Are you taking enough time off?

I took a vacation last week. It was March break in Toronto. Our youngest daughter travelled to our family overseas for the break so my wife and I took advantage of our ‘empty nesters’ status and took off to a resort on one of the Caribbean islands.

I love what I do and I am a passionate type-A, hyperactive workaholic. So, for me to have a successful vacation I need to go to a place where I can leave all devices, my wallet and my watch behind and just focus on resting, slowing down, rejuvenating and having fun.

Nothing fits the bill better for me than an all-inclusive resort on a sandy beach in a warm destination. I spend all days doing only activities that pamper my soul: reading, journaling, listening to music, practicing my yoga, hanging out with my wife and eating and drinking good food and wine.

I work very hard so I make it a point to take as many vacations as possible between gigs throughout the year. Sometimes these are just short getaways and sometimes they are much longer. However, I have made it a practice to take at least two ‘proper’ vacations each year – one mid year, usually when our younger daughter goes to summer camp, and then one during Christmas break. These rejuvenating vacations have become consistent and empowering opportunities to reflect on my personal and professional progress, as well as chance to create my aspirations, dreams and plans for the next six months.

Most professionals work extremely hard and for long hours every day. This is especially the case in companies that are constantly looking to reduce expenses and increase their people’s productivity and results. Many employees and managers find managing their work-life balance to be a constant struggle.

People understand the importance of taking vacations and time off. But, it seems that most people – especially in North America – are not very good at doing it. People say the right things, but many seem to relate to taking time off as a ‘luxury’ that would be ‘nice to have,’ not a mission critical ‘necessity.’ Most people don’t do a good job taking a stand for their own–and their family’s–well-being at the same level they take a stand for their work and career.

I used to think and behave this way. But, over the years as my work, travel and demands increased, and as I have grown older and wiser (with my wife’s and kid’s help, of course) I have evolved my paradigm. In fact, my mantra today is ‘work hard and play hard.’

I believe taking time off is mission critical. It is a necessity. It is something we should be accountable for just like we are for our work commitments. Why?

  1. We spend so much time working in our business but not enough time working on our business. We are so consumed by our day-to-day challenges and opportunities that we don’t get too many opportunities to ‘lift our head above water.’ People often tell me that their work is so intense and fast-paced that they don’t have time to simply stop and ‘think,’ ‘plan,’ ‘innovate’ and ‘create.’ Taking time off gives us these quality opportunities to reflect, think, create, innovate, dream and plan the next steps of taking our self-expression and success to the next level. In fact, there are some Ivy League schools that have incorporated into their curriculum periods during the day where students are instructed to ‘do nothing,’ just think and create. It makes a big difference to productivity and success.
  2. Working as hard as most of us do takes a toll. We need the time off to renew, heal and rejuvenate ourselves. It’s a ‘must’ for our well-being, productivity and longevity. We tend to look out for everything and everyone else but not ourselves. We tend to always be the last priority. We work long hours, sometimes on the weekends too. We go out of our way to take care of our customers, stakeholders, projects and company, as we should… but we often neglect ourselves. Instead of taking a bolder stand for what is important to us, we often tend to say “yes” to all or most work requests, no matter what the personal consequence may be – like missing our kid’s recital or birthday, or other important family engagements – because we fear that saying “no” would be viewed as ‘selfish’ or lack of commitment to the company cause.
  3. Consider the fact that the divorce rates in modern countries are outrageously high. One of the reasons for the appalling statistic is our tendency to get addicted to, and overly consumed by our work and careers. There is nothing wrong with a commitment to our work and career. I am guilty of that my self. However, we would be wise to manage it in great harmony with the other parts of our life that we care about. Time off, especially with our loved ones (wife, husband, significant other and/or kids), is critical for managing these most important relationships. It’s time to reconnect but may be even more important as an opportunity to show those we love that they are still the most important part in our life. I guess that is why we must ask: “Am I working in order to live or living in order to work?” Some say that one of the differences between the North American and European cultures is that the Europeans do a better job “working to live” and in North America we tend to “live to work.”
  4. Taking time off is also a great opportunity to nurture our own soul by doing the things that we love to do and aren’t able to do for most of the year. Things like reading, writing, hiking, skiing and other activities that are important for each of us. It’s also an opportunity to explore new things that we’ve never done before; things that may be on our bucket list. Time off is a critical time to invest in our Self. After all, if we’re not in good mental, spiritual and physical condition, all the rest is irrelevant!


