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A Surprise Trip For My Birthday Taught Me A Powerful Lesson About Rest


people walking in london

I recently celebrated a birthday unlike any other.

My wonderful husband (in cahoots with my wonderful co-founder) swept me off to the airport unexpectedly for a five-day trip. The fun part: I had no idea where we were going until he presented me with an itinerary right before takeoff.

I was giddy the entire flight, and before I knew it, we were in London, about to embark on an experience I’ll never forget. Not only because I enjoyed myself, but because I learned—or was reminded of—a valuable lesson: taking time away from work is powerful and rejuvenating.   

Of my own accord, I would have never taken a day off for my birthday.

I probably would have promised to take a half day, but ended up working all day anyway. While I encourage others to take time off and recharge, to be honest, it’s something I struggle to do myself.

So they forced me! 🙂

And I’m so glad they did. Because I learned some powerful lessons I’ll remember for the rest of my life:

1. Everything will be fine if you’re gone for a few days.

I never worry the company will fall apart without me. My co-founder and team are brilliant and empowered.

But I do feel a little guilty taking a vacation when there’s so much to be done. We’re a startup, after all.

But guess what? Everything was fine. That realization was liberating.

If you can’t even take a long weekend once in a while, that should raise concerns about your work situation. Is your culture healthy if your company can’t survive without you?

Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t just hustle all the way to the finish line without some rest and relaxation along the way.

And it’s not like you have to take a two-week vacation every time. I was only gone for five days (I’ll admit, had it been any longer, I might have started to stress a bit) and was able to see and experience so much of London. When something is new, time goes by more slowly. It was a truly rich, immersive experience.

2. I really did end up feeling recharged.

When I got back, I felt full of energy.

Admittedly, I’ve been at a low-grade constant of working 24/7 for a year and a half. But during the trip, I was able to decompress and clear my mind as we explored new neighborhoods, markets and restaurants (of course!).

3. Distance creates an opportunity to reflect.

There’s something about distance. Being in another timezone, away from easy access, changes your mindset.

I found myself thinking less about the little things and more about the vision for my company, NakedPoppy.

Just seeing life in another country made me think of all the people out there—all the potential customers! Feeling like I was a world away from our San Francisco office prompted me to reflect on our customer in a fresh way. Ultimately, the experience sparked some ideas I brought home with me.

Overall, the trip was an unexpected exercise in letting go. It reminded me that taking time away to rest and recharge actually is all it’s cracked up to be.

Co-founder/CEO at NakedPoppy, a clean beauty startup. Former CMO/VP Marketing at OpenTable, Amazon, Upwork, Eventbrite. Follow Jaleh on Medium:

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