This was years ago. He was a young man, early in life: unmarried, no kids.
But, like being measured in dog years, he was much older in entrepreneur years. He was the first person I had ever heard use the self-definition, "serial entrepreneur." He had started several businesses, ramped them up, exited. Some exits were better than others, but he was no longer defined by the businesses, but rather by the art of entrepreneurship. And he had learned that there was a point in the life cycle of every business — after it is first scaled into a going concern — where he was bored with it and, therefore, ready to leave.
But this isn't about that.
This is about Saturday Morning.
Here is what he asked:
I have a peculiar question. I am very, very good at knowing what to do from Monday morning through Friday afternoon. I love my businesses and the workweek. I know how to spend my time.
But Saturday morning is completely different for me. When Saturday morning comes around, I don't know what to do with myself. I can afford to do anything — that's not the problem. The problem is: I don't know what I want to do.
Can you help me with that?
A first world problem of the first order, to be sure, but a challenge nonetheless. And I didn't see it as a silly little complaint of a wealthy fellow.
It's An Existential Question.
What we choose to do with our discretionary time is how we define ourselves.
The workweek — for most of us — defines what we do. That's helpful for when someone, at a cocktail party or backyard bar-b-que, askes the quintessentially American question, "What do you do?"
What do I do? The answer usually starts with the unstated, "What I do from Monday through Friday is…"
But the entrepreneur's insightful question sought a deeper answer. Because he already knew well what he did. And he knew that Saturday morning wasn't about "what he did" for a living.
Saturday Morning Is About Who I Am.
What you do on Saturday morning is more than "what you do," it is "who you are."
So those of us who are lucky enough to be well employed — especially if self-employed — Monday through Friday face a hard question: what shall we do on Saturday morning?
And the answer to that question defines not who you are when you are a human doing, but rather who you are when you are a human being, practicing the art of being human.
For me, on Saturday morning, I no longer seek to change the world. After six days of creative work, I stop that work for a day. And simply smile and breath.
Time For Vacation.
This is much on my mind as I plan next week's vacation.
For vacation is a larger, multi-day Saturday morning. It is the intentional vacating of the daily.
I'm going hiking on the Appalachian Trail for a week. Carrying a tent and bag. Traveling with my son — though by "with" I know I mean "far behind him, trying to catch up to him before nightfall." (Yes, thank you, I am reading Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods.)
But all of that is next week's challenge.
This week's challenge is preparing to unplug.
Here are my steps:
- Stop starting conversations. I am not sending emails that spark correspondence, because I won't be available with a timely response. This prevents me from working to the final bell.
- Set the automatic phone and email reply. My voicemail and email will soon respond: "Thanks for calling/sending me an email. This is an automatic response, because I am living without telephone or computer until July 15. I hope to bump into you."
- More difficult than those, I start to redefine where I seek stimuli. My focus moves to the physical realm to whatever is close enough to smell. I take moments with everything turned off, to wean myself from my binkies.
This is a small business challenge for many.
I especially appreciate Anne Field's "It Takes A Little Work To Take A Vacation," in the Small Business Guide in today's New York Times, which is close enough to smell.
I wish you some time away, some time to practice the art of being a human being.