How I Took a Month Off to Write & Make Art (then what REALLY happened)

So today is a little bit of a different episode for you. As I sit here recording this, I have just returned from a month-long creative sabbatical. I never believed something like this could be possible for someone like me until something happened earlier in this year that inspired me to really test that assumption and eventually prove me wildly wrong. I’m coming back with some experiences, some awakenings, some reality checks, and learnings that I wanted to share with you today.

If you’ve ever thought about taking anywhere from a month to a season or even a year off, I thought maybe my lived experience, while simultaneously running two companies, hosting two podcasts, producing three episodes a week, building additional product lines and streams, experiences, generating a ton of content across multiple platforms, working with a team that literally spans the entire globe and pushing to constantly hit deliverables, deadlines and often being at the center and the main bottleneck of everything – that if I could do that, after thinking there’s just no way that I’d ever be able to not only justify but on a practical level, take a month to step away and focus entirely on creative projects that I’ve sidelined for years, then maybe what I’ve learned in this experience just might be helpful for you.

And the funny thing is that this entire thing was actually kicked off by a conversation that happened earlier in the year that changed everything and led me to explore this month away. Today we’re going to dive into just what happened, what I learned, and how you might consider creating your own version of an extended, deeply generative, regenerating, renewing and awakening leave. So excited to share these experiences and insights with you.

If you LOVED this episode:

  • You’ll also love the conversations we had with Jenny Blake where the possibility of a creative sabbatical for me was planted and the conversation with DJ DiDonna about the research around how to take a life-changing break.

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Transcript 

How I Took a Month Off to Write & Make Art (then what REALLY happened)

I have to get really clear about what I’m doing and why I’d given early lip service to  the idea of a creative sabbatical. I mean the early days, you know, I just  call it my Writing retreat a month long Writing retreat. And I start to realize that I  actually wanted it to be something different and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do  with this time knowing that I had no idea if I would ever be able to do  something like this again. And I didn’t want to waste it Hey there. So today is a little bit of a different episode for you. And as I sit here recording this, I have just returned from a one month creative sabbatical and will go into exactly what I mean by that. Which is something I never believed would be possible for someone like me until something happened earlier this year.

 

That inspired me to really test that assumption and eventually prove me wildly wrong. And I’m coming back with some experiences, some awakening, some Reality checks, and learnings that I wanted to share with you today. Because if you’ve ever thought about taking anywhere from a month to a season or even a year off, I thought maybe my lived experience while simultaneously running two companies, hosting two podcasts producing three episodes a week. Building additional product lines and streams, experiences generating a ton of added content across multiple platforms. Working with a team that literally spans the entire globe and pushing to constantly hit deliverable deadlines and often being at the center and the main bottleneck of everything. That if I could do that, after thinking there’s just no way that I’d ever be able to not only justify but on a practical level, take a month to step away and focus entirely on creative projects that I’ve sidelined for years.

Then maybe what I’ve learned in this experience just might be and the funny thing is that this entire thing was actually kicked off by a conversation that happened earlier in the year that changed everything and led me into a month away. That shook my world in. So many ways today we’re going to dive into just what happened, what I learned, and how you might consider creating your own version of an extended, deeply generative regenerating, renewing and awakening lead. So excited to share these experiences and insights with you.

I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. Okay, so I was thinking about how to set this up, this creative sabbatical, debrief episode. And I’m going to walk you through it in different stages. And we’re going to start with what I call the set up. So I’ll take you back to earlier this year, sitting down in conversation with a dear friend of mine, Jenny Blake, and we’re recording this conversation for the good life project podcast at the time.

And Jenny had just come out with a book called free time, which is a fantastic book that really helps you understand how to use your time more effectively to focus on what matters and to do all sorts of things. She goes deep into the weeds on process and tasks and systems and automation, all these things to help you actually accomplish this. And in that conversation, Jenny called me out to a certain extent in a loving friend based way. And she knew that I’d been talking about taking time off probably for years and dreaming about it with her in my mind. At that point it would be a Writing retreat. Like what would it take to actually take a month, long Writing retreat because there were some stuff in me that I just wanted to get out. Right. But I could not imagine I could not even conceive of the possibility of this being possible. Yes, I had the benefit of Working for myself, which we all know is a total delusion. When you run your own business or business you, you’re always Working for a whole lot of other people and happily so, but I did have a certain amount of control. But I also had two companies that were running around me, both in strong Building phases. And I had no belief that it was possible.

