At Bishop-McCann, we have the amazing benefit of a month-long sabbatical every five years for our associates. In this episode of The Events Experience, listen in to hear our President and Owner, Rob Adams’, experience during his sabbatical. Topics include:
- Explanation of our sabbatical program
- The importance of our sabbatical program for event professionals
- Adams’ goals for his sabbatical and the journey to achieve those goals
- Key lessons learned during his sabbatical
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Hi, and welcome to The Events Experience, where we take a deep dive into everything event planning. I work for Bishop-McCann, an agency devoted to creating JOY through meetings, incentives, and events for big name brands. On this podcast, myself and our company's experts will discuss all things events, so keep listening to hear all about the latest tips and trends for virtual, live, and hybrid events.
Hi everybody! In this episode of the Events Experience, I will be talking to our President and Owner, Rob Adams, about his month-long sabbatical and how that experience made him reflect not only on his personal life, but also on our business as JOY creators. Thanks so much for joining us today, Rob!
So before we get into your sabbatical, can you tell me a little bit about Bishop-McCann's sabbatical program?
Yeah, I'd be happy to! I love talking about our sabbatical program because I think of all the benefits that Bishop-McCann offers, the one consistent piece of feedback that we always get is this is the one benefit that people really value the most. And I have to say, it's not something that I can take any credit for. It's something that our founder, Dan Nilsen, started many, many years ago. I think where it comes from is just this realization that our industry is so stressful. It always ranks in one of the top five most stressful industries. And the sabbatical is really something that I would just call personalized. I say it's personal because every experience is so different, Brenna. I mean, gosh, I think about all of the sabbatical stories. Some of the things are simple, like they want to spend more time with their family, and they're very intentional about that. To other people, they have places in the world they want to explore. So it's an opportunity to take some time off and do those things. But the one thing that is our non-negotiable is that when you are on your sabbatical, we ask people to truly disconnect. Turn your emails off and go recharge in whatever way that is for yourself.
Right, to make sure that they're actually stepping away and taking the time to recharge. So how does our sabbatical program actually work then?
So as you know, Brenna, we have unlimited vacation, but this is different because we ask people to take a full month off. It's so important to have that consecutive time to truly check out. We offer an additional component of our sabbatical program, which includes the matching portion where associates can set aside a certain percentage of each paycheck over a five year period of time. Bishop-McCann will match those funds and gross them up, so that they have a substantial amount of money to go on their trip with.
Yeah, I love that we give our associates that benefit. Now let's talk about your sabbatical. How did you go about planning it? What were your goals and what did you want to get out of it?
Yeah, I started thinking about my sabbatical, gosh, probably a couple of years ago, and it evolved through COVID of what I wanted out of my sabbatical. But the main things that I was looking for—I'd really kind of put it in three buckets. The first one was just fun. You know, I wanted the opportunity to really incorporate some fun in the first part of it, but the two other buckets were a little deeper for myself. You know, I wanted to answer this question that I've been thinking about a lot, and that's, "Where did I come from?" Like many others, I've done the Ancestry DNA. There were all of these stories that my parents have told for so many years of where my ancestors came from, but I really wanted to know the history of where I came from. So part of my journey was focused on that. The last bucket was clarity on some deeper things, like I wanted to get to know what is my purpose (really exploring that) and what does happiness mean. You know, these are big questions, but I wanted to use my sabbatical to explore this.
So before we discuss what you were able to accomplish during your sabbatical, I have to ask, as the president and owner, what was it like leaving the company for a month? Was it difficult?
Well, Brenna, one of the things that I find that I often do is I'm really good at giving advice, but sometimes when it comes to myself, I don't actually live it well myself. I am a huge believer that you've got to step away from the business, but I found myself procrastinating my own sabbatical. So one of the things that my team did is they created a contract that I had to go on my sabbatical and commit to it the fourth quarter of last year, and it literally was loaded into DocuSign. I had to sign the contract that I was going to go on my sabbatical. So I had to do all those things that our people have to do. It was a really good exercise for me personally to see that with the sabbatical, you go through all these phases. That first phase is just the preparation of what it takes to think about yourself being gone for a month. You know, candidly, there were moments I got a little anxious. I started thinking about what it was going to be like detaching myself from the business.
