Startups and The Sabbath

I’m ashamed to say this aloud, but, it’s important that I do it… at least for my own sake…

… I’ve never really, truly practiced sabbath, or rather, as the verb (and in Hebrew), שָׁבַת֙ šāḇaṯ, which is based on the early biblical texts found in The Book of Genesis where in the creation narrative God creates the heavens, the earth, and all of the flora and fauna (and humans!) and then, after 6 seriously-packed days of building, God set aside a day of rest:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and wall the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

via ESV.org

The observation and practice of The Sabbath (שַׁבָּת‎ שַׁבָּת‎ šabbaṯ) is also one of the Ten Commandments in the Jewish and Protestant Christian traditions.

And how folks execute against this historical practice today is actually pretty wide-ranging, from taking a loosely-defined “day off” once during the week (doesn’t have to technically be Sunday) to a much more clinical observance from sundown on the sixth day until sundown on the seventh-day, something like 12:01am Sunday morning until 12:01am Monday morning or from Jewish customs, Friday evening to Saturday evening.

Sometimes we simply need time alone, away from it all.

Although the specifics of how one decides to practice their šabbaṯ can be extremely diverse, the motive is generally the same: It’s an act of obedience representing our love and especially our trust in God and His provision in our lives for the things that we need. It (re)affirms, positionally, where we are in relationship to Him – He is lord and king of our lives and we are His servants.

But even more than that, we have been given life, purpose, and a new identity via His son, Jesus Christ, who died and rose again which allowed all of us to become heirs, sons and daughters with an incredible inheritance to boot!

Pretty great deal, if you ask me.

But the call to this particularly interesting practice wasn’t easy back then and it’s not easy now, even though this dynamic was a bit more obvious in its historical difficulty whereby not working one out of seven days was a significant risk, particularly in the circumstances, cultures, and communities where folks lived hand-to-mouth. This was a real, costly display of their faith in a God who promised them that He would take care of them.

In today’s more modern economy where some of us have much, much more than we need, taking a day off for rest and remembrance of God’s providence and provision may seem excessive, unnecessary, and perhaps even distracting and wasteful of resources.

This is why it’s even more important that we practice a day of šabbaṯ, a day of rest, where we intentionally put things aside for the sake of something much, much greater.

This is why I think the sabbath is a must-have strategy, tactic, and practice for entrepreneurs and startups and why I have decided to start intentionally practicing the šabbaṯ.

You see, I desperately need a full day of rest and recovery for both my body and my mind because I, like most startup founders, if given the opportunity, will work non-stop: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! I know this because this is actually what I’ve been doing for more than a decade.

We don’t have to “escape” every time… although it would be nice.

Again, I’m ashamed to say this publicly because I’ve been a professing follower of Christ longer than I have been an entrepreneur and the only times where I’ve honestly practiced the šabbaṯ is when I have had no choice – my mind and my body would systematically begin to shutdown as I pushed them to (and then past) the breaking point – I’ve been hospitalized in the past because I simply do not take the time to listen to my body, identify its needs, and then take time away and rest!

Sadly, I’ve done this on more than one occasion and the impact and collateral damage is always immense, almost (but not quite, thankfully) irrecoverable. I’ve made it out alive but I have deep wounds, scars, and cautionary stories that even I seem to consistently ignore, even when I know better!

So startup founders, entrepreneurs, and everyone for that matter, should think seriously about taking intentional time away from their work so as to give their body and minds a real, authentic, life-giving break.

Your team will thank you, your body and mind (and spirit) will most-definitely be grateful, and it’s proven (because, science!) that you may also experience an improvement in your mood and attitude as well as your energy, drive, and enthusiasm for your project that will naturally bring better outputs and outcomes!

In short, your body gets a much-needed, life-giving break and your startup will begin to accrue a slew of natural benefits as you consistently make deposits and investments into yourself.

Heck, you don’t even have to take a religious or spiritual stance either (and you certainly don’t have to use the word šabbaṯ)!

You could do something like this… or nothing at all. Doesn’t matter! Do your sabbath your way.

But for some, like me, this is not just about physical exhaustion and stopping burnout, it’s also just as much about my own personal desire to deepen my faith and to grow my relationship with God so that I can continue my journey in matters of the spirit and soul.

What’s nice is that I’m now starting to see my faith and my work as much more complementary than conflicted, much more integrated instead of isolated (but more on that later, perhaps).

What does this actually look like? Glad you asked! What I intend to do is to go “technologically dark” from 12:01am Sunday morning until the following morning, 12:01am – a full 24-hours of nothing but being completely and utterly focused on my family (and being fully present with them) while also being attentive to the needs of my body, mind, soul, and spirit.

My aim is to try this for one full calendar year, starting today.

This means that even a few of my long-standing workflows will need to change, like spending time every morning writing something (anything!) to publish on my blog. Hell, even this post here was written yesterday and I scheduled it to publish automatically today (ah… the magic of software!).

Outside of being much more consistently rested, relaxed, focused, and excited about my work (and being in better health in general), I’m not sure what the outcomes may / will be – this is part of the anxiety (the good kind) that I have as I start experimenting with this practice.

This means that I may tweak and change a few things here and there as I learn more about this long-standing practice that countless men and women have counted on as a core strategy and tactic of their success.

But I am committed to try out the šabbaṯ in my own life and slowly personalizing it to the way that I work, the unique ways in which I was designed and created, and for the communities that I’m currently part of – my family, my startup, and the my much broader circle of friends.

Wish me luck!

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