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Her Mission ‒ Make Burnout A Choice ‒ Exclusive Interview With Ellyn Schinke

Ellyn Schinke is a former scientist turned top coach and international speaker specializing in burnout and stress management. After burning out while pursuing her Ph.D., Ellyn was sick of all the cookie-cutter, BS burnout tips online and sought out the real, tangible tactics that would actually make a difference in her life. As a result, burnout when from being her lifestyle to her passion. Now, she's focused on helping corporate professionals and businesses free themselves from burnout and take back their lives. Ellyn is the founder and CEO of Coach Ellyn LLC, one of the top burnout coaches on Google, host of the Burned Out to Badass podcast, and more. Her mission: Make burnout a choice.

Ellyn Schinke, Burnout & Stress Management Coach/Speaker


introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.


My name is Ellyn Schinke. Online, I ditch the German last name and just go by Coach Ellyn 🤣 I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, which is something I didn’t appreciate until I moved away, and I’ve kind of always been that kid who did everything. Ultimately, it’s what brought me to this point: working as a burnout and stress management coach. I’ve been busy since I was a teen. I joked to a podcast guest the other day that I played Varsity soccer, did musical theater, was in choir, took vocal and piano lessons, played club soccer and was in all AP and Honors classes. So, when I say I was that kid, I’m not exaggerating. I really was!


In college, I was a science major: in microbiology and genetics, to be specific. I thought I wanted to be one of those people from the movie Outbreak, curing diseases and saving the world. It was kind of this cliché picture I had in my head. I actually got my first paying lab job when I was 18, published by 22, and so on. So, I continued my overachiever tendencies through college.


It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I kind of started questioning why I was doing all these things I was doing. I love science and I’ve always been good at doing research. It’s kind of how my brain works, but I never really asked myself if I liked that life. I was validated and praised for it and constantly told how “impressive” it was, but ‒ when you’re pursuing your Ph.D. and all the stressors, comparison, and imposter syndrome that go with that ‒ that’s really when my life changed.


Long story short, I completely lost who I was. I burned out in a fiery blaze of glory. I was bullied. I felt like a complete imposter who didn’t belong. All these things came to a head, but I’m grateful for them in so many ways because they led me to where I am now.


I eventually dropped out of my Ph.D. program. Since then, I’ve started my coaching business, traveled around the world and visited 11 countries, stood on speaking stages, and more! It’s been amazing!


What is your business name and how do you help your clients?


My business is Coach Ellyn LLC. I provide burnout and stress management coaching and speaking services with the goal of helping busy, and ambitious high achievers create sustainable success without all the stress.


My recipe for helping achievers get back on track combines 4 things: boundaries, self-care, awareness, and productivity systems. I offer 1-on-1 coaching services and speaking, and I have recently launched a membership to help walk achievers through these things to help them get back on track, achieving more with less burnout.


What kind of audience do you target your business towards?


Well, if I haven’t made it obvious already, my business targets high achievers. Taking the Enneagram was a big moment for me because I’ve never felt so understood by a personality test. I am a textbook Enneagram 3: The Achiever. I soon came to realize that that’s exactly who I serve.


High-achieving personalities are often perfectionistic, people-pleasing, have a sort of “all or nothing” mentality and there’s a reason for that: like me, their entire identity was built around the praise and validation they received for their accomplishments. Because of that, high achievers are inclined toward burnout. I really focus on helping them to, yes, take better care of themselves, simplify their systems, and set better boundaries, but more than that, I help them become aware of their mindsets, habits, and behaviors and how those might be perpetuating their burnout.


I saw somewhere online that stress is situational, and burnout is habitual. I’ve kind of adopted that because, for achievers, it’s so true. But, as soon as us achievers can become aware of and understand the ways in which we’re perpetuating our stress and overwhelm, that’s when we can make a change. Awareness really is the first step!


What is your work inspired by?


A lot of my work is inspired by personal experiences. I know in my bones what it’s like to burn out. I know how debilitating it feels, but I also know how it can call into question our entire identity as an achiever because achievement is who we are. It’s not a good feeling and that’s a lot of what inspires my work.


