By R. Jason Huf
When recollecting the uses of my spare time as I sat down to pen my previously promised piece on fully utilizing the summer months to achieve Work-Life Balance goals, I realized that a simple "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" article would be insufficient. During the summer, indeed throught 2017 thus far, I seemed to gravitate to leisure activities that were relaxing and - sometimes - valuable beyond taking a mere breather for myself.
So, I have instead decided to include something in this writing about how time taken to relax, though not billable, can still be valuable - to ourselves and others. Indirectly, a more relaxed you is likely to be of greater help to your client. But, beyond that, there are activites that are relaxing, interesting AND enriching to your profession and society more broadly.
After all, a desire to influence and shepherd positive change is at least part of the motivation that drove us - and still drives us - along our respective career paths, isn't it?
I have always been public-service minded. This is reflected in my legal practice, wherein certain investments, projects and other client matters have over time and in the aggregate served as a small piece of a small piece of the large, complicated puzzle of establishing a foundation for economic and social reform in Saudi Arabia and the larger Middle East (parenthetically, I am pleased to see that today's reforms are more sweeping and are being enacted much more quickly than I had anticipated, or even hoped).
Accordingly, I often find "relaxation" and satisfaction when I can make time for pursuits that have some intrinsic (but, not necessarily obvious) value to the larger world around me. Take, for example, a presentation hosted by Oxford University's North American office on Manar al-Athar and its efforts to catalogue ancient sites in the war-torn Levant so that they can be preserved or (in the event they have already been or are going to be destroyed by insidious groups like Daesh) restored after the shooting finally stops. When "endangered" cultures become lost civilizations, it degrades the whole of humanity. I encourage you to give this group's efforts a fair look. And, hey, wine was served...
(Sometimes, to your surprise, you may get to meet fabulous people like the one pictued here. Also pictured, standing next to this fabulous person, is a member of the Hashemite Royal Family... )
(Attorney Disclaimer: NOT an endorsement of JHI by HRH!)
Whatever your line of work, your position as a professional provides you with access. In addition to being present at the above-referenced presentation, I'm rather excited to say that I have accepted an invitation to join the New York City Bar Associations's Committee on Middle Eastern & North African Affairs (MENA Committee). Then again, the MENA Committee has a pretty robust agenda, so I may end up regretting this...
Kidding aside, there aren't too many bar association committees in New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey (the jurisdictions where I am admitted to practice) that specifically focus on subject matter so closely aligned to my practice, so in addition to being recognized for my work after so many years in the field, I am actually looking forward to the (non-billable) work ahead.
Now, I'm not saying that all of your spare time needs to be "meaningful", only that the added element of being satisfyingly productive in some measure may add to the value of your relaxing uses of the downtime you manage to carve out of your busy schedule. Different people have different interests and run at different speeds. I may be someone who has yet to take a real "vacation" at any point in my life, but I do not dispute the notion that relaxation for relaxation's sake is absolutely fine.
For those of you who have the discipline to make the effort to force yourself to take a vacation, more power to you. For the rest of us its enough of an endeavor to find forms of refreshment that are somewhat more limited in scope. But, no worries - it ain't that tough. Really!
Again, Pennsylvania is one of the jurisdictions in which I am admitted to practice. On occassion, I travel to Philadelphia on business. When I know I'm to make the short drive into Philly, well, being a long-time Philadelphia Phillies fan (and, you cannot be a Phillies fan without being a an of baseball period - trust me on that one) I like to catch an evening game when they are playing at home. Why not? I'm a phan, its the thinking man's sport, Citizens Bank Park is a great ballpark and I love Dollar Dog Day.
Also, this past year, the NFL Draft was hosted there (great event, and Philly did a fantastic job of hosting); and, the Philadelphia Orchestra celebrated the works of Mozart not very long ago - as part of that celebration, there was an opportunity to see a showing of the film "Amadeus" (one of my favorites), with the orchestra providing a live sound track.
(NFL Draft - Philadelphia, Pa.)
Some things can be done spur of the moment, without planning, and can be done by almost anyone, especially in New York. Catching the recent solar eclipse without special glasses was easily done by using my phone - I perched it over my shoulder and recorded a brief video. Anyone who could walk to Battery Park (or any open space where the sun was at least partially blocked by the moon that afternoon) could have done the same thing. Many did.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpdAcRPtZ8Y (As you can see, the Firm's YouTube Channel is still in the "experimental" stage)
When I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia years ago, I took up snorkeling on the weekends and fell in love with the Red Sea and the coral reef beneath its surface. Some folks encouraged me to take up diving, but diving is a great deal of work. If what I do for recreation is more work that what I do for a living, I have something of a philosophical problem with that...
My dog can be a great deal of work (and, don't get a dog unless you are honestly ready, willing and able to do all of the work associated with sharing your home with a dog), but she is without question the exception to the above-referenced rule. When it comes to time well-spent, I am hard-pressed to think of anything more rewarding and relaxing than walking my dog.
Sometimes, I'll just call it an early day at the office and go out. Its New York, man - hit the town. Fridays tend to be ideal: the Middle East is closed on Fridays and the West is in the process of shutting down for the weekend, with businesses in London generally closing by 12:00 noon, US Eastern time (though, I must be mindful of places in other time zones, such as Houston, Texas, which is an hour behind New York). And, naturally, your employees won't mind being able to knock off a little early before the weekend, or will they...
("Seriously, you can leave... ")
In any event, I find that making time for yourself and your favorite people (or, pets) is not impossible - it really boils down to time management. I have also found that taking the occasional, but regular, breather won't kill the bottom line, can make you better at your job and (depending on the activity at hand) may even have the potential to make the world a better place. And, I feel like a million dirhams.
(This is what a million dirhams looks like... )
So, even with the cold winds of winter coming, ready to whistle through the concrete canyons of downtown Manhattan (and I hate winter) - I'm going to continue to make time for me. Since returning to the United States several years ago, I have ordinarily gone into hybernation every winter (absent JHI's Annual Informal Holiday Gathering), but not this year.
Why work so hard in the first place? I don't live to work, I work to live (and, my work is pretty darned good anyway, if I do say so myself). So, I'll work as hard as I play, and play as hard as I work. Maybe you should, too? Whether its rubbing elbows with royalty from an ancient noble line, or having a beer or two with your cheeseburger during an extra-long lunch. Hey, whatever floats your boat.
The bottom line is this: You have an epic and fabulous career, so Live an EPIC and Fabulous Life. There is no point to doing anything else.
I decided against supplying the entire list of extra-curricular activites because if I did you'd still be reading this instead of engaging in your own leisure pursuits (if reading this little blog is one of your leisure pursuits, well, I'm flattered).
Oh, and we all have to get some work in once and a while, too. OK, now back to the grind... : )
– Jason Huf
Thursday, October 12, 2017
New York, NY