An alarm may go off in your head as you read this post. If that happens, you can calmly hit the snooze button. Trust that the warning will come back in due time, but you’ll buy yourself nine minutes to consider something interesting. If you can’t control that alarm, move on now. Go on, get up already.

Since you’re still reading, I’ll take my chances and share with you a hard-earned and extremely valuable truth. Nine minutes is all I need. Just don’t forget your part of the bargain.

Go away. Leave. Get away from your family, your dogs, your church, and your other responsibilities. Not permanently, of course. Go away and take just you and your job with you.

I first encountered this idea many years ago at a Vistage meeting, listening to a rather imposing ex-professional basketball player named Walter Bond. Bond’s speech was about what he called “The Off Season.” He suggested that anyone who called themselves a professional should go away and spend time working on their work. Why? To get better. Like a basketball player uses the time between the regular seasons to work on the fundamentals of the game (conditioning, free throws, dribbling exercises, etc.), any professional’s “off season” should be part of their skill building routine. Plus, pros need some time to refresh their relationship to the job itself.

free throw“Sure, that’s easy for you to say,” I found myself saying out loud. “You make enough money during the season to hold you over nicely. Most of us have to work all year long.” Bond didn’t flinch. “Granted. So your off season might naturally be a lot shorter than mine. But that just makes it even more vital.” He drove his point home by asking a question that I now relay to you. When your favorite player is at the foul line in the last moments of a critical game, what do you hope will happen? I’ll bet it isn’t to practice making foul shots. It’s to sink the basket; after all, it’s game time! In fact, you’re counting on him to have taken plenty of practice shots so that now, at crunch time, he’s ready.

Well, I was being paid to be a professional, too. But when had I taken my own proverbial practice shots? During the game, that’s when. All my “practice” was when it really counted.

It Works

As we fast forward to today, several years and many off seasons later, I can attest to the wisdom of this discipline through personal experience. What began as a single Saturday afternoon, because that’s all the time I could carve out, has turned into a full week away at a time, each spring and fall. And like you, “busy” doesn’t even begin to describe my normal daily schedule… so for me (or you) to spend this much time, the payoff must be big.

house picI can say without hesitation that some of the biggest and best business decisions I’ve ever made have come from my off season time. There is no perfect way to conduct an off season but there are plenty of bad ones, which we’ll go into more next time. Leave the office, the patients, the restaurant, or the pulpit in good hands and just go away.

The crux of the matter is to go away, leave all the distractions behind, and focus your mind solely on your job. Often these off seasons can be spiritual experiences where the answers to our most intractable problems emerge – but only when we are quiet and still enough to let them!

My recommendation is the simpler the setting the better. A claustrophobic, cramped hotel room is definitely out – too constricting. Bottom line: find the setting that feels like the most comfortable clothes you own. But always remember that this is to be work, not a holiday. Work hard on your off season so that when you’re back in the game, you’ll be ready.

Next time, in part 2 of this post, we will explore what to do “out there” when you actually go, what it means to take your job with you, and what refreshing your relationship with your job is all about.

Finally, if you’re anything like me, your inner alarm went off early in this post. It sounds good in theory but you don’t have the freedom, opportunity, funds, time, supportive spouse, convenient dog kennel, yada, yada, yada. I believe you. Just remember that tomorrow, at your job, its game day. Are you ready?

Bruce loves to help people overcome challenges, particularly in leadership, interpersonal relationships and trust. He’s a noted speaker, author, active church member and community volunteer. Bruce’s day job has been to lead RBB since 2001, becoming Owner in 2007.

Bruce is blessed to share his life with his wife Donna and their three wonderful children: daughters Kelly and Kara, and son Kirk. As time permits he enjoys golf, writing and learning how to live in the country.

ODSctaDid you know ODS offers custom speaking engagements? Individuals set up a workshop or a series of personal sessions with topics focused on communication, leadership and trust. Contact Bruce today to learn more.