Make sure you make taking time off as much of a priority as everything else that is important to you.

Photo by: Moyan Brenn

Are you willing to be empowered?

There is a great quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most.”

Are you willing to be empowered?

This may seem like an odd question to ask. Who wouldn’t want to be Great? Perhaps it’s not as straightforward as it seems.

It is my life’s purpose and focus to ignite, energize and empower people. In fact, it’s my job, and most of it takes place in the workplace. In my work I get so many opportunities to empower people; remind them of who they are and how great and able they can be. When people are empowered in the workplace, it spills over into other areas of their life – work, marriage, parenthood, family, and social circles.

But I have noticed that often people are not that eager to become empowered; Despite what they say they don’t seem to be interested in experiencing themselves as powerful, great, resourceful, and larger than their circumstances.

The logic is clear: if you accept yourself as enabled and unstoppable, you are admitting that you have the capability to create and produce much more than you do today. If you are unempowered you have less opportunity in front of you, and more excuses for why you can’t do things. You experience yourself as smaller than your problems, so you always have a way out.  You do not challenge yourself to change or think beyond your comfort zone. This is an easier and safer way to live.

However, if you become empowered, if you begin living courageously, you have to bring innovation and resourcefulness to all aspects of your life. This could be scary.

However, the cost of staying unempowered is dear.  Self expression and confidence are eroded. And there is a constant feeling that “maybe I am missing out on something. Maybe I’m not living to my full potential.”

By simply confronting the benefits and costs of living unempowered, you regain your ability to choose. You begin to see that it is possible to choose courageous living, and to stand confidently in your self-expression.

Being great and empowered will always require boldness, it will always be an endeavor full of risk and uncertainty. However, living out loud also comes with tremendous sense of fulfillment and self-actualization.

You should ask yourself: “How powerful am I willing to be?”

How to regain your motivation

I was coaching someone the other day who is generally a highly committed and passionate person. He is also someone who has historically dedicated himself to big commitments and self-improvement. I was coaching him because somewhere along the way he got stuck and deteriorated into a state of resignation and suffering.

When I asked him to share what had happened he said, “I have lost my motivation.”

Over the years, I have supported so many committed people who have experienced this same sensation of feeling stuck. I have also struggled through it myself. So, I want to dedicate this blog to the question: “how do you find your motivation when you have lost it?”

Part of the problem is that most people don’t understand where motivation comes from so when they “lose it,” they look in the wrong place to find it. As a result, it takes a long time for them to get back on the horse.

Most people wait, expect and hope for external things to motivate them – more money, a promotion, good news, success at work and/or someone “inspirational” who will compel them and put them back in touch with who they really are and their passion and self-expression.

Others refer to themselves as “self-motivated.” They try to always bring a positive, optimistic outlook and spirit to everything. This is very powerful. But, even the self-motivated sometimes slump. In fact, I have found that those who are most passionate and committed when they are in their high points tend to be the ones who crash and burn the hardest when they fall or get stuck. I know this because I have been there a few times in my own journey.

When you are stuck, you can’t rely on your motivation. As my client said, “I have lost my motivation.” You have to rely on your word.

What does that mean? You have to say what you’ll do and do what you say.

The two sides of my instructions are key. First part: you have to say what you will do, explicitly. If you don’t say what you will do, you will not do anything. If you say vague and wishy-washy things, you will take vague and wishy-washy actions. In reality this means no action.

