Take That Vacation, Please
I recently returned from a week at the cottage with family. It was deeply relaxing, fun, and energizing. We played in the water, we napped, I played a round of golf. I actually even read two books of fiction—Transdimensional Crossing, a novel by my friend and personal inspiration Jeff Carreira, and The Slow Regard of Silent Things by the immensely gifted fantasy prose poet Patrick Rothfuss. I watched storms blow across the lake, and watched my babies be unbelievably cute together. During that time I responded to no emails, did no thinking about the business, and allowed my team to do their thing without me.
What I've found is that the mental break of that week off has given me the space, rest, and energy to move mountains with and for my team of Shopify Plus solutions engineers. Not that this would be a surprise to anyone; I’m sure you’ve experienced the rejuvenating effects of taking time off, taking personal days, even crossing an item off your bucket list. After all, your self is what you actually bring to work—spend time enhancing your self and absolutely everything will benefit.
That’s why I encourage members of my team to take time off and enjoy their lives. Work, even in a fast-paced environment, is about the long term and should never be done unsustainably for a sustained period of time. And if someone is feeling powerful, inspired, and healthy, their work will reflect that.
But being healthy goes way beyond just taking a vacation to make sure you don’t burn out. Have you ever been sick and realized that you actually can’t even think? I’ve been surprised to find that when I’m feeling under the weather it’s not just my sinuses or lungs that are gunked up; it’s my brain too. So yes, physical health has everything to do with having an impact, especially if your job is highly thinking-based.
Which brings me to exercise. You have to move. Even if you have every excuse in the world as to why you can’t, find ways to do it. Getting physical gets you out of your head and literally makes you happy. If you don’t want to carve out time for it outside of work, find ways to build it into your day. Taking the stairs, going for walking meetings, riding my bike to work, even cranking out some pull ups on a supporting beam in the office are ways I make sure to stay physical even when my life outside of work precludes extended time at the gym.
And health is far more than just whether or not you are sick or how physically fit you are. Consider your mental and spiritual health as well. With mental health, how do you handle stress? The word gets a bad rap, but it isn’t inherently negative. Stress leads to evolution. Great achievements of all kinds emerge from situations filled with stress. The question is how do you relate to it. That is, how do you handle your mind? Do you see stressful situations as opportunities for something amazing to happen, some kind of growth that you haven’t seen before? Or do you see it as something that is wrong and shouldn’t be happening?
Relating to stress as an opportunity for growth and creativity can help you see it in a more positive manner. And in the end everyone has their own way of handling stress. But the key is to actually handle it deliberately and positively, otherwise it won’t be sustainable. I love how Loren Padelford, Shopify Plus’ general manager, refers to his endless list of activities: he shows up and it’s there, he leaves work and it’s there, waiting for him the next day. In other words, YOU are in charge, not the demands of the world. That’s one of the secrets to thriving under pressure. As soon as you shift the balance of power from external demands to your own goals, you’re back in the driver’s seat.
Of course, there’s a delicate balance here, because the first priority needs to be the company, followed by your team, followed by you. But if you aren’t holding the space for what you, the individual, actually need, then the company will not be able to benefit. Just as bankrupt companies can’t delight customers (h/t Dharmesh Shah), broken employees can’t power companies.
As for spiritual health, consider: does the way you’re living your life lead to more depth and sense of purpose? Ask yourself what is most important to you. Does the answer line up with the work you’re doing? Can you find ways to bring what is most important to you into the work you’re doing? Maybe relationships are your biggest priority, you may want to find ways to focus more on those in your job, or shift the kind of work you’re doing to be able to focus on relationships more.
By integrating what inspires you most with the kind of work you’re doing, your innate genius will begin to shine. And that’s when the magic happens: when the work you do is powered by the person you are. Any degree of bending your personality out of shape to do your job will strip away energy from the work you’re doing. The more aligned you are as a person with your work, the more powerful you will be—and the more benefit your company will receive.