My feet are firmly planted on the ground after two months and 5000 miles in the American West. But before launching into life again on Monday, I’ve been reflecting on the power of time off.
Stefan Sagmeister, a New York-based designer, gave a TED Talk about this. He cut five years off retirement and interspersed them into the working years, hence creating a yearlong sabbatical every seven years.
Stefan found that time off was impactful in four ways.
First, it was enjoyable. Something I’d argue is an end unto itself.
Second, Stefan found that his job became a calling again.
A job is done for money. So by Thursday we're already looking forward to the weekend and we probably need a hobby to balance life out. A career is where advancement and promotion are the motivators. Overall we’re more engaged, but there are times when we wonder if all the hard work’s really worth it. A calling is intrinsically fulfilling. Something we’d likely still do it if we weren’t financially compensated for it.
So having your calling become a job is tragic and finding a way to reverse this process is priceless.
Third, Stefan found that basically everything done in his design business during the following seven years came out of thinking that started during the sabbatical.
Finally, over the long term Stefan found that taking a year off was financially successful. It improved the quality of work he produced and therefore allowed him to charge more.
Now, I wasn’t on total sabbatical. I was available for clients, visited a number of industry friends and colleagues, and attend the Geothermal Regional Congress in Sacramento. But in-between the work I spent time exploring the landscape of the American West. A pseudo-sabbatical of sorts.
First, I enjoyed it.
Second, the time off spent driving, camping and hiking in the American West (California, Utah and Colorado) reminded me why I became a geologist in the first place, of how it had become my calling. The trip was like geology pilgrimage because, instead of being clothed by vegetation, the Earth there is laid bare for the admiring eye. The immodest display of curves, folds and faults reconnected me with the power of landscape.
Third, I already feel that the time off will fuel me in the coming weeks and months. I’m looking forward to dipping into the deep well of content, conversations and contemplations gathered while I drove from one campsite to the next.
Finally, financial success? I guess that’ll reveal itself in time.