On Taking time off

This fall, for the first time in what seems like forever, I’ve taking some time off. Not one or two days, but some serious time off. I went on a surf trip for 10 days. Ten days without work-related calls, almost no emails, and mostly, with very little other than surf and rest.

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It was challenging, I must admit. It takes time to adjust to a the rhythm- getting up in the morning, doing some yoga, eating a leisurely breakfast, surfing all day long, doing some yoga again, eating dinner, watching some photos of us surf and hitting bed early to do it all again the next day. The only big changes between days were dictated by the weather gods- some days a certain beach would have good surfing conditions, other days we had to travel to a distant beach to surf, other days had no waves so we relaxed or went to the local market instead.

I was afraid I would become bored (especially if the weather would turn sour and would not allow us to surf- which didn’t happen) and traveling with a group of people I barely know is not my idea of fun (I tend to be shy to a point of being perceived as snobbish). But all my fears were laid bare- I never got bored, I enjoyed the foreign culture and sights, and even had a very good connection with the group, to a point I know consider some of them my friends.

Relaxing

All in all, even though it was not a very relaxing vacation -some days started very early (before dawn), were very demanding (4 hours of surfing plus 3 hours of van rides over rough terrain), it was still fundamentally different than day to day grind. Almost like being on a different planet, it followed other rules. Anxiety over work and family turned into a mellow concern- “would there be good waves today?”, which then turned into a more soothing- “never mind, we’ll enjoy whatever luck throws our way”. I can’t said I’ve transformed into a careless being, but I do I now can let go more easily and reduce some stress and anxiety levels, even in my ordinary rat race of a life. 

Disconnecting

I wasn’t completely able to disconnect- I carried my phone with me, posted pictures, checked emails, talked to my family and friends. But somehow, the urge to constantly reach for my pocket, pull the phone out and check for new messages has subsided. I will try to transform this into an ongoing habit- maybe even erase some time-and-attention consuming apps, such as Facebook and twitter from my device.

Trying new things

From trying new activities, to sampling new dishes and seeing new places- there’s always great fun in trying new things. I used to think that yoga wasn’t for me- I’m as far from limb and flexible as one can imagine. And yet, during this trip, daily yoga session (although they felt really awkward) were good fun and I felt so much better afterwards- that I’m even contemplating trying this on a regular basis.

Distancing yourself

The physical distance, accompanied by time zone difference creates a mental distance that helps you step back and think about the important things in life. Sure, surfing every day is great, but the trip made me realize just how much I value my family and friends. This isn’t something I haven’t known already, but the distance does put this in perspective- and helps you realize what’s important in life.

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I’ve had a great time during the trip. I thank my wife for making this possible and my daughters for patiently awaiting my return for 10 days. I don’t think I’ll venture on such trip anytime again soon, but knowing that it is possible is get away from it all from time to time is a huge comfort. I strongly recommend you try it.

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Re-igniting the Owntrepreneurship blog

I’ve been away for too long. I know that. The last post published on this blog more than a year ago. That’s like forever in internet terms. And while the reasons for this were valid, I still feel somewhat guilty and would like to explain myself.

 

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I’ve started blogging several years ago as a pastime. At that time, I was working as a marketing and business development manager at a small startup and wasn’t quite happy with what I was doing. Being one of the first employees in a startup is fun yet frustrating- you take on huge risks, the rewards (if there ever will be any) are small compared to the founder, and, what I’ve found harder than most is that if you are not part of the organic founding team (usually comprised of 2-3 people) you are cut off the decision making process. The founders are, for all intents and purposes, sole rulers of their small kingdom.
For me that was very difficult and disappointing. I shifted to startups from large companies just because I wanted more independence and more involvement. What I’ve found that I’ve just switched between a large to a small wooden box. From that frustration, and the will do something that I could own, I started blogging. Initially on LinkedIn and after some time, feeling comfortable enough- on this blog. After blogging for a while I felt confident that I could actually perform this consistently, and to a high standard. I then thought- why not make this my job? So I talked to some people I’ve known who had marketing needs but didn’t have anyone “in-house” to cater for them- maintaining a blog, social media presence, creating presentations and documentation. I signed some clients and then notified my employee I was leaving. As relations with the company’s management were not on the good side (seeing we were both frustrated) they were happy see me go. So I started consulting a growing number of companies, mostly small startups, and was quite good at it. With some clients I’ve developed tighter relations and they asked me to work there as part-time CMO (2 days a week), which provided me with steady income. I limited this type of engagement to one at a time (it’s hard enough to manage the entire marketing operation of one company, doing it for 2 would be too stressful), and performed a myriad of side projects on the side. This mixture was fun and engaging, but also quite difficult to manage (having multiple deadlines, dealing with clients in different countries) and very tiring. For times, it felt like I’ve traded having one boss for having half a dozen. Money wad good, but the hours were long, and any slack I’ve created throughout the day I had to pick up late at night- working until 2 am was the usual.

Then, about a year ago, a company I’ve been working with asked me to join the team full time. At first, I hesitated, but I slowly warmed up to the idea of having a steady income, not having to keep a funnel full of potential projects, not having to deal with multiple clients. In addition, I was promised a meaningful position and freedom- I was to create the brand, maintain it and serve as brand ambassador. That may not sound like a lot, but after delivering countless pieces of content- some of which published at the most prestigious publications under someone else’s name (usually, the CEO of the startup I was working for), I felt like I needed some recognition. So after much back and forth we finally concluded and I joined the company full-time as VP Marketing. It was fun at first, but after some time the crack began to show. After freelancing for 2 years (and having a freelance mentality for many years prior to that), I was suddenly asked to maintain office hours,  hour and progress reports, attend company and management meetings. I was expected to be “one of the gang”- eat together, go for drinks after work, engage in watercooler small talk. I really liked most of the employees there, but could never bring myself to actually engage with them- I was it as a place of work, and as my work was mainly with people outside the organization (Media, analysts, potential clients, freelances I’ve contracted) – I really felt no need to do the extra mile and befriend people. I slowly drifted away, and after working there for 10 months we decided to part ways. We are still on good terms and I wish the company and the founders the best of luck and great success. 

 So now I’m back in the freelancing game. I didn’t plan it (just as I didn’t plan to be an employee), but I sense that this who year might have been what I’ve needed to focus myself and my goals going forward. I realize I’m not very good at being a full-time employee (unless I’m one of the founding team) and that going to work for another company (and I’ve had some offers) would most certainly have similar results.

I have made a great effort to maintain relationship with potential clients throughout this period, so I’m not worried about getting work again.

What I haven’t done is to maintain this blog, and for that I’m truly sorry. No matter how much I write for others, and even for my “company self” (and we’ve had great success in doing so- with over pieces I’ve written published on mainstream media in just over 6 months), it’s not the same as writing privately. So I promise to myself to keep writing here and publish original, personal content. I might even take it to the next level someday and write my own book- but this would be the topic of another blog post.

Thank you for reading this far, I hope you come back in the future. I promise this won’t be the last piece you will find here.