JSC Words of Wisdom #11: The Importance of Taking Time Off…

PHILADELPHIA (JSC) — Good Friday morning, Everyone! It’s time, once again, for the JSC Words of Wisdom, a.k.a. #JSCWOW. As always, this will drop every Friday morning (except last Friday), more often than not, at 6:00 am Eastern Time. Feel free to share this on your favorite social media outlet with the hashtag — #JSCWOW.

If you haven’t already noticed, I didn’t post at all last week. No JSC Radio. No #JSCWOW. That’s because I did something that I haven’t done in ages: I was on vacation. I have spent the previous 10 posts using this blog as a method of motivation, reflection, and a little bit of self-care. But of all the things I talk about on here, the one thing I’ve been guilty of doing is not taking the time to rest and look out for myself. That’s what last week was for me and this week, I suggest that you find ways to do the same. This will be a lengthy post this week so pack a lunch.

When I left the building on June 30 I felt liberated because I knew I was going to have some mental time, time to breathe, time to reflect, and time to just…be. Think about that? When was the last time you took time to just BE. You weren’t beholden to a schedule or to a clock. This blog is all about success and getting the best out of you. Sometimes to do that, you gotta take time and step away from the bullshit and just BE. It had been far too long since I had done that for myself.


Jan. 1, 2007: Working New Year’s Day after a LONG night before was kind of the beginning of the end for me in Lansing.
What were you doing in June 2007? Yep. 10 years ago. I was 27, still living in Lansing and was working as a very unhappy midday host on Power 96.5 (by this point we’re about nine months removed from the station being bought by MacDonald Broadcasting and I was thrust into the Midday role — and forcibly ripped off of Saturday Nights — following the death of K.P.). I was running on fumes after what had been a largely successful 2½-year run. By this point, though, I was a miserable bastard. My depression was at its deepest and I was not the best person to be around.

Much like this year, the 4th of July in 2007 fell flush in the middle of the week — on a Wednesday as opposed to a Tuesday. Plus, June 29 was the night of my 10-year Renaissance High School reunion in Detroit. So I had made up my mind that I was going to do the unthinkable and take a damn vacation. I put in to have that week off in March and, initially, they approved it. I got way out in front of it. The plan for that week was spending the weekend in Detroit for the reunion then heading for Chicago that Monday to hit the Taste of Chicago and go to a baseball game. I was going to make the most of that week. 

In the previous 2½ years, I had not taken any extended time off. The only times I had taken as much as a night off from SNL were during the Christmas & New Year’s Weekends of 2005 and 2006. Yep, I worked every holiday weekend including Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day (my Birthday), and Thanksgiving. I was even in studio the night the Tigers won the AL Pennant in 2006. 

I refused to take a day or week off because I was under this (not so) misguided fear that if I did, there was a chance I could be replaced. Plus, I was still really young and thought, I can power through this. I don’t get tired! I got this. I had even taken on a second gig in Flint doing production work on weekends. I ran hotter than fish grease and this time off was my chance to collect my thoughts and regroup for the first time in years.

Things changed as I got close to that week. In Lansing, things were falling apart. That vacation time that had been approved in March had suddenly been rescinded 10 days before it was supposed to start without explanation. The final straw came three days later when the owner of the company barged into the studio and proceeded to chew me out for something someone else did just as I was about to go on air to open my show. I was done. I turned to the computer that sat in the studio with me and wrote out my notice. It was effective as of one week later — June 29, the afternoon my vacation was set to begin.

July 4, 2007: I was thinking for the first time in years. Clear-headed and free.
That night, I went to the reunion, spent that weekend in Detroit, and I was in Chicago by Sunday night. It was amazing. It was the first time since college that I had taken anything resembling time off and it was lovely. I hit the Taste of Chicago — BTW: this was my first trip ever to Chicago — and went to a baseball game and enjoyed Navy Pier. This picture to the right was taken of me sitting along Lakeshore Dr. on July 4, 2007. It was a picture perfect day. I don’t think I had felt more free than I did at that moment in what was my 27 years. That would be the last time for a decade that I’d take an actual vacation.

My life would change a number of times over the next few years. I would go from being a grad school student working part time gigs and taking summer classes to working contract and freelance gigs which didn’t allow for me to take time off because I needed the money. In recent years, my trips to the NABJ Conference would essentially serve as my de facto vacation.

In 2014, I had planned on taking a vacation and had even started to plan a trip before I had to have hernia surgery. My job made me burn SEVEN of my 15 vacation days to have that surgery and recover. It was outrageous. That’s how one manages to go from 2007 to 2017 without having more than 4 consecutive vacation days.

2017-07-02 10.12.35-1
July 2, 2017: Just a man with his coffee…
That changed this year because, as I have attempted to do with so many other things, I have made myself and my well-being, physically and mentally, a top priority.  A multitude of studies have been done that reinforce that Americans are, over the last 40 years, pretty shitty at taking vacations. This study from Project Time Off that Fortune Magazine published earlier this year shows as much. One thing that really stands out, and flies in the face of my silly logic over the years, is that those who take less time off are also poorer performing, which makes sense. I was mentally burned out by the time June 30 came around. Yet, there are people who refuse to use vacation time. At most jobs, as you know, those days don’t rollover. Once the year is done, they’re gone! So do yourself a favor and USE THEM! You don’t have to take some extravagant international trip. Sometimes, all you need is to step away from everything, because

Unused vacation days cost the U.S. economy $236 billion in 2016 because of lost spending, but there are also penalties to pay at the individual level. Employees who forfeit vacation time are lower performers, the study says. Compared to counterparts who take all their vacation time, they are less likely to have been promoted within the last year (23% to 27%), and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years (78% to 84%). And, unsurprisingly, they are more likely to report being stressed.

Stress leads to poor performance at whatever you do and leads to you being miserable. Being miserable will take out any successful venture right at the damn knees. So, as the numbers show, one of the best paths to success is the path that will occasionally take you to the beach…or on a hike…or, in my case, to the serenity of my parents’ backyard in Michigan. 

In closing, as I sat at that table on that Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and my thoughts, I couldn’t help but think back to the last time I felt that free. It was that sunny, warm afternoon in Chicago 10 years earlier where I was able to just…BE. Find that space where you can just BE. There’s a pretty good chance that place is not sitting on your ass at your desk. Get Up. Get Out. Get Some Rest. Because in rest, you will help build toward success.

Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Friday, July 14, 2017.

Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ

Published by

Jay Scott Smith

What’s Happening! The name’s Jason…but for the sake of this blog, you can call me Jay or Jay Scott. I am a 37-year-old Journalist, Detroit Native, Man of Sigma, and Charismatic Enigma…That About Covers it for me! lol You wanna get in contact w/me, well, here you go! G.O.M.A.B. to my Blu Family! (ΦΒΣ/ΖΦΒ)