But one of the questions that it ultimately came down to is, "Do I feel that we've got the right people?" and "Do I feel like we've got the right leaders in place for me to be able to walk away from the business?" And it was a strong yes. It kind of brings me back to one of the things that I learned from my sabbatical, and it's this whole concept of ego. We tend to think about ourselves as sometimes more important than we actually are. You know, in my own personal examples, I think, "Gosh, the company needs me to be here to be able to solve issues that may come up." And you know what? It doesn't. If you just are confident that you've got the right people (you've got the right leaders), the realization is that every single day life presents us challenges, but they all got solved. It just made me feel so proud that I can walk away because we do have so many strong leaders in our company.
Yeah, that definitely had to feel good knowing that the company was in good hands while you were gone. So you mentioned earlier how you planned your sabbatical. So where were you able to travel to?
Yeah, there were three places that I went. You know, I mentioned a moment ago about those three buckets around fun, wanting to know where I came from, but also trying to answer some of those questions like purpose and happiness. On the fun part, I went to London. London is one of my favorite cities. One of the reasons why I love London so much is, first of all, I'm obsessed by the monarchy! I'm totally obsessed by it. But I love the history, and I love the art. I just love the culture of the city. I always love finding new properties when I'm traveling, and I discovered this property that had just opened like six months before I'd gotten there, and it's called The Londoner. The concept of this property was a really cool boutique hotel that also had great service, so I had the opportunity to stay there. The second part was I went to Scotland (Edinburgh) as well as Dublin, and during that time, I hired a genealogist where we went back all the way to the 1300s with my family. Then the third part was I went to a wellness retreat, which was right in the Himalayan Mountains in India. I found this retreat called Ananda. I had done some research on the wellness places around the world, and Ananda was known as being able to connect to things that I was trying to find, you know, purpose and happiness. So I made the decision to go there.
All of those stops sound amazing, but let's dive a little deeper into Scotland and Ireland. So you said that one of your goals was to understand your roots. Why was it important to you to trace your genealogy and know where you came from?
My dad, when I was growing up, used to say often, "Never forget where you came from," and the statement that my dad made has really changed in terms of the context. When I was younger, what it meant to me is, "Don't forget about your roots." You know, the things like the town where you came from. I think the reason why my dad said that when I was younger was always having a sense of humility, always being humble. But as I've gotten older, I've had these life experiences that have made me also think about it in a different way. I've had the opportunity to live in California, Las Vegas, Toronto, Canada. Then seven years ago I came back to Kansas City, my roots, and I started to think about that statement again but in a much deeper way. "Where did I really come from?" My family (oh my gosh, Brenna), over the years, I've heard so many different stories about the roots of my family. First of all, none of them were consistent, and nobody had really any evidence to back it up. So I really wanted to research and get the answer to the question of where, not only that I come from, but where did my ancestors come from. One of the things that I believe is that before you can answer that other question that I want to know—and that's purpose—you have to understand where you're from first. That's really the reason why I planned the trip that way. I wanted to understand first where I came from, and then go to the second part of my journey, which was to India to understand things like life's purpose.
Right. Now, let's dive more into India. So what was the journey like? Can you describe what your average day was like while you were there?
So I generally woke up about 7:00 in the morning, had breakfast about 7:30, and then by 8:30 I had a yogi that I worked with. I think the best part of the day was him talking about the philosophies of yoga. These philosophies, they're really life philosophies. One of the things that I realized the first day was a misconception of what yoga was. I mean, before I went on this trip, Brenna, I had done yoga one time for like 10 minutes, and I was awful at it. But the second thing is meditation. It always made me anxious because I would try to meditate, and then I was never able to focus, so I actually felt more anxious by actually doing the meditating.
What I realized is that yoga is really all about controlling the mind. So my routine that I was doing was, "How do you calm the mind?" Then we had lunch, and every day I picked the exact same table. It was outside, and it overlooked this woody area. I picked that particular seat because there was a lotus flower that I could see, and so when I was doing all of my journaling, I would look at that flower. But the other reason why I love that particular location is there is this wild peacock that would come to the area whereI was eating, and of course, I named him Henry. He had become known as Henry, and he always would join me every day for lunch. Then the rest of the day were all of the treatments that I had, everything from massage to reflexology, but they were all things with the ultimate goal to calm the mind.
