Work is work -- by definition, competitive, intense, draining, difficult, hard. Work may be fun (it should be) but it isn't your whole life (and shouldn't be.) Sometimes you should do something that isn't work, refreshes your mind and body, and gets you out from behind your desk, computer, car, or airport lounge.
Sometimes you should do something that has absolutely nothing to do with your work Like fly-fishing, unless you're a professional fly-fisherman. Or playing golf, unless you're Vijay Singh. Or shopping for vintage beer bottles on eBay. Or traveling to Civil War sites. Or going to a minor league baseball game with your family.
Business execs with a passion for golf are legion, from Jack Welch (6.5 handicap) to Donald Trump (3-4 handicap) to William Clay Ford (15), though he'd rather practice his karate.
The peace and quiet of fly-fishing seems to takes executive minds off the P&L for Charles Schwab, Martha Stewart, and Meg Whitman of eBay.
In blaring contrast, plenty of power players take time off to play in rock bands, from CableVision CEO James Dolan (guitarist, J.D. and The Straight Shot), to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft (guitarist, The Grown Men), to Joshua Bolten, Presidential Chief of Staff (bass, The Compassionates), to George Majeros, COO of LBO firm, Wasserstein & Co. (drummer, The Rolling Bones).
Sergei Brin, co-founder of Google, unwinds with in-line skating. Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner AOL, is a wine officiando (who jets off to his vineyard in Italy.) For those who like their activities more physically demanding, there's The CEO Challenge, an Ironman competition for corporate types.
And getting away from the stress of work doesn't only apply to CEOs, owners, and board chairs. In fact, for many of us, we need relief from the stress of having CEOs, owners, and board chairs who take their stress out on us.
Whatever you do, from time to time, get away from it. Far away. Sure, it's harder and harder to do it. There's the pressure and promise of the next deal that could close without you if you're not there. There's the big meeting that's your chance to show the private equity investors how well you integrated the last acquisition. There's the guy in the next office who works relentlessly and keeps eying your client list. And, of course, there's the person you've never seen, working a continent away, as fast as she can on the same pharmaceutical breakthrough you're pursuing...who might get there first.
Guess what? There's always a reason not to take the day off, or the weekend, or to get away for a week. And there's always a deal, a meeting, a competitor. But if you don't get away, ask yourself why. To make more money to spend when -- when you're too old to enjoy it? On whom -- the family you don't see? To climb the ladder faster and higher? To buy, build, merge, acquire, sell?
Guess what? You'll do it all better and more effectively if you give yourself perspective...that you can only get from a distance. Get away. Move your body and your mind. Giving yourself breaks -- gaining perspective -- enables you to do your job better. If you're too close, you never have a new idea. Forget the excuses. Get out of the office. Take that vacation. It's fun; it's relaxing; your children will like you better.
And, believe it or not, it's a great way to get ahead at work. Yvon Chouinard's love of mountain climbing not only provided him a physical outlet, but clarified his ambitions and goals enabling him to build an apparel company around his values -- Patagonia.