Transition Management Consulting, Inc.

On the Value of a Mini-Sabbatical

by Bob Van Hook

I thought I had it figured out. It was my time to retire, to take is easy. Jackie generously agreed to take over as president of our company, Transition Management Consulting (TMC). We worked on the transition for several months. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes hard. It’s hard to stop working.

After a while, I heard a voice inside my head (or was it my heart?) telling me to go on a road trip to visit friends and family around the country. So I did.

Over a 6-week period, I drove 8,500 miles. My trip took me from San Diego to Miami; up to northern Virginia; then westward through Kansas City to home. I tried to stay off of the Interstate highways, favoring instead the much more interesting blue highways. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time alone on the road. For companionship I had my iPod and a recently acquired, free subscription to Sirus/XM Radio. I also brought a small recorder, and at least once each day, I logged in about my experience. 

I read recently that the definition of a good friend is one that you can see after a long time and feel like you are resuming a conversation. I saw a lot of good friends along the way. We sat up late talking, sharing stories about our lives. When I first told Jackie about my idea for this trip she asked, “What is it that you really hope to get out of this trip?” To which I replied, “I don’t know. I just feel called to go and see my friends and family. I just want to swap stories with them.” Then she gave me the metaphor for my trip saying, “I remember your telling me that as a kid you used to play with Mercury and break it apart and push it back together. Maybe you’re trying to put the pieces of your life together like that Mercury.”

So this trip was about putting some fragmented pieces of my life together, but it was also a time of “white space” for me to figure out what I want this part of my life to be about. Like I said, when I left I really thought I was retiring; that this was a kind of victory lap. But by the time I started back westward, I realized that I really love my work with TMC. I love talking to people about transitions, both personal and organizational transitions. It’s what I’m good at, and I want to keep doing it.

When I called Jackie to share the idea of my getting more active in the business again, she said, “Thank Goodness. It’s not as much fun without you.” That was music to my ears. So now I’m back in the game. I’m not working as hard as before, leaving myself a bit more time for other interests And I came up with my new, “Chief Transition Evangelist.”

I’m not sure that my 6-week sabbatical was the cause of my realization that I wasn’t through working, but it gave me the space to let things percolate without distraction. It allowed me to open my heart and try to hear my own voice without a lot of noise. It was also a heck of a lot of fun!

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