Written by Alicia Luciani, July 24 2019.
Vijen Patel co-founded a company that was the beginning of the end of doing your own laundry. Without any more context, you can be certain that this is a person who has has put a lot of thought and effort into getting more free time for himself and scaling that idea to impact others. Throughout his childhood and his entrepreneurial journey, soccer has remained an important part of his life. He has been playing with Chicago Fire Recreational Soccer (CFRS) in leagues and pickups for the past 6 years.
Now the CEO of a large Chicago based enterprise, Vijen threw some seriously enlightening quotes at me that I’ve spent several hours trying to unpack and digest while writing this story. I haven’t met him in person, but I imagine him to be the type of person who holds a deep repository of wise life secrets, always ready to knock you over the head with a mind blowing quote containing a nugget of wisdom that instantly transforms your way of thinking.
Let’s take a dive into how his quoting of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s line,“To be great is to be misunderstood,” relates to playing lunchtime pickup soccer.
When everyone is (quite literally) on the same playing field, rocking nothing but shorts, a t-shirt, and soccer boots, it’s almost impossible to know “who’s who.” That is one of the most universally appealing elements of soccer and what makes it such a beautiful game — its ability to unite people from all walks of life, during an enjoyable round of competitive sport. Although I know this to be true, I was surprised to learn that before and after he’s playing lunchtime pickup, Vijen is running a large company and managing many important daily responsibilities. How does he fit recreational sports in? He claims, “You always need to make time for work/life balance and health. It’s a marathon.”
In today’s hustle-obsessed culture, more and more people are turning to strategies that help them keep balanced and calm, while maintaining productivity. I myself, a person who has experienced a significant bout of “burn out,” and somebody who frequently feels like I’m running on a hamster wheel, gravitate towards people who have thought through and developed strategies to maintain balance and refuel their batteries. Vijen’s thoughtful recognition of the importance of taking breaks had me intrigued. Some people take full “disconnected days” to recharge; some have a very elaborate morning routine including journaling and meditation; and some, well, they play a midday game of footy.
“It’s great to break up the day and get a 1-hour workout in…Playing soccer during lunch beats running on a treadmill. I end up starting work at 6:30 AM so I can squeeze in the 90 minutes during lunch…”
…“In fact,” he continues, “my ability to take a break and get a lunch workout probably improves our business results over the long run to ensure no burn out.”
I wondered if there’s stigma around leaving the office to play at lunch time. Vijen replies, “I’m sure. But, that’s why I’m an entrepreneur. Remember this quote from RWE: ‘To be great is to be misunderstood.’”
Vijen understands that there are messages and expectations that define our culture, which influence our behaviour. I lit up as his following words crystallized for me: “If you forget what society cares about and prioritize what you care about, life becomes clear!”
So how does he run away from the office? He tells everyone at work that he is unavailable from12–1 on Wednesdays and Fridays, and he ensures his business results don’t sacrifice despite this. For Vijen, this means making up work over the weekend or during the morning, which is when he finds it easier to do deep work anyways.
Thanks to having a car, and on-site showers at the CIBC fields that CFRS hosts pickup games at, Vijen is able to zoom to and from the field and come back to the office feeling fresh (except for the days when the games are very tough and he needs a nap)!
More pragmatically, his ability to take these breaks is also a reflection of our current work force:
“In 2019, especially with distributed work force and freelance culture, work is about producing results/end products by dates. I don’t care how my team gets it done (or where, when), as long as it is delivered with high quality and by the agreed upon deadline.”
Vijen’s message is clear: Nothing is as important as your health and wellbeing, so do what it takes to prioritize that regardless of what others think.
Vijen says he feels great for the rest of the day after he’s played, as long as the game isn’t too tough! As for days when he doesn’t play, he feels FOMO when he’s in the office at noon and not on the field! Working out should make your work better, not worse, so why not do whatever it takes to balance both.
Chicago Fire Recreational Soccer (CFRS) has been creating opportunities for players to play sports at unconventional times on weekdays (also including mornings!) and they are filling those pickups with 32–42 players per game! We at OpenSports hope that many more sports organizations start hosting games during the day. Not only should permits be easier to obtain during off-peak hours, but its a great time for adults — who have so many evening responsibilities — to get together and play.
Thank you for reading and please remember to find a little more time to do the things you love :)
Alicia ❤ firstname.lastname@example.org → We would love for you to check out more of our blogs here :-)