CEO Gone Wild – The Power of Strategic Disengagement

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Two weeks ago, I did something totally outside of my comfort zone. I put an away message up on my email, I powered down my phone, and I went completely dark. From the rest of the world, that is. On Friday, before I left for vacation, I was already stressing about being disconnected from my email (and therefore my company and my team). But why? I trusted my team. They all knew what they needed to accomplish that week. Was it just habit? A security blanket? I had to push through the discomfort, so my wife, Sarah, and I committed to challenging each other to completely turn off from technology and just be with each other and our children in nature. I was in the wild, up a creek without a hotspot. Now, we’ve been to this resort before. I knew exactly where I could go on the 65,000 acre nature preserve to get a weak cell signal and fire off a few emails. But we decided to get out of our comfort zone and leave the rest of the world behind. So we did. 

The first couple of days were hard. Our phones are now an extension of us. They are an extension of our thoughts, our business, our imagination, our curiosity, our social circle, and more. Choosing to cut yourself off from that (even for as little as a week) can feel very strange, like loosing a piece of yourself. I powered through the first two days. I was tempted to pick up my phone and email my team with a new idea or Google what kind of fish were in the lake or research a new bike for my upcoming Ironman season. Resisting that temptation was a battle of wills with myself. Being in on this with Sarah, certainly helped!

Our phones were in airplane mode and only available to take photos of our incredible trip. When we went into town (where I knew there was a likelihood I would get a signal), I left my phone at the cabin. No need to risk it! From Saturday morning until Friday afternoon, we were unplugged. Disconnected from the rest of the world. Totally immersed in nature, in adventure, and in our family. This is the first time I have been disconnected like this since my first flip phone 15 years ago… 

Naturally, by giving my brain a chance to rest from constantly being on and bombarded with stimuli in the forms of news alerts, Facebook Messenger notifications, texts, emails, Netflix, Audible, and all those external “voices”, I was able to give my brain and subconscious a much-needed break. I know many of us take breaks from entertainment and communication for maybe a couple of hours a day, but when was the last time you just allowed yourself to be? No TV. No podcasts. No text, email, or social media. No phone. Maybe a book (physical copy only). Really, think about it. I bet the last time you were sans “entertainment” or some sort of external stimuli was years ago. And even then, for only a short period of time. Almost all of our waking ours are spent “on”.  Other than sleeping, when do we truly allow our minds to reset, to refresh and to reset?  

If you’re in that space, I challenge you to cleanse your mind and detox from all the “noise.” Of course, I’m a proponent of getting back to nature while you detox (after all, I’m a born and raised Vermonter). But if you’re really committed to going all-in, it’s going to be difficult to cleanse and clear your mind if you’re in a city or large town with full Wi-Fi and cell service, and constant stimuli from traffic, outdoor concerts, etc. Get outside, get back to nature, strategically disengage, and give your subconscious a break.

While at Kenauk Nature Resort, we spent hours fishing, hiking, and swimming. We cooked fresh food and hung out around the campfire. We read books and created our own adventures with only some sticks, some stuffed animals, and our imaginations. The only activity I engaged in that was semi-connected/tech-related was journaling and photography. I didn’t want to forget even a second of the memories we were creating or the way I felt without the constant pull of my email.

By giving myself this detox challenge, I was able to just be. It’s a hard thing to explain, which is why I encourage you to do this and viscerally feel what I’m talking about. This is a true cleanse. This isn’t a day or even a week away from social media. This is truly about putting your phone (i.e. computer, internet, emails, social media, text, etc) down and picking your head up and looking around at the amazing people and things in the world. It’s so easy to get trapped in a little 2.8 x 5.7 inch world. The world is much bigger than that. And smaller too. It’s about who and what is right in front of you.

Usually after any break from work or week-long vacation, I’m pretty ready to get back to the office. Business, after all, is my passion and my sport. It doesn’t really feel like work, so I never really feel like I need a break from it. But like I said above, while I may not need a break, my mind does. After this trip off the grid, I had clarity and direction and energy like never before. I had removed the distractions and extraneous noise and was able to just think and be for an extended period of time, which meant that when I turned back “on” I was able to see exactly what needed to happen with extreme clarity and a vivid vision. I was able to tackle problems with new creativity and articulate better than ever where we were going and how we were going to get there. I was refreshed and renewed. My subconscious was tapping into new levels that I didn’t even know were there because of the daily minutia and external distractions. It was a total detox of the mind, body, and spirit. We’ve already booked this trip again for next year. 

And you? Will you commit to a 21st century cleanse? I challenge you to try it for a minimum of five days and see how your life will change.

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