Why I Unplug on Friday Night for 25 hours

by Aaron Friedman on November 9, 2012

in Life

I have a confession to make. When I started my career, in my first job in the big city of NY, I was hungry. I have always been aggressive and a go getter. I wanted to get s#*t done.

But I was also very intimidated by one massive life choice.

I am an Orthodox Jew.

Surprise!

Actually, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has met me in the professional world. When I walk into a room, it becomes very clear to everyone there that something is slightly different (spoiler alert: I have a big black yarmulke on my head). Yes, it’s true, I am a kippa wearing, kosher eating, G-d fearing, Jew.

Kippa on my head, but not on his

You ask, why that should make any difference?

Really, it shouldn’t. But believe it or not, I have encountered some rough patches where my religion has put me in positions where I “had to choose”. For example, early in my career, I once interviewed at an agency for an entry level position. The interview went really well until the woman looked me over and point blank told me “you will have to work on the weekends, which means Friday night and Saturday, will that be a problem?” Honestly, I was speechless since I thought it was clear by the yarmulke on my head that it was a no brainer, in NY nonetheless. I answered her that I was Sabbath observant and while I couldn’t work on Friday night and Saturday all my Saturday nights and Sundays were hers. Point being, I was not afraid to work.

The choice has always been a clear one for me.

Needless to say, I did not get that job. And to be honest, I would have been miserable in that role, constantly justifying my actions and beliefs to my boss. I would chalk that up to being a nightmare.

Why do I bring this all up now?

For a couple of reasons: First, this is the first week of the year where the clocks change. And you know what that means… EARLY DISMISSAL!

Well, not exactly.

That means the uncomfortable moment where I have to send an email to my boss and explain why I am checking out early for the duration of the winter months because I don’t work on the Sabbath which starts really early.

My classic response is to send the clip from the Big Lebowski (below… warning for profanity) and then explain it more in depth with a follow up email.

YouTube Preview Image

Luckily for me, I have had some really amazing bosses who recognize the mere 3 or 4 hours I have to leave early is always paid back ten fold in the effort I exert through the week.

But second, this is the first time where I have felt confident enough in my career to openly talk about it. Full transparency, even when I started at spark, I DREADED having that first conversation explaining this to my boss (who was beyond understanding about it). In general, I used to just brush it off and pretend like it was just a thing I did. I would go about my business, do what I needed to, but that was it. No one needed to know the details.

It’s Different Now

I by no means flaunt it, and anyone who knows me will tell you that (I hope). But things feel different now. I truly value those 25 hours that I “turn off” and “unplug”.  I have mandated time where I am NOT ALLOWED to be connected. I am unplugged. No Facebook, No Twitter, No Instagram. Just the people around me.

How Do I Manage? Don’t I Fall Behind?

Well it’s pretty simple. I work hard. I work late.

Since I know that I have one less day to work than everyone else, I know that I had better get my work done. And guess what, I have also NEVER missed a deadline.

I have also started doing announcing on twitter that I am offline for 25 hours and I will return after to set expectations on why people can’t reach me.

I have mandated family time. I spend every Saturday with my gorgeous kids and my beautiful wife. Uninterrupted. Just us.

And I am no different than you are. Shutting down is hard. I feel my phone buzz in my pocket when it’s not really there. To be honest, Sunday morning breakfast is ridiculous while my wife and I are additively checking our phones. There is always some kind of buzzing, music or TV blasting somewhere in the home.

But not on Saturday. Saturday is our time for each other. It’s family time. Its time where we check out, and we re-connect with each other while disconnecting from technology. We re-connect with the things that are really important and reclaim that fresh life perspective.

And on Saturday night, when three stars come out, after 25 hours, we light the candle, take out the guitar and sing away the Sabbath, and start the new week.

(I understand that some of you reading this might have some questions about this. So, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me at ajfried@gmail.com if you want to ask me privately. Every single question is welcome. You will have a hard time offending me so don’t be shy :) )

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  • http://www.nathandriver.com Nathan Driver

    While not a jew – I like the idea of unplugging and re-connecting with family. Good for you Aaron. I only hope to be able to do this consistently sooner rather than later. Keep it up.

    • http://digitalhighrise.com Aaron Friedman

      Nathan,
      Thanks for the comment. It feels like an easy thing for me because of the belief portion. If you ask me to unplug any other day of the week, it would be a disaster.

      But, I will say, it has made the absolute biggest difference in my life. I HIGHLY recommend challenging yourself to “shut down” for a period of time.

