“Thank you for your message. You happened to reach me on one of the best days of the summer. Why might you ask? Because I am currently enjoying an eight-week sabbatical. This makes every day for the next several absolutely epic (thank you, Stoltz!) I am filling my time with outdoor adventure, traveling, learning to play the guitar, and most importantly, spending time with the people in my life who make the world a better place. I know…I’d be jealous too.
So, what does this mean for you? I am leaving you in the most capable hands ever, with a team I consider my extremely talented second family. Our amazing CEO, Jaime Ekman, will be your go-to at [email protected]. Should you need anything else, I will be available via smoke signal until Thursday, Aug. 17th. I promise to return creatively refreshed, recharged, and very tan.
Have a great summer and I look forward to connecting when I get back!”
I was lucky enough to have this as my recent autoreply to email. Thanks to the progressive sabbatical policy Stoltz offers as a longevity perk, I celebrated my 22nd anniversary this past July and could not think of a better way to expand my horizons…other than not working.
I’ve never been one to sit idly. I thrive in juggling a lot of balls and filling most waking hours of the day. I consistently receive 360 feedback that I need to be aware of how my high energy affects those around me. To some people, my career and lifestyle might be viewed as exhausting. I love it. I fill my life with adventure and experiences and lots of relationships…because I want to feel all the feels. And quite frankly, I think that I am a stronger creative because of it.
So what did I do in my eight weeks off? Besides daily mountain bike rides, reading four novels, a fair amount of travel, and being more present with my family, I set a few goals. Here are the highlights, and what I learned through my experience:
1. Time away makes you more empathetic.
From road-tripping to the Oregon Coast, to 6 days with friends rafting the Lower Main Salmon River, to 10 days on the Italian Riviera learning about my heritage (and being surrounded by other people who also like to talk loudly with their hands), I spent a lot of time observing and listening to humans around me. By exploring the world — different places, unique cultures, diverse viewpoints — I gain a better understanding of the human condition. As Omid Amidi states, “Storytelling is our greatest weapon and great stories come from a place of trials and tribulations, different ways of understanding, different cultures.“ Traveling near and far helps develop empathy. And the best creative solutions come from empathy.
2. You have the space to try new things.
During my 8 weeks off, I trained to get a NICA Level 1 mountain bike coaching certification. I took my first music lessons ever and learned to play the guitar. I caught the three biggest fish of my life on a dry fly. I tried painting outdoors. I pushed beyond my comfort zone because brave ideas come with practicing courage. Can I play Free Bird yet? Absolutely not. But I’m proud to have tried things that used to intimidate me.
3. It encourages others to lean in and grow.
My team not only embraced absorbing responsibility, they stepped up and stretched their individual leadership skills. For example, our two creative directors took on leading our entire creative team plus overseeing all client initiatives…without skipping a beat. The sabbatical made me realize — and appreciate — the fantastic team I work with. With the right group of people, you can rest easy on your time away.
4. A sabbatical helps realign priorities.
I focused on caring for myself and my family — both of which I have been guilty of not prioritizing. I spent most of the 8 weeks with my two kids and husband, reminisced with extended family in McCall and Connecticut, and hiked with my favorite child (our dog, Lewis) every evening we were in town. I spent a lot of time getting fresh air. This had a positive impact on my mental and physical health, which made me a more productive and committed leader, colleague, mentor, mom, and friend. Most importantly, I spent time with the people I love most and tried to center myself on what really matters in life.
Besides having 12 weeks off for the birth of two children (which is like starting another full-time job with zero training), I have always worked. I love my career — the pace, the people, the variety of creative projects that go out our doors every single day. As a curious, lifelong learner, I had no idea how I was going to handle taking 8-weeks off to NOT focus on what has been a key part of my identity. It takes discipline to fully check out. Delete Slack from your phone, log out of email, and turn off calendar notifications. In doing so, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. I certainly did.