A couple of weeks ago, I went on a business trip.
As a double entrepreneur (co-founder of a family and bricklayer of words), there's nothing new about that. I usually go on two business trips a year. What's changed is the way I refer to them. Before, I might have called them "get me out of this place, I need to sleep" trips or "sanity is sacred, I leave at dawn" trips. But while totally accurate, these don't convey the importance or serious necessity of these trips.
I think back to my days of working for various companies in New York City. I once attended a team-building day at a resort. I went to annual sales conferences in Florida where the goal was to get people excited about their jobs. And let's not forget about the countless happy hours, team lunches and off-site meetings. These were the things that allowed employees to step back, breathe and muster the energy to step back in.
Once you become the president of a family, nobody gives you permission to step back. You must take it for yourself. And if you're like me and you don't, you will feel your emotional stock tanking. You owe it to everyone to get the hell out once in a while. Remember, unconditional love and a (kitchen) island office do not negate the cold, hard truth: Weekends are appreciated by teachers; vacations are beloved by babysitters. So you want to have dinner with your sister, drinks with friends or a weekend away? Those are the employee benefits that you deserve for working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
And by you, of course, I mean me.
All of this concerns my primary business: family. The secondary business of writing gets more respect because it has the appearance of legitimate work. It is amazing how "I'm attending a writing conference" or "I have a workshop" or "I need to finish this article" garner an allowance of space, while "I am going to collapse from exhaustion so I'm going away" feels weak and spoiled. Very Mariah Carey summer '01.
I am learning to put those feelings aside because survival takes precedence. It's funny how when you feel like you can go no further, your instincts demand a recognition of that. A "Company, halt!" in the ceaseless elephant march to say, "Holy crap, the man cub (mom cub) can't keep up!" In the moment, it feels very melodramatic, very life and death. I feel silly about it later on but not so silly that I forget the core of it all: That's how exhaustion transforms you.
As the co-founder of my family will tell you, exhaustion transformed me into something like Sigourney Weaver with an alien inside her.
The business trip was tough to schedule in such a scarce time economy, but Sigourney got shit done. I left by myself on a Friday evening and arrived to this.
From there on out, I worked tirelessly, as CEOs do. I scheduled a lot of team-building exercises with myself on a chaise lounge. The next day, I met with someone heavily invested in my well-being and we talked about the long-term growth of our friendship.
In the ultimate trust exercise, I put on a bathing suit.
There was some restructuring of my attitude.
I pressed the reboot button a lot. I don't think the hard drive is broken, but I shut all systems off every night for eight hours just to be sure.
And you know strange and magical things are happening when you bend down to examine succulents, thinking, I know how it feels, little cactus, to go without water for so long.
I drove home on Sunday without an alien inside me, feeling excited about my job, ready to step back in.
Business trips are important. If you can take one, you should and preferably before you start planning your own hijacking. Your employees will thank you, your emotional net worth will be priceless.
And your business will be in the black again.