IAM1051- Certified Virtual Speaker Helps People Manage Burnout

Podcast Interview with Michael Levitt

Michael Levitt is the founder & Chief Burnout Officer of The Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego and Toronto-based burnout media firm. He is an in-person and Certified Virtual Speaker, a Certified NLP and CBT Therapist, a Fortune 500 consultant, and author of the new book BURNOUT PROOF.  Michael hosts the Breakfast Leadership Show, a top 200 global podcast on iTunes. Michael's A Top 20 Global Thought Leader on HR & Culture with Thinkers360. and a former Healthcare executive, overseeing $ 2 Billion budgets.

  • CEO Hack: (i)Timeboxing (ii) Color-coding my calendar using my favorite color
  • CEO Nugget: Stop emailing your staff after work hours or on weekends
  • CEO Defined: A gift to be able to lead




Burnout Proof:

369 Days:  How To Survive A Year of Worst-Case Scenarios:
Burnout:  How You Entered The Path To Burnout:

SpeakerHub: (includes testimonials from past talks)
Certified virtual presenter:
500 Speakers:

Speaker reel:
My Smartphone Burnout talk:
Leading Through Change Without Burning Out (Virtual Conference) :

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00:15 – 00:39
Intro: And learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

00:40 – 00:49
Gresham Harkless: Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Michael Levitt of the Breakfast Leadership Network. Michael, it's great to have you on the show.

00:49 – 00:51
Michael Levitt: Great to be on the show with you today.

00:52 – 01:24
Gresham Harkless: Definitely super excited to have you on. And before we jumped into the interview, I want to read a little bit more about Michael so you'd hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. And Michael is the founder and chief burnout officer of the Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego and Toronto based burnout media firm. He is an in-person and certified virtual speaker, a certified NLP and CBT therapist, and a Fortune 500 consultant and author of the new book, Burnout Proof. Michael hosts The Breakfast Leadership Show, a top 200 global podcasts on iTunes. And Michael's a

01:24 – 01:37
Gresham Harkless: top 20 global thought leader on HR, culture with Thinkers 360, and a former healthcare executive overseeing $2 billion budgets. Michael, great to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the IMCO community?

01:38 – 01:39
Michael Levitt: Let's do it.

01:39 – 01:47
Gresham Harkless: Awesome, let's do it then. So to kind of kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

01:47 – 02:28
Michael Levitt: Yeah, my CEO story has had different flavors for sure. And my, you know, my current role, I'm chief burnout officers, the, you know, 1 of the fun titles that I gave myself, but I am the CEO of Breakfast Leadership Network. And that organization was birthed almost 5 years ago now. And it came about from an observation of burnout and a lot of people in a variety of different sectors were burning out. And this is before the COVID-19 pandemic but more importantly that burnout story has a deeper meaning to me because in 2009 to 2010 I had

02:28 – 03:08
Michael Levitt: what I like to call my year of worst case scenarios where in burnout was the cause of these scenarios. So over a period of 369 days from May 2009 to May 2010, the following happened to me. I had a heart attack that should have killed me. I lost my job during the Great Recession. My car was repossessed and then finally my home was foreclosed. All those things happened in a year and all those things happened because I was burned out. I wasn't taking care of myself. I was making mistakes at work. When you're on unemployment during

03:08 – 03:41
Michael Levitt: the Great Recession and you're on heart medication that costs you a thousand dollars a month and you don't have any drug insurance coverage, you have to make some choices. Do I eat and take this medication to help me stay alive? Or do I make car payments? Well, I chose the food and the medication road and of course the bank, you know, reserve the right to take the vehicle back and they did and you know same situation with the house and the mortgage. Obviously all of those situations are pretty extreme to happen but for all 4 of

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03:41 – 04:13
Michael Levitt: them to happen in 1 year was was pretty significant for me and it gave me another opportunity which I'm thankful for because when you're laying on a procedure table in the hospital, and the cardiologist looks at you and says, you don't know how lucky you are to be alive right now. It's, it's pretty eye opening, to say the least, I did joke with him. See, So you skipped the bedside manner class in medical school, I see. And we all laughed and had a good time with it, but I figured I probably shouldn't pick on the guy

04:13 – 04:42
Michael Levitt: that's gonna be cut open me and put stents in my artery. I should probably be a little bit more polite, but it was worth it. He got he got the joke. But at the end of the day, you know, all those things happen because I was burned out. And I was living a life that created those burnout scenarios. And after recovering from all of that, and finding a new job and relocation and moving and all of that good stuff, you know, I had a choice, I could have said, Well, you know, I survived all of that.

