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The Seven Year Itch

A few years ago, my friend Joe sent me a link to a video featuring an accomplished graphic designer, Stefan Sagmeister, who closes down his firm every seven years to take a year off. His rationale is simple and seductive: rather than working for 40 years and retire for 15 years before we die, why don’t we take 5 years from retirement and intersperse them throughout the 40 working years? The idea of taking a year off gnawed at me ever since I watched that video.

Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch"

Even though he justifies the year as a retirement-year, Mr. Sagmeister takes sabbaticals entirely for career reasons. It’s sort of creative renewal which, for someone in the creative field, is career enhancing. He says that the year-off allows him to experiment with new ideas, which would fuel his work in the following years. But what if you’re a dentist? You’re unlikely to get better at doing root canals by spending a year in Bali.

Indeed, there’re other reasons for taking a year off. To spend time with one’s family. To take up personal interests unrelated to career. Or, just to take a break from normal life — a much extended vacation, which is more inline with the retirement-year idea. As a matter of fact, my list of priorities for my year off is depressingly long.

Before I left, everyone asked me, “What are you going to do on the island?” I responded with some half-baked answers, because honestly, I didn’t know. And I still don’t know for sure. Over the next days and weeks, I’m going to have figure it out.

Seven years ago, Kristin and I took 3 months off to travel through Africa. I realized this after we decided to come to Rødøy. There must be something to it.

  1. Hakan Sarbanoglu #

    Brilliant idea, as long as you can escape from the Corporate America Prison. I have been working non-stop, god, for thirty years. I wish I had watched that video before:-)
    I think such a break also to look at the world caos from a distance, like from outside the forests and fires. In my view, you made a good decisoon. And it started; no return!

    September 2, 2011
    • Definitely a very powerful video, even though he has a habit of folding one arm behind his back and hold the other arm…
      I honestly don’t know if I made a good decision. But time will tell soon enough.

      September 5, 2011
  2. rosa #

    I’ll take advantage to send you my early birthday wishes, Happy birthday!
    On the topic, I have no doubt that you will find fulfilling things for your year, a book may be?
    On the other hand, with two kids, there will be no much free time.
    The change of scenario (particularly when it is that gorgeous) and change of pace will be extremely beneficial, if only for personal renewal. Enjoy.

    September 3, 2011
    • Thanks Rosa. A book is on the list! Marcus has school and Nora has daycare which I can use as much or as little as I like. What I’ll do with my time is something I’m thinking about a lot. A topic for a blog for sure.

      September 5, 2011

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