burnout creative living employee entrepreneur flexibility fuck off fund reclaim your time walkout work redesign working mum Nov 03, 2020

Where are you in the four stages of burnout? And are you considering going back to school in your 30s or beyond?


My guest today is Debbie Cohen, the founder and director of The Style Chapter, a boutique interior styling studio, based in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.  

Debbie spent the first 10 years of her career working her way up in business development across law firms in Perth, London and Sydney.  After feeling ‘stuck’ and unfulfilled in her career for a very long time, it took a case of physical and mental burn out to be the wakeup call she needed.  With absolutely no contingency plan in place, this ‘organised planner’ left her job, and for the first time in her life, took the time to really consider what it was that she wanted to do.   

After deciding to follow her passion for beautiful interiors, Debbie enrolled in Design School to become a qualified Interior Decorator. The next few years she went on to freelance for various styling companies, and in May this year, launched her own business, The Style Chapter - in the middle of a pandemic with a baby and a toddler in tow!

In this episode we chat the four stages of burnout, going back to school and how she accidentally started her business.

  • [4.55] Debs career history from fashion to law between Perth, London and Sydney.

  • [8.12] The four stages of burnout:

    • Stage 1 – feeling sluggish

    • Stage 2 – it’s hard getting out of bed and not sleeping

    • Stage 3 – declining social invitations, rattled, anxiety

    • Stage 4 – you cannot do it anymore, your body can, but your head cannot

  •  [9.30] What Deb’s was thinking just before she walked away: “Just keep going.”

  • [10.25] The sign from the universe that made her realise she had to make a change and she found herself saying: “There has to be more than this.” (she took the words out of my mouth!)

  •  [11.45] A big realisation for me: my time is not my own – I have no control over my time.

  • [12.50] The Friday morning it all changed: Debs walked into work, put her handbag down and didn’t even get a coffee. Screaming on the inside: “I cannot do this anymore.”

  • [14.30] With hindsight, the point she realises she should have evaluated.

  • [17.05] When she left her job, it was “the best summer of my life.”

  • [17.28] A book she recommends: What Colour is Your Parachute, by Richard N. Bolles. It quickly became apparent she loves.

  • [18.12] Moving in with her now-husband, merging their belonging, they used an interior decorator. Debs found herself asking: “Is this your job? I didn’t know jobs like this existed.”

  • [19.40] Doing work experience at 32 years old and going back to school at Sydney Design School. Getting a part-time job, Thursday nights and Sunday at a store.

  • [20.30] Tip to work out what you might want to do: ask the people who know you well: What is it I enjoy, when do you see the sparkle in my eyes?

  • [21.00] Walking away from your salary. “I didn’t have a Fuck Off Fund, if I did, I could have left earlier.” She was supported by her now husband and part-time job. Because she was so unhappy, she needed to spend money to fill the gaps. We remember when she stopped getting her nails done and started stretching out the hair appointments. She began spending less and has never been happier.

  • [24.39] Deb’s never set out to start her own business, it was just a Covid opportunity that came around. 2016 was a busy year: she retrained, got engaged, married and had a baby! How is this going to fit in with life with kids?

  • [27.15] Birthing The Style Chapter: named because it’s a new chapter in her life and for her clients it’s a whole other chapter in moving house. She offers interior decorating for people staying in their houses or moving into new houses.

  • [27.55] Deb’s top tips for refreshing a space: don’t just go with what’s on trend and think about how you use this space.

  • [29.17] What Deb’s wishes she had known before leaving her career: I was so worried what people would think. You don’t leave a job without another job. Now I realise people don’t care. Don’t worry, do you. I didn’t have a Fuck Off Fund, but I think it’s a great idea. You will not regret it.

  • [31.55] When I was waiting for my visa, I kept asking myself: “What is the reframe? I can put more money into my Fuck Off Fund and what I am learning?” (Fuck Off Fund: Glorious pot of money to give you the power back to leave your career.)

  • [33.00] What Deb’s kept hearing before she quit: “Is it really that bad? Just don’t go in? But it’s really good money.”


Want to follow Debbie’s adventures? Follow her on instagram.

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