Take a breath

Paul Eastwood

After 10 years of working for the same company it recently became a time for change. For a decade I was focused on moving myself and the business forwards, I very rarely took holidays, I would regularly do a 60-hour week, occasionally forget where I had actually been that week and once or twice probably said “slow down, Paul” to myself (yet that would usually only last the weekend!).

The concept of waking up without the daily treadmill of work or a flight to jump on felt strange, the pace energy and excitement of the working world is difficult to get off and at the time I suspected equally difficult to get back on.

Most people leave a job because they have a new job, I found myself in the unique position where I left without working out what next? Without an income, the savings would not last long, particularly if I needed capital to invest. Yet I still instinctively knew I had done the right thing.

In my first few weeks it took time to not feel burnt or cheated by the experience, thinking emotionally not strategically. Initially all I wanted to do was to find something that would allow me as much pressure and pace as previous. But slowly and given time you find yourself becoming able to see things through a different lens, you learn getting back in the cycle should wait a few weeks and perhaps you do not want to get back into the same cycle.

I thought there must be others who had written about this, firing up google I searched for advice on what to do between jobs. It all seemed a little systematic and talked about process, rest and organising stuff. Now I buy into the rest, refreshing yourself and life experiences, 40 years is a long time until retirement.

“I wish I had the balls to be like designer Stefan Sagmeister who does something crazy every seven years, he closes his studio down for a year, his customers return a year later and the time off reaps huge rewards, he and his team return with a new vision, enthusiasm and inspiration”.

Many people have followed this example and the stories are inspiring, yet this is not for everybody and perhaps like me some of you want to know how you come back with the new you without the need for 12 months on a remote island watching or painting the native endangered pigeon.

I was surprised just how quickly it is possible to re-evaluate and with the right forecast redefine your purpose.

What actual happens is the exact opposite of what you think will! The equilibrium and pace of your previous life does not spin faster than your new world, through a bending of time it actually spins slower. This means you are able to peer into it and gain new and different insights about yourself, see the opportunities to change the way things work and plan your re-entry.

“The best advice I read at this point was, Love what you do, not what you did”.

I spaced out my coffee chats, tried to not get over excited by every opportunity that came along and I was honest to anyone that asked how I was feeling at that time. It turns out, we have all been there at least once in our careers, I offer a thanks to all those who gave profound advice, real experiences or just listened!

I found activities such as walking, running, squash or even a jigsaw switched the autopilot off and allowed me to really looked at the decade, the topics I considered that really helped me understand my next adventure were;

  • What do I actually love about work – how could do more of it and really make a difference
  • Identifying what needs to change – I wrote a list of what I want to do differently
  • Were the values I had adopted from my previous employer the ones I wanted to keep – what were my core values
  • Challenged the industry norms – taking learnings from disruption and reading lots
  • Identified who the people I enjoyed working with were- and thought why and how could our paths cross again
  • Questioned my own depth of knowledge – I identified gaps in my capability and developed a plan to address or accept
  • And I checked regularly with what my Wife thought – my voice of reason

I was never going to be one for a 12-month sabbatical, but what I do take from the experience is that the only way to really reflect on your career is to step out of it, with no commitments or day-to-day grind. For those that can, don’t search for your next job whilst in your current, move out and think. I’m now ready and will be coming back inspired with a new energy level and learnings I would not have seen without this time.

“The path you choose, the people you meet and the fun you have along it are more important than the destination or duration…” is my new ethos.