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Meet the Guy Who Quit His Job and Sailed a Boat for a Year

Pirogue on Niger river at sunsetPirogue on Niger river at sunset
Set goals that will enrich your life and change how you view the world.Photograph by DEA / N. CIRANI De Agostini via Getty Images

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you stay inspired to run a business?” is written by James Green, CEO of Magnetic.

The beginning of my career was filled with many exciting moments. I worked at Walt Disney in what can be considered its heyday and helped build its international film distribution, opening 20 offices across Europe and Asia in five years. Following my time at Disney (DIS), I got to work under Steve Jobs at Pixar and then left to found an ad-serving company, which sold for a sizable sum. The investors were happy with the results and hired me to turn around three more companies.

Mid-career, however, I was a person sorely in need of a reset. I was unhappy, losing money on my new company, and beyond burned out. It was time for a change that would go beyond re-thinking my approach to business—I needed to re-think my approach to life itself. So I came to my family with an idea that probably seemed absurd to three people who spent most of their time in the relative safety and comfort of Manhattan: Let’s buy a boat and sail it across the Atlantic.

See also: What Too Many Startup Founders Get Wrong About Success

As a child, my father had taught me how to sail on a man-made lake back home in England, which had sparked my passion for sailing that I carried for decades. Taking an epic sailing journey was a goal that was always in the back of my mind. However, my limited experience hadn’t given me the skills I needed for an undertaking like a cross-Atlantic journey. I decided that was going to change. I needed to accomplish something for myself to connect with my family and to gain a skill that wasn’t about selling something. So I quit my job, bought a boat, and we set sail.

The process wasn’t simple or easy. And that was the point. Gaining the skills to become captain of my own boat took time, and wasn’t without its difficulties. On our journey, the rudder on our boat broke, and I had to learn to fix it myself. We were confronted by a water spout (which is like a tornado, but worse because it’s in the ocean and you’re in a boat), and I had to navigate my family to safety. But a year later, we made it to our goal: Docking in Greece was the endpoint my 10-year-old daughter had chosen. We learned what we were capable of when we took ourselves out of our everyday lives and allowed real challenges to occur. And we had done it together.

When I returned, I was energized, full of new ideas, and felt like I could take on the impossible. My fears that my career would be derailed by my absence were unfounded. The recent troubles with my business had been overwritten with tales of my adventures. Although I’m running a successful company now (Magnetic has grown from $1.5 to $100-plus million in revenue in five years), there’s no predicting the future, and we still have more to accomplish. Yet my reset has made me want to continue on this journey.


Not everyone has the funds to buy a boat or the desire to pack their family up and spend a year with them at sea. (In fact, I realize this probably sounds like a nightmare to most people!) But any entrepreneur can set goals that are separate from their business—ones that will enrich your life and change how you view the world—and work to achieve them. Have you always wanted to publish a short story? Climb a mountain? Build a house? Pinpoint that thing that’s been put aside because there was no time, or because you didn’t have the skills, and figure out how to make it happen.

This is best done if you can step away from your work for some period of time, even a couple of weeks, but don’t confuse the idea with a vacation. This exercise is about purpose, not relaxation. Ever notice how you come back to work after a week at the beach and within a few short days you feel just as burned out as you did before? That’s because a week at the beach doesn’t actually accomplish anything. It doesn’t teach you anything about what you’re capable of and doesn’t get your mind into another space. You return the same, though maybe a little bit tanner and a little bit poorer.

In setting and achieving a personal goal, you will look at your business differently. You’ll exercise muscles in your brain that you’ve been neglecting, and gain new perspectives that will feed your ideas. The person who comes back will be better at their job, more accomplished, and best of all, will have stories to tell.