Jenny challenged me and said, but what if it is, if you assumed for a hot minute, that this actually is possible? What would you do to make it happen? And then she asked me live on air. She said , can I get you to commit to doing this? And I kind of got really uncomfortable.

And I hemmed and hawed, and then I said, yeah, in part because I just wanted to see if I’d be able to actually conceive of something like if I actually drew a line in the sand, would my brain then start thinking of ways to make it happen? That I just didn’t even think were possible. And then she said, well, when would you do it? And I thought to myself, well this was the beginning of the year. Safe bet, it’ll take me most of the year if it’s even possible  to be able to, you know, quote, buy myself the freedom and the time to do it. So I said probably in the fall, maybe October.

She said, great, let’s put it on the calendar. Put on your calendar right now, which I did having no idea what it was actually saying Yes to. So we scheduled it. And then she asked me what I wanted to do during it. And, you know, I have had deeply personal Writing on my mind that I’ve wanted to do for years now. I had the great fortune of being able to write and to be published by a number of fantastic, large publishing houses and write prescriptive books often around business, personal development, lifestyle, work careers. But there’s really deeply personal stuff that I want to focus on, not having to do with publishing books, Writing specifically to only one or two people and never knowing if they would ever see the light of day beyond that. And I’m not just talking about a letter, I’m talking about a lot of thoughts and stories and we’re words and vignettes and moments that I thought would take me at least two solid months to extract from my head. So we put it on the calendar with the intention of creating a month- long writing retreat, where I would begin the process of extracting all of these things from me. And then putting them into some sort of coherent, creative form. That was the beginning of the year, and I kind of forgot about it for a little bit after that. But I would kind of check in on me every once in a while and say, hey, hey JF, How’s it going like, are you actually tracking to do this? And then I was  introduced to the work of our guest from last time D.J., who if you haven’t listened to that episode, by the way go listen, he runs a project that really deepens into how everyone can take a sabbatical and what that actually even means.

And along the way, it kind of rekindled my curiosity around this, and I started to say, if this is going to happen, I need to actually make it happen and begin to reverse engineer what would need to happen for me to be able to literally step away from running two companies and producing at a very high level and a lot of frequency across multiple channels and forms of media and product and offerings and marketing and all these things. What would it take? So this began moving me from, you know, what I call the setup phase or the initial challenge visioning phase into the external work preparation phase. So what would I actually have to do Externally?

To set everything up to buy myself the ability to step away for a month, what work would need to get done running, do companies Working with different teams? And by the way, My wife is also my partner in business, so business and life. Knowing that she would be largely running ops while I was away, but very much present in her life, which presents a whole bunch of really interesting dynamics to navigate. So I spent time anticipating I said, literally what is every need every deliverable, the timing, the allocation of who’s responsible for what?

My role in anything that might need to be created, reviewed, edited, looked at, produced in any way, shape or form. And what would need to be put in place from a content process from a process process from a strategy process from a product development process from a communication standpoint, in order to anticipate and preemptively do everything along every possible channel that would need to come from me before I stepped away, that would literally allow me to vanish for a month without having to worry about anything. And they started making that list. And I kept coming back to it over time because I knew like I’d be walking around three weeks after I started it and something else would come to me. And then we would be starting up a new project or testing some new ideas. And that would add all sorts of new things because I didn’t want the businesses, the, any of the processes, any of the teams to have to literally all shut down for a month. While I stepped away, I wanted to build it in a way where everyone would be able to largely keep on keeping on in my absence. So that meant continually revising and expanding on that list. Right? On the podcast we had to figure out, you know , how do we then take this and say, well, we’re already on any given week, we produce an average of three episodes a week across two different shows. Right? There’s a very large production burden with two different teams managing it. So in order to buy myself the ability to actually step away for a month and not produce anything, what would we need to do what we needed to increase the production rate for about four to five months, which was pretty tough. It was pretty tough on me. It was challenging on the team. It got even tougher in the last month when we had some cancellations. And we had to fill in and make up and reschedule to to try and make sure that everything was staying on schedule.

But the beautiful thing is, as I started to get more serious about this, part of the external prep work was not just anticipating the work that would need to be done. But also sharing what I wanted to do, sharing this notion of me stepping away and why it was so important to me and what I hope to accomplish by doing it. And then sitting down with every person in our teams and getting by it.

