Recently, I was guest on the Burnt Out Podcast hosted by Sydney Axtell. We talked about my background, my work, and what burns me out. And, special bonus, she asked me about what I’m reading! Always my favorite question.

The following is the transcript of the podcast. It’s pretty long, so I added headlines to guide you through (and make you grin).

You can listen to the podcast here (no apps or downloads necessary).

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Sydney Axtell
I think of motivation like a match, you light the fire and it burns bright. But eventually I’m so dumb. It’s too much. I just can’t wait. The match burns out. This podcast is a way for you to get inspiration and motivation, but also just simple validation. That feeling burned out is something we all experience. It’s totally normal, but it also doesn’t have to last for what feels like forever. Each week I’ll be having a conversation with an incredible person who will tell their story help you find a way to relight the match. That is your passion and drive to push through your current slump for change your life. This is her town.

Welcome back to the Burnt Out Podcast. Today I am so excited to introduce you to Becky Berry. She has done everything from being the owner of a software company to a magazine publisher to a special education teacher, plus a 12 year stint as a stay-at-home-mom and a social entrepreneur. Now Becky Berry helps women stage their career comebacks, and today we’re going to chat with her about what she calls the Should Spiral and why we should never let ourselves get into that headspace. As always, I ask that you subscribe to the Burnt Out Podcast. But for right now let’s jump in.

Hello, and welcome back to the burnout podcast. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Becky Berry. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Becky.

I’m really excited to be here. I love being a podcast guest

I’m super excited to have you. So first off, just tell me who are you?

Who am I?

Now like today? I am a career coach. I help women stage their career comebacks, and I said it that way because this is my eighth career. So, I know from career change. And I live in Atlanta, Georgia, which is amazing. A Tech City and I live in a suburb that’s a Tech City also, which is cool because I’ve been working also on startups and coaching startups. I did my first startup in 1987. So for a while

And I just love what I do. I love being out here. I live on four acres out in suburbia. And it’s just heaven. I work in a coworking space that gives me a whole lot of energy. So, all of that put together makes a really nice life.

That sounds fantastic. But I want to dig deeper into you. So tell me a little bit more about you and your life growing up.

Growing Up

I listened to your podcast yesterday. And I giggled. I’m the oldest of six kids. My parents were very young when we were born, and my mom’s an only child. So anybody can do that crazy now and go “That must have been an interesting household!” Then layer on it that I’m 14 years older than my youngest brother who is also the same age as my stepdaughter. So, kind of cool right? Well, when you marry somebody who’s your parents’ age, your kids are the same age as your brothers and sisters.

That’s what I did. But anyway, growing up you know, the thing that, that set me apart I’m so glad this is a podcast that women listen to because I was smart, insanely smart and pretty, and it was okay to be pretty. And it was a novelty to be smart. And I was always a leader, I always had opinions. I was always wanting to do new things. And I just knew it wasn’t okay to be that way. It wasn’t appreciated, I got squashed a lot.

But that really, that really set me up for going forward. For coaching, right? For coaching women, because this is so many of our stories, right? I didn’t fit. Um, you know, I was pretty so I fit that way. I was from this big family in a small town and my grandparents had taught all my teachers and taught you know, all these people that I knew. So everybody knew me all the time. So, you know, you’re on point, right? Manners, etc, but it was fine, because it made community but it was just the pressure, you know, just being being right.

It was all my fault

And, you know, I thought I had to be right, because I was the oldest of six kids. And my mom was an only child. Therefore, everything my brothers and sisters did wrong was my fault. So it took me, I don’t know, 40 years to get over that. I don’t know that I still am over it. But I’m much, you know, much less likely to take responsibility for things that aren’t mine.

But we had a great family and everybody was different. All six of us are different parents loved us all equally, which makes me, you know, believe that that’s possible. And, one of the founding stories of my life is that when I was 14 years old, and my oldest brother was born, my dad quit his job, he was on a VP level track at Western Electric, which was part of, you know, the Bell System and started selling insurance, six kids, including a newborn, nice salary, guaranteed work, and he starts selling insurance.

And I’m like, okay, you know, that’s what he’s doing now, whatever. And so, as I get older, I’m not realizing that I’m approaching my career, and my life in a lot of ways like my dad did – that if this isn’t working for me, I’m just not gonna do it. I’m gonna go do something else. I’m going to find some something else.

When I first graduated from college, I changed jobs every six months. And it wasn’t until I met my husband that I really kind of got to a little bit of a career path. He was in tech. And I loved technology, even back in the 80s, like I said, and I just, you know, kept learning stuff.