When you are stuck, don’t declare or set your objectives and outcomes. Only promise specific short-term actions you will take with specific deadlines. Box yourself in day by day, say what you will do and do what you say. Follow this routine until you start generating a momentum of success in that motion.

The second part I already mentioned above: do what you say, no matter how you feel about it. This means: go through the motions if needed, fake it till you make it and/or do what you say even if it feels mechanical and inauthentic.

The more you do that, the more you will recover your word and your ability to determine your destiny and future. Even if your promises only on a short-term basis at first, you will ultimately begin to regain your power and self-confidence. This will quickly lead to higher energy and motivation, and enable you to promise bigger things and deliver them.

Motivation and action are like the chicken and the egg. They feed, fuel and inspire each other. When you are at the top of your game, your motivation inspires your action. That is the time to declare your vision, commitments and what you stand for, set goals and act spontaneously.

But, when you are stuck, promising what you will do and doing it will get you unstuck and back on track for your motivation and commitment. You will regain your integrity and recover your motivation and power. That is how you “find your motivation.”

It may sound too simple, but it really works.

4 Steps to ensure mergers and/or acquisitions fulfill their purpose

I often work with organizations and teams that are going through, or have gone through, internal or external merger or acquisition.

Unfortunately, it is a known fact that most mergers or acquisitions fail to fulfill their desired or anticipated potential. I read a statistic, which stated that the archives of the Wall Street Journal show that upwards of 80 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail to fulfill the strategic goals that justified the merger and/or acquisition within the expected timeframe. In many cases, the resulting organizations are less effective and less successful than the original two by themselves.

My personal experience and observation have led me to believe that this failure is due to the fact that most teams and organizations don’t invest enough time and effort in the cultural, personal and human aspects of their integration. Rather, they focus almost exclusively on the content and process and they often end up with a well articulated plan that is disconnected from the actual reality.

I have supported many integration efforts and I have found that there are four specific steps that any team or organization can take to ensure their merger or acquisition will work and fulfill its purpose:

1. Establish an environment where people can communicate and dialogue about the merger and/or acquisition (M&A) in an open, honest, authentic, courageous, and effective way.
● M&A efforts are often stalled or undermined because teams and organization try to quickly address the redundancies, overlaps and duplications, including the nuts and bolts of reorganizing, restructuring, and scaling inside an environment and atmosphere of mutual suspicion, guardedness, and defensiveness, as well as lack of trust, respect, and open, honest, and effective communication. Trying to do things fast often slows things down because people say all the politically correct things, but then they walk away paying lip service to the integration effort.

2. Elicit genuine ownership on both sides for the success of the M&A.
● In most M&A’s, one party feels ‘taken-over’ or victimized by the other. While this dynamic is understandable, it undermines the ability of both organizations to succeed in their integration. From the start, it is critical for the leaders to create an environment in which everyone on both sides of the aisle genuinely owns, feels committed to, and is accountable for the success of the integration process and its outcome.

3. Make sure both parties have an opportunity to complete their respective pasts in an honorable and empowering way.
● Each team or company has its own unique legacy of culture, brand name, competencies, ways of doing things, heritage and identity, which its people often feel proud of and attached to. In order to move forward into a new shared identity, people need to ‘complete their respective pasts’ – or differently said: ‘grieve for the end of an era.’ But when both sides, especially the acquired, feel respected, heard, considered, included, recognized, and validated for their legacy, it creates space for all parties to generate the next chapter as an even-greater one.

4. Align the combined teams around a new shared future and identity that embody the best of both cultures and operations.
● To create a reality where the new whole is greater than the sum of its historical parts, the two teams and organizations have to articulate and align on a new bold and compelling shared future which both parties equally own, feel committed to, accountable for, and energized about. Unifying the teams around a shared future and identity will immediately create genuine excitement and urgency on both sides to clarify, align, streamline and scale roles, functions, structures, and responsibilities. When creating the future, it is important to consider and include the positive attributes and uniqueness of each organization in order to avoid the trap of one company feeling crushed by the other.