Then in the afternoon, we always had what's called pranayama classes, which were breathing techniques. Then there was an hour of meditation. I remembered when I first got my schedule, and it showed that every day I was going to have an hour of meditation. Like, "I can't even do meditation for five minutes. How am I going to possibly do this for an hour?" But it turned out to be one of my favorite times of the day. Then after that, dinner. You know, lunch and dinner were the two parts of my day where I did a lot of reflection, and I did most of my journaling. After that, I went to bed, and the next day was a whole new adventure. I went on this trip with myself, and for the majority of the time, I was just really enjoying having that time—whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner—being by myself, not having a phone. I mean, that was super challenging for me the first couple of days that I was there. I didn't realize how dependent we are on having our phones around, but that was really the time when I was able to do a lot of self-reflection and be present in a way that I had never been present in my life before.
Yeah, I know that I would be lost without my phone, but once you get used to not having it, it would be so nice to disconnect and be present like you said. So were you ever able to explore outside the Ananda property?
So there were a few days that we went on treks. The reason why we did that is we were trying to take some of these life lessons that we were learning at the wellness retreat and see what does that look like in the real world. So for example, one of my favorite treks was a two-hour trek in the mountains. As we were going through the mountains, we ran into a village where I had the opportunity to meet a family, and they invited us into their home. When I say their home, I mean Brenna, it was a large piece of cement, and then they had a goat and a cow. I always thought that I had seen poverty, but I had never in my life experienced the poverty that I had experienced there. But the ironic part is that this family who had so much poverty welcomed me into their home, and they were offering me tea. They wanted me to feel welcome. Even though they didn't speak any English, the special part was that in just a very short amount of time, we had become friends. We didn't speak the same language, but we spoke the same language of love. There were some times when I was there really reflecting, and I thought, "Gosh, here is this family in such an incredible amount of poverty. Yet at the same time, they're happy. They're happy with the life they have." And I started to think about my own life and gratitude. Gratitude was a word that I thought about a lot—how much gratitude I have in my life and how I needed to do a much better job of focusing on that. I realized that so many times we take for granted the things that we have, and we're always thinking about what else we need in order to be happy. The realization is it's all right in front of me.
Yeah, I agree. It's definitely easy to get caught up and forget about all the good that we have in our lives, so I love that point of it being right in front of us. So what was your biggest takeaway from experiencing cultures that are so different from your own?
So first of all, I had never been to India. The people that I know that had been to India, they talked a lot about what a cultural difference it is, but I don't think I appreciated it until I actually arrived myself. When I arrived in India in the Delhi airport, the best way that I can describe it is organized chaos. People were doing different things, asking for different forms, but somehow it all worked together. The traffic—look, I have been to some cities where I thought the traffic was bad. Every time I go to LA, it totally gives me anxiety, but that is nothing in comparison to the traffic that I experienced. Everybody was honking. I was counting the amount of honks, and I think there wasn't like 10 seconds that didn't go by without my own car honking or some car honking around us. But part of the program, once I arrived at the retreat, was learning more about the body type that you're in, and they talk about the dosha. It's the body type that you have, and that really dictates just the way that you operate and also the way that you should be eating to have a good digestion. For me, it was pitta, which really represents fire. When you have that kind of body type, you have to be really sensitive to things like (of course, it's all the things that I love to eat), spicy food, coffee, caffeine. So during that time, I had to be cut off from all those things that are not good for that kind of body type. But then there were other things that were so different. Just the magnitude of poverty that I experienced. But on the other hand, I also experienced a place that was so vibrant—the people were vibrant, the colors were vibrant. One of things I realized is how ironic it was that here you're in a country that has so much poverty but also so much JOY everywhere.
So what were the key lessons you learned from this experience and how do you relate those lessons back to our business?
I'll share with you some of the big picture lessons. I'm going to start kind of at a personal level of what it meant to me and then how does that then correlate into our business? So the first thing I learned was yoga. I always thought that yoga was something that you do to get in shape, but one of the first principles that they taught was that yoga is really the practice of calming the mind. There's a lot of other things that I learned that may sound so simple, but I realized while I was there that living a good life is based upon some pretty basic, fundamental things that are all common sense. Things like making sure you have good physical exercise, making sure you've got a good diet, making sure that you've got time to relax, making sure that you have time to sleep. And sleep—I always thought sleep was just something that you do to make sure you recharge yourself. The realization is that sleep is really important, so that the brain has time to detox itself every day, which is the reason why so many people suffer from anxiety or depression because they don't have enough sleep. The importance of breathing and how breathing can really calm the mind and help with anxiety. But also just how we generally think, how we respond to any situation. Sometimes it's not the situation that's creating so much anxiety; it really is how we are responding to that particular situation.
