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Leadership Lessons—Rest: Mentally & Physically

“My wife, Mary Kay, and I are in San Diego for an event called The Secret Knock. This means we are ‘officially’ taking a few days of vacation.

I started wondering what other countries do for vacation. Doing some research Google revealed the following list of countries with the number of paid vacations days their employees are required to receive by their government:

  • Canada – 10
  • Denmark – 25
  • Germany – 24
  • France – 30
  • Japan – 10
  • U.K. – 20
  • U.S. – 0

Now let’s look at the average number of paid vacation days given to employees in each country:

  • Canada – 26
  • Germany – 35
  • France – 37
  • Japan – 25
  • U.K. – 28
  • Italy – 42
  • U.S. – 13

I believe that we live in the greatest country in the world. Yet, when I look at the vacation statistics, I realize that we are often focused on the wrong stuff.

Unfortunately, I have always considered myself a workaholic. In fact, I wore that label as a badge of honor when I was younger. When I got a Blackberry, or “crackberry” as some called the device, it got worse. I could check … and answer … e-mails 24 hours a day. This meant that I spent even more time not paying attention to family and focusing on work.

It is a problem many leaders face. Great leaders know they need to take a break mentally as well as physically. Remember the last time you took a trip and couldn’t use your iPhone/Blackberry? Did you go crazy because you were “out of touch” with the world? Did your spouse, on the other hand, enjoy the fact that you finally could spend some time with your family?

Age can be wonderful! It gives one the ability to look back and realize the mistakes we’ve made and how wrong some of our decisions were. Over the Fourth of July I had a chance to spend some time with my daughter—who might just be the coolest kid in the world. (Although she is now in her early 40s and the only person that should call her a kid is her dad.) I look back, with regret, and remember the times where work came first.

I still have a VCR tape of when she competed at the Miss Ohio contest more than 20 years ago. The sad part is, for some reason I can’t remember … or don’t want to remember, I wasn’t there. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from an event like that today.

Here is the point of this week’s article. As leaders we need to take a break and focus on the most important events. If we are at work—focus on work. If we are on vacation—focus on vacation. If we are with family—focus on family. Leaders understand this—even if it takes them years to learn the lesson. Eventually, they know the importance.

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