February 20th, 2018

Dr John Izzo on Burnout, Mindfulness, and Finding Life Balance

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Over the last 20 years, Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people about finding a life balance in their working environments. Author of the Five Thieves of Happiness, his vision is to help businesses build sustainable environments that create net-positive impacts on people and the world. This is his story.

Growing up in Staten Island, NY with my mom, I always was an introspective kid. I always enjoyed making my thoughts more permanent by putting them in words. As my love for writing grew, I flexed my creative imagination into written poetry and plays.

Today I’ve taken on writing as a career because it’s the best way I know to share ideas that can really help humanity. We have so many issues to face: climate change, ocean pollution, inequality, that all stem from our own personal struggles as humans. I want people to discuss ideas and contribute to solutions that are important!


Learning this the hard way, I faced burnout as a young church minister. And then again in the corporate world. Today I travel 100+ days a year so health and well-being is a priority. I used to work out in a really routine way, which is great. But it’s better for your whole being if you do something you love. So I play tennis as much as I can and I make it a point to hike everywhere I go. When I’m home, I go to yoga and take long walks with my partner and my dog at Kits Beach in Vancouver.

When I’m not working, I value my time with my family and my friends above else. It’s what I look forward to most.

My learnings haven’t been all hard though. I’ve learned more about myself walking through this journey than anything. For instance, I’m insatiably curious. The best way to learn is to be incredibly interested in what those who have gone before you have discovered. I interviewed CEOs for The Purpose Revolution. Previously, to that, I interviewed elders from different backgrounds around the world for The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die and scores of people who had stepped up to create change for Stepping Up. I can never get enough. Every time I talk to someone, I want to know more.

To help me power through each day, I start with meditation and it puts me in gear, reminds me of my purpose and why I do what I do.

Motivation ultimately comes from purpose and from the care of the self.

You can be passionate about something but if you don’t care for the self you burnout. On the other hand, it is the sense of purpose that keeps me driving towards my goals.

Because I’m more of a visual learner, I keep a journal. If I have a great idea I write it down and create a plan around it. I carry that notebook everywhere. The digital calendar keeps my daily appointments, but the notebook helps me dream and break my goals into steps. Once things are broken down into actionable steps, they get into the calendar.

But sometimes it’s difficult to find the balance between work and life. Because of my work, It has to be intentional. I love my friends and my family, but with my travel schedule the onus has to be on me. If I have a bit of downtime waiting for a flight, I like to reach out to a friend. We’ll chat or plan a get together. I recently spent a great weekend in a cabin at Whistler with my best friends to celebrate my 60th birthday.

One thing I try to live by is the idea of moving forward without being too tied to a particular way to get there. We’ve all had ideas that don’t pan out- take something good from the experience and move on. Google calls this “failing fast and cheap”. In other words, try an idea but if it’s not working, stop throwing time and money at it and move on. But keep your eye on the target and keep moving towards your goal.

I’ve gotten into the habit of mindfulness to keep me focused on my journey. The Five Thieves of Happiness in a nutshell.

You can choose happiness or you can give in to the pressures of trying to control circumstances and people, wanting more stuff and other people’s stuff, worrying about your image and self-worth, and being stuck in unhealthy patterns and situations. Free yourself!

Go where your energy is, focus on something you want to do and build on that success. By starting where you have energy, then you won’t get bogged down trying to fight through things that aren’t really calling to you. Another thing that helps me, find a small way to chip away at a big goal. Even writing one page a day will get you a book.