And the amazing thing about the family that we have built the teams is that everyone was like, oh, one hundred percent. We are behind this. You know, we all work really hard.

We co-create, we collaborate together and we want to celebrate and support each others desires and abilities and needs to allocate time and energy to do things that genuinely nourishes and replenishes us and makes us come alive. So I was upfront about what I wanted to do. Why I want to do it, how I thought we would make it work, and basically asking everybody, how can we work together so that I can do this?

And when I actually say yes to doing it, the burden on you all will not meaningfully change or increase. So part of what we did was we spread a lot of that work across many months leading up to it. And we were able to, to build sort of like a giant reservoir of things that were ready to go. You know, we had other projects. We had new products in development. We had new marketing campaigns to be built, copy and video designed to be created.

And about a month out, I created a single page document where every person who would need anything that would either come from me or I’d need to be a part of was listed on one page with checkboxes next to it. And I devoted myself to that Final month to begin just focusing on creating, editing, doing everything and anything possible, having whatever meetings, setting it, whatever strategies were in place to make sure that everybody had what they needed, where I could step away and feel comfortable that people felt prepared and supported to just keep everything going. In my absence, it was an intense month, but we all did it together and I’m just so incredibly proud of our team for doing that. Then we move from the external preparation to the internal vision prep, and this is where I have to get really clear about what I’m doing and why. So when you’re staying at an Airbnb, chances are you’ve wondered, could my place be an Airbnb? And if it could, what could it earn? You might be surprised to hear about Sarah.

She had some extra space going unused in her sunny new South Wales home. So she realized she could Airbnb it, and now it helps fund a passion of hers. Her bridal business.

So yeah, you might not realize it, but you might have an Airbnb to find out what your place could be earning at Airbnb, dot com slash host. I’d give an early lip service to the idea of a creative sabbatical in the early days, and I just call it my Writing retreat a month long Writing retreat. And I start to realize that I actually wanted it to be something different and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with this time knowing that I had no idea if I would ever be able to do something like this again. And I didn’t want to waste it. The thought to me, of doing all this intense work, spending a solid chunk of the year preparing for it, you know, inviting the team into the process having everybody completely on board with this whole thing and making it possible.

And then me stepping away for a month, the thought of all of that. And then me stepping away and not having anything that I wanted to accomplish get accomplished. It was sort of like anticipating devastation. I didn’t want that to happen. So I needed to get clear on what I wanted this month to be write about. It started as a Writing retreat. There were these two things. Writing to effectively two different people that I wanted to write. And again, I’m not on a contract to write a book for this. I’m not being paid to do it. I have no deadlines, I’m not Writing to a market is very, very different experience for me. Normally when I say yes to a large scale Writing project. For the last, over a decade of my life, I had been under contract with a publisher, which is an amazing thing. This is the first time where none of that was in place. It was all just personal. And I wanted to do this time, right? Right. So there was no potential economic value to what I was creating at all. It’s just what I wanted to say. It was as much a process of getting something out of my head for no other purpose than I needed it to be out. Getting closer, I began to expand the idea of a Writing retreat though, to the notion of a creative sabbatical. And I’ve been talking about getting back to physical making and visual creation for years. I am a maker.

My sparketype, my primary sparketype is the maker. My shadow is the scientist and I am driven to create always have been my entire life. And I’ve learned about myself that the specific channels where I come most alive in the process of creation, are the physical act of creation with physical materials. It does something to me. So I also wanted to return that to my daily experience. And I wanted to say, it’s not just about Writing. I want to bring in more of the physical act of creation.

Make more art is what it came down to. So the vision expanded to say, I want to complete a rough draft of one of these major Writing works that’s been in my head a very rough draft, whatever that might look like. And I also want to be able to build a daily art making practice back into the way that I work and live that hopefully would plant seeds of how I might continue to build on it after. But I really didn’t know what that would look like.

So I had a lot more defining around what this month would be for me. And it had some very specific objectives on the art side too. I had a vision of creating a certain number of visual works of art that combine both words and, and paint and art, and a large scale. And we’ll talk shortly about how that did or did not unfold. That gets us to the logistics phase. So how long, right? We have to talk about time. Well, I landed on a month. I would have loved for it to be more, but I literally just imagine being able to buy myself more than that. Given the volume and the pace of the work that I had built around me to me a month was about the outside edge of what I thought would be possible where I could push it. And even then I had no idea if it would really be possible. So I started with the notion of taking a month. What about the timing? Well, the original seed of this was planted earlier in the year in that one conversation that I mentioned, I figured it would take me most of the year to  buy my way into it and set it up. So I focused initially on October November, those would be the months in those seem to be months where I thought I could kind of from a business cycle and a career take on a work cycle, buy myself the most amount of time.

