'Not Feeling It' Chase Burnout?

As others have mentioned, mixing work and pleasure will definitely change things. When I was skydiving a lot, I briefly considered getting my instructors ratings as they can do 8 to 16 jumps a day without breaking the bank. After some thought, I realized the responsibility would detract from the experience of being in the moment, and decided against it. I also think whether you're chasing solo, or in a group, is a factor as well. Both have their merits, but I think being in a group adds a dynamic that could provide more incentive to be motivated and optimistic. While I love the idea of chasing solo, being alone with your thoughts is a double edged sword, especially when things don't go to plan.

The other factor that's relative to this discussion is proximity. I'm guilty of being a little jealous of those who live so close to the action, but I'm now realizing the other side of the coin. As someone who has to travel a significant distance to make a Plains chase, I'd have to make dedicated plans. Missing events that I have no way of realistically chasing allows me to not dwell on what I miss. I can see how being within a reasonable driving distance would weigh on your decision making, to the point of frustration.

When FOMO dictates desire instead of enjoyment, I can see how burnout would become inevitable. Hopefully you'll find the right balance.
Tony, I appreciate you starting this thread and sharing your current struggles. I have always viewed you as one of the more successful chasers, so it is comforting to know that even you feel this way. It is also refreshing to see someone share their frustrations and chasing failures, as opposed to those who are all ego and bluster, quick to broadcast their successes while pretending they never fail.

As others have said, your situation is unique because chasing is your job. In fact, my perspective from my own professional career in business is probably more relevant than my chasing perspective. From a career perspective, it is absolutely normal to feel burnt out and unmotivated from time to time. I'm going through that right now, having had a particularly busy period completing several major projects right up until my chase trip, continuing to work during my chase trip (more on that later), and now having trouble making the mental transition back to work. I have no choice but to keep working day after day. Some of those days are less productive than they should be; I allow myself those days, because I know how hard I work the rest of the time. Eventually I regain traction, enthusiasm and a sense of engagement. It helps when I make a trip to one of our offices and get energy from my team, a nice change of pace from working remotely. One issue you have with chasing as a job is that you cannot do it every day. So what for me might be a couple weeks of "not feeling it" with my work, for you could be a whole season's worth of chase days. But I think a lot of it is just about riding it out. Also, to be successful in any challenge requires discipline more than motivation. Motivation is an emotion that, as you are finding, will not always be there. Discipline is a choice, to just do what you have to do. Even if you are going through the motions without enthusiasm for a time, trust that motivation will return and results will come.

As for my own enthusiasm for chasing - which will get into John's topic about aging and chasing as well -

This year I made a couple of now-embarrassing posts about being ready to quit. I have been chasing since 1996, so I seriously doubt I'll be quitting anytime soon. I was similarly frustrated and ready to quit after a number of failures in 2019. At that point, I had not seen any tornados in any season from 2013 through 2019, with the exception of 2016. But then Covid cancelled my 2020 season involuntarily, and by 2021 I was ready to go again (and I'm pretty sure I would have went in 2020 too, if I could have).

I don't think I am a particularly good chaser, but maybe I am just too hard on myself because I'm comparing what I missed on a given day to what others got. But someone else is always going to see what you missed. NOBODY is catching everything every day. Chasing is a lot more about luck and randomness than I think any of us would care to admit. You can have the perfect forecast and the perfect storm, and simply not have available roads. And although chasing may be *easiER* than it once was, it is NOT easy. It took me a long time to realize the simple fact that "success" in chasing would never mean success on every chase: instead, chasing is like baseball, in which a 30% success rate is pretty good. I don't know if that's the right number, but you get the idea. Even on that scale, I'm not so sure I'm a .300 hitter anyway; I'm probably more .250 or .275 at best. But I used to compare that to batting 1.000, which is definitely not a valid comparison.

There are reasons I'm not better. Only chasing two weeks per year, including in some very poor seasons, probably adds up to six months total chasing time even after 25 years. I don't "study" as much as I should in the off-season. Every year I say I'm going to study my chases from the trip and figure out how/why I screwed up, but I can never find time. This is partly because I get too busy with work and other aspects of life (I've been home two weeks from my chase trip and haven't even written up all my chase reports yet; it took me over 24 hours to even be able to write this). The other reason - and this will probably sound stupid - I resist investing so much time and energy in something that is going to get me so jazzed up about chasing only to find that the season sucks, or that my trip is poorly timed, or that work or other circumstances may keep me from chasing at all that year.

