Christian Long

Stefan Sagmeister: The Power of Time Off

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Reflection by KATHY B.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Stefan Sagmeister: The Power of Time Off

In this talk, Stefan Sagmeister discusses his personal experiences with sabbaticals, and why he believes that taking time away from the workplace would do everyone good in every way.

Living in a society in which people are looked down upon if they do not have a prestigious enough job or high enough salary, this is an interesting and fairly new idea to me. Kids grow up with the people expecting them to go a certain route, be it to become a lawyer, doctor, or engineer or to go to x, y, or z prestigious school after high school. They are expected to go to college the autumn semester following their high school graduation, stay for only four years, graduate with honors, and go on to find a worthy career that will be their life for the following forty years or so, with the only exception being taking time off to pursue a Master’s Degree or PhD. If a young adult were to go to their parent or advisor and inform them that they intend to take a year off from school or wait a year to matriculate into college, they would be heavily criticized.

That said, Mr. Sagmeister seems to be saying that this is exactly what many people need.

Granted, in his talk Sagmeister is referring to adults already heavily engrossed in their careers, but I believe the same general concept should apply to everyone. If adults can take sabbaticals, time away from work without pay to simply think and pursue creative ideas that would have never been possible while working full time, why can students not? Not necessarily in high school, but once in college, why is it not feasible and even reasonable to take a little time to pursue your own dreams before buckling down to face “reality” as everyone else sees it?

Sagmeister discussed three types of work in his talk-jobs, careers, and callings. He described jobs as the type of work that one only does for financial reasons, careers as work that is more suited to one’s personal interests and is more enjoyable but still at times can be too much work for what it is worth, and callings as the dream that we all so desperately desire, for pay or not, but are forced to tell ourselves we cannot have. My question is, why settle for anything less than your calling? Of course there are always bills to be paid and one’s calling may not suit one’s financial needs, but life is short, and should not be wasted doing something one hates for forty years of his/her life simply to pay the bills. This is why I agree with Sagmeister in his notion that sabbaticals are key-they give you a chance to pursue your calling for a period of time every so often, but leave open a position to return to to face the so-called “realities” of life. In reading the comments on the talk, it seems as if many people agree that taking a sabbatical actually ultimately helped them financially, because it forced them to be minimalistic, which helped them save money after they completed the sabbatical as well as see the value in the things that truly matter.

In my opinion, anyone who has the opportunity should take full advantage of sabbaticals.

They seem like fantastic opportunities to explore new ideas, experience new things, experience the luxury of time and opportunity as opposed to simply wealth, and discover and find oneself. People can lose themselves in their work with the pressure to excel and earn enough money to get themselves and their families through, even to the point where they begin to despise their work and cease to care enough to put their full effort into it. Come the end of a school year, I do not know of a student who faithfully does their work and truly cares about their classes to the same degree as at the beginning of the school year, never mind adults working continuously doing the same thing year after year. If, however, they could take a year or two away from the workplace and focus on new ideas, family, and simply the enjoyment of life, they could return to work with an entire new outlook on what they are doing and life in general, which would improve both their work and their livelihood.

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