“I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.”
— Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder
Now I wish I could say the same as multi-billionaire Bill Gates. But the truth is I took days off. I took days off to help my mom cook a meal, play Scrabble with my family and a game of cards with my grandpa.
As someone in their twenties I failed Gates.
All over social media, I see posts that say, “No days off.” It is a line hustlers nod their head to, heart and share with other hustlers. It makes sense. That is until it doesn’t.
Did Gates not enjoy time doing other things? Did he not have fun?
I decided to do a little digging. “Bill Gates in his twenties” I searched on Google. I guess I was expecting to find something juicy like him spending an evening playing golf.
Instead, I found him standing beside computers. A CNBC article said, for 5 years in his twenties Gates gave up listening to music and watching television.
Gates' best friend, Warren Buffet, an American investor, says,
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business.”
— Warren Buffet
Blending the advice of two of the greats, I’ve compiled times for tirelessly working and times for sitting and thinking.
Working through rejection
“If you hand in a lousy article, what that means is you handed in a lousy article. If you get an A and then a D on your next assignment what that means is you got an A then a D. That’s all.— Periodical writing professor
There have been essays I thought I crushed, and instead, my mark crushed me. The moment I stepped away from the grade, I was able to plan my next steps. I had the power to revise, edit and improve.
How to apply this to your life
Your performance does not determine your value as a person. You are valuable as a person, and performance improves over time.
The moment I associated performance with myself, I felt discouraged about myself when work did not go well.
We often associate ourselves with the projects we do, especially if we are passionate about them. So when the result does not go according to plan, it can feel like a hit to the gut.
However, by associating performance with our value, we can fall into a trap. Our grade determines our worth and the money in our bank account determines our value. Not true!
Try not to take rejection personally but step away, revise, edit and improve before you try again.
Working through the struggle
My childhood was filled with videos of Bill Nye the Science Guy. My grade two science teacher loved displaying his videos on the television for us all to see.
The lesson I remember the most is the episode on what happens to sand in high temperatures. In high temperatures, sand can turn into glass.
My mind was never again the same.
How to apply this to your life
Sometimes we might feel like sand being put into extreme temperatures. “Extreme temperatures” in this case reflect the stressful feelings when struggling.
Trust the flames to turn you invaluable in the long run and remember at one point experts were average too.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
Charles Darwin was viewed as an average student. He gave up on a career in medicine and was going to become a member of the clergy before he studied nature and travelled around the world recording nature’s mysteries.
Take time off to listen to others
Gates felt the need to avoid entertainment because he saw it as a distraction from working on computers.
Some conversations can feel like distractions, but some can be enriching.
When I turned 20, I remember the feeling of being an adult. “You’re mature” was a comment I received from friends and family, and I felt good.
Then I met someone who has been working at the library for 27 years.
I held a wealth of experiences working with children, so my experiences were of value. However, I realized I could still learn more, especially from those more experienced in the field.
Being open to growth is the first step of growth.
Take time off to rest
I was out on a walk the other day, and suddenly a tiny, brown poodle rushed over and sniffed my legs. The owners apologized for what was a random sniffing encounter. I watched the dog skip away.
It’s okay to skip in a field like a carefree dog.
We are humans, not robots. The last thing I want to be is a workaholic, someone who works at the expense of sleep, friends and family. I don’t have to work like a robot because I am not a robot, and neither are you.
“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” — Banksy
You don’t have to work every single day, hour and minute to be successful. Warren buffet loved to have time to himself to think and read. You too can take time to learn like him through reading or through talking to others.
You also don’t have to reflect the whole day. You can be like Gates who kept working, even through struggles and rejections to get to where he is today.
Find your sweet spot
Somewhere between tirelessly working and always taking days off.
Write down actionable steps to stay in that sweet spot
For me, that means scheduling a walk in the mornings and scheduling time to work on a project in the afternoons.
Will help you stay disciplined even if your mind pulls you in other directions. Make the most out of a “take some days off” plan.
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”
—Arianna Huffington, author and businesswoman