The reality of the timing had to shift a little bit to accommodate real life. So both the need for a bit more time to buy my way into being able to actually step away for a month, for the businesses and a series of unforeseen family commitments that also required anticipated travel made it so that if I had stuck to the original date of October one, which is what I initially set. It would have been a brutal process leading up to it that would have required short bursts of travel in the middle of it and had a lot of just that would kind of destroy what the whole thing was about. So I created a little bit of forgiveness in the timing, and we decided to to push it back to October twentieth as the start date, so it became October twenty to November twenty. So what about the location? And this was a really interesting part of it.

And this is something that people have asked me about, like, where are you going to take a month off and you can just go deep into the Writing process and go deep into your Writing process. You know, are you, are you going to go somewhere? And initially the idea was yes, let’s go to Europe. Let’s go to Central America. Let’s go find a cabin somewhere in the woods. Let’s go find Cabana by the beach, whatever it may be. And we started to explore it. We looked at Portugal, we looked at Central America, Costa Rica, Mexico in all different places, and Encinitas in Southern California, another place we absolutely love.

What we started to realize was that the, the fact that we had committed to and when I say we it’s, it’s not just me. This is my wife Stephanie, also because I didn’t want to leave her for a month. And we love being together. We live together, we play together, we work together, we create together. So this was a, we’d, all of this is we type of exploration for me, at least. So we were thinking like, are we, are we going to pick up and move somewhere for a month? And it seemed intriguing, it seemed fun. It seemed alluring to just drop into a, you know, like, maybe like a, a tiny little villa on the coast in Southern Portugal or something like that.

And once we started to get serious about it, the romance of it started to see to a Reality, which is that, given that we had set him on to do this, I don’t actually travel all that Well. Even though I travel to speak and do workshops and things like this, I don’t always get comfortable that quickly. I don’t always sleep that Well in New places and different beds. And we start to realize that in a month Safe better. We went to a different country, it would take probably a solid week or two to get settled, to ramp up to find new routines to get comfortable in the home, in the bed and whatever it was. And then in the week where we were starting to wrap up, we’d start to think about preparing to return back to our country. And there was a Safe bet that I would probably lose a pretty significant amount of emotional and cognitive bandwidth in the process.

For the first week to two weeks and then the Final, let’s call it three to five days, which would leave about a week and a half, maybe two weeks of actual creation time within this monthlong sabbatical, it just didn’t make sense. So then we started looking at Colorado or U.S. based places, and then we kind of just hit pause for a minute. So wait a minute, wait a minute. We live in Boulder, Colorado, after spending our entire adult lives in New York City. Thirty plus years we bugged out to Colorado two years ago, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We love our, our cozy little home. We love our bed. We have our like coffee shops. We know where we like to be and where we like to go.

Winter is coming in, so it’s sort of like a nice time to, to hunker down literally as I look out the window recording this right now. I’m looking at the Flatirons and the front range of the Rocky mountains, with snow surrounding me outside and, and a wintery breeze blowing around. It’s kind of the dream place to do a creative sabbatical, but for the fact that it’s home and it doesn’t check the box of the romantic going somewhere. But we start to realize, you know, if we lived anywhere, but here we’d probably come here to do this. And we kind of just said, what if we just let go? A lot of the delusion of the romance and just said we live in an amazing magical place. What if we just stayed here and committed to boundaries that allowed this to be the place to make it happen? And that in fact is exactly what I did. We stayed here. So this was all about leading up to it. What about the actual right before and then we’re going to dive into what actually happened during the sabbatical. So the opening move phase, they want to have an all hands meeting. And this is about reviewing expectations.

Final concerns, needs across everyone that we work with, all of our primary people, our teams, our, it’s really key freelancers or people that, that help us with different things. Externally. I wanted everybody to be in the mix and we got everyone on the same page.