Warren said, "There were times I would go nuts thinking I had made target errors, but realized I cannot be everywhere and my choices were complex and correct at the time." Unfortunately, I still go nuts, especially if I am unable to figure out exactly why/how I went wrong. I get particularly down on myself when I can't even say my choices were "correct at the time"; sometimes I literally don't even know what I was thinking - for example, why did I completely ignore the SW OK development on May 23 and keep heading north into SW KS for a blue sky bust? Why did I head east toward Midkiff instead of south on route 349 during the Midland storm of May 30? I wish I knew... It crushed me to miss those tornados (although I still felt pretty happy on May 30 because of the great structure). But I think we all make inexplicable decisions during the sensory overload of chasing, especially if alone. Chasing is a breeding ground for self-doubt. We have to remember not everything is in our control, and someone is always going to see what you miss, even if it's just a local resident with a cellphone camera.

The thing is that those magical days make all the failures worthwhile. In fact, the failures are what make the great days so fulfilling. If it was an automatic success every day, would chasing be as satisfying? I have always said, if the science ever gets to the point that tornados could be predicted at specific times and places, chasing would no longer interest me.

You need to love the *process* as opposed to just the outcome or the goal. That's harder when it's a job I suppose, but I would propose that it's still possible, because I try to bring that mindset to my work too. Anything worthwhile, any challenge, comes with some level of pain. There are some things where the pain is just not worth it. But with chasing, the pain feels worth it. Another success will make it feel worth it again.

Now I'll get to the age question. I'll be 57 before next season. My enthusiasm and motivation is no less than when I was younger. If anything, I have more of a sense of urgency, because I know I have fewer years chasing ahead of me than behind me. I feel like I am still looking for that "peak" experience. My top days so far were Campo (2010), Canton Lake (2011), Dodge City (2016), Selden (2021) and Silverton (2024). Not a very impressive list given all the years I've been chasing, is it? Lots of big days missing from the list, either because they didn't occur during my chase trip, or they did and I just screwed up. Those screw-ups still haunt me. And even in many of those events I did see, I regret not getting closer, as I probably could have done safely at Campo or Dodge City. Events like April 26, or Eldorado, or those big Iowa days in 2023, something like a Hallam or a Manchester, or even an El Reno, are still on my bucket list. So that's what keeps me going.

Even when I was younger, I was never the type to chase everything everywhere. Even though I was on a chase vacation specifically to chase, it was still a vacation - meaning I wasn't going to make myself miserable driving 8 hours just to see a severe thunderstorm and then go back in the opposite direction the next day. Sure, you may see something magical, but as John said, you can't know that in advance. You need to think in terms of probabilities: Being willing to drive 6 or 8 hours for a low-probability event may seem sensible, but would you be willing to make that same drive 10 or 20 times for a 100% chance of seeing a tornado? Because mathematically, that's probably the choice you're making. From that perspective, you can't kick yourself for not being willing to make the drive for such a low probability of being in the right place at the right time. (And of course, if I miss something I'll still kick myself; but I'm being aspirational here). I hate feeling obligated to stay with a storm until dark just in case there's a miracle, when I really just want to have a nice dinner and a drink, like Todd said. But I was always like that, not just now that I'm older. And my chase partner has a similar temperament.

I don't post on social media, and I'm not in competition with anyone. But yeah, it bothers me to see another east coast chaser get so many more big events because he goes for it more than I do, including with short, targeted trips for synoptically-evident events. I can't do that, not because I lack the physical stamina, but because my professional and personal life are simply filled with more commitments. And yes, sometimes it is laziness, because it doesn't seem worth the trouble for something that is more likely than not to leave me empty-handed. But like I said, I've never been the "chase everything, anytime, anywhere" type. Like John, I am also curious about David Hoadley's chasing these days. He used to make separate trips all the way from the east coast, too - several of them per year. Chasing with someone should extend one's chasing career much longer - and I've never liked chasing alone anyway. Hopefully my son will always chase with me, and drive his old man around one day :)In the meantime, I work out a lot and try to keep in shape, for many reasons, but now I'm also starting to realize that even just being able to chase will depend on staying healthy and fit.