04:42 – 05:13
Michael Levitt: I'm Superman, I guess I'm invincible. Or, you know, I took a deeper, harder look at my life and how I was living it and made some pretty significant adjustments in my life and I want to frame this really quick for people that are burning out or think they might be burning out 99.9 percent of people do not need to reinvent their life. They just need to make a couple adjustments here and there and how they do things. It'll make a big difference in my particular situation. Because of the severity of my burnout and the other things

05:13 – 05:41
Michael Levitt: that were going on in my life, I did need to do a deep dive and figure out, okay, why did I make the choices that I made? Why did I do what I did? Why did I eat the way that I did? All the things and said, okay, I don't ever want to go through that again because, you know, I nearly died the first time. I don't want to give that an opportunity to have another swing at me because it could be successful the second time around. So I made the adjustments and started living a great

05:41 – 06:13
Michael Levitt: life and started looking around at my colleagues. I worked in the healthcare sector at that point. And I started seeing a lot of people going down the same road that I did and it scared me. And I thought, okay, I need to do something about this. So I started researching and writing about it, which then birthed my company. Cause I thought, okay, this is a bigger problem than I thought it was. And started writing about it, started my own podcast show and started speaking at conferences and working with organizations. And it took on a life of

06:13 – 06:24
Michael Levitt: its own. And here I am today, you know, wrote, you know, Burnout Proof and, and got that out in the wild earlier this year. And it's been, you know, nonstop adventure ever since.

06:25 – 06:55
Gresham Harkless: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely appreciate you for sharing that. And it definitely is something that I think we all kind of appreciate life and the things that are in life. And a lot of times we ignore sometimes things that start to lead and mount to burnout. So I appreciate you for sharing that and just reminding us of how precious life is for 1, but 2, like how it's so important, it sounds like to kind of take care of self and so that you don't sometimes hit that wall or whatever you know we might call it or phrase

06:55 – 07:00
Gresham Harkless: it as because it's hard to to kind of reinvent yourself and come back and it's definitely you've been given a gift for sure.

07:00 – 07:30
Michael Levitt: I agree yeah it's it was it was not easy to for people to make adjustments in their life, I know it's not easy, even because a lot of it is habit forming and we all have habits that are very difficult to implement and some habits that we have that are very hard to break. So for me, I knew it was going to be a tough go of it because I literally had to do a deep review of my life, my beliefs, my thoughts, my habits, why I believed in things, why it was so important for me

07:30 – 08:01
Michael Levitt: to work the insane hours that I did that led up to my cardiac event. I had to do a deep dive and go, okay, why was that important to me? Why did I feel like I had to work those long days every day for 2 solid years? Why was that important to me? What was my end goal? What was I trying to accomplish? And was it realistic? 1. And 2, was it actually that important? Was it going to make that big of a difference for me to work those hours compared to, you know, working a normal

08:02 – 08:05
Michael Levitt: schedule and having a little bit more work-life harmony.

08:05 – 08:32
Gresham Harkless: Yeah, that's absolutely huge. I appreciate you going through those questions and the kind of that evaluation that you went through, I imagine, over a period of time. But I think it's so important for us to kind of, take a look at the things that we're doing as well too because often we can get into a place where we're creating habits and doing things on a regular basis and not even sure why we're doing them because we feel like we should or we have to but really to inspect that and understand, you know, just look at that

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08:32 – 08:37
Gresham Harkless: on all sides and see why exactly we're doing that is something that is at the very least a great exercise.

08:37 – 08:44
Michael Levitt: Yeah, I agree. I agree. It's been, it's been very helpful for me and it's helped me work with teams and individuals as well.

08:44 – 08:57
Gresham Harkless: Yeah, Absolutely. And so I wanted to hear a little bit more about that work with teams, the leadership network and everything you're doing there. And of course, your new book, could you take us through a little bit more on what that looks like, how you serve your clients and what you feel maybe even sets you apart and makes you unique?

08:57 – 09:27
Michael Levitt: Yeah, I think we'll answer the last part first. What makes me unique is I know what burnout feels like and looks like and tastes like and I know, you know, 1 of the side effects. Yes, we know it's fatigue and you're wiped out and you don't feel good and you're lethargic and you make mistakes at work and all that good stuff. But I also know the secondary event of it where you could literally lose everything, including your life. And that's an extreme case. But unfortunately, as I'm seeing more and more people burning out, they're definitely flirting

09:27 – 10:02
Michael Levitt: with that. And it's not something that I would ever wish upon anyone. So I hate seeing and hearing the stories of people burning out. The work I do with organizations and speaking at conferences and whatnot is to bring awareness to what burnout is because a lot of people hear the phrase burnout but they may not know what the definition of it is. And it's prolonged stress with fatigue and you feel overwhelmed and you're just not living your ideal life. You're just completely feeling like you're being pulled in all kinds of different directions and it's due to

10:02 – 10:43
Michael Levitt: prolonged stress. Well, this pandemic has been prolonged and it's been stressful. So you can see why a lot of people are burning out. The Hartford insurance company did a survey recently and the employees that they surveyed indicated that 61% are identifying a feeling a little bit burned out or dramatically burned out. So that's 6 out of 10 people. That's a pandemic within the pandemic. That's really problematic. So the work I do with organizations is, we focus on communications and expectations and habits and behaviors of employees and management and getting them all on the same page of

10:43 – 10:49
Michael Levitt: what is a priority, what isn't, when should we work and when shouldn't we work?