I had a checklist, we looked at the checklist that had been Building over the last month, and I was able to check the Final box of every item that every person needed. I created a new checklist which basically shared what I thought my day was going to look like and set expectations. I then deleted all social apps, all news apps, and communications apps including Slack, which is our primary communications mode for everything that we do. The only thing I left was text because my family and friends communicate with me by text. And I also wanted my work team to know that if you really, really need me, if there’s something that is genuinely urgent or emergent, that is the way to reach me. I will not  be checking any other mode. So I kept that one thing on. And then I did one other thing  that I didn’t think I was going to do, but I’m actually in hindsight, Super glad. And I kind of said to myself, you know what? There’s so much going on. This turned out to be such a busier, more complex, more deadline driven, more urgency driven season for our companies that I wanted to make sure that there was a mechanism where if anybody really, really, really needed me to do something in a very focused and direct way I could get them what they needed, but I also wanted to make sure that it was highly compartmentalized, and that it didn’t just bleed into all the other stuff.

Because once you plant a seed in my head, from the business standpoint, it’s really hard for me to let go. So I created this mechanism. I said, Here’s what’s going to happen every Wednesday from one to four PM. I will carve out a three hour window. Anything that anybody needs me to address that is genuinely urgent or emergent needs to happen in that three hour window. And I’m not talking about having just meetings about it or talking about it.

And then expecting me to do it outside of that. It needs to be talked about, introduced and completed in that window. So at the close of it, it is out of my head, and I don’t have it lingering there. These need to be beginning to end things that I can then close the book on at four PM, and that is exactly what we did. And there’s one last thing that did from a sort of like stepping into it in the first day thing. Because as I mentioned, I’ve worked with my wife, we had conversations around boundaries, we love our life together. We find it really deeply interesting and engaging, Building businesses, making a difference. And we’re both like in it a lot.

So for her to be able to stay in it  and for me to be able to stay out of it, we had to have conversations around how are we going to create effective boundaries where every conversation doesn’t just automatically default to hey, this is happening or that’s happening, this is happening a lot of it just being exciting, cool things, not just problem solving. Right. So there was conversation that became an ongoing conversation during the entirety of this.

Okay, let’s dive into what actually happened. So during the sabbatical day one, I’ve just seen myself. What am I actually doing? It took me the first few days to figure out what I wanted to write in a more detail level. And then I figured I would set up the garage as an art studio with the first three or four days and just start Writing. Just start making art. I decided to keep a journal to process the thoughts and feelings and realizations along the way, which I have by the way, never done before. I am not a journalist as much as I love to and wanted to get into that process for years and years and years. I know how effective they can be . They decide to say yes to it.

I started out keeping a journal every day and just Writing down what I was feeling, what was going well, what I was struggling with at the end, the sabbatical, the journal entries alone accounted for almost ten thousand words of Writing. That is a huge volume of not just Writing, but processing that I never expected. Never saw coming, but I’m Super grateful for.

And I’m excited to look back at six months from now a year from now, three years from now to really understand how this short month in the context of seasons of my life really affected me. And may have set in motion, things that become so much bigger and last so much longer. So I focused on one big Writing work even though there were a couple of different things spinning in my head. And it was about getting down thoughts and stories.

Essays really focused on writing to a single person who I’m very close to. And I kept having to get myself out of book Writing mode and keep it personal. I am so trained to write to the public, to write to a market, to write in a very particular way that is profoundly different than we’re just sitting there. Like saying like, there’s just, there’s someone I love dearly. I just want you to know this. Like it’s not about the craft, it’s what about phrasing that particular way. It’s not about being articulated a particular way. It’s not about, it’s just about saying, hey, this is on my mind and, and I want you to know. And I kept having to repeatedly pull myself back and back and back and back and back. As I kept Writing every day a little more and a little more and a little more, but it started to come in, fits a lot, and with breaks and pauses and constantly pulling myself back and saying, I’m going to delete that entire thing. Because I’m Writing to the public and that is not the mode that I want to be in.  It is not the way that I want to spend this time.

Now on the art side, the first two weeks, I decided rather than to create visual art. I love Working with my hands, I love physical materials. We got a live edge slab of tropical wood. And I spent the first two weeks in my garage in the afternoons, covered in sawdust, making a live at coffee table, which was an amazing experience. Really, rejuvenating, incredible, frustrating, after almost two weeks and I didn’t like the way it looked, and I took the whole thing down to raw wood again by standing it with a power Sander all the way down and started over. But that is the process of creation. I’m a maker, I know this process.

Well, the process is never a linear one. It’s always a jagged line, and I’m down for that as much as frustrating in the moment. I know it, I’ve lived it for my entire life and I was cool with it.

