Feeling that my brain has been on “auto pilot” mode for years. I am Principal in one of the top consulting firms, promoted on fast track basis, so have not been “lazy” and doing good at work. But everything feels the same, nothing gets me intellectually stimulated anymore, and now I feel like if the trend continues, I might lose my ability to adapt and learn new things altogether. Does anybody else feel the same way? (Contd).

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agree with the idea of taking a sabbatical and doing something radically different

but from a career standpoint, it sounds like you should try something that will be a huge deviation from your current work as a consultant. have you thought about joining an early stage startup and learning about what it's like to actually operate and grow a company, as opposed to giving advice from the sidelines? that could give you the purpose and challenge you seem to be lacking right now

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Yeah I agree with this. Whenever this feeling of mind-numb comes up, this somehow pops up as the potential solution. Glad to know that I am not crazy to think that way. Replying to comments on this thread also affirmed this feeling.

The complicated part is that for multiple other reasons I can’t switch job for at least a year or so. So need to find myself ways to get intellectually stimulated in some other ways meanwhile 😪

The other idea that occurs to be is if you are brain numb from the day-to-day, taking up some type of side volunteering gig mentoring or teaching middle schoolers or high schoolers might help. I’m framing this under neuroplasticity. Teaching others the skills you have is quite different from doing them yourself. And the questions these kids may ask or the connections they make, technologies they use, etc may be enough to spark new areas of exploration and thought. One partner I know sponsors a middle school’s robotics team, another volunteers with Girls Who Code.

The other piece I’m considering is you may be technically deep in one area, but developing relationships, knowledge and interest in seemingly unrelated fields may spark more innovations and creativity and get you out of your rut. Framing this under social network theory, you want depth and connection to spanners. If you haven’t read The Innovator’s DNA, it’s a great one and talks about shallow horizontal and deep vertical skills as a key to unlock innovation. The same has been argued for social networks by Malcolm Gladwell.

Last piece that’s occurring to me, especially related to your posts on start-ups is if you are tenured and senior enough as a partner, offer to spearheading one of the new novel, innovative solutions your firm is investing in. You learn a new skillset and work with a completely different team, generally speaking. It’s quasi-entrepreneurship without having to leave.

A final semi-related pitch, if you’re altruistically inclined, I’d recommend picking up some Associates to mentor on how the firm really works and ask them to teach you something they’re really good at. Or just flat out ask them for a reverse mentoring relationship. My guess is you could learn about pickle ball, craft beer, anything really, but the passion with which these Associates speak and are interested could be enough to reignite your own spark.

Hope you find something that catches fire for you.

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Aah I see. I don’t know that, as not in big4 either :)

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If you’re a partner at a top consulting firm, I am Patrick Stewart.

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I see now. Lol, I hope I don’t get to that stage!

Also concerned that if this is the way I feel in consulting which is supposed to be fast paced, I don’t know how I will survive industry. And also wondering what next 30 years of career would look like. Any advice from anyone?

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At Deloitte1: I don’t believe in the concept of retiring early (my personal take). I might not continue in the same profession or work the same hours, but will continue to do something that will keep me meaningfully engaged, which hopefully will have a monetary aspect to it. My current viewpoint, might change in the future.

Nonetheless, that doesn’t solve the problem. It still sucks to feel this way even for next 10-15 years.

What parts of work interest you and what parts don't? Do you like fact finding, designing, implementing, or something else? There has to be some part of it you enjoy which has gone on autopilot through repetition - try to find out what it is and how you can do more of it or apply it in a different industry or context

smart

Interesting Q. I think I am done with fact finding, designing solutions, implementing etc. have done that for too long and that really doesn’t excite me anymore.

It’s the speaking to the client part that gives me most gratification at this stage - that responding to their questions on the fly and engaging in a meaningful dialogue. I should certainly ask to do more of this.

Thanks for asking a thought provoking Q.

I don’t know which specific firm you are at but once you hit late stage senior manager/director as you move toward partner, the job can become primarily about administration.

Big4 firms in particular are very bureaucratic and you have so many levels of partner between firm strategy and delivery. Strategy is often set by partners who haven’t delivered on revenue engagements, for decades in many cases.

So it’s a logical concern, especially given the rapid technological advancement and shifting skillsets.

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I exited before but had served in a practice leadership role for 2 years and was leading one of our larger programs. So I had been attending partner and practice area leadership meetings.

I didn’t trust the long term viability of their partnership model or the pension structure. I had sold and was delivering engagements with a principal leading our an SAP practice, and it just wasn’t an “eat what you kill model.”

The partners making decisions hadn’t actually delivered in some time and the market and technology in particular, had changed significantly. Many partners had become too comfortable, couldn’t adapt, and a majority were riding the coattails of a minority.

As an anecdote, I remember going through the timeline to deploy SAP and some other adjacent technologies on a cloud platform. Those partners continued to request I extend timelines to “normal” despite us having just delivered phase 1 in an equal timeline. They also wanted more partner hours for nothing and it just an became exhausting time suck.

Technology is compressing timelines which in this case was the value prop we were delivering on, and outside of leadership, this was just understood. Getting that comfortable and relying on inertia just looked risky to me.

Were you “intellectually stimulated” before? A lot of our job isn’t hard - it’s just going up the learning/experience curve and learning how to deal with people and solve problems for the first time. Once you’ve done that over and over again the work can be done on autopilot...

It’s then about moving into the next phase of your career and properly growing the people around you, the practice you’re in and the firm...

smart

Also, thanks for asking a very thought provoking Q. Replying to it made me realise that the problem is my learning has plateaued. I have been in similar roles for a while, which has heavily contributed to this. Now that I have better understanding of the problem, I can at least think of ways to tackle it internally.

Consider a sabbatical if your company offers it. Use that time to research emerging business trends or whatever interests you honestly

They do offer sabbaticals. But I think of sabbaticals as one-off, and looking for something more sustainable that I can do differently in my day-to-day work, if that makes sense.

If you could design your ideal week, what would it look like? What types of activities would bring you the most energy / joy - and conversely which are “drainers” that you would avoid?

Also: if you had a peer in your exact situation, what advice would you share with them?

I thinking taking to client gives me most joy. Doing slides and working with 1st year consultants are the biggest drainers. Unfortunately that’s not really in my control, so have to love with it.

Advice for peers: would be to look out. And make the most of the remaining time in consulting. I guess I will try that myself!

Add real value to the world and help with global warming or social equality or fix healthcare in the US.

Maybe you are coming to grips with how worthless and unfulfilling consulting really is??

Haha. Could be.

I think those problems are too big for me to fix. Can’t fix problems of my own life, let along the healthcare system in a country where I don’t live 😉

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