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When Can You Stop?

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November 12, 2019

Remember that annoying pink mascot that kept going and going and going. .

We’re 11 months into 2019 and for most entrepreneurial leaders, we similarly keep going and going and going.   However, too often forget that we are not the Energizer Bunny. There’s no seemingly endless supply of available energy (those batteries do run out after a while!).  We, as individuals and organizations alike, benefit greatly from a pause. 

You might recall the now famous 2009 internal Starbucks memo in which then CEO Howard Schultz shared his plan for navigating a rapidly deteriorating global economic slump which prompted a necessary internal restructuring and stringent austerity measures. 

Surprisingly, after this grim announcement, Schultz’ next step was to stop, take a pause, and spend nearly $30 million to bring 10,000 store managers to New Orleans for a weeklong retreat and a combined 50,000 hours of community service to Hurricane Katrina victims. The result: sky-high morale and record strong sales in a downturn market.

So this week, we’re exploring the power of pause. 

In his book, The Burnout Society, Byung-Chul Han concludes with the observation that most people in the Western world “are too alive to die, and too dead to live.”  Though a grim take on society, as entrepreneurial leaders it begs a larger question: how much are organizational culture and work-based demands on time complicit in perpetuating a nonstop life?

One valuable outcome of a pause is that it combats the problem of myopia.  Taking a break from the minutiae allows for new perspective, greater connectivity, and more effective execution.  That’s why we have weekends, students have sprint and summer break and why, if we look closely, we see a natural cadence of rest in every major social institution.

Indeed,  the fours steps to creativity described in The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, illuminate the power of pause: (1) define and frame the problem; (2) go deep; gather information; (3) let go, relax, walk away;  the (4) execute.  As Kevin Cashman confirms,  pause truly powers purposeful performance.

If I were to ask you to place your phone on airplane mode while not at 40,000 feet in the air, chances are you might pleasantly decline.  Why?  You might miss phone calls, slack messages, emails, or very-important  social media updates.  Yet, for the few moments before inflight WiFi is available, we remain truly disconnected.  In those moments, for many, airplane mode brings peace, as opposed to frustration.  The quest to disconnect,  even digitally, is among the many tactics espoused in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive as central to this third metrics to redefining success and well-being.  In this sense, the decision to pause is truly a matter of intention, perspective and personalized value.

However, maximizing the power of pause is about more than placing your electronic devices on airplane mode.  Merriam-Webster defines pause as “a temporary stop” or “temporary inaction” often prompted by ” a reason or a cause.” Ultimately, it is about rest.  In your effort to incorporate the more pause into your organization or personal life, consider understanding  how and when you best reflect, rest, reconnect and reset and implement these practices into your weekly cadence.

Most sport enthusiasts, particularly football (soccer) fans, know that stoppage time is always added to the game so there’s nothing to lose by taking a pause.   While the same does not hold true in life, we play a much better game when we stop and take a break.

On an important note: last Thursday evening we lost a valued member of the Venture Café Miami community to gun violence — Gonzalo Vizcardo Chiesi. He was a regular. A bright, talented, young data whiz, who was even more passionate about community engagement. And, most importantly, he was a friend.  So this week, our collective effort to pause is in his honor.


Leigh-Ann / Venture Cafe Miami

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