November 27, 2015

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04/21/08 Just Press Play

I was several thousand miles from home, in the middle of the desert with 17 of my closest friends, when my cell phone rang. “Eric, I’m sorry to interrupt your vacation but we need your publisher’s notes today. We go to press in the morning.” I thought I had submitted this article, but with a sinking feeling I realized I hadn’t.

What am I doing in the desert? It’s a complete personal indulgence. In my spare time I like to do oil paintings, and I have become friends with many oil painters. Earlier this year I awoke in the middle of the night with an idea: I’ll call my friends and suggest that we meet at a resort and play for a week. The next morning I found a location and I booked every room they had. Out went an e-mail to my painter friends, inviting them and their spouses to join me for a week of good conversation, good wine, good cooking, and great painting together.

Now you know. As I write this, my friends are in the courtyard below telling stories, and I’m in my room writing my publisher’s note for you.

While this story doesn’t have a lot to do with radio, there’s an important lesson here for all businesspeople: Play is important. Without play there is no growth. I once met a billionaire who told me he works 23 out of 56 weeks each year. The other 23 weeks are reserved for recreation and play. “How can you do that?” I asked. “I can’t afford not to do it,” he replied.

My role requires me to constantly reinvent myself and my company, and thinking time is required. Play time frees the mind of the stress and roadblocks that get in the way of creativity.

One well-known broadcaster flies to New York three days a week, reserves the same hotel room, and uses the time to think and to play. He’s not having an illicit affair; he uses the time for personal and professional growth.

Bill Gates takes a week off twice a year to retreat by himself to a cabin in the woods, with no phones and no Internet. His time is consumed by reading material unrelated to business, and to contemplative walks in the woods.

We live in a stress-filled world, made all the more challenging by the economic weakness looming over our advertisers. To get ahead — or simply stay even — we need to not only reinvent ourselves, but to help our advertisers reinvent themselves. Part of your role and mine is to help them do just that. If you’re blocked with stress, pressure, and endless hours of work, there is one logical thing to do: Go play.

For this trip, my wife Laurie stayed at home with the kids. Though I would love having her here, time for self is also important. When I return I’ll do so with a refreshed mind, a pad of ideas, and a new positive outlook.

Someone I met the other day said, “I envy you for having a hobby like painting. All I do is work.” Life is too short. Painting offers me an escape, a feeling of creativity, and a sense of new challenges and accomplishments. Do you have a hobby? Find something, anything. We all need an escape.

Have you worked hard at serious play lately? If you do, your sanity and your business will be better off. So go out and play. Now!

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