overcome these things so I could get to the source of my stress and restore my body from the inside out.
Burnout is incredibly common
Once I’d mastered that, I noticed that people around me were experiencing similar issues. But like me their efforts to resolve them were futile, because they were largely focused on the surface level stuff – different exercise regimes, diets, food intolerance tests, random therapies…you probably know what I’m talking about!
I decided I didn’t want others to struggle as I did, so I created Uppy and spent a number of years coaching professionals and entrepreneurs in the realm of stress management and personal performance. I’ve had the pleasure of helping some amazing humans, from MPs and CEOs to local business owners and teenage girls.
Interestingly though, every single person had pretty much the exact same stuff going on once you peeled off all the layers – which to me confirms that we are actually all the same simple beings, who just need to change a few things in order to get the best out of ourselves and our lives.
Anyway, after a few years I got the shits with the coaching industry. I felt like it was full of a lot of over-promising and under-delivering, and I didn’t want to be part of that. I knew I wanted to do things differently, but I couldn’t figure out what that was while I was so close to it. So I stepped away from it!
I went off and worked at a marketing agency as a copywriter for a while, which gave me the time and space to get my creative juices flowing again and summon the confidence to truly let the real Laura Piccardi come out to play!
In the background I’d started having a crack at comedy (yes, it’s absolutely terrifying!) I’ve always loved buggering about, it makes me so happy, so I thought – why can’t I just incorporate this into Uppy and deliver something that entertains people while cutting through the crap and helping them live easier lives.
A new way to beat burnout
Turns out I can! And that’s where Uppy is today. I bring together my passion for helping people with my incredible talent for buggering about to create killer content that gives you a laugh as we dive underneath the hood of business to shine a light on all the interesting, funny and absurd things us ladies think and do in our bid to achieve success.
For years I hid the real me because I thought I had to be “professional” and “grown up”, and basically fit into this unrealistic idea I had of what a successful female entrepreneur looks like.
Well fuck it. I am professional and I am grown up – just in my own way. And what I now realise is I am successful – anytime I’m being myself, looking after myself and doing the things that make me happy. And when you have that as a foundation – that’s when you get some serious shit done while having fun.
So if you’re a people pleaser, procrastinator, perfectionist, you’ve never quite understood the term work/life balance, you’re always thinking what the hell am I doing and how am I going to get everything done, or you just need a laugh to break up the day – then I invite you to join us.