Being Grateful, Pool Chair Body Burns, and Culture + People XD

Die-cuts of the word Thankful with leaves pumpkins and acorns surrounding it.

All this while working your day job!

So, our oft-touted friend, gratitude, can get lost just as easily as your luggage or most recent Prime order because who’s grateful to have to work right up to the day before Thanksgiving when you have to clean and cook for the ten people coming to your house!? Well, we’re keeping the gratitude front and center this holiday season by sharing how grateful we are to be able to walk the talk where Culture and People XD are concerned.

Simplicity, Ease + Fun

When I founded the company, I embraced three core philosophies about how we would work: Simplicity, Ease, and Fun. It even says so on another page of this website. Paradoxically, the philosophies have never proved more vital than when the self-imposed pressure to deliver intensifies and we get lost in our work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and love working hard for what I have. I am acutely aware, however, that if we don’t stick to our core philosophies, we lose what made us great in the first place. In light of all that, let’s talk about the holidays, Cultural XD, and possibly most importantly: People XD.

As a point of reference and to set the stage for our holiday tale, here are the three central philosophies that guide our approach to doing just about everything at G+A:

  • Simplicity:  G+A is efficient and transparent. We aim for simplicity whenever and wherever possible.
  • Ease: G+A is easy to work with. We use the same field-tested processes and tools regardless of a project’s size or scope in order to make our work and yours as easy as we can.
  • Fun: G+A is fun! Even must-dos are a blast with the right mindset. We have the most fun doing the best work!

Whether it’s our clients or employees, these are foundational and non-negotiable when it comes to day-to-day operations. However, they require regular tending, especially when we’re approaching deadlines, finishing reports, or pitching to new clients. We, like so many, have the propensity to tell ourselves during seemingly \”critical\” times that tensions are high and success is paramount. Subtle shifts in behavior which seem innocuous at first (e.g. \”I\’ll just do an hour of work this Saturday,\” or \”Of course we can meet that deadline two days earlier than agreed upon.\”) quickly become anything but.

Lured By the Siren\’s Song of More + More Work

Case in point, during a particularly busy stretch between June and August, I was unconsciously overcomplicating everything: my life, my schedule, and my team\’s workload. I was lured by the Siren’s Song, telling me more work meant more success. Naturally, bouncing from thing to thing to thing without reflection, rejuvenation, or an intentional purpose meant there wasn\’t much ease in the G+A world. The Sirens were singing, “Work harder! Work harder!” and I was edging ever closer to the end of the proverbial plank of the sanity boat*. Working harder, not smarter, I had steered G+A and myself toward a rocky shore and was on the brink of a full-blown shipwreck because once simplicity and ease go overboard, fun tends to follow in short order.

So, there it was, the core of my business model dissolving in front of my eyes like so many waves washing up on the beach.  In place of a sturdy vessel made of the things I enjoyed (simplicity, ease, and fun), I was clinging perilously to its wreckage, planks of frenzy, stress, and dismay that I continued to tell myself would save me if I only held on more tightly.  Ahead I saw the swirling vortex of hard work, stress, more hard work to relieve the stress, then stress that I wasn’t gaining ground, and I knew I was doomed unless I did something to refashion the ship and navigate it back to calmer waters ASAP! (Man, I\’m really wringing every last drop out of this Odyssey metaphor!)

Ironically, being in Las Vegas it was a particularly hot and arid, desert afternoon when I grabbed a notepad, headed up to the deck of my building, and challenged myself to figure out, as simply and easily as possible, how to bring our culture back into alignment and find the fun again… fast that I once again spotted land.

Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps the dehydration, or perhaps the strict challenge to myself to chop out every single nonessential task I could think of, but by a miracle of the universe, it occurred to me that we could just. stop. working. Just like that, we could give ourselves a break, discontinue our own epics latent with all the woes of self-imposed workplace martyrdom, and simply close – for the entire week of Thanksgiving and the last two weeks of the year.

To be honest, I\’d always wondered why the places I worked at previously had lashed us to the wheel (so to speak) around the holidays. How much work was actually getting done the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or on Christmas Eve? Seriously, I used to laugh to myself about the fools who would take those days off because I knew for sure that I could show up, shoot the breeze with anyone else who was still showing up, go on multiple coffee runs, linger over a particularly long lunch, and save my PTO for the first two weeks of the new year when everyone else would be back, frantically grinding away.

As I leaned back in my pool chair and immediately scorched myself (Vegas in July is no joke) I thought, \”There is simply no need to be open during those times. If we focus on essential work, rather than creating work just to feel busy (Simplicity), communicate the closures early and provide clear direction about how we can be reached if needed (Ease), and tout the importance of prioritizing time to recharge and reconnect with friends, family and the world at large (Fun), then neither our clients nor our business should be materially disrupted.  And bonus, the team would get to enjoy some of the most magical times of the year unencumbered by the nagging thought of work, returning in 2020 ready to crush it.

Maybe it was the pool chair that seared the idea into my brain, or maybe I was genuinely having a revelation. Regardless, I promptly sent calendar invitations for both office closures to the team with the biggest grin I\’d had on my face in several weeks and haven\’t looked back since.

Designing the World\’s Greatest Experiences… Yes, This Means Internally Too!

People matter, and the people who’ve chosen to go on this wild ride with me matter most of all. They\’ve signed on to my dream of designing the world\’s greatest experiences, which means it matters that I demonstrate that G+A walks the talk by eliminating the Scylla and Charybdis choice between missing out on personal time or falling behind at the office during the holidays.  If closing up shop for three weeks out of 52 annually allows me to reaffirm my commitment to designing as excellent a set of Culture + People experiences at G+A as would for any of our clients, I\’m in.

So, whether you\’ve got to work from now until the end of time, are living a life of total leisure as a recent lottery winner, or perhaps exist somewhere in the middle as we do at G+A, I hope that beginning this Thanksgiving, continuing through the holiday season, and straight on into the new year that you\’re grateful for a new chances each and every day to define and design your dreams, cultural, people, or otherwise. I know I most certainly am.

Yours Very Truly, Gratefully + Nautically**,

Mallory Gott, G+A Founder + Creative Director
IG: @mallorygott

*If you have no idea why we\’re making so many nautical references, read up on Homer\’s epic epic, The Odyssey.
**Just because it\’s a personal favorite, may I suggest the hilarious music video spoof, On a Boat by the Lonely Island for your viewing pleasure?  (Disclaimer: The lyrics are not for kids or some adults (there\’s a lot of swearing), so be sure to put your headphones on before listening in mixed company.)

PS – Full disclosure, I finished editing this post on Sunday, November 24, 2019, 1.5 days after our official closure began.  Progress not perfection though, right?