On Sabbatical with Bill Hendricks

Bill Hendricks

Thinking of quitting your job? Well maybe you should. Bill Hendricks did–twice–and his journey is beyond inspiring. Whether you call it a sabbatical or a mini-retirement, taking a break from traditional employment can be both liberating and productive. Have the long hours in corporate America finally taken their toll on your health? Have you been overfunctioning for far too long? Has the stress negatively impacted your relationships with friends and family?

A sabbatical could be in order.

Except here’s the kicker. Even if you are considering drafting that letter of resignation, you probably won’t turn it in. Instead, you’ll allow your fears of not having another job to go to right away convince you not to do it.

Let’s face it, sabbaticals aren’t that common.

As a culture, we place a high value on employment. We see it as evidence of independence, stability, and success. It’s the American dream, after all. And most Americans will do anything to avoid entering the terrifying world of unemployment, even if it means staying in a miserable job.

But playing it safe doesn’t necessarily bring the greatest returns, just as being unemployed doesn’t necessarily bring financial ruin.

So, before you throw in the towel on the idea of throwing in the towel, take a moment to learn from someone who has done it successfully.

Q: What triggered the realization that you needed to take a sabbatical?

Bill Hendricks: It was a culmination of things in both my personal & professional lives. My job paid me well, but most other aspects of it were increasingly unsatisfying. I was working long hours and bringing the stress home with me at night. Personally, the biggest impact was a dear friend falling quite ill. In addition to wanting to spend more time with him, it made me consider my mortality in a way I’d never done before. It’s cliché, but I decided that “life’s too short” to continue doing something that didn’t make me happy. So I quit.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of taking a sabbatical?

Bill Hendricks: I’ve been lucky enough to take 2 sabbaticals in my career. The first one was 6 months, and this more recent one was around 2 months. The most rewarding aspect of both was the time off to travel. In the recent one, my wife and I spent 3 weeks in Europe, visiting places neither of us had been to before. Another pleasant outcome was the impact on my health! Getting out of a high stress, long-hours corporate environment makes it much easier to eat better and exercise. I dropped over 20 pounds during each respite. Thankfully I’ve been able to continue my good habits during my new business venture and at nearly 38 years old I’m in the best shape of my life.

Q: What do you feel was the most important factor that allowed you to take the risk of leaving the workforce?

Bill Hendricks: The most important factor was my self-confidence in my ability to get back into the workforce when I want to. I’ve been fortunate enough to have built a great resume, I’m a strong interviewer, and I have a great network of influential colleagues I can leverage. Secondly, I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive wife who has a great career, and she’s been willing and able to hold down the fort for both of us during my breaks.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is contemplating turning in their notice without having another job lined up in advance?

Bill Hendricks: DO IT! It will be one of the best things you do, both professionally and personally. Of course, don’t be irresponsible, though. Examine your financial situation closely. Determine how much money you can invest in yourself (because that’s what you’ll be doing) and define a monthly budget. “Practice” that budget for at least a couple months before quitting and see how it feels and how realistic it is. If the numbers work out – go for it! If they don’t, then you have a goal to work towards. Tighten your belt now and build up that “eff you” fund until it’s big enough to walk out the door.

Thinking of making some changes and doing life differently? Start here.

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