For all intents and purposes, I have been working nearly non-stop for three decades. Not kidding. Sure, I’ve taken vacations, but I did some form of work on many of them much to the chagrin of my wife and family. And, yes, there are weekends but as a business owner and Type A individual, advancing the goals of McGrath/Power Public Relations and Communications and those of our clients is always top of mind. In many respects, for the bulk of my career, there was no life outside of work. Work was my life and other people and activities were merely sidelights.
Now, before you think I am anymore twisted than the above paragraph makes me appear, I do take care of myself and I do maintain very strong relationships with those I care about. In fact, if it wasn’t for those very people, I wouldn’t be successful at my job. Stress would have killed me or they would have killed me, perhaps simultaneously.
Fortunately, I have subscribed to some tried and true antidotes to stress from both work and life that have enabled me to recharge, refocus and reboot:
- Fall In Love: OK, it’s not as easy as a gym membership, but falling in love (and I mean truly in love) was the greatest antidote to work and stress I have found. Before I met my wife in 1996 I was singularly focused on and consumed by my career. Toni brought new perspective on what is important and when and that led to more balance than ever before. She is a great reality check on my work life and isn’t afraid to suggest a break. Unfortunately for all of you who are hoping she has an available sister, they too have been snapped up by workaholics.
- Exercise Religiously: I’ve been exercising in many forms since my Dad bought me a baseball glove and a basketball. Those were all I needed to get outside and begin my long relationship with sweat and competition. To this day, regular exercise is the most beneficial rebooting mechanism I have. Fact is that I am addicted to sweat and I function better after being able to literally wring out a drenched shirt and shorts. I know that sounds gross but it has kept me sharp mentally despite long hours, tough business trips and client dinners with multiple bottles of wine. They say that you can’t “sweat out” a hangover, but I am proof that you can rid yourself of the cobwebs and get an endorphin boost. An excellent music playlist always helps and I have 50+ of them in my homemade GymDandy series containing everything from rap to rock.
- Listen To Tupac: Speaking of rap and hip hop music, I am an unabashed fan of 1990’s hip hop and use it to escape and blow off steam. Who better to enable that than the man who arguably has done more for the genre than anybody else, the Bay Area’s own Tupac Shakur. Natural storytelling combined with excellent production values and addicting melodies make just about anything Tupac put out there worth a listen. If I am truly agitated and need to fully vent, I will opt for something on the aggressive side, such as the most aggressive song ever recorded “Hit ‘Em Up.” If I need a pick me up, I’ll cue up “Picture Me Rollin’.” No matter what my mindset is, the man nicknamed Makaveli delivers.
- Sit In Silence: This is at the opposite end of consuming 2Pac tunes. Have you ever tried it? It rocks. Between the general noise of daily urban life and having three boys all under the age of 13 who also love hip hop, my life is loud. Every now and then when I have the house to myself, I sit in my favorite chair and just sit. No TV, music, reading, nothing. It is one of the more restorative things I do. No wonder why the Depeche Mode song “Enjoy The Silence” is one of my faves.
- Stare At The Ocean: This adds the visual support to Sitting In Silence. Staring at the ocean, preferably alone, from a high perch with the sound of waves crashing on rocks has always relaxed me. Can’t find a beach and a bluff? Next best thing is to park at San Francisco’s Marina Greens and gaze out on the evening lights of the Golden Gate Bridge and East Bay. Need a song to go with that? Try Mr. Probz’ “Waves.”
- Read: Goes without saying…a mental escape and one that lets me consume non-technology content, such as Wine Spectator and Billboard.
- Shoot Baskets With My Kids: Just as my Dad did with me, I rolled a tiny basketball to Harrison (now 11) when he turned one and aimed him at a little plastic hoop. Like I did, he gravitated to the sport and has already played/started on two championship teams. Jackson and Mason (8) inherited the plastic basket and are also starters in their third year of organized play. We have a real basket in our driveway and it gets daily use. Shooting hoops with my Three Little Homies, preferably with a margarita nearby and music playing, takes my mind to a different place and lets me concentrate on enjoying the personalities of my kids.
- Drop The Mic and Leave: Much like the culmination of a throw-down musical performance, I believe in dropping the mic and simply walking out of the office when I feel a mental break is in order. Mind you, this is nowhere near a regular occurrence, but sometimes one just has to say “F it” and go do something else. For me that something is usually golf or a massage. Golf isn’t the most relaxing endeavor, but being out on a beautiful course especially when it isn’t crowded, and playing just for the fun of it is one of my favorite things. Preferably the massage follows. Most important, though, is knowing when to drop that mic and clear your head.
That’s what I do outside of work. How about you?