June 4, 2010
I Love My Job
The picture below is a picture of my dress shoes in my closet at home. You may note that they all have dust on them. That's because I didn't put them on once for six weeks.
When we started Return Path back in 1999, we sat down to write our employee handbook, and all I could think was "what things can we add in here that will make this company a unique place to work?" And one of them was a six week paid sabbatical after 7 years. It didn't occur to me that we'd even exist after 7 years. Then for good measure, we said, "7 years and every 5 years after that."
I'm happy to report that everyone who has hit their 7 year anniversary has taken the time off. Some have traveled around the world, some have rented a house or villa somewhere, others (like me) did a "stay-cation." Although my sabbatical was delayed (and quite hard to schedule), it was a fantastic experience. I completely unplugged from work. Cold turkey. No email, no calls. Spending time with Mariquita and my kids, which I never get to do much of, was completely refreshing and energizing. And everything went fine at work, as I expected. Business is in the best shape it's ever been in, and my amazingly talented executive team and assistant handled everything without missing a beat.
But back to the subject line of this post. I figured a few things out while I was away. One was that I haven't actually become a workaholic over the years despite working hard. I *could* unplug without feeling aimless. Another was that it's really nice to be untethered from the Internet, but it's near impossible to go through life now without some minor usage of the web and messaging. But by far my biggest insight is plain and simple: I love my job. It's not that I didn't know that before, but I had more thoughtful time to break that down while I was away:
1. I love what I do: I consider myself extremely fortunate to love the substance of my job. The diversity of experiences that I have within a given week or day as a general manager, the interactions with people, shaping the business strategy, travel — it's all right up my alley. So many people out there don't have that match between interest, passion, skill, and reality.
2. I love who I work with: I have to admit that I stack the deck here since I do the hiring and firing, but the reality is that my colleagues at work are also my friends. Not working was one thing. Not talking to one particular subset of my life for six weeks was something else and just plain weird. I just missed them and the interactions we have, which always blend the professional with the social.
3. I love what we are working on: We have an incredibly interesting business at Return Path. It's very intellectually engaging, sometimes to a fault. The spam problem is incredibly complex, and we're coming up with some extremely innovative approaches to reduce its impacts and hopefully someday eradicate it. We're not curing cancer as I always say internally, but we're also engaged in some high impact problem solving that I just love.
So there you have it. My work shoes are now dusted off and back in action. It's great to be back. We'll see how long I can stay in "mental vacation" mode, how much more time I can try to make for my family now that I'm back in my work routine, and whether the fresh perspective translates into any new actions or decisions at work. But the best thought of all is that my 12 year anniversary is only another year and a half away!