10:49 – 11:13
Gresham Harkless: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I wanted to kind of switch gears a little bit, but it might be related to what we're just talking about, which I wanted to ask you for what I call like CEO hacks, which are kind of like haps, books, or habits that people have that make them more effective and efficient. But it doesn't have to be around burnout. But I was just wondering, would you consider like those ingredients you talked about, like addressing and being aware of those ingredients as being like a hack and understanding how to, you know,

11:13 – 11:23
Gresham Harkless: get a good night's sleep, how to make sure that you're consuming and putting the right things into your body and just all of those things that was sometimes we equate with like keeping our cup full as being like really great hacks.

11:24 – 12:00
Michael Levitt: 1 of the things I do is I'm very, very diligent about my calendar and I schedule pretty much everything. Now, you know, bodily functions and things like that. I don't put those on my calendar. I'm not that crazy. But, but I do use time blocks and I also color code my calendar. So meetings and phone calls, podcasts, interviews, writing, all the other things that I do. I use separate colors on my calendar for those things. But for my self-care time, which is not just yoga, meditation, or moments of zen type of thing, but things that I

12:00 – 12:33
Michael Levitt: like doing, enjoying, that I could be reading or watching a baseball game or, you know, going for a walk or anything like that. I schedule that, but I also use my favorite color for my self-care time. And the reason why I use my favorite color, which happens to be blue, is when I look at my calendar, like a week, you know, set, you know, so for 7 days, I can squint my eyes and I can still see the colors. If I don't see enough blue, then I know that my week is a little bit out of

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12:33 – 12:35
Michael Levitt: harmony with everything else.

12:36 – 12:46
Gresham Harkless: I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you hopped into a time machine you might tell your younger business self.

12:47 – 13:09
Michael Levitt: Probably the biggest 1 that I tell people time and time again, especially as an executive is to quit emailing your staff after hours and on weekends. Just stop doing that, please. Unless you're 24 7 shop, then okay, you're emailing people that are working those shifts. So that would be different, but in many situations we're not.

13:10 – 13:21
Gresham Harkless: Truly appreciate that. And I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote unquote CEOs on the show. So Michael, what does being a CEO mean to you?

13:21 – 13:58
Michael Levitt: Being a CEO for me is a gift. It allows me to do what I want, where I want and when I want, but in a way that uses my gifts and experiences to serve others, because leadership is serving. It's a wonderful gift to be able to do that. It's not bestowed upon everybody. There are some people that are in leadership roles that are struggling because it's not natural for them, but it doesn't mean they can't be a leader, you know, they have to do some self investment to learn how to be a better leader and learn

13:58 – 14:18
Michael Levitt: from the great ones, you know, completely, as I like to say, permanently borrow from the greats as far as how to lead. And there's no shortage of great leaders in history that we can emulate and learn from. So just remind yourself as a leader, it's a gift to be able to lead. So treat it wisely.

14:19 – 14:42
Gresham Harkless: Yeah, I absolutely love that and saying is success leaves clues. So to be able to kind of tap into those great leaders, those great minds and in so many different ways is definitely, you know, an opportunity that we all have at our fingertips a lot of the times. And I love that gift aspect because a lot of times to get the opportunity to use our gifts is a gift in and of itself. So I love the opportunity and the gift to be able to use our gifts to be able to make our businesses, our lives and

14:42 – 15:00
Gresham Harkless: the world a better place. So Michael Truly appreciate that definition. I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best they can get ahold of you, get a copy of the book, subscribe to the podcast, and find out about all the awesome things you're working

15:00 – 15:31
Michael Levitt: on. Thank you, I appreciate that. Yeah, is the best place to find me. I'm on most of the social media channels. If you look under the letter B and then fast leadership, don't put that on a license plate. Or if you look up hashtag breakfastleadership, you should be able to find me in a variety of different places. The podcast is The Breakfast Leadership Show and it's available on, you know, pretty much all the platforms. The book Burnout Proof is available. You can order it online on Amazon. Barnes & Noble also sells it as well. And

15:31 – 15:52
Michael Levitt: you'll be more than happy to engage with with your audience and people reach out, you know, and send me a message on any of those platforms. I'm pretty responsive on all of them. And be more than happy to help guide an individual or an organization, you know, to burn out proof, you know, their life or their company.

15:53 – 16:17
Gresham Harkless: Michael, I truly appreciate that. We will have the links and information in the show notes. And thank you so much for being transparent and, you know, telling your story. And thank you so much for the work that you do because burnout is real and it's sometimes hard to stop once it gets going, you know, down that line. So I appreciate you for, for telling that story, but even more for kind of arming us with awareness and tools by which we can use to kind of avoid that and kind of not have that prolonged stress, you know, lead us into the path that we don't go. So thank you so much again, my friend, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

16:22 – 16:44
Outro: Thank you for listening to the I am CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at IMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at This has been the IMCEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless Jr. Thank you for listening.



Mercy - CBNation Team

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