County News Home Page
February 25, 2008
NACo Home Page
NACO Home Current Issue Back Issues Editorial & Advertising
County News



Three of the HR Doctor’s favorite “characters” over the past hundred or so years were Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Winston Churchill and Mae West. All three were full of wisdom, humor and a broad perspective on life, on success and on inspiring others.

What wonderful dinner guests all three would have made if only they would have answered my invitations to come over to the house. Apparently, the invitations ended up in the Dead Letter Office.

I can see them feasting away on my Chicken Kiev, Charlotte’s broccoli cheese casserole, Elyse’s fudge and Rachel’s pumpkin muffins. Priming them for an evening of great conversation would not have been too difficult. Mr. Twain and certainly Mr. Churchill couldn’t let a meal, let alone perhaps an hour go by, without wine, brandy or whisky.

One of the most interesting aspects of all three of these famous people and many others who are not famous in the traditional sense, but who strive to be thoughtful and successful as professionals, spouses, parents and citizens, is the concept of the retreat. 

Mr. Churchill’s famous retreat in the U.K. was called Chartwell, while Mr. Twain chose to build a beautiful home in Hartford, Conn. Mae West found solace, refuge and creative privacy in a large apartment in Hollywood in a building she owned called the Ravenswood.

The concept of having a refuge or a retreat is an understated key part of a creative life. All of us need shelter from the increasing pressures of dealing with “paper clips,” which dominate much of our lives.

We spend too much time focusing on the trivial, perhaps because our work life may be full of deadlines and meetings and e-mail responses, and other things which seemed important at that moment, but end up sucking out our life energies. As Mr. Twain repeatedly said, “I am a man who loathes details.”  I join him passionately in that feeling. 

The more our lives are dominated by minutia or the individual cells in a giant spreadsheet, the less time we can focus on the real importance of life philosophies, a love of all that we can learn from history and important relationships with others.

For the HR Doctor, one of several retreats involves inviting the beautiful Charlotte and the HR dog Kamala to join me in a morning walk before dawn. My main physical retreat is the quiet of the intergalactic headquarters of the HR Doctor, Inc. — my home office. There, I can read, relax, write, go on journeys of the mind and appreciate life. I can contemplate hobbies I’ve had for many years, which were deliberately designed to broaden my horizons.

Specifically, astronomy and the wonders to be seen with even a small telescope in an inconceivably huge universe. Another hobby, deliberately if not ironically selected, is exploring the world of the miniature with a compound stereo microscope. It’s amazing to realize how profoundly insignificant we are as a species when you look up through a beautiful telescope or down through a large microscope. 

Then there’s music, whether it’s classical, bluegrass, classic rock, country or, for those other than the HR Doctor, perhaps grunge, heavy metal, hip-hop or anything else which appears to be played in cars equipped with JL Audio’s gigantic, booming vehicle speakers. I offer the last comment with apologies to my friend and a co-founder of JL Audio, Jim Birch.  Even the Beach Boys appreciated the power of a retreat in their 1960’s song “In My Room.” 

Retreats can be found in the privacy of a space defined in measurable, physical ways such as HR daughter Rachel and son-in-law Toby’s six acres in the mountains of Brevard, N.C. or in a 10x12 home office. More importantly, however, retreats exist wherever we want to create them. They can exist in a “cage,” which housed prisoners of war in Vietnam or detainees at Guantanamo for years.

Retreats can be found in listening to, or better yet, playing music that inspires and gives you peace. For one of the world’s great religions, Buddhism, the most powerful retreat is found inside your mind and your spirit. It is an easy journey to make from a busy, if not crazy world, into a re-energizing retreat. All you have to do is meditate, or if you prefer a different label, contemplate. 

The HR Doctor has previously written about the power of Einstein’s “Journey of the Mind” to help each of us develop our powers of problem solving and innovation. The same technique can add years to our lives by giving us an outlet of peace in days of turmoil.

Contrary to what our military folklore might suggest, the fundamental notion of this article is that a “retreat” can perhaps be the most powerful tool available to gain strength and recapture a sense of vision and focus that gets lost in the small font of our daily activities. Try a retreat…next time you want to advance.

Phil Rosenberg

The HR Doctor •


Job Market / Classifieds

Financial Services News

The H.R. Doctor Is In

What's In a Seal?

News from the Nation's Counties

NACo On the Move

Research News

Profiles In Service

In Case You Missed It ...

Tools for Tough Times
Write to Your Editor
Print This Page

Bookmark and Share
NACo Home  |  Current Issue  |  Back Issues  |  Editorial & Advertising
© Copyright 1996-2002 County News