Can a top level executive really take a year off?

The concept of a Sabbatical comes from the Hebrew tradition (that wasn’t always religiously followed) of letting the land rest every seven years. That way it would be refreshed for following years. If it were me, I would plant soybeans to get some nutrients back into the soil, but that is just me.

There is even a mystical river in Jewish tradition called the Sambatyon River that spits up rocks six days a week but rests on the seventh. Where is this mystical river? I bet it would be a good tourist attraction. It might only exist in the ethereal realm somewhere near Shambhala!

But, what about an executive taking time off? I take a week off or ten days off regularly. I work seven days a week and need a change of scenery otherwise I lose my mind. Taking a month off would be a stretch, but a year? Most executives can’t afford to do this because they would lose their job permanently. Sure, they might be able to reapply and get back in if their boss liked them, but there would be no guarantees. If you run your own company, your company might not exist after you hire some other guy to manage it for a year. Most people are screw-ups, so if you plan on being totally uninvolved, make sure that new manager is thoroughly tested over a three year period at a minimum.

But, maybe it is a good idea for this to be a cultural norm. Professors get to take a year off. Why can’t executives? Maybe larger companies could have a dental plan, health benefits, and a 30% paid sabbatical. If there were some system in place like a maternity leave which is standardized in many countries, then people could take that break they really need.

Executives are decision makers by trade. They live in a changing world, and the articles I read suggest that CEO’s burnout and crumble after around — you guessed it — seven to nine years. The opportune time to take a break is in exactly seven years. It is like taking a cruise on Princess Cruises — “Come back new.” Well, that is what they say in their commercials. Taking a break from work will not help with tactical decisions. But, tactical skill would come back quickly in only a few months. Strategical decision making skills could be greatly refreshed from taking a year off and seeing the world. You would be very deeply rested and have a completely new perspective on life, especially if you lived in different countries during this time or went back to school to take a few refresher courses.

After all of this time I’m spending writing about sabbaticals, I’m beginning to think it is far past due for me to take one! But, where will I travel to? Bali, China, Dubai, The Himalayas, and of course — the Sambatyon river (if I can find it.) My intuition tells me that it is in North Africa somewhere if it indeed exists. Maybe I’ll find the lost tribe roasting marshmallows on a camping trip on the banks of that river.

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