Now that my kids are older, and I have more autonomy in my job, and can work remotely, I plan to spend more time on the Plains, not less. No more throwing a dart at a dart board with a "best guess" two weeks. This year, I just worked remotely, and chased whenever. But it only marginally extended my usual two weeks, because the active period in late May was short. It was a double-edge sword arrangement - distracted with work on chase days, never really mentally on vacation more than a half-day at a time. But it's worth it, if it allows me to be out there longer and catch more events. My mistake this year was not keeping my calendar more free so that I could have made short, targeted trips for some of the early season outbreaks, or stationed myself on the Plains earlier in the season. I'll try to do better with that next year, and also intend to finally upgrade my technical knowledge from the plateau it has been at. In short, as I age, and especially when I retire, I hope to double-down on chasing, spend more time on it as work and family obligations decrease, as long as I am able.
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I'm guilty of being a little jealous of those who live so close to the action, but I'm now realizing the other side of the coin.

Yeah, the fact that solstice was a couple hours ago, and we're staring in the face 100+ for the foreseeable future. It's actually boring here most of the year. I hate snow, so I like boring.
Because I didn’t write enough above 😏, a few more scattershot observations -

- Chasing is a microcosm of life and teaches resilience. If you wish to achieve “mastery” (whatever that might mean in chasing, in which so many variables are not in our control), the main thing to do is just keep going. “Success through failure,” says the sign at the gym. Most of the “greats” in any field have their stories defined by their highlights and successes, while their failures are known only to those who bother reading the 700-page biographies.

- Chasing is not a competition. Although I understand for Tony as a professional media chaser, it very well might be. On the other hand, that could be said about any job - there’s always someone bigger and better. I don’t think most managers are constantly looking to upgrade every one of their positions, even though they know there is somebody better somewhere. But for the rest of us, don’t let it become a competition with anyone other than yourself. As I once read in an article about Brazilian jiu jitsu, “Worry about being better than you were, not better than everyone else is.”

- Ironically, Brazilian jiu jitsu was the one endeavor where I did not take my own advice about resilience - I quit a few years ago. But it was impossible to feel I was improving in my 50s when I had sparring partners in their 20s acting like every session was a tournament. I simply didn’t feel like I was improving; comparing myself to others is not what made me quit. With chasing, the moments of magic make all the pain worthwhile. In jiu jitsu, I had little or no equivalent highs to make the lows worthwhile. If even the best moments of chasing are no longer doing it for you, then that’s a bigger problem. But if you just feel they aren’t frequent enough or recent enough, then you can work through the slump (or maybe your expectations are just too lofty, as a result of past success).

- Improvement in chasing is not always linear, because there are so many uncontrollable variables. You can have a great season one year, improve even more the year after, but then have a bad season for dozens of different reasons that are no fault of your own. It doesn’t mean you “got worse” or are “falling behind” anybody.

- Big wave surfer Laird Hamilton described athletic skill and aging as follows: Imagine a graph where the x-axis is time and the y-axis is skill. The physical skill line slopes from the upper left to the lower right, declining with time. But the knowledge line slopes from the bottom left to the upper right, improving with time. Where those lines intersect is the true measure of overall skill, and is likely to be well above the younger person’s.

- Having said that, storm chasing is not a sport. Let’s face it, it’s not the most physically-demanding pursuit out there. If you can chase with someone else to split the driving, and don’t insist on bouncing all over the country on no sleep with a “chase everything” mindset, you can have significant longevity in this game.
It's been great reading the replies, again, thanks all for your input and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

One other thought on Tony's post - it strikes me that part of your issues, Tony, may be that chasing is work. I know it is the dream of many on this list to be able to make a living chasing. But that WILL change how you think about it - it becomes a job, with expectations. And even if your boss is understanding, you are still aware of those expectations and may think about how hungrier and probably younger competitors are always lurking. Just one more piece in the mix of factors influencing your feelings about chasing if you are in that situation.

It's been weird this year because I have had this job for three full seasons now and it was never really an issue with me prior. A lot of my issues really just came from me trying to be three missing people plus myself. After all my boss peeps chimed in with me, I felt a lot of that pressure go away. In fact, I had a rather nice, relaxing two-day venture in WY/NE that I just got home from that I thought was my most at-ease I've been all year. Even as the Hawk Springs, WY landspout was photogenic, and I was too far west for a nice shot (I did see it), it did not hammer my enjoyment all that much. Actually, I was late to that party because I was too busy digging out my windshield wipers from an absolute ONSLAUGHT of hail north of Chugwater. If you know me, you know I love my hail, and that was a worthy storm for sure. In fact, our company purchased the landspout video from another source, whom I reached out to brag that her video and my hail video were shown side-by-side on the network.