And the more that I got into it on the writing side, on the creativity side, as they say, people make plans. And God laughs and I had to start holding all the goals and all the visions and all the schedules around productivity. And what I thought I would be called to create and how much work I was, you know, ready to get done, how efficient and effective I would be had to hold that or more lightly. When I started to realize was that on any given day, I’d either be able to hyperfocus and generate, really, you know, like thousands and thousands of words of Writing or really cool progress on something on the physical art side. Or I’d be largely useless. Which by the way, is not too different than my non sabbatical days. And I didn’t anticipate or fold that level of forgiveness or tolerance for space and downtime into the equation. I’d entirely blocked it out because I only had a month and I quote and needed to accomplish certain things. Right. I said, I don’t have time to be human on the level that I normally am. Even when I’m under deadline, when I’m Working in my regular life and I had to let that go, I had to let that expectation of intense hyper efficient, hyper effective productivity go. Because that has never been my Reality. And that is also not the Reality of a maker.

So much creation happens when you are not actively creating. That is where the ideas, the synthesis, the integration comes together so that when you return to the process, much cooler things emerge. And I needed to create the space for that that I hadn’t. So that was a big learning for me. So I started also experimenting with times of day to write or be creative in other ways.

And I realized that even though I had thought this and planned around it literally for decades, that Writing in the morning actually doesn’t work for me. There’s so much mythology that says get up, first thing in the morning, do your morning pages. If that’s like one of your practices and then your early morning hours, there’s your best hours for creativity that your best hours for Writing and really just getting into that space. And a lot of the lore around the World of Writing is built around this window. It is a total bust for me and I’ve been trying to force myself to do that for so many years and sometimes I do it, but I’m really not very good at it. They do it first thing in the morning. What I’ve realized is that if I just follow my natural rhythms, I wander back to sit down and start Writing late morning. And I can knock out like a nice chunk of Writing for about an hour and a half two hours.

Then I take lunch and then I kind of just like patching year round or that’s a great time for me to do that actually focus on visual arts. Sometimes first thing in the morning is better for visual art for me. And then I come back to Writing at exactly the time of day where most people agree. Nobody is able to effectively write, which is like three to six in the afternoon. There’s something for me where I just wander back into it. My brain gets locked into this mode where I can be really effective. So I started experimenting with changing around the different windows for different modes of creation, different modes of making. And I was really surprised at discovering that I was effective at very different times and I always thought so.

Meanwhile, these Wednesday compartmentalize, keep up with work shifts, were going on every Wednesday from one to four. And I start to discover they’re actually Working pretty well. Everyone knew that anything they needed me to focus on had to be on the list before that time with context if they needed. And if they needed a quick meeting to just tee it up, that had to be scheduled in that time too.

And everyone was just rocking it out and it helped me feel like I wouldn’t come back to a total crush. But as we got closer, that also changed a little bit. And that was all about me. I was less and less able to compartmentalize what was being sort of like shared on those Wednesday things because there were tasks that I could complete but often spoke to bigger things that were ongoing. That I knew I would need to dive into in a more intensive way upon my return, and I was struggling to keep it compartmentalized.

And the impending work project took more bandwidth. And this also really made me think, you know, if I ever had the opportunity to do this again, I feel like this. Sure. I think it’s a great way to keep your business going and keep your job going. Keep your, whatever it is going, keep the people who you love and who support you feel supported along the way. Keep progress happening while you’re not there.

But also that, you know, if there’s ever a way for me to do this again , and I hope there is, by the way, four weeks is just not enough. A month is not enough. Because when I accommodate for the ramping time in the beginning for the process, the logistics are getting into a groove and then I accommodate for what inevitably is going to be me starting to shift focus and lose my ability to compartmentalize as we get into actually the week before coming back, it starts to intrude more and it made me feel like a month and a half two months, three months even would be not just luxurious but so much more productive and revelatory and generative and healthy for me. Because I would have a longer window of time truly just in the space before having to carve out all the time on the the tail end of the sabbatical. To do all of the other processing, to ramp up and then brand it back out. So on the art side, as all this was going on, update there. I love the table that I made. It’s literally in the middle of our house right now.

