Harry Nelson

Sharing My Pre-High Holiday Message to My Team

This time of year, I find myself thinking about the approaching High Holidays.  Inevitably, it starts with anxiety about the practical issue of the serious time commitment away from work involved in all of the praying. Eventually, it turns to actually reflecting on the important themes of this period. Last year, I wrote up a longer piece about an idea that inspired me.  (Last year, I also was profoundly affected by Alan Lew’s book, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation — which I highly recommend.) No big idea this year.  Instead, I am sharing my message to my team.

Tomorrow night marks the beginning of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year (5778, for anyone counting). I wanted to send a few notes out:

1. I will be out of the office Thursday and Friday, with several of you, observing the holiday – and again Thursday and Friday in 2 and 3 weeks in the holidays that follow in close succession (more on that below). I want to express gratitude to all of you. It was not too many years ago that I would dread this time of year because I would be off the phone and email and I would find myself spending the holiday worrying about what balls were being dropped back in the office while I was away. Those days are over. It’s great to feel a sense of confidence that, together, we are a supportive and strong team, that takes care of each other and our business and makes it possible for me to step away. Thank you.

2. One of the themes of the holidays is “Teshuva”, which I think of as “Return” in the sense of returning your truest self. It is a period of self-accounting and reflecting on where we may have strayed from our values or done things that were insensitive to other people. You are supposed to do this one-on-one with people that you know you have offended, but I also want to publicly express that I am sorry for the places where I have let you down, where I have said or done something that reflected bad judgment, or not said or not done something that I should have. I am sincerely appreciative for how hard all of you work, how stressful our work can be. I often feel that I am moving so quickly from one thing to the next that I do not take enough time to check in and see how people are doing. I am grateful when people take the initiative to express themselves. I want you to know that I am committed individually and for us as an organization to be a learning organization, to get better to be more responsive and to live up to our values. The year ahead holds much promise (including an exciting move), but it will test us. The key is for all of us to be true who we are as individuals and as a group. I look forward to working with you on this in the coming year.

3. One of the traditional associations with these holidays is dipping apples (or challah) into honey with the prayer that it will be a “sweet” year. My favorite explanation for this is that, if you believe that things happen for a reason, then, in a sense, everything that happens is “good.” Life deals us blows that feels bad in the short term, but in the long term, our resilience, the lessons learned, and the growth we experience transforms them into being “good” for us. But sweet means that you don’t have to work hard to figure out the goodness of life’s surprises. Sweetness is when the goodness of something is plain, obvious, and readily felt. This past year have brought many big and small challenges to us in our work and in our personal lives. I want to share my wish that the next 12 months bring only sweetness, good health, abundance and purpose to you, your families, and everyone you care about.

Wishing everyone ahead a year of good health, only sweet news, abundance, and purpose. -Harry

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