Even yesterday, I stuck to my guns. I told myself that my ultimate goal with tomorrow was to be close enough where I could be home before 10pm. I ignored higher prob (and higher impact) target areas in Montana and Iowa and stuck to the WY/CO Front Range. Again, I'm very fortunate that I get to make all my own calls, no just with go/no-go, but in where I target. And I didn't allow the pressure of "OMG, I gotta get the big thing" send me hours away. As a result, I had a decent TeeVee day and I am writing this to you from the comfort of my PJs at home with a snoring cat sleeping against the wall behind me.

I make no secret that I wish I had this job ten years ago haha I certainly think I would've been in my prime back then. But in a weird way, it feels more deserved for me at this point in my career, even as I am starting get a wee bit long in the tooth. I will also say that this job haas been a 180 from my previous gig where I TRULY and utterly experienced burn-out. There, the reasons were 100% obvious and there was no mystery in that (two of the slowest tornado seasons in Kansas didn't help matters much). And I let myself be a doormat there and I was run into the ground and then some (largely why I chose to leave). I took a lot of lessons from there into this job and it has done me a world of good for sure. This season, I think I let the pressures of things get to me, and while there is certainly some of that on the job, most of it was me just trying to do too much. But even still, unlike my previous gig, I threw up a white flag this time, and I've already seen a notable turn around in my demeanor.

There was a legit reason behind posting the pictures in my original post, because yes, I have seen some amazing things this season. And I wanted to remind myself of that. When I wrote that, I was already kind of around the corner from the worst part of where I was at. I just wanted to get it out more. If anything, because I know we all have stressies with this, whether we do it for a living or not. With age comes wisdom, and it's easier to see the broader picture when you mount decades of life experience.

Again, I'll be fine. It does the mind a lot of good to openly discuss things. It also doesn't hurt to share the feelings among those who feel similarly, albeit perhaps with different reasons. That's been the case both on and off this forum. But it's appreciated. And the discussion should NOT stop; I think it needs to breath from everyone who needs it.

BTW, yesterday I hit a career-long career MILEstone. That'll be bragged about in another thread later :) hahaha
...and just take in the fresh air and sights and sounds as much..
I agree that taking (extra) time to see and do things as John did at Monument Rocks (if you can) has real benefits, regardless of the chase. One of the most amazing things I "discovered" in KS during some down time at Fort Hays: George Armstrong Custer's boots! I thought "R U kidding?" To history buffs, it seems rarer than a tornado. I got quite a lift out of that KS Historical Society item w/ all the provenance to go with it.798B7DCB-9AEA-4051-A9A7-AC4651624A93_1_105_c.jpeg
I was late to that party because I was too busy digging out my windshield wipers from an absolute ONSLAUGHT of hail north of Chugwater.

I was in that hail barrage also and a subsequent flooded road kept me from seeing the tornado at all. It was the first time this season the skies offered me a tornado and I missed it. And in my own back yard. As has always been the case, people post their successes not their failures. So for every highly visible success there are dozens of other failure stories that will never be published. And those having a good season this year may have little success next year. That's the low-odds game we play...and a big reason why many of us play it!

Nearly every chase this season I've nailed the tornado-warned storm target, usually THE cell of the day, with nothing to show for it. This season has been particularly stingy with tornadoes in my standard chase territory (western plains + high plains) following a broader era of high plains stinginess since 2019 (in my opinion). This may be the first season since 2012 I don't see a tornado, and 2012 happened because the engine in my chase vehicle blew, preventing me from even going out.

So I'm definitely not feeling it at this point. I know the season can turn around with one good chase day but with the heat dome moving back in it feels like that window is closing fast.
As has always been the case, people post their successes not their failures. So for every highly visible success there are dozens of other failure stories that will never be published.

True, and important to keep in mind as a caution against comparing one’s personal results to those of others. Easier said than done. Not that it’s a competition (although for some it is), but it can make you doubt yourself when you miss something that others were able to see. It’s important to remember that whatever happens, somebody will always see it. But it’s not the same person seeing everything every day.

One thing about ST though, is that I and many others do share our failures here. I think we all feel that’s part of the game and revel in the suffering together. We enjoy sharing the regret, disappointment and irony. It is very different than social media.

That's the low-odds game we play...and a big reason why many of us play it!

Definitely. It’s got to be similar to what draws people to gambling - the feeling of hitting the jackpot after a string of losses. If success was more automatic, it wouldn’t be a challenge and it wouldn’t be fun. I have always said, if the science ever advances to the point of predicting tornados with certainty as to time, place and path, chasing would lose its appeal for me. Embrace the failure, it makes success that much sweeter!
Tony, I did see your 500,000 miles post (wow!) and that you hit 42k in 2023. Perhaps this year's burnout is also a hangover from hitting such a bit number last year?