Editor’s note: Triangle entrepreneur and thought leader Jes Averhart, CEO of Jes & Co and host of the “Reinvention Road Trip,” is a regular WRAL TechWire contributor who explores topics pertaining to reinvention. Her columns appeared weekly in 2022 and 2023. This article, #7 out of a ten-part countdown, comprises content selected from her contributions over the past two years.

Note to readers: WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: info@wraltechwire.com.


We’re on a ten-week greatest hits countdown, and today’s piece is #4!

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Back in January I ran into Ryan Ray, President and CEO of Jobs for Life, a very purposeful organization I deeply respect. As we were doing the whole “How-are-you? Happy New Year” thing, we started talking about how we’re both in pursuit of maintaining life’s harmony. That’s when he dropped this insight that made me lean in a bit.

He said: “Most people are living their lives as if they’re always preparing for a big test.”

That made me cringe a little… literally. I have terrible test anxiety, so if every day felt like I was prepping for a big test, I would just dig a hole, crawl in and call it a day. But the crux of his statement rings true, doesn’t it?

We live like we’re going to be graded on our work performance (and some of us are—here’s looking at you, Meta, and your off-the-charts-high-pressure review system), our beauty, our home setting. As if we’re living on the cover of a magazine or someone is going through our homes with a white glove to inspect our progress. It’s the place where perfection is the standard—not just in one area, but in all areas of our lives.

This is a fool’s errand. And it’s time for an anti-performance culture movement.

Of course, to understand this, you need to understand what performance culture is. Trust me, you’re immersed in it. Simply put, it’s the pressure to perform. Not once in a while, but the pressure to be productive and perfect, day in and day out.

It’s everywhere. Social media. TV. Work reviews. And the impact of performance culture is to feel like failures—even when we are high performers, which is, by the way, not a bad thing. (More on that key difference next week.)

I see this as an important part of my work as a talent development coach. I typically coach high performers who time and time again tell me they feel like they still don’t measure up. They may be top execs leading purposeful organizations that are truly making a difference, but performance culture makes them feel like they can never show cracks in the armor. Relaxing is demonized, and needing a true rest is like confessing to sin.

In addition to seeing this in my coaching sessions, it pops up in our programs as well—both 28 Days of Reinvention and Living Beyond Burnout. You might think people who signed up for a burnout recovery program would know that it’s okay to rest and take their time. Nope! It’s a universal need for participants in both programs. They need permission to rest. To “fall behind.” To do things on their own schedule. Because performance culture has convinced them that they are failures if they do anything less than perfect—even a burnout recovery program!

Give yourself permission to rest and reflect. It’s okay. Join the anti-performance culture movement. And learn how to live from a place of rest, instead of earning the right to.

Who’s in? In the meantime, take a deep breath and maybe a nap, too.

(Wondering if you are a performance culture addict or a healthy high performer? How do you rate on the scale? Find out here.)