Four months into the sabbatical – four lessons (Plus: 1 surprise) #SimpliSabbatical

I’m now four months since I announced my year-long sabbatical. In the beginning, I felt a mix of anxiety and excitement – not knowing exactly what the future would entail. Having been at it now since late February, I thought it would be a good time to share an update.

  1. It’s so hard to disconnect. When I announced my sabbatical, some people placed bets on how long it will be, before I come running back. In hindsight, I’d agree it is very hard to disconnect. I was so very close to agreeing to a public appearance at a major conference. I continued reading my favourite industry blogs, continued to write my monthly column in Airline Business magazine, continued posting on LinkedIn every day. It is hard to disconnect when you’re getting up to half a million views on your posts, and tons of engagement. It took some time, but I did. I diversified my reading – from new books to the New York Times. I no longer post every day on LinkedIn or host my daily Live Show. I write regularly – but don’t always publish my writings – it’s allowed me to write on topics ranging from parenting to travel.
  2. I need my morning routine. Right after going on my sabbatical, I missed the things I did on a daily basis – like SimpliFlying’s daily standup team calls. Even though the team did not meet daily in person all these years, I missed the virtual watercooler on Slack and Zoom. Shortly after, I substituted these with calls in the mornings with people I’ve not spoken to for ages. These were mostly old friends or colleagues. I realized that I needed structure in my day. My morning routine was critical in keeping me going through the day. Hence I built it back.
  3. Tough questions will be asked. Every other person I have spoken during the sabbatical has given me the “are you crazy” look. I get asked questions like, “what if people forget about you after a year?”, or “how could you put a full stop to all the good work you’ve done for ten years?” Most questions make me wonder whether I thought this through before jumping in. The answer is that if I had thought so hard about it, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I have acted from the gut before – like with our forced vacation experiment – and it’s often worked out brilliantly (after all, how often does Arianna Huffington mention your work?). I will be the first to admit that I do not have all the answers to the questions I get asked. And I’m comfortable with that. I did not want to “over-plan” my sabbatical. I wanted to leave space for the new.
  4. Be open to new experiences. I’ve gotten into yoga. Last Christmas, I would have been the last person to venture around a yoga studio. But since my wife pulled me along to a guided yoga session in February, I have been hooked. I felt I benefited more from the first thirty days of yoga than six months of a gym membership. Perhaps because yoga sessions are guided and I did not have a gym trainer. Or maybe because yoga is more holistic. Now that scientists have proven that exercise makes you happier than money, I’m glad that I made the right trade in this sabbatical. Heading for a yoga class 2-3 times a week coupled with intermittent fasting makes me feel rejuvenated.

As with all things new, the sabbatical has thrown up a few surprises. For example, a key project we are working together as a family through the sabbatical is travel schooling our kids. One of the key tenets of travel schooling was to ensure we travel together as a family.  But last month, my daughter had a bad fall and fractured her arm badly. That resulted in a travel ban for 8 weeks, which meant that I had to fly alone to fulfil a private speaking engagement. We had planned to fly as a family and stay on. In the end, I flew for a day and came back. I have started to expect the unexpected. After all, what good is a sabbatical if all things pan out as planned?

Far from being “empty”, the first four months of my sabbatical have been fulfiling. They have included a lot of travel with family (from the South Pacific to the French Rivera) and a number of new, unplanned, experiences. Just the way I had hoped.

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco. Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others. Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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