Today marks the end of my “summer sabbatical” -- a five-week period in which I took a break from my regularly scheduled weekly newsletter, a Monday missive I’ve been sending for almost 120 weeks straight.
The decision to take this time off started back in the beginning of May when I began really exploring the idea of why we continue to thirst for MORE everything as humans and entrepreneurs. These questions ignited in me a desire to focus less on how to grow bigger as a business and more on how to grow TRUER as a business.
- What did I REALLY want Made Vibrant to be about?
- What parts of my business do I love and what parts do I want to eliminate?
- What am I doing for love and what am I doing for money?
- What do I define as ‘enough’ (enough money, enough subscribers, enough success?)
Pondering all of this led to the realization that since the inception of my business in 2014, I’d never actually taken a real break.
I have worked most weekends and on most vacations, and even the occasional few days away never felt like a true separation. Part of this, yes, was because I truly LOVE my work. But once I got honest with myself, I realized it was also because I was afraid of losing momentum.
Every time I had an idea for a product or project, I usually slapped on some unfathomable self-imposed deadline, worried that any kind of delay might result in missed opportunities.
Once I realized this, it became clear that I not only needed a break to confront this fear, but I also needed to challenge myself to take a much SLOWER approach to building and releasing projects long-term.
My solution was the five-week break from my newsletter, but it also included intentionally pushing back a website re-launch by a whopping two months (more on that later.)
I'm now happy to report that over the past two and a half months, I’ve discovered more presence, more fullness, and more VIBRANCE than any other time in my life.
What I’ve discovered is that in taking a slower (almost painfully slower) approach, it has given me the breathing room to let my authentic creativity rise to the surface. I feel more in control of my decisions and true feelings than ever before.
Now that I'm re-emerging from my hiatus and kicking the newsletter back up again, I wanted to share with you guys eight lessons I’ve learned these past five weeks away, and why I think there is a tremendous benefit to baking WAY more down-time into your business (and life).
1. Time & space are like oxygen for inspiration.
Have you ever tried to write something under deadline and found yourself staring at a blank page feeling literally incapable of forming sentences much less communicating something of worth?
On the other hand, with the pressure off and singing Taylor Swift in the shower, have you ever been surprised to find thoughts flying through your head at warp speed and thought to yourself,“Wait! I need to write this down!”
So why the heck is that?!
Well, when we feel under pressure to make something happen in a specific timeframe, many times we can end up smothering our inner muse.
Our hearts need space to wander freely and our minds need time to form meaningful connections that spark creativity.
During my hiatus, I found that the more time I spent away from my work (resting, walking, getting sunshine, etc.), the more I was able to let my ideas simmer and stew together to form beautiful new flavors.
MY TAKEAWAY: DON’T SUFFOCATE YOUR CREATIVITY BY ALWAYS TRYING TO PUT IT UNDER DEADLINE. TIME AND SPACE ARE LIKE OXYGEN TO INSPIRATION.
2. Play is essential.
Speaking of more time and space, once I finally gave myself more of both, I realized I also had the ability to take on things that weren’t on my to-do list.
I had time to experiment in my art journal, mess around with new design treatments in Photoshop and make up stupid songs in my head (don't worry, not dropping an album any time soon slash EVER).
In other words, I let myself PLAY.
When you’re under a strict pace, it can feel like there’s never any time for nonsense or experimentation or frivolous creativity. And yet nonsense is what can actually lead to a freer spirit and surprising new discoveries.
I learned for myself what Greg McKeown says in his book Essentialism:
During this break I discovered that play is, in fact, essential.
Play brought my life more laughter (and less anxiety), more surprising ideas, new branding and website design treatments, and new art processes -- all because I allowed myself to create for the joy of creating.
MY TAKEAWAY: PLAY IS ESSENTIAL TO CREATIVITY AND SLOWING THINGS DOWN MAKES ROOM FOR PLAY!
3. The greatest form of renewable fuel is authenticity.
I’ll admit that part of my fatigue at the beginning of May was the feeling that I was always just trying to keep up with the Jones’s in the entrepreneurial sense. Here's how my thoughts would go:
- "So-and-so launched a podcast / Should I launch a podcast?"
- "Higher priced courses are making this person six figures / Should I be doing that?"
- "Here's a thingy about funnels / Should I go back through and optimize all my blog posts for conversion?"
Despite being aware that it’s never a good sign when “shoulds” pop up in my head, I still found myself sinking into the slippery quicksand of comparison. And it left me feeling constantly exhausted.
This break has taught me, though, that defining my own pace also helps me solidify my own voice.
Removed from the constant stream of consumption and trying to keep up with everyone around me, instead I can focus on moving forward based on what I feel most connected to, what feels most authentic TO ME. And the result is that instead of feeling exhausted, I feel completely energized like I’m finally hitting a stride that is 100% dictated by ME.
In Connecting With Your Core, I talk about the fact that when you are truly aligned with your core self, you discover a form of renewable energy -- like a turbine that is always refueling -- rather than a tank that can often feel empty and depleted. Slowing down reminded me of this fact as I was able to feel it first-hand.
MY TAKEAWAY: WHEN YOU STEP AWAY FROM THE NOISE, YOU FEEL ENERGIZED BY YOUR OWN AUTHENTIC VOICE.
