LESSON 29Take a Lot of Vacations

When I was 25 years old and David Fromer agreed to partner with me, I was delirious with excitement. And then he presented me with one demand that was non-negotiable: If we were to be partners, I would have to understand that he was likely to disappear from the office many weeks during the year—or simply put, as often as he wanted.

I wouldn’t have been more astonished if he had announced that he was a communist. I had grown up in a post–World War II culture where Americans at every level of the economy got an annual paid vacation of two weeks, maybe three for senior executives: my father had two or three weeks of vacation his entire career as an engineer and executive at NBC and RCA. At Goldman Sachs, we had two weeks of vacation. Even my father-in-law, who ran his own real estate company, seemed to take only two weeks of vacation, with a long weekend or two throughout the year. The idea of endless vacations seemed preposterous.

“I’m going to take a vacation whenever I see fit,” David explained. “But you can contact me any time you want. I’m available 365 days a year.” And he was. I never asked David where he developed his philosophy of vacations. Maybe it had something to do with his combat experience in World War II. David had been hit by shrapnel and passed out in a foxhole. When he woke up, he thought he was dead. From then on, he always felt like he was living on borrowed time, so he was determined to enjoy himself.

Not long ago I asked ...

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