We talked a lot about suffering. They call it suffering, but it really is sadness, and what creates so much sadness in the world, so much sadness in our lives, and what is the root cause of that? Because I think that in order to think about what it means to be happy (which remember, that's the reason why I went there—I wanted to know what happiness actually meant), you also have to think about what causes unhappiness. There are a couple of key things that were my takeaways. One of them is this concept of lack of knowledge. The brain that we have is a protector of ours, and it always wants to make sure that it's filling in the blanks. It does not like to have unknowns. It doesn't. But here's the challenging part. The brain, as I learned, when it's trying to fill in the spots it doesn't know, 99% of the time, it's always filling in things that are not positive. It's always negative. So just the realization and the awareness of not to make a conclusion based upon the lack of knowledge that we have. That was a big takeaway.
There are so many other principles, Brenna. One of the things that we talked a lot about was this concept of ego, and when I think about my life, I've always felt responsible. I've always felt responsible that whatever I say or I do, that I am directly responsible for either creating happiness, or I'm always concerned that what I'm going to say or I'm going to do is going to create unhappiness. My takeaway was I'm responsible for what I do, of course, but essentially, I'm a conduit. My number one job that I am responsible for, it's one word: intention. So as long as I wake up every single day and I'm leading with good intention, if I say something that happens to make someone happy, I didn't make them happy. They chose to respond in a way that made them happy. Now the opposite is true as well. If I say something with the absolute best intention and what I say doesn't make someone happy, I'm not responsible for that either. That whole concept of being responsible for intention took a huge pressure off of me, knowing that I'm not accountable for others, but I am accountable for my intention. The next one is attachment. When we think about attachment, the thinking is it's attachment not just to materialistic things; it's attachment to everything—things like our job. Even being too attached to our friends or our family and being codependent on that. What's so important is that we focus on ourselves and making sure that we are happy.
I love this next one. I talk about this a lot with my team, and that's that we just make life too complicated. We have a tendency to over complicate life. The next one is life extension. The way that most of us, and the way I actually thought about my life, was that we live our life in this very sequential way. We're growing up. We're in elementary school, high school, college. We're going to then have this career, and within our career, we're going to do this, and then we're going to go into management. And then the next part of our life, we're going to retire. Then we're going to finally enjoy our entire life because we've lived a full, productive life. There is one challenge with that, and that is that's assuming that's the way life's going to go. So life extension, what it really means, is don't delay the things in our life that are the most important. Be clear about what happiness means to you and live it.
Some of these things, Brenna, I was sharing what it meant to me from a personal perspective, but I also think about how it applies in business. There are so many parallels between some of these bigger lessons and business, and one of them was that we make life too complicated. For us being the fifth stressful industry, it is complicated. But I think that we need to do a much better job of how we think about trying to simplify our lives (and our industry, for that matter) as much as possible. Our ego—you know, we are so hard on ourselves. I think that's what creates so much stress and anxiety is that we think that we are directly accountable for either the success or the failure of our work. The reality is that that's just simply not true, that no one person is responsible for that. Attachment—of course we want to do a great job. But the part that I think about with Bishop-McCann and the lives that we have, I don't want this to be the most important thing that our people do. There are so many things that should be the biggest priority of life. I think sometimes we tend to attach ourselves to things like career and think that that's the most important thing, and again, it's not. The other takeaway for me is just JOY, humor. Sometimes things that may be really challenging. Sometimes it just helps to create some humor and just laugh it out. Because if you really think about it, so many things that we stress about are not that important.
We'll figure it out. But gratitude. Oh my gosh, Brenna. Gratitude is something that I think about so much. We are so fortunate. We're getting ready to celebrate our 25th Bishop-McCann anniversary after we just got out of one of the most challenging times in our history. Just the gratitude around the incredible talent that we have here, all the incredible clients. But it's not just the "what," it's the "how." You know, how we treat each other like family. I think the theme that I think about a lot is that we need to do a better job focusing on the things that really do matter in life. That's why it's so important to look at happiness being holistic. It isn't just business life and personal life. It's all in one. It's all in one.
Well, thank you so much for sharing all of these incredible experiences and lessons with us and for taking the time to be on the podcast!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Events Experience. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast, and create JOY wherever you go!