But my work is also inspired by friends and peers that I’ve seen do the same thing. The moment I decided to niche down to burnout and stress as my coaching focus, I realized that I’d spent my entire professional life watching high achievers, particularly my female friends, do this to themselves. We work ourselves to the bone with no boundaries and minimal self-care in pursuit of career labels and professional success that define us, only to break down and get to the point where quitting feels like the only option. It’s a maddening and heartbreaking cycle to see, yet so many amazing people do this to themselves. That’s what lead me to say, “you know what? No more.”


Tell us about your greatest career achievement so far.


Oh, good question! I’m going to tee this up for a second…


For so many years, I had really struggled in my coaching business because I really had no focus. When I niched down to burnout and stress management, my Google ranking skyrocketed and I finally started attracting the kind of clients I want to work with. People started finding me and one of those companies was LinkedIn.


I’ve worked with teams at LinkedIn multiple times now, but the experience that really stands out in my mind is when one of their teams flew me down to San Francisco to speak at an in-person off-site.


I’ll never forget that day. I had my slide deck all prepared, but people were asking so many questions that I finally just closed my laptop and went completely off-script. The organizer, Luis, later told me that that was the “game changer” moment in the presentation. It was one of my all-time favorite speaking engagements I’ve ever done and, even more fun, they invited me to lunch over at the LinkedIn café at the SF offices. It was amazing and I got to chat and mingle even more with the managers and executives that I had just spoken to. It is easily one of the best days of my professional life and one of the highest of my professional career, even more so than my publications as a scientist.


If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?


Honestly – and this might be an incredibly unpopular opinion – but the thing I would change about my industry is the seemingly endless blame game. I see coaches in my industry do it, but I also see corporations, individuals, and even thought leaders do it.


Corporations put all the onus on their employees. They say, “you’re burned out and you need to go to this training to fix it” but aren’t willing to take responsibility and accountability for the ways they, as an organization, are contributing to that burnout.


Individuals put all the blame on their corporations. They say, “if you just wouldn’t put so much on my plate, I wouldn’t be burned out.” Though that might be true for some employees, high achievers might need to look in the mirror, too, and say, “in what ways am I actually doing this to myself?”


Heck, I even have an issue with the initial acknowledgment of burnout by the World Health Organization in 2019. They defined burnout as “chronic workplace stress that has not successfully managed,” implying that it’s the employee that is failing at managing their workload when the fact of the matter is it isn’t. Both parties – the company and the employee – are equally culpable for the burnout epidemic we’re facing. So, that’s something I struggle with in my industry.


Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.


It wasn’t necessarily a moment but more a season. It was the summer of 2016. I had been really struggling in my graduate program at that point. I had already started coaching as some side income but also to find some fulfillment in my life. Then, what I’ve described as “an avalanche of low points” happened.


My Grandpa passed. While I was out of state at my grandpa’s funeral, my parked car was in a hit-and-run. I broke my elbow in a freak bicycling accident. But the big moment was when I was in the worst professional meeting of my life.


This meeting was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was presenting my data to a collaborator, and she wasn’t even giving me time to speak before ripping them apart. It wasn’t even teachable. It was just criticism. There was no learning or takeaways. It honestly just felt like shame. I remember wrapping up my presentation, closing my laptop, and sitting down in the back of the room, wondering, “If I’m in school to learn and I’m not actually learning but just beating my head against the wall, then what the heck is the point?”


I kind of realized that there wasn’t one. And it was that day that I made the decision to leave graduate school. That was the day that my life changed.


Tony Robbins has a quote along the lines of, “Change happens in a moment. It might take you 10 years to get to that moment, but…” and that’s how this moment felt for me. At that moment, I’d spent over 2 years exploring coaching, trying to salvage my science career, and contemplating if it was time for me to leave science. But it was that moment that led me to make the decision.


I dropped out of my Ph.D. I left science 9 months later. And my life changed, but – and there’s no doubt in my mind about this – it’s only been for the better.


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