People gather around it, people eat on it, but I was never able to set up a space, an art space, a creative space that felt good or find a groove, a literally just starting now, more posts about it all in these few days. I’m just starting to figure out what that needs to be and it was frustrating not being able to do that frustrating feeling like I never quite was able to actually find both a physical space, a creative Juju around it, and any kind of rhythm or pace to do it. That was a really big frustration.

I miscalculated, the amount of energy it would take for me to actually get my groove in that space, especially once this sort of like really well-defined initial project of Building a table was done. Then I moved into the much more amorphous part of, well what would visual art look like for me doing this? And literally just starting now I’m starting to figure that out. And art projects get shifting also realize that I’m going to need a way longer window to figure out what I want to make and just experiment with that expectation. And need to just start doing it with all the added time of not being on apps and reading for pleasure. I had that time too and I want to keep it going.

And with that time, one other really cool thing happened, which is that literally gaining hours in my day from not being on all the apps, I started to read for pleasure, which was astonishing reading books like Jennifer Egan, who almost if you haven’t read her books these mosaic based novels, fiction mind blowing and how she plays it with time and expectations and relationships. Joan Didion Pico Iyer, bono’s latest on his like massive new I don’t even know what you call it. I actually listened and read to that one.

It’s basically his memoir, but the audio is stunning and, and multi-sensory and listen to a ten also. And I played and listened to music and remembered how important that is to me in my life. And I kept wondering how I might step back into social as I emerged from this, what role they could play in my life and how I’d offer value in a way that also brought value rather than took it from me. So I wanted to figure out, can I engage with these platforms and devices in a way where I feel good about it, where it’s not draining for me. And it’s not just nourishing for my business and my Ventures.

But personally, it was a channel to do the things that make me come alive. I’m still Working on that and actively start myself from thinking about it during the sabbatical. But ideas kept popping up. And I was actually excited to be able to start to follow up on some of those ideas. And we’ll probably start to see some of them take shape in my various social feeds.

When I make a decision to emerge back into them in twenty, twenty three, and one other big thing happened, which is without even really thinking about it, a bigger vision for work and life started to become clear to me. So I had a birthday in the middle of this creative sabbatical, and I turned fifty seven. And that Yeah, like for some reason that number really hit me and I realize, you know, we’re never promised anything. And I love a lot of what I do and I love who I  do it with. But I also feel disconnected from other elements of it and the pace of what I have said yes to this is again, all of my own creation can sometimes feel overwhelming.

And I started to create without even realizing it a three year vision that would allow me to slowly transition into a work life relationship that felt so much more alive. And give me the time to make it happen in a way that feels more humane, rather than overwhelming and burnout inducing. And the plan is to make my sixtieth, really extraordinary and special by fully embracing the new vision. Not quite ready to go public with what that is because I think it’s going to shift and change and, and gain clarity a lot over the next year or so. But at some point I probably will, which brings us to sort of like the ending chapters here, the emergence phase.

So Monday, November twentieth was my Final day. I actually spent the Final few weekdays, Writing like crazy. And to my amazement, I felt like I was finally just starting to find my Writing groove in these last days. But by the time I hit Friday, the last sort of weekday of it. I had written about twenty thousand words of the major Writing work and it felt like a really solid first draft. I kind of surprised myself. I’d actually written more like thirty or thirty five, but ended up cutting about ten to fifteen thousand words. Because again, I realized those were words that I was Writing to the public not to the person. So I will very likely use those in a variety of different ways. Maybe a different book, maybe a social content, maybe other videos, whatever it may be. But I cut them from this particular work because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. And I was really happy about the progress that it made, but also a little bit sad because having just started to find a groove, I wanted to stay in it for another month. So I could just turn that level of Writing into something way better to move into the editing and polishing and voicing and punching up face. And I began to almost Pre mourn the fact that I wouldn’t be able to. But then I also decided that I just got to keep returning to it for half an hour a day, an hour a  day. And if I can’t do it every day, that’s okay too.

