Neal Goldman’s story will be familiar to anyone who’s ever experienced the symptoms of burnout. After pushing to the pinnacle of the high-pressure world of finance, the New York-born tech investor came down feeling hollow. “I couldn’t feel any joy,” he recalls. “It really was just exhausting being me and there was nowhere to go.”
Zainab Salbi, the renowned Iraqi-American activist, author, and founder of the nonprofit Women for Women, also understands the severe stress that plagues more than half of the American workforce today. “The world is celebrating, ‘Oh, such a nice humanitarian,’ but to tell you the truth, at one point the taste of life left me.”
Goldman and Salbi say that pulling their way out of the quagmires of burnout entailed reaching for a range of tools—from books and meditation to exercise or mind-clearing nature walks. Their new startup, called FindCenter, seeks to centralize resources for fighting burnout or seemingly any other personal affliction, as a kind of Wikipedia for wisdom, as Goldman describes it.
Launched earlier this month, the free online portal contains 500,000 pages of articles, podcasts, videos, quotations, and books recommended by an international cadre of book editors, health professionals, and other topic experts.
The causes of burnout
Creating FindCenter and reckoning with their own burnout has made Salbi and Goldman into ersatz gurus on the topic.
Goldman says burnout can occur when we constantly turn to work for escape and validation. “Burying yourself in your work can provide endless distraction from something that you don’t want to think about,” he explains. “There’s an element of feeling not-good-enough and trying to excel in what you do by working as hard as you can. There’s no target that you can actually reach that’s going to make you feel good enough.”
Salbi, whose title is “chief awareness officer,” says burnout happens even if you’re doing work for a good cause. “Burnout has nothing to do with what sector we work in and has everything to do with how we define success,” she explains. “We still brag about how many hours we work a day or a week…Then, we get to a point where we are operating and giving out of empty.”
A key goal for FindCenter is to crowdsource wisdom that isn’t found on the internet. The site offers registered users a page to upload collections of resources or useful links. “There’s valuable information that’s not printed or available online,” says Salbi. “We have knowledge from our grandmothers and our mothers, and we’re offering a space for people to share it with the world in a different manner than Wikipedia.”
Getting through burnout or the abecedarium of afflictions that characterize the human condition requires connecting with people who are wrestling with or have overcome the same dilemma. Reflecting on his struggle with burnout, Goldman says mustering the guts to reach out to others helped. “I felt less alone,” he explains. “The idea for FindCenter is to create a site that makes that easy and welcoming.”