Life Long Learners and Big Personalities

The other thing is, everybody in my family is a lifelong learner, and so am I. I have already read three books this week. I read 5 to 10 books a month. And they’re not all business and great big heavy books. But I read.

I’m a big advocate of reading fiction. Because when I’m in a crunchy, weird coaching situation, sometimes I come up with these strategies. And I’m, like, “Where did that come from?” and I’m like, “Uh huh, came from a novel, that’s where that came from.” Because novels are about emotions and relationships, and not a business book. Not how to make money, not how to manage people to maximize profit.

Novels are about relationships and the differences between people and quirkiness. And I write about this sometimes in my blog post to remind people to read novels, there’s more to life in business books. So, you know, that’s kind of me in a nutshell. I also have a big personality, I think you figured that out.

Yes, you have a fantastic big personality. And thank you so much for telling us about you. And I feel like this is a fairly decent segue in just talking about what your personality is like and just the values that your family your entire family holds.

I want to know, what does feeling successful mean to you.

Success is a stew

I wasn’t expecting that. Okay. Oh, to me, it’s about being content. Which is like a combination of happy and sad, striving and relaxing into whatever it is that’s going on. That to me, makes success. Plus friendships. 100% I’m sitting here. I’m standing here on the shoulders of every woman friend I’ve ever had – and male.

John might be listening to this and going “What about me?” My best friend. He’s a guy. Since I’m eight years old, and I’m not 40 or 50 or, you know, I’m 61. So a long time.

So yeah, it’s a stew, you know, success is a stew. To me, it’s not one ingredient. It’s like all these things. And they just kind of simmer, right? And I can ride it. Sometimes I can ride it and sometimes I fight it. But that’s that’s success to me.

I love that success is a stew. That’s so, that’s such a funny metaphor. But it’s I mean, it’s very interesting, obviously. And it definitely speaks to what you’re talking about is all of these different people, together, have helped to make you successful, you’ve learned from them what it is that made you successful. So that’s, you know, it takes all of these people to make one successful. And I’m sure that you’re in the pot of stew that has made other people successful as well. So it’s very cool.

Yeah, I’m kind of seeing that more and more now. Yeah, so basically, it’s what I do for work.

Oh, yeah, right! That’s exactly what you do in your coaching. Yeah, yeah. So on the other side of things, what does feeling burnt out mean to you?

How to Burn Out Fast

Oh, my gosh, this is so funny. I was talking to somebody about this last week. She goes, you were burnt out last week. I was like “I was?” Because I am an entrepreneur and I’m a serial entrepreneur, which means yesterday doesn’t exist. “Becky, what did you do last week?” I’m like, I have no idea.

I don’t, I don’t. I mean, I’m trying to do this practice where I write down at least part of what I’ve done in a day. Because once I’ve done it, boom, it’s gone. I’ll write these things. I’ll create these products and somebody will go “Do you have this?” And I’m thinking, “Well, now I should create it now. Get on my, you know, get down into the drive on my computer. And I’m like, oh, I already did this. And, oh, it’s pretty good. But that’s like the entrepreneurial mindset and that burns you out. Okay.

The Deadly Should Spiral

That’s when I get burnout when I don’t recognize how much work I’ve been doing. Because what happens is, I don’t, right? I’ve forgotten it ever existed and all of the sudden I’m in this – I’m in this spiral of “I haven’t done enough! Oh my gosh, I should…!” I’m in the Should Spiral. In my podcast, Uniquely Brilliant, Diana and I have no fewer than eight episodes about the should ridiculousness.

But that’s what burns me out – when I bring that word should in and and I start thrashing around that I’m not doing enough. “I’m not doing enough. I can’t do this. Why isn’t this working?” Then I just burnout. And half the time I don’t even realize I’ve done it.

That’s so interesting. I’ve never heard of that before. But it makes a lot of sense. Tell me a little bit more about this Should Spiral that you go through.

The Shoulds In My Head

“I should have started marketing boot camp last week. I should have these ads ready. I should have done the treadmill this morning. I should have done yoga, I should have made these calls. I should have this prospect list in a place that I can just, boom boom boom, call them. But just should. Should should should.

And that’s just, that’s a flame out. That’s a recipe for flaming out. And all of a sudden I’ll be in tears. I can’t move. And what happened?