Like three or four days a week, to keep it moving forward to again forgive myself, my own humanity, forgive myself the fact that for now, I’ve built everything in a way where life is often abundant beyond belief. And that also includes abundant in demands for me and my time and attention on the art side, I’m still trying to hunt for a space and a time to figure out what is calling to be released from me and how. But along the way, also decided to just set up a simple drawing pad, a cup of pencils and erasers, and spend a little time drawing and sketching ideas as often as possible. Again, returning to the idea of forgiveness and tolerance for my lived humanity. And I do that in bits and flashes, where I’d love to start to figure out where it’s going to go and it’s starting to reveal itself to me. And I’m allowing for the time to do it, but also keeping nudging myself to stay in the practice. Because I know it’s not the type of thing I can think my way into figuring out. I have to create my way into and haven’t begun to think of this month as a massive amount of creation had to be completed. But you know, that’s not what it was really about anymore is rather more of an incubator for the next three years of my life that reframe with this new vision that is longer term. It makes it easier. It’s actually a really powerful reframe when I can remember to let go of my sometimes unforgivable drive to do and just give it space. And on the Monday following the creative sabbatical, I came back. I opened Slack for the first time in a month, and I was thankful to see that actually those Wednesday shifts. They did a great job of clearing out things along the way. There was no massive pile on or pile up of messages and passion, meeting requests, and deliverables and deadlines. Definitely things that I needed to do in order to clear out the backlog, but by the end of the day, most of it was actually pretty much okay. And I felt so much more full of ease than I ever imagined. It could be based largely on months of prep that went into it. And the mechanisms that we had created to ensure that everyone could keep on keeping on.

While I managed into my own space and my incredible team kept everything rolling along. So as I wrap this up, it’s a Wednesday of my return week as a record this. And while there have been moments where I felt pulled into things that are coming at me a little bit too fast, I’m still in this process of reintegration. It’s been mostly okay, way more than I ever thought possible. And I’ve also realized that having a single place for every person on every team and every project to put everything they need from me and know when it was due. And I wanted to keep that process going.

Because this mechanism that we created leading up to the sabbatical, is also a way that I can be able to just look at a single place and see to glance the entirety of my demand ecosystem. And know what’s coming and when and why and not get knocked into frustration or overwhelm nearly as easily as I did before by random needs random requests, random meetings, things that come at me out of the blue or just things that I knew about, but maybe forgot about because they were scattered and fragmented all over, and I wasn’t able to prepare both cognitively and emotionally for, to make it feel more useful and manageable. And the big question for me now is, how do I keep the good parts going learn from the experience, make new and different decisions based not just on the immediate needs for my time and attention, but on how everything makes me feel along the way and whether it tracks with my emerging and rapidly clarifying three year vision. And for that, we’ll all have to wait for a future update. But what has been incredibly heartening to discover, taking serious time away even when work and life are wildly complicated, fast moving, ever changing, and you believe you’re critical to the function of everything is actually possible. It’s not easy. And it may take a very long time to buy your way into it. But for many more than imagine it is more doable than you think.

And one Final thought here, because this question came to me from a number of people, both in leadership, in organizations and employees. When they thought about doing this in the context of working for a company or their employees, asking for something like this. One reason people don’t try this is they think, well, what if, in my absence, they realize I’m not indispensable, or from the employer side, they might think, what if they realize they don’t want to be doing this anymore and never want to come back. Reality is both are possibilities, but taking this time, not only centers, the questions and the realities, and forces every party to deal with them more directly and hopefully constructively, rather than just keeping your collective heads down and pretending everything is okay. If these questions come up on either side, they are just reflections of a Reality that has been brewing for a very long time. Like when I talked to leaders about the spark types and they asked, well, what if everyone realizes that they’re doing something that’s not aligned with their fundamental impulse for effort, for work that makes them come alive and then they leave? And I’m all will, that is great. Let them come to that place, learning about your archetype. That’s not the thing that makes you unhappy. They have already been unhappy, and it’s affecting them personally, it’s affecting their job. It’s affecting productivity. It’s affecting outcomes and results. They’re going to leave anyway. So just get it all surfaced right, these are tools, the sabbatical, the spark types, things like this that simply allow you to see more clearly what’s going on and give you a better understanding of what to do about it. The sabbatical, it could be about accomplishing something defined and meaningful and powerful, but also it’s just about creating space for you to see more clearly what is real and true. Both the good and exciting, and also the bad and the painful. And then it is up to you to decide whether and how you’re ready to deal with these revelations, which is exactly where I find my place now. Dealing, exploring, hopeful, acknowledging the Reality of a lot of different things that have happened. Some that I’ve loved some that I haven’t and excited to move forward and take all these learnings into the next season of work in life. So hope you found this valuable. Maybe in six months from now we’ll do a bit of a follow up debrief with even more time behind me.

And as always, Super excited to share these experiments with you. See you next time. And of course, if you haven’t already done so please go ahead and follow Good Life Project in your favorite listening app.

 

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