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Interview: Jess Stuart talks about Burnout to Brilliance


Jess Stuart is an author, coach and international speaker who lives on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Jess has a passion for unlocking the potential of people to be their best without burning out in the process. A brush with burnout in her corporate career led Jess across the world to train with Buddhist monks and nuns. A decade later, after writing five books and running her own successful business she shares what she knows about mind-set, resilience and self-belief to help high achievers perform at their peak. Jess talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Burnout to Brilliance.

When I first sat and thought about being our best and achieving the unique potential that’s within us all Brilliance is the word that came to mind. It’s the feeling you get when the sun lights up a room you’re in, or the first glimpse of the sun over the horizon at sunrise. It’s that light bulb moment when you have an amazing idea and it’s the lighting up of your life when you’re living brilliantly. It’s the 5 star ratings on your performance when you’re at your best and it’s the light that shines on others when you move through your work and life being your brilliant self.


The words we often to use describe brilliance and wide ranging but here’s a few of my favourites; brilliant = cheerful, happy, lively, optimistic, bright, clear, dazzling, light, positive, smart, intelligent, sharp, quick, talented, inspired, skilful, excellent

When we’re brilliant we shine and so light is an intrinsic part of this concept of being brilliant. In fact it feels light to live this way and when we’re closer to burnout we know that’s a heavy load to bear, a darker place to be.


It’s why I love the lightbulb metaphor here and for me it also represents energy, which is key to us sustaining our brilliance. When we’re at our best we have more energy and like a light bulb we always shine brighter when we have more energy. Brightness is also synonymous with intelligence and of course when we’re being brilliant our intellect is at it’s sharpest and our brains are functioning at their full capability.


When I was in Bhutan, the Kingdom famous for Gross National Happiness in place of GDP I was surrounded by brilliance, in terms of the light emanating from the people and the priorities their government had around environment, culture and sustainability. Many of the temples I visited had rooms full of butter lamps, there always seemed to be lights burning bright. It is said in Buddhism that light is the knowledge that dispels the darkness of ignorance and this for me perfectly sums up this book. How do we move from the ignorance of busyness and burnout to tap into our true potential and be brilliant.

Who is this book for?

Busy high achievers who want to be their best without burning out in the process. Those who want to perform at their peak at work and still have energy left to enjoy their families at the end of the day.


Those who want to help others by learning to spot the signs of burnout and provide strategies for refuelling the tank.


What inspired you to write this book?

A decade in Human Resources and six years after that coaching high achievers, I’ve seen many reoccurring themes in this space and wanted to give people a guide book to help navigate this space. Especially post pandemic which really put a magnifying glass over this for many of us.


What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

My wish for those reading this book is for you to shine bright, to shine your light on others and to ensure that light never goes out. I hope it helps readers to:

  • Understand the difference between busy and productive

  • Work smarter not harder and master the habits of high performance

  • Understand the neuroscience behind thinking patterns and how to access a flow state

  • Learn strategies to cultivate a more focused, clear mind.

  • Be your best without burning out in the process

  • Overcome overwhelm, reenergise and build resilience

  • Improve productivity and effectiveness.

I hope that this is a roadmap for burning bright rather than burning out.


What are your top three tips from the book?

My research over the last decade has led to the conclusion that our pursuit of brilliance can often be the cause of burnout. We think more, busier, better and perfect will lead to success when in fact we need to slow down in order to speed up. Focus on quality over quantity and do less but better.

  • Mind your busyness – it’s not a badge of honour or a reflection of how valuable you are. It’s a sign you’re not at your best if you’re always busy. Slow down so you can be effective, not busy.

  • Know your triggers when burnout is approaching, audit your energy levels and fuel the tank as necessary

  • Focus on less but better, quality over quantity and reduce the overwhelm in the process

  • Go easy on yourself – aim for brilliance not perfection!

What book have your read recently that you really enjoyed, and why?

Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Simple tips on how to do less but better and another guide to focusing on quality over quantity to improve focus and performance.


What is next on the agenda for you?

Looking forward to getting back out and about in person and connecting with readers at conferences and events again post-Omicron.


Have a surf retreat booked up north to decompress after the launch excitement and then I’m hoping to be get back to the UK for a visit to see my family.


https://www.jessstuart.co.nz/