Lessons Learned On My Sabbatical

Ten years ago, I took my first one-month sabbatical. Upon my return, I wrote this article for the newsletter. Since then, I’ve taken a month off each summer. I have traveled to Spain to walk the El Camino Santiago twice. I have traveled with my wife to Italy twice and France one time. I have seen Costa Rica and Mount Rushmore. A baseball tour and a Napa wine tour. Miami and New Orleans. New York City and San Francisco. As I read the article below, it is quite interesting how much my mindset about sabbaticals has transformed.

This year I’m heading to Portugal to walk the El Camino from Lisbon to Santiago, Spain. Almost 400 miles. Many of you will be on my mind as I walk, and I promise to write of my travels upon my return.

For now… “Buen Camino!”

 

Webster’s Dictionary: “Sabbatical: a break or change from a normal routine.”

 

Last month I took a full 30-day work sabbatical. No meetings. No clients. No phone calls. Very limited email. Pretty much a work detox – and it was WONDERFUL.

I have worked for 30 years and felt like it was time for a relatively brief break. I have never taken over one week off at a time. I had heard of people taking a work sabbatical before but knew little about it other than it sounded great.

I began preparation for the sabbatical almost six months ahead of time. I made arrangements for colleagues to chair my Vistage group meetings. I couldn’t help but think of the abuse substitutes in my junior high school classes were exposed to when my teacher would take a brief sabbatical and hoped my substitutes would have a better experience.

Part of my preparation was also to alert my clients and members of my plans. The response I got from both groups was very positive, supportive, and even envious. Very often I heard “I could never do that”.

I had three primary objectives. First, I needed a break away from work. Time to regroup. Breath. Recharge. Sharpen the saw. Second, I wanted to think. Introspection. Ask tough questions. Reflect. Lastly, I used the time off to build relationships. Precious time with family members. Went and visited old friends. Bonded with best friends.

 

Highlights of the month included:

  • I spent the first day at the Conyers Monastery (http://www.trappist.net/). No need to ease into this sabbatical. This is essentially a spiritual park. No human contact or interaction the entire day. Beautiful grounds for hiking and reading. Great start!
  • A week at the beach with my family. Fifteen of us, including my family. The reality show on Bravo is in production ☺. Lots of laughs and activity. Watching kids grow up and adults growing older. A two-hour kayak ride in 95-degree weather almost killed me.
  • Hang-gliding with my son at Lookout Mountain (http://www.hanglide.com)/. It’s a tandem flight with an instructor. Towed by a small plane up to over 2000 feet altitude and then cut loose to glide gently back to earth. Unbelievable experience. Not for the weak of heart.
  • Getting lost driving in the panhandle of Florida for over three hours and not caring.
  • Lots of reading and writing. Caught up on several books that I had put aside for years. Also re-read two of my favorites, “Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom and “Creating the Good Life” by James O’Toole. I also journaled every day and already find it interesting to go back and look at my daily notes.
  • Lots of “windshield time” to and from Miami, Myrtle Beach, and Panama City Beach. Time to think and reflect. I often turned off the car radio and just enjoyed quiet road time.

 

Several interesting takeaways from my month off:

  • Be mindful that the term “sabbatical” has several connotations for different people. Several people when they heard I was on sabbatical assumed I had lost my “job”. Being self-employed, that would have been an interesting turn of events.
  • I assumed that upon the completion of my sabbatical I would either be very eager to return to work or not ready to return. I was neither. By July 1, I started up where I had left off on May 31.
  • I did return more rested, less stressed, and in a better mindset than I can remember in a long time.

 

Several people have asked me what I would do differently next time. Here are several thoughts:

  • Next time I would like to include some type of missionary trip in the month. Some activity that would generously feed the mind, the heart, and the spirit.
  • I would also seek some type of in-depth learning opportunity. A class. A workshop. Something both very interesting and a bit uncomfortable.
  • Not wait 30 years ☺

 

Finally, I shared earlier that quite a few people told me they could never see themselves being able to take so much time off at once. My response is simple. Anyone can do this. I believe we should require it from everyone. If your business so depends on you being there that you can’t take a month off, you have a much larger problem on your hands.

As always, I welcome your feedback.