I mean, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Because you know so much of our internal conversation – until we train ourselves not to do this – you know, to catch ourselves doing and go, “Stop.” If I catch myself I say out loud, “Stop it right now.” I mean, I say it out loud. I don’t even care where I am. “Stop it right now.” Just to break it. But the should is a mechanism I think that we use to keep us from recognizing the really good stuff that we’re doing. And that that good stuff is enough.

Why do we do that?

There’s always one more thing

Because we always think we should be doing more/ You know, people who are high achievers, people who want to change things, or shake things up, there’s always one more thing you could be doing. And we don’t say there’s one more thing I could be doing, we say there’s one more thing I should be doing.

And I spend a lot of time coaching on this. I’ve got two clients right now in these high level job negotiations and they’re like should should should. And I’m like “NO!” What you did was perfect in the moment. It was perfect in the moment. Can we change it? Tweak it? Yes. Do not say the word should to me. It’s okay to say no, you know.

I do a should tally and, a sorry tally in my coaching sessions. How many times you say should and how many times you apologize, which are you know, these are very – guys do it, too – but nobody quite does it like a woman. And I just confront them on it. I’m like, “What are you apologizing for?”

Then I make them pay and make them put $1 in a and they buy their dog a toy. They buy their kid toy. I’m thinking, “I’m breaking this habit. This is going away.” Because it takes away all your power.

Do this to lose your power

Should takes away all your power as does sorry.

That’s pretty powerful. I always try to catch my friends and my loved ones who are females on saying sorry, because we as women tend to apologize for just our existence in general, and for taking up space.

And to have that idea related to the Should Spiral is very powerful. Because I think that that’s something that a lot of us do. I know that I do it as you’re talking right now. I’m like, “Hmm. I was just thinking that I should have done this instead of that.”

Yes. So that’s a really powerful statement. I think. So that’s very, very cool. So other than just saying, “Stop it.” You know, once you can, once you catch yourself saying I should do this, or I should have done that. How do you move forward with that? How do you get yourself out of that type of burnout from the Should Spiral?

Get it back

Reframe. You reframe it. I have people go back – Like these women in these interviews. I ask, “Tell me five things that went right.” And they’re go, boom, boom, boom, boom. And I’m like, “Okay.” And then you just, you just shift the energy. When you go back and say, “Well, I did this, and this, and this, and this. And I can do X, Y, Z. It’s just shifting your, you know, it’s just shift, shifting your mindset to that’s the past, here’s what I’m going to do.

Because I was just thinking, as you were talking, that the should conversation is also about being stuck in the past and not moving forward. It’s also lack. That’s also a lack mentality instead of a planting that mentality, it says, I’m not enough, I didn’t do enough. Instead of saying, I am enough, I did enough, now what’s next? And that’s, that’s a conversation you can have.

One of the things you can say is, “Wait a minute, I’m going to the should. No, that’s the past. I’m going to focus on today.” Which is another trick, right? Being in the present. I’m going to focus on today, I’m going to write down five things I did.

If I’m going, like, yesterday, or last week, I’m going, “Well, what did I do last week? Let’s just write down five things I did last week.” And I’m always amazed at what I did. And all of that just shifts you out of the burnout. Because the burnout is about regret. The burnout is about shame. The burnout is about burning your energy in a non-productive way. So just just the least little thing can can help you shift out of that.

Then there’s always go crawl on the bed and read a book. I mean, when it’s really bad, and you just can’t get out of it, and you’re just exhausted and you realize you’re burnout, then you can really just take a physical break and do whatever it is that makes you happy, makes you content in that moment. Because it’s about that moment.

It’s a cycle

I mean, it’s a cycle and you get there, you know, it can be months, it can be years. But you get there. You know, when my husband died five years ago, my burnout cycle was pretty fast. Just because I didn’t have my usual things to bring to the table. I didn’t have my normal resilience. I didn’t have ummm my strategies. I didn’t, you know, I just didn’t, I wasn’t flexible. And that was hard. Because I’m used to being flexible and having strategies. And I know it’s part of it can be part of grief, I was also in a career I was realizing I had to leave.

So all of it together was kind of a mix. And this was before I was a coach. So I didn’t have all these strategies. I had some of them because I’ve done a lot of studying about this, my whole life. I I am enough, it’s going to be okay. Those things I know because I did a lot of feminist theology about 20 years ago, and the core feminist theology is that we’re enough.

So it’s that soundtrack is in my in my head, and I rely on that, as you can tell, in everything. I mean, I talk about it podcast, coaching, in my own head.

