A friend recently posted the following quote on Facebook:
“My goal is to create a life I don’t need a vacation from.”
My first reaction was, “that is 100% my goal”.
After having a child, and starting a real family, I’ve started thinking a lot more about longer term. There are two things for me that play into this.
The first component for me is burnout. Marissa Mayer wrote a piece for Bloomberg on burnout that I thought was really interesting, and insightful. Kent Nguyen wrote a follow-up piece that I also identified with. These two articles established, and built on the idea that burnout is a build up of resentment caused by giving up doing the things that you love. You can avoid burnout by identifying the things that are important to you, and protecting those things. If you love playing roller soccer every Wednesday night, and not going throws off the rest of your week, then don’t let your boss keep you working through it.
If you love your morning workout, wake up early enough to do it, and don’t start work until you have worked out (yes, you can wake up at 6am, it’s possible). If you’re waking up extra early to work out, then don’t stay at work until 1am, get to sleep early enough that you’ll be able to wake up ready to go. You can’t forego both sleep and things that you love for an extended period of time and not burn out.
The second part comes in the form of a parable that I read somewhere that’s stuck with me.
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.” “Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished. “This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said. The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?” The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?” The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.” The fisherman asks, “And after that?” The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
The idea is that if you can find some things that you love doing, and you do those every day, then what else do you need? Another component of the fisherman story is about the people. He’s got a family and good friends to spend time with.
If we combine the two ideas, find some things you love and do them, and don’t let people stop you from doing them. Having a group of people to share those experiences with is as important.
As you work on these things, you’ll get to a point where you love the life that you have, and you won’t really feel the need to get away from it. Sure, travel is nice, and seeing family is important, but the point is that you won’t need a break from the day to day, because you will love your day to day.
This is something that I have been trying to do myself, identify different things that I love, people that I want to spend time with, and protecting those activities, and carving out time to spend with people. Most importantly, prioritizing my family and investing time with them. I’m not perfect, but I think that I have been continuously improving along this path, and it has made a huge difference to me.