Summertime, and the livin’ is …[?]

June 5, 2017

This note is going to be short, although I have been writing it in my head for the last two weeks.

To be blunt, I need some time off. I’ve just come out of eight months or so of incredibly intense, deadline-filled project activity. I’ve finally polished off several major research projects and other client engagements, and suddenly I can look up and see white spaces on my calendar.

At first, my sudden lack of focus scared and depressed me, but after a few days I realized what a grand opportunity I have in front of me.

My dear friend and Very Wise Person Candace Fitzpatrick reminded me last week that I used to be a full-time college teacher, when I could spend every summer slowing down, reading, thinking, and designing or conducting research projects (in my case it was often conducting management interviews and developing case studies; I became much more a journalist and much less a teacher during those times).

Candace then posed a simple question to me:

Why don’t you spend this summer like that?

And the more I thought about it the more I liked it. Now, I am not going to disappear into a rabbit hole or stop working completely (that’s a skill I am nowhere near mastering). Rather, I am deliberately slowing down, opening up dusty books (to actually read them), and preparing to tear apart my home office – which I will then rebuild, with fewer files, more empty space on my desktop, and maybe even some empty book shelves and filing cabinets.

In short, I am going to relearn what it means to be pro-active rather than re-active. I can already tell you it feels good, though strange at times.

I know I am fortunate to be able to enter this period of “cocooning.” Few of us have the luxury of slowing down, rebuilding our sense of purpose and focus, and creating the future we want rather than the one we are drifting into. I intend to have a future by design, not by default.

By the way, by “cocooning” I don’t mean hiding out from the world the way many pundits describe telecommuters and home-based workers. No, I have in mind the caterpillar who constructs a personal cocoon, only to re-emerge some time later as a butterfly. During that metamorphosis, the caterpillar undergoes a complete biological restructuring that produces a whole new body and a completely transformed appearance, to say nothing of the ability to fly.

I know I won’t be re-appearing as a 25 year-old handsome hulk with wings, but I do plan on producing new thoughts, new insights, and, I hope, new ways of making a difference in people’s lives and in the future of work.

At this point I am still figuring out how to accomplish that lofty goal. For now, I imagine that over the next several months I will:

  • Write far fewer articles and blog posts; I’m going to scale back to one a month or so, instead of one a week;
  • Do a lot more reading and online research – but only about topics I am genuinely curious about;
  • Be very selective about the phone calls I make and take, and the commitments I agree to;
  • Seek out exploratory, open-ended conversations with friends new and old;
  • Begin to write a personal journal that I may or may not share publicly (writing is really the way I think, so I am not about to stop writing);
  • Frame a new set of compelling questions about the future of work – and the future of life; and
  • Let ideas and insights come to me, rather going out looking for them, or trying to articulate them for others’ benefit.

If that sounds selfish, so be it. I am completely convinced that I need this time for re-alignment and renewal, and that when I emerge from my self-imposed cocoon, I’ll have new energy, new ideas, and possibly even a whole bunch of new friends and mentors.

I won’t disappear completely; I promise to provide you with periodic reports on my progress and my state of mind; and I would love to hear your thoughts about what issues and challenges you want me to focus on.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kent Reyling June 6, 2017 at 3:29 am

I look forward to seeing the colorful butterfly emerging in the Fall. Enjoy your summer of refresh and rediscovery.

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Paul Carder June 6, 2017 at 8:06 am

Jim,
I hope you do all those things my friend. And also take some time out to do nothing much at all … “A poor life this is if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare” (William Henry Davies.., of course).
Take care, Paul

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Margaret Tcheng Ware June 10, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Good for you, Jim! Glad you came to this perspective about productive “time off” – recreation in the truest sense of the word.

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James Ware June 11, 2017 at 10:23 am

Thanks Margaret! You have helped me see “recreation” in a whole new light – I am truly working on re-creating myself! I like the idea that that’s a recreational activity.

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Antonio June 11, 2017 at 5:34 am

Jim,

It sounds as though you’re beginning an adventure filled with new possibilities. I’m wishing you a lot of joy and fulfillment from your endeavor.

Much love,
Antonio

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Robert Buss June 14, 2017 at 1:13 am

Hallo Jim,

Enjoy your summer.

I was thinking about the phenomena that people look forward to doing certain things when they retire and then, after they do them, they are in no position to bring their experiences back into the working world. We might be better off if more people had summer off.

Yours,

-Robert.

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