The Stay Put Sabbatical

For those of you not familiar (I was not) a sabbatical can come in many forms. My last job offered a Leave of Absence (LOA) where you could take three months off without pay but they picked up the healthcare bill. In academia, it’s often a period of paid time off to write a book or work on other topics.

a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.
“she’s away on sabbatical

Some people take these types of sabbaticals and wander into the sands of Marfa, TX to find their spirit animals, or travel to Bali to backpack and change their lives. All are fantastic options if you can make them happen.

However, my sabbatical was more of the quit your job, balance your finances, have a supportive partner, stay put and take time off type.

The top question I am getting from friends, family, ex-colleagues, and even during job interviews is “How does a sabbatical work and, seriously, what are you even doing with your life?”

I’ve been working for the last 21 years straight with no meaningful break. Why should only academics get a break? After COVID-19, selling a house, moving into a new house, plenty of home projects, helping to sell my last agency, rough clients, working at the new company, and being a new Dad, it was time to refresh my life, work, and brain.

It was time to focus on some true north objectives in my life and develop some new personal FAST goals along the way. So how does that work?

For me it’s simple. Lean into things you love, while you can spend more time.

  1. Being the best Dad I can be. People love to tell me that 0–4 are some of the most important years of any child’s life (what about the rest?) and I have actually been listening. I’ve been taking this time to make sure I drive my son every morning and pick him up every afternoon, and I’ve been blessed to put down my phone and not worry about meetings/emails/teams messages/slack DMs/RFPs/WBS codes/LinkedIn connects to sell me email lists of Metaverse/WEB3 B2B clients (EYE ROLL). Instead, I get to really pay attention to every moment of every day I have with him and my amazing wife. Part of being there is being healthy as well. I’m running/swimming more, and I’ve cut 80% of the meat out of my diet (for climate change reasons and my own health). Since I quit my last job I’ve lost seven pounds and counting.
  2. Learn. I’m very motivated by learning. So I was excited to be accepted to the Terra.do Climate Change school and I’m currently immersed in their ten-week program. It’s been fascinating to learn the physics, chemistry, and computer modeling behind climate change science and how to communicate something so severe to your friends, family, and the general public. (Or even the trolls on Twitter some days). Weekly classes, homework, and labs are part of the program and have been eye-opening in my own climate change journey. I want my next job to be in part of this world. I also signed up for the Hustle Fund Angel Squad to learn how to be a better angel investor. It’s been great to go through their program, see live pitches, and understand how GPs (General Partners) make investment decisions.
  3. Lean into Fundraising. I’m on the board of a pretty unique nonprofit here in Austin, TX called Multicultural Refugee Center (MRC). They have a wonderful revenue split of 50% philanthropy and 50% earned revenue. We operate a textile manufacturing business and a farm. All where Refugees, Asylum seekers, and Immigrants (RAIs) get paid a solid wage and receive health care benefits. Part of my sabbatical has been leaning into fundraising, helping them target donors, and helping them track down social impact investors as well. Know folks who would support this cause? Please drop me a comment.

So what’s next?

I don’t know yet, and that’s the beauty of this moment in my life. And if you go this route you won’t know either. But that’s the experiment.

Coming from an experimentation background, these are all exciting hypotheses to me. And I’m running the experiments above to figure it out.

If you can, take time off. It can be the kind where you go into the desert and imagine your spirit animal is telling you to create an algorithm that makes the world a “better place.” Or it can be the kind where you just relax and rewatch The Wire, or it can be what I described above where you lean into things you enjoy that take a little time and effort.

Time and effort you wouldn’t have if you had a full-time job. But if you have the opportunity to take time between your next job and the one you have, do it.

If anyone reading this wants to know more about Terra.doThe Hustle Fund, or MRC please contact me. If you are trying to sell me a list of Metaverse-related B2B sales emails on LinkedIn, please just stop before you start.

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