After 17 years, I decided to take a sabbatical. Across the last 45 days, I walked 1200 km to lose 34 pounds while teaching, volunteering and traveling in remote villages in South East Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam). I also took this time to build Experience Your Life Expo 2017 which is exponentially growing to become one of the largest career fairs in Canada for professional jobs. Hopefully, this post will inspire you to take your sabbatical in the future and it is dedicated to all those who inspired me to take this step.
I have had the pleasure to work for some of the best companies on the planet such as Microsoft, IBM and Unisys as a Global Consulting Director, Consulting Manager and Chief Architect. For the last 10 years, I have been at Microsoft looking after global solutions in mission critical industries including Education. In my career, I delivered and contributed to 1.2 billion dollars of consulting engagement across 120 enterprise customers. It was an incredible journey filled with adventure but it was time to take a break. A sabbatical enables you to connect with what is important in your life, to filter out the noise, disconnect from constant email stream and ‘double click’ on your passion to visualize your objectives. True contentment and success is in the balance of mind, body and soul. Whether you are a seasoned professional or an exhausted student just finishing their degree, a sabbatical focused on the right things will help you visualize opportunities that you could not see when you were stuck in the daily grind of things. It will help you be a better employee when you are back and a better entrepreneur if you decide to go down that route.
Across my travels to over 65 countries, I got exposed to the growing challenges faced by students and young professionals to get gainful employment. Quite frankly – we have a crisis on our hands. People are graduating in numbers and are unable to find professional employment. On the other hand, employers are looking desperately for people who have ‘life skills’ and not just academic knowledge. I had a front row seat to this whole issue as someone who reviewed over 2500 resumes and has either hired directly or contributed in the interview process of 400+ employees. I saw what a big difference a little bit of empathy, mentoring and support can make in fundamentally changing the direction of someone’s life. I decided to dedicate my life and my sabbatical to empowering lives and making a difference. As you plan your own adventure, here are a few tips to help you:
Tip 1 :Keep it Real! The most important part of the sabbatical is to really connect with yourself.
To breathe. To reflect on what is truly important in your life and filter out the ‘noise’. To feel alive in the most primal sense – to taste contentment past the daily grind of the routine. The most important part to achieve this is to keep it real – there is no one you are accountable to but yourself. There is no judgement on the level of success you achieved. Spend this time doing things that give you real pleasure. When you set out on the path of connecting with yourself, of keeping things real, of changing lives – the first life you change is your own. You can read my post on the real connection I experienced with students while teaching in Vietnam.
Tip 2: Be Positive: Don’t RUN away from something rather walk towards something better.
If you start this sabbatical with negative emotion (i.e. damn it – I am done – I need to get out of here!) you are not setup for success. It needs to be about connecting with your PASSION! My objective on this trip was to make a difference in the lives of others while achieving a higher level of fitness. It was the positivity of the objective that really made the trip special. I wrote a post on Finding Your Passion while on this trip that contains additional insights.
Tip 3: Be committed to making a difference. Infuse your trip with empathy and experiences that really connect you with people who need your help.
Seeing this little girl babysit while selling bracelets on the street really moved me. You impact you can have on others could be in your backyard or halfway around the world. The moments that stand out in my mind are teaching career management to an incredible group of students in the remote region of Sapa Vietnam, raising money for building a school for a remote region of Thailand, getting inspired by children selling bracelets on the streets in villages to conceive the ideal of “Bracelets of Hope” (I traced the factory down to buy 10000 bracelets that will be sold online with the objective of raising funds to contribute towards children education around the world.).
Tip 4: Destination is Important! If you have the opportunity to travel, find the RIGHT spot to spend your sabbatical. It takes you out of the routine.
I chose Southeast Asia as it was very economical, diverse and relaxing. Above all it gave me an opportunity to contribute positively in the lives of people – some surviving on as a little as 1 dollar a day. My recommendation in selecting your destination to ensure it is (1) Safe – if you can’t be stress free there is no point in being there (2) Economical (3) Access to healthy food (4) Access to lots of opportunities for physical exercise (i.e. nice weather, walking, hiking). An example of such a destination was Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia – here is a post that captures the experience.
Tip 5: Take 30+ days if you can. Duration really depends on your circumstances but my advice is that the standard 2 week vacation just doesn’t cut it.
You need 30 days or more to really achieve a transformative state. In my own journey, the mind would still gravitate towards ‘emails and other nonsense’ in the first two weeks. As the trip continued, the irrelevant parts started to drop off and the direction became crystal clear. It is the direction to create the largest professional job Expo in Canada to connect students/young professionals who are underemployed/unemployed with tier-1 organizations that are making the world a better place. You can find videos and pictures from past events at www.experienceyourlife.ca
Tip 6: Keep it Healthy! Health is not about how you look but how you feel.
Many jobs these days, especially in the technology industry, are sedentary. Have an aggressive objectives for your health during your sabbatical – after all – there is nothing more important! I set an aggressive objective of losing 30 pounds by walking 1000 km. Much like anything good in life, it wasn’t easy, but it was incredibly rewarding. The journey took me to very remote villages, up and down mountains, in Muay Thai gyms and everywhere in between. It allowed me to see the region on foot and I had experiences I would have never had if I zipped by in my car.
This experience has empowered me to fully commit to Experience Your Life Expo (www.experienceyourlife.ca). Experience Your Life is an annual Expo that I have organized with the help of incredible volunteers for the last 2 years. The Expo has grown exponentially and we had tremendous success last year with over 1800 attendees.
It is an invitation only Expo (for employers) and I am thrilled to share that I have the support of incredible organizations such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ministry of Natural Resources, Project Management Institute, Ministry of Corrections, Engineers Without Borders, Operation Groundswell and many others. We will be inviting the top consulting firms to the Expo in 2017 – it is going to be a sold-out event on 17th September 2017. I have also started working closely with the Deans, Head of Departments at universities as well as several Ministers of Parliament to see what more can be done to address the employment situation in the millennial generation. I will organize a conference later this year consisting of senior decision makers to discuss solutions. The millennial generation is the future of our country and if they are connected with empowering employment, they have the capacity to contribute positively to society, support their families and help humanity around the world.
In summary friends, the sabbatical was a rejuvenating experience. You owe it to yourself to do this once– it will change your life. Many organizations have programs to assist with this and you will return to your work as a more productive employee. The real risk in life is not giving your dreams a shot and not truly living. There is never a perfect time to follow you dreams but today is perfect enough to start. Please reach out to me if you would like to contribute in changing a life as a mentor or speaker. Good Luck!