After I turned 40 (quite some time ago), I realized that my fantasies had changed. The fantasy goes like this:
One day, I’ll leave my office and check into a hotel. I will tell no one where I’ve gone. I will turn off my cell phone and be completely inaccessible. My wife will simply think I’m at the office. My office will, of course, simply think that I’m at a meeting. But I’ll be shacked up in a hotel instead.
And for the rest of the day, and perhaps into the night, whether I watch mindless television or check out the hotel pool, I’ll do precisely nothing.
I have recorded data, but were I to hazard a guess, I’d say that 90% of the most important, top-level planning I’ve done for this firm has been accomplished outside of work hours. I crystallized our mission and wrote a good portion of the 2011 business plan while on a six hour layover in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport in the summer of 2010. Our Empty Hourglass Program was born in a hotel lobby in Fort Lauderdale. Our mobile app? That can trace its origins back to a GameStop with my kids in Shrewsbury, PA. I see these examples as neither accident nor coincidence.
I was recently introduced to Mike Brooks, a person of achievement and insight, who happens to be an extremely accomplished financial planner. He told me, and I hope I’m not speaking out of school by revealing one of his bedrock principles, that he has a quarterly “retreat” (my word, not his) hardwired into his calendar. It could be a week, it could be a long weekend, but regardless, it always constitutes a break from his day-to-day business routines.
Because of the Dallas/Fort Worth layover. Because of the Fort Lauderdale hotel lobby. Because of the Shrewsbury GameStop.
Too many business owners become overwhelmed by the trees to contemplate a view of the forest. Whether it is concern about keeping the lights on, meeting payroll, or just over-commitment, the possibility of a day or two reserved to contemplate the business as a whole remains…well…a fantasy.
For myself, however, I resolved – perhaps a bit too early for a New Year’s resolution – that I will not rest on the hope that my next big idea will come to me unbidden in the Dallas airport. Instead, I plan to follow a well-considered example and hard wire some time for innovation.
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