I read an article recently where Lin-Manuel Miranda was interviewed.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator of the award-winning musical “Hamilton.”
The idea of “Hamilton” came to Miranda after working nonstop for seven years on his musical “In the Heights.”
He took a vacation to Mexico and started reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton.
Lin-Manuel Miranda states, “It’s no accident that the best idea I’ve ever had in my life — perhaps maybe the best one I’ll ever have in my life — came to me on vacation.”
I read this article many years ago, and the thought of vacation being a key to success in life struck me as something profound.
Here in America, there is a belief in popular culture that it is vital to work ourselves to the bone.
Work harder is something I’ve believed in and repeated to myself many times.
I’ve lived in Europe for five years, and the one big difference I’ve noticed between Americans and Europeans is the amount of vacation Europeans have.
The European Union mandates by law that all employees receive 28 days of paid vacation per year.
In America, this type of law does not exist.
In America, paid vacation is considered a voluntary benefit that employers give to employees.
The average amount of paid vacation days for private-sector jobs in America is 16 days.
I’ve been in work situations where the number of hours I worked in a week was seen as a badge of honor.
The more hours I worked, the prouder I was of my accomplishments.
Then when I started my accounting business, the notion of paid time went out the window.
If I didn’t work, I didn’t earn money.
Six to seven days of work a week was the norm for me.
And these were my work hours outside of tax season.
Tax season was a completely different scenario.
Tax season was harvest season.
It was time to make hay because that’s the only time of the year when taxes are relevant for people.
During those days, if I didn’t have a window in my office, I’d never see the light of day.
I’d drive to my office in the pitch-black hours of early dawn.
I’d work a full day
Then I would drive home in the pitch-black hours of the evening.
I remember there was one year where I worked 2,800 hours
To put this in context, most full-time employment is around 2,000 hours.
With full-time employment being 40 hours per week, I was working 20 weeks more a year than most people.
I was working 72 weeks per year when there are only 52 weeks in a year.
I usually took a one-week vacation after the end of tax season to give myself a break.
During the week vacation, all the stress of work started to collapse around me, and I found the only thing I was capable of doing was sleeping and binge-watching television.
Why in the world was I willing to sacrifice everything I had to my work?
In the early days, I had to work to make ends meet. I am the sole breadwinner in my family.
If I didn’t earn money, my family would go hungry.
My back was against the wall, and I needed to get my startup accounting business off the ground.
Then as I started to make more money, an interesting thing happened.
Work started to become more fun.
Many people have the mistaken notion that accounting is all about math and numbers.
My profession is about analysis, problem-solving, and making lives better for the people I serve.
Accounting is about organizing chaos in a systematic way to understand data and make better business decisions.
Anyone who has owned a business knows that owning a business at times can be tremendously chaotic.
There’s always something new.
There are promises made to people.
As soon as one issue is solved, a new issue arises.
There are constant demands on our time, energy, resources, and money.
Business ownership is extremely competitive.
It’s easy to get caught up in the go, go, go of the demands of business ownership.
Then all the hard work starts to pay off, and the thrill of achievement and success arrives.
It’s an amazing experience to build a business into a successful enterprise.
The cards are stacked against business ownership.
Most businesses fail in the first five years.
When I look back at the life I’ve had, building a successful business is one of the things I’m most proud of.
This is where the mistress of business ownership becomes so intoxicating.
Business ownership is fun.
Creating something out of nothing is the most fulfilling experience I’ve ever had.
It’s been easy for me to return to the honey pot of growing my business.
I can’t tell you how many times in my life, everything became second fiddle because I had to work.
Earlier this year, I started a new business venture, and I started to relive everything I experienced 11 years ago with the launch of my accounting business.
It was thrilling. It was an emotional roller coaster.
I’d set ambitious goals for myself.
I was going to set the world on fire again.
I reverted to my early days of the hard work ethic.
Long hours. Six days a week were the norm.
I did place one boundary in my life. I would always refrain from working on Saturdays.
In July, I realized my extreme work hours were going to lead to burnout.
I’d been working on average 70 hours a week.
I knew that this effort was unsustainable.
I put a plan in place to transition to five and a half days of work in August.
The next milestone was to transition to only five days of work beginning in October.
I remember telling myself that I’ll be able to accomplish more in five days per week than I do in six days per week.
I got to the beginning of October, and even though I had reduced my work hours, I was starting to feel the effects of burnout.
I was feeling confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated.
I took a day off at a resort and did nothing.
I needed time to decompress.
I needed to take a step back from being caught up in the weeds.
During my day off at the resort, I realized my approach to work was failing me.
I had dug myself into a rut, and I was stuck spinning my wheels.
My decision making was compromised, and I needed to slow down and take a break.
I’ve realized I have a limited capacity for work.
It’s much like money in the bank.
There is a limited amount of money in the bank.
When I overspend my money, I get into financial debt.
When I overspend my time, I get burned out.
There is only one cure for burn out – work less.
I’ll close with words from Lin-Manuel Miranda.