How Do I Thrive Today? With Erica Butler & Pedro Perez

A Series on Thriving, Part One

By Lou Solomon

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How Do We Thrive in Times of Change and Burnout?

Vanessa is a good friend who works at a consulting firm. She is normally an upbeat, fun character. Recently she told us, “I was on seven Zoom calls yesterday, and I’m working for less money. The stress is starting to get to me.”

Researchers at Gallup would say that Vanessa represents a troubling tsunami headed our way.

Job burnout is a special type of stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. — Mayo Clinic

It seems like we’ve been talking about burnout and work-life balance for decades, haven’t we? Yes, since the 70s. But typically we’ve seen them as problems belonging to the individual.

Something very different is happening today. The emotional fatigue brought about by COVID is everyone’s problem—not only the individual, but families, organizations and communities.

Not that we haven’t been resilient. When the pandemic first hit, we jumped into action. But a year later, here we are. We are still working in the kitchen and having twice as many virtual meetings. Many of us are still dealing with inconsistent schedules, fighting financial stressors and loneliness. Most of us are exhausted with the worry of getting sick, our loved ones getting sick, or much, much worse–grieving the loss of someone close to us.

The first step out of this burnout is to acknowledge the symptoms. Whether you reach out to friends, family or teammates–genuine conversation and support can be a catalyst for wellbeing.

What is wellbeing? Gallup breaks it down into these elements: strong and supportive relationships; fulfilling work; financial security; physical health and community involvement. These are the indicators of whether or not someone is thriving.

At Interact Studio, we decided to sit down with a few of our favorite people and ask them to tell us how they are thriving.


Meet Erica Butler.

Erica Butler describes herself as having a great “Clark Kent Day Job” as a senior appraiser, in addition to a “Superhero Job” at night. That’s when she is the celebrated head instructor for THE JAM: CLT (“THE JAM” for short), a hip-hop dance-inspired fitness company she founded and grew into a community.

Erica Butler The JAM CLT on Thrive and BurnoutTHE JAM’s online and in-person classes are attended by folks who have not only found fun exercise, but also wholeness.

In their first year of joining THE JAM, many people experience a transformation to a healthier weight, attitude and lifestyle.

One reason for that is that THE JAM classes are “no-judgment” dance parties with your trusted friends. Even shy folks are rockin’ out. At the center of it all is Erica, ring-leader, comedienne, and motivational coach. She helps people get their groove back.

Erica, tell us how your “Superhero Job” provides you with a sense of purpose?

THE JAM makes me feel like I am changing my small pocket of the world for the better. At the end of the day, I hope I’ve made a positive impact on people.

I love watching the growth people find in themselves through the empowerment of class permeate into the rest of their lives.

What is your purpose?

To make everyone in front of me feel seen and valued. That is my true life’s purpose. Hopefully, they will go on to make the people in their lives feel the same way.

Who in your life supports your wellbeing?

I come from parents who supported me doing anything that made me feel like my authentic self. This made me seek out that quality in all relationships so that, at this point, I only allow people into my life who support my wellbeing.

What gives you energy?

I find energy in people believing in me. People trust me to make them feel better, and just the knowledge that they think I can gives me the energy to actually do it.

Erica thrives by helping others become whole.

You can follow THE JAM: CLT at @thejamclt.


Meet Pedro Perez.

Pedro Perez is Executive Director of Charlotte Family Housing (CFH). He is unforgettable. Not because of his brilliant smile and trademark bow tie. It’s because he is the kind of communicator who has you hanging on every word. He is a storyteller, gentleman, humanitarian and warrior for the homeless.

Pedro Perez of Charlotte Famiy Housing on Thrive and BurnoutWhen the CFH Board of Directors interviewed Perez, a former brigadier general in the New York State Police, no one could have predicted the pandemic that laid in store for the community, or that Perez would fulfill his life’s mission by taking on the role of Executive Director.

How does your work at CFH fulfill your sense of purpose?

I am blessed with the opportunity to share the social capital I have acquired as we walk beside working families experiencing homelessness on their journey to self-sufficiency and housing stability.

We have helped families move from homelessness to stable housing and at least 29 instances to homeownership.

In what ways does your work with CFH bring your full circle?

My lived experience of poverty and homelessness inform my service. I have a debt to pay for all the social capital that has been shared with me. I repay that debt forward with a sense of joyful urgency.

The folks we serve who are living in poverty are hard-working people. They are not lazy. They are doing everything they can to change their lives, and they want the same thing that everyone in this room wants–to feed their family in a secure home that is their own.

The invisible homeless are driving our buses and serving us coffee. They are working, but they are couch surfing, living in cars and staying at motels.

Who in your life supports your wellbeing?

My wife, children, and grandson are my pillars of strength and stability. My colleagues at Charlotte Family Housing and the families who successfully achieve their goals.

What gives you energy — how do you incorporate physical wellbeing elements into your day?

My music, playing my tumbadoras; practicing Karate and Jujutsu; cooking nutritious and delicious food for my loved ones.

Pedro thrives because he is in his true place of service and life expression.

You can follow Charlotte Family Housing at @charlotte_family_housing.


Action Steps For Moving Away from Burnout

With each article in this series, we will offer practical ideas and action steps for moving away from burnout and toward thriving.

  1. Create a manageable workload. Have a conversation with your supervisor to understand the priorities and secondary projects. Think of the options (i.e., more flexible hours) you might ask for.
  2. Set 3 daily goals. Decide what must get done and what can wait. Focus on your high-priority goals first.
  3. Get some exercise. You don’t have to do anything crazy. A walk about the block will not only get your blood circulating, but you will also likely experience a shift in perception.
  4. Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and makes us whole. Daily exercise helps here as well.
  5. Be the empathetic leader who checks on friends, family and teammates. Ask “How are you doing?” and “How can I help?” with patience and sincerity. We all get better when we communicate authentically.

Do you have insights or experience with burnout at work? Are you thriving? How? We would love to hear from you.

Next up in the Interact Studio Series on Thriving: We sit down with Alli Celebron-Brown, CEO of McColl Center for Art + Innovation.



Some Closing Thoughts


The normal pressures we put on ourselves combined with the daily strain of COVID have caused burnout in the workplace to be at an all-time high. The more burned out we are, the more our wellbeing is damaged. But, if we are able to take stock of our passions and purpose, and incorporate them into our personal and professional lives, we can start to avoid burnout and begin to thrive.

Erica showed us that she thrives by helping others become whole. And Pedro thrives because he is in his true place of service and life expression. How are you thriving today?