4. Clarity can’t be rushed.
Originally, when I had my mini-epiphany in early May, I had planned a website redesign for early June to reflect an idea for where I thought I wanted to steer Made Vibrant moving into later this year and next.
But, at the wise suggestion of my partner Jason (who is currently taking his own break this summer away from social media), I pushed the launch back, first to August and now to September (😱), which seemed like a CRAZY amount of time to wait. So much time that I might have had a panic attack before this summer.
But now? Now I’m SO glad I gave myself the extra time because what the site and vision has evolved into over the course of MANY weeks feels much closer to what I really want.
If I had rushed things, I might not have arrived at the clarity I needed to make it truly aligned with my goals and values moving forward long-term.
MY TAKEAWAY: WE ARRIVE AT CLARITY WHEN WE HAVE TIME TO FULLY EXPLORE OUR VALUES AND DECISION-MAKING.
5. Challenge the belief that it will all fall apart.
As I talked about in this post, I had this deep belief that if I took a break with my business things would start to fall apart.
I'm such a big believer in consistency, and a part of me was convinced that if I wasn't putting out consistent newsletters, people would forget about me and forget about Made Vibrant. (Okay, typing it now it sounds really silly.)
I knew it was important for me to actually challenge this belief and prove to myself that it was just a story I was making up.
What I discovered is that if you're putting out work that you believe in -- work that truly resonates with people -- that kind of emotional connection can’t be broken overnight. In fact, if you've attracted the right people in your business (people whose values align with yours), they’ll often respect you more for taking time away.
Did I lose some email subscribers while I was away? Sure. Did some jump ship to discover a new favorite blog? Probably.
But, YOU are here and that’s who I care about. And everything clearly did not fall apart. In fact, I think the slow-down was crucial from a business perspective so I could see that even when I was taking a more laid-back approach, the business was still making a consistent base revenue each month.
This ACTUAL real-life experience (vs. the old story I made up in my head) will definitely help alleviate any lingering financial anxiety that I have to keep things at a faster pace.
MY TAKEAWAY: IT’S ONE THING TO WONDER IF YOU’VE BUILT A BUSINESS THAT CAN LAST; IT’S ANOTHER THING TO SEE IT FOR YOURSELF.
6. Distance allows you to see the big picture.
When you’re moving at the speed of light, not only can everything start to look a bit blurry, but everything feels like it’s being held up right to your face. When you’re entrenched in trying to burn through your to-do list as fast as possible, it’s hard to find the time to ponder what all you’re trying to accomplish.
The more days and weeks went by, the more elevated I began to feel -- like I was staring at my business from 20,000 feet. That distance allowed me to see the big picture in a whole new way, and now I feel much more aware of how every single tactic and to-do fits into my higher purpose.
MY TAKEAWAY: IT’S HARD TO SEE THE BIG PICTURE WHEN IT’S RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE.
7. We have to untangle our work from our worth.
This is probably one of the most profound benefits I’ll walk away with from this break. I think most entrepreneurs to some degree feel that they are a direct reflection of their business. Business success = personal success.
But, this is a very dangerous belief because if that is the case, the second that a product flops or a sales dip occurs, we can start to feel negative emotional effects from those “failures.”
Honestly I think that’s what the whole work/life pendulum is really about -- reminding ourselves that while work can fill our lives with meaning and purpose, the worth of our lives is an unconditional precept.
Meditating on this new view and actually LIVING it these past few weeks has helped me evolve to a place where I no longer hyperventilate at the idea of not opening my email on the weekend. I want to arrive at a place where soaking up the sunshine feels just as urgent as my inbox because the truth is: LIFE is what's urgent. Work? Less so.
MY TAKEAWAY: YOUR WORTH IS NOT DEPENDENT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR WORK.
8. When we slow down we can feel the flow.
Ah yes, “flow.” That beautiful state of being when the world melts away and we lose all sense of obligation or worry or doing and instead lean into a joyful and immersive experience of being. Can you remember the last time you felt this way?
For me, it was yesterday. And a few days before that. And all summer long. Why? Because I allowed myself to slow down long enough to settle into it. When we stop trying to run so fast toward a moving target, that’s when we’re actually able to feel and use the energy within us and around us.
MY TAKEAWAY: TO RECEIVE THE SLOW FLOW OF BEING, WE HAVE TO LET GO OF THE RAPID PACE OF DOING.
Now, I'm not saying that any of this was easy at first. The first week when I didn't hit send on a Monday morning email, I was anxious all day. Seeing no new blog posts pop up in my blog feed this summer made me feel strange, like something was missing. But I had to wade through the discomfort in order to remind myself that a sustainable pace and a LASTING work/life integration is what I'm after.
I know at different times and for different people, there are always going to be seasons of rest and seasons of productivity. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have been in a place to accept all the benefits of a slower pace when my business was still new because those were the days when resources were scarce and hustle-mode felt appropriate.
Still, now I know that hustle-mode is a state of being that I’m ready to let go of. I want to fold this slower, more deliberate pace into my life and my business, and redefine what “work” could feel like for me.
I can’t promise that I won’t get all fired up in the future and enter a more turbo-charged season of making, but for now I feel I’ve discovered the incredible power in taking a break and finding a more sustainable pace.
I know now that presence is more important to me than productivity, and that is why I’ll continue to work toward this practice of intentional slow-flowtion 😜 in my business.
Thanks to all of you that stuck around while I was away and I can't WAIT to share with you what's coming in the months ahead.