      Let me know how it goes!
      Aaron

  • http://tinypoems.blogspot.com Scott Hess

    Loved reading this, and have enjoyed getting to know you at work. The idea that work and life should be or are somehow separate has always baffled me. My worldview, which I’ve somewhat jokingly characterized as “Buddhish,” might be expressed as “no differences.” Things, and people, are as they are. There’s no separation between work and life, between family and friends and strangers, and between Jews and Christians and all the other isms and so forth. The barriers are manufactured, sometimes for a purpose, but they’re illusory. We are all one. Some of us wear hats. Some of us wear beads. And some of us wear Dead Kennedys t-shirts. But these are just a veneer we brush over the top of our shared humanity.

    As you know, several of my best friends are Jewish, and a couple of them are conservative. What I wonder, even as I revel in their friendship and also in their traditions, is how they can reconcile their profound openness as people — which you also have, in spades — with the need to be apart, to be different, and to be part of a group that believes that, by dint of DNA, you are part of something that I cannot be part of. If I were Jewish, I”m guessing I would ponder that quite a bit.

    And Aaron, you know I wrote this in wonder and in friendship, curious about your thoughts.

    • http://digitalhighrise.com Aaron Friedman

      Scott, this was an awesome response. Thanks!
      While this post wasn’t really going in the direction of my “separating” from society or closing people out of my exclusive religious posse, I think its a good point and should be addressed.

      I think one of the key points you bring up is the “need” to be apart or different. And let me make a quick correction there. I don’t feel the need to be apart or different, in fact, in many ways, it would be wonderful to be the same as everyone else and be able to do the same things and eat what everyone else does. But for me, because of my belief, in many ways it’s not possible because of certain religious separation I have made.

      But everyone has certain separations in their lives. I have acquaintances, but then I also have deeper relationships with some friends, which also have various degrees of relationships, and then at the very top I have the deepest relationship with my wife. This already creates an element of separation and closed offedness between people.

      By no means to imply not accepting people that aren’t in that closer inner circle. Its just different.

      And for me, between work and religion, I know many people that would choose work over religion. For me, I value religion more. Work is a means to an end. I feel fortunate to actually love what I do, but nevertheless, that division still exists.

      Everyone has separations in their lives. I am sure you have some as well, right? Those differences are what make us unique.

      (might have rambled there… did I make any sense or answer your question at all?)

  • http://tinypoems.blogspot.com Scott Hess

    And here’s another conundrum: Even as I pose the above question, I realize that one of the things I admire in you, and in my friend Jay, is your deep commitment to your faith and your traditions. I think I covet that kind of commitment, to use a Biblical word…

    :-)

  • http://trumpetsocialmedia.com Carol Blomstrand

    I don’t usually get into religious discussions mainly because I am “Buddhish” as Scott Hess is. I accept all, I live and let live, and yet a little part of me (the 1/8 Jewish that I found I was when my mother revealed it to me just a few years ago) says: “What would I have been like if I’d have known I was Jewish?” (maternal side, yet!) I’ll never know. But I do know that I respect you, Aaron, for committing yourself to a deep faith, and doing whatever it takes to practice that faith. More power to you!

  • elan

    If the President’s Chief-of-Staff can pull this off ( http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/obama-is-a-shabbat-friendly-boss-chief-of-staff-says-1.472317 ), anyone can. Got to love the Dude.

  • Adele

    Aaron,
    Your mother passed this on to me because it made her so proud of who and what you have become. I, too, am so proud to say that I know and love you. I cherish the
    privilege to be considered part of your family. I am sure that I have told you before that Sam didn’t always like our friends kids. But, he used to always ask about you and the couple of times that you stayed with us made him very happy. We love you and know that you have a wonderful future ahead of you. Shabbat Shalom and keep up the good work!

  • http://outspokenmedia.com/about/rhea-drysdale/ Rhea Drysdale

    Aaron,

    I DM’d my comments last week and it’s taken me awhile to circle back at your request. I suppose I try to keep a lot of personal opinions to Facebook mostly, but thank you for asking me to share here, as you did. What I’d said was that I think we could swap “Jewish” out for “parent” and everything would still apply. I’m reading this from the perspective of an expecting mother and business owner. I know the impact this will have on my life and my company. The entire team will have to make concessions, because of my lifestyle decision, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It demonstrates the values we have as a business and the respect we will give to anyone on the team who needs/wants to embrace who they are.

    I also noted that I don’t think Aaron has one less day than anyone else. I think you prioritize the right things and defined a sacred time that allows you to invest in your spirit and your family. Why do we work if not to support these things? We work to provide for the life we want (at least in our country where it feels like we’re privileged enough to choose a career path that affords this).

    The point being, I love your post. I think it demonstrates that you work for what you believe in and don’t make excuses for it. You’re productive with the time you have, because of what matters to you. This is a lesson for anyone who wants to balance work and something deeply personal to them whether it’s faith, raising a family (or both in your situation), caring for a loved one who may be sick, being physically active, requiring a diet that supports our morals, etc. We do what we have to, to be who we are. That’s what makes us awesome and unique. :)

    Again, loved this. Thank you for putting so much of you out there.