Saturday, May 29, 2010

Take a Chance to . . . Relax

It looks like the Avis rental car company is in a tough fight to win over rival car-rental firm Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group from the clutches of Hertz, as detailed in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

I don't have any comment on that deal, but I do have a comment on the founder of Avis Rent-A-Car, Warren Avis. I published in Directors & Boards an excerpt from his memoir, titled Take a Chance to Be First, that he wrote in 1986.

This being Memorial Day weekend, the passage that appealed to me 20-plus years ago to present to my readers seems particularly fitting for the leisure mode that we should all be in this holiday, and with the summer shortly upon us. Here is an excerpt from the excerpt, a few paragraphs in which Warren Avis shares his "vacation" philosophy:

"Because I'm a very intense person, I need plenty of time off to maintain my staying power year after year. If I didn't pace myself and take good care of my physical and emotional needs, I'd quickly burn out — and I might well run into various health problems.

"I began to understand this principle a number of years ago, during one of my first entrepreneurial ventures as an independent sales representative. My inclination to throw myself body and soul into various sales challenges made it necessary for me to pull back periodically to recoup my energies. So from the very beginning, I always gave myself generous vacations.

"In addition to regular vacations, I also took plenty of time off during the rest of the year as well. So I might put in a 16- or 18-hour day when going full steam with a project. But then I'd always intersperse my hard work with play and relaxation. Money is no good if you have to work so hard for it you don't have time to enjoy it.

"But to live by a 'relaxed' philosophy and maintain an outstanding sales record, it's necessary to get extremely well organized — and work like hell when the time for work has arrived. Specifically, my approach was to really work hard for about three weeks each month, and then take the rest of the month off. But during that three weeks, it was necessary to go at top speed."

Warren Avis died in 2007 at the age of 92 — from natural causes. According to his New York Times obituary he was "fit and active until shortly before his death, even water skiing until the age of 89." While taking the chance to be first in business, as he titled his life story, he took the chance to relax along the way. That sounds like a life well lived. How are you living this Memorial Day weekend?