Every once in a while, I’ll have a conversation with one of my employees that forces me to confront my own nonsense, and it happened to me again this week. I was in a weekly review meeting with one of my salespeople, and he was asking me about the possibility of him taking two weeks off in the fall. He wants to plan a two-week trip to Europe for his family, something they’ve dreamed about for years and can now afford to do in style.
He was worried about the appearance of leaving for two weeks, about how his customers would be handled, and what others on the sales floor would think of him. And that struck a chord with me, because those are all thoughts I’ve had, repeatedly, in my life. We as Americans experience immense pressure to be the hardest-working, the most dedicated, etc. It’s practically a competition to see who rolls over the most days of PTO every year. And that’s damaging. It’s one of the things I didn’t want to have happen in Legion when I started the company, and one of the reasons my salespeople have unlimited PTO, to provide them a needed respite from the stress of the job.
As Kevin and I continued to talk, and I reassured him that he could, indeed, take his family on the trip of a lifetime, and that we would plan together to take care of his customers in his absence, and screw what the rest of the sales floor thought because this was important. Then, I heard myself saying this:
“What’s the point of doing all this work if we never enjoy the fruits of our labor?”
And then, like a ton of bricks, my own hypocrisy came crashing down on my head.
I suck at enjoying the fruits of my labor. I feel, every day, like my worth is defined by how hard everyone around me thinks I’m working. I’ve cancelled more vacations than I’ve taken since I started Legion, and the vacations I did take, I had to be plugged in so I could continue to work. I had a 36-hour maternity leave after being on my Blackberry right up until it was time to push. I’ve literally developed a Vitamin D deficiency from spending too much time indoors, hooked to my computer. I’ve only turned my phone off twice in seven and a half years, for a total of three business days. If I’m not constantly connected, plugged in, working, feeling important, I think the world will forget who I am and why I deserve any success I’ve found.
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of my own nonsense.
Legion will not fail if I’m gone for a day or a week or even two weeks. (And if it does, I created a crappy company.) My employees will not think I’m some kind of slacking tyrant. (And if they do, that’s their problem.) I will not cease to be important in the world if I finally fulfill my years-old goal of taking a week off every quarter to travel. I will still be important, at least to the people who matter. I’ll just be happier. My marriage will be better. I won’t look back in regret when my daughter is grown, thinking about all the memories we could have made if I hadn’t been working so much. When my mom is gone, I’ll know we spent time together, doing cool stuff in cool places.
I need to remember what the point is of doing all this work. The long hours, the worry, the stress, is all just a means to an end. And that end (for me) is enough money and flexibility to travel, to spend time with my loved ones. I love what I do, but there is much more to life than proving I’m industrial strength and can work through anything.
To that end, I’ve scheduled three vacations this year. One with my husband and daughter, one with my mom for her 70th birthday, and one with just my husband. I’ll be soaking up the sun in Mexico or the Caribbean three times this year, and not only should that cure my Vitamin D deficiency, it should also cure any joy deficiency I have. My passport is ready, my bags are packed, and I’m ready to enjoy the fruits of my labor. And a LOT of pina coladas.