Well, yeah, that’s fantastic advice. And I think it’s kind of, it’s almost in my head, it’s almost like the Nirvana, to reach. To understand that we’re plenty and be in the present and all those things and we may never …

Practice makes perfect?

It just takes practice, right, right. You know, yoga is a practice, meditation is a practice. Yeah, you know, at the ripe old age of 60, I finally figured out how to meditate. I can’t even tell you how many meditation workshops I’ve been to in my lifetime. But you know, I got the Insight Timer app. I found in the Hindu meditation that I love. And I do, it’s going through my head right now. And then I’ve got a Celtic meditation that I do. But it’s a practice, you know, the mindset is a practice. It’s not like wallpaper, you know, that you just put on yourself and you’re different.

Yes, good point. Good point. So, Becky switching topics here just a little bit, what does leadership mean to you.

On Leadership

Leadership means give and take. The best leaders know how to, to give encouragement and receive encouragement back. I also think the best leaders are really good listeners. And, this just came to me because I know this is one of your questions, so I’ve been thinking about it – is good leaders lead in spite of their fear.

Okay, tell me more.


Well, when you’re in a group, and you’re in a situation where everybody’s worried and concerned about what’s next, maybe you’re launching a new product, maybe your coach has forced you to apply for a job that you don’t think you’re qualified for, but she knows you are. And you’re scared, that leader might be a little nervous, too. Because you know, I get nervous when I push people really hard, and I do it anyway. So I’m just going to step up to the plate. And we’re going to do this. You know, people look at leaders like they’re fearless. I don’t think that’s true.

I love that. So who do you look up to?

Stacey Abrams is running for governor of Georgia I’ve been following her career for a long time. I think everybody’s probably heard of her now. She’s poised to be the first black female governor in the United States of America right here in Georgia. She knows how to marshal people. She’s an out of the box thinker. I like her.

Read these

So the next question will be incredibly either easy or difficult for you based on how much you read. What is the next book I should read? And why?

Two of them. Nobody’s ever gonna get just one book out of me. Number one is When: The Scientific Research Behind Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink who is my favorite business author. He wrote Drive about motivation; he wrote To Sell Is Human. Daniel Pink, makes everything real and fun to read. And he’s talking about the effect of timing on projects on your daily life and he gives these great examples.

Oh, I can give you one, the nappuccino, the nappuccino. So we all know we’re supposed to nap – that really enhances productivity. He talks about siestas and how they’re brilliant – all the research behind it – really cool but a nappuccino is the most effective nap you can take. So you drink a cup of coffee, you close your eyes for 20 minutes. When that 20 minutes are up that caffeine is in your system. And you’re ready to go. Because science proves that , in the universe where there are people, two to four is dead time. And this is how to get through it.

So I mean this is really thorough research. So there’s that one.

Then there’s a book by Patty McCord called Powerful. Patty McCord is the head of HR at Netflix. Oh, she, with Reid Hoffman, is the creator of zero vacation days. And her take on HR applies to everybody.

Her take on team building, that you’re building a team like you build a sports team, that you make strategic acquisitions, that you build up your teammates so that your team is a good place to be from. So that people want to hire people from Netflix.

Because if you nurture the people on your team to exceed and do whatever they want, then you know that they’re set up for the future. So a lot of things I’ve thought, this is what I love about these books, is a lot of the things I’ve thought in my head she wrote down and I thought, “Oh, that’s how you could say that.” Like the zero vacation days. Because if you treat people like adults, they generally behave like adults. Problems come in when we treat them like babies.

Coming from someone who read somewhere from like, 70 to 120 books a year. I kind of expected I wouldn’t just get one answer. This has been fantastic. Thank you. Where can we go to find out more about you?

So I’m on most of the things. If you just look up Becky Berry Coach, you’re gonna find me. My website is My Facebook page is beckyberrycoach. On LinkedIn I’m beckyberrycoach. Same thing on Twitter and Instagram.

That just makes me happy to say, it’s so snappy. BeckyBerryCoach.

Oh I forgot the podcast. I have a podcast. Yes. It’s on my website. It’s called Uniquely Brilliant.

Yes. Uniquely Brilliant, fantastic podcast that we all should listen to also. Thank you so much, Becky. This has been fantastic. I really appreciate you chatting with me today.

Oh, thanks for having me. Because I love your podcast, Sydney.

Okay, the Should Spiral though? I feel like we have all been there. Now we have a little bit of the tools in order to recognize it and get ourselves out of that mindset because it is so hurtful to our progression towards what we feel is the ideal version of success for our own selves.