Thoughts On Identity

roadSome years back I wrote an essay called Learning The Language. The piece reflected on my experiences living abroad, learning to navigate a foreign country and culture with a somewhat limited grasp on the language.

The essay wasn’t so much about learning to speak a foreign language, as it was about learning who I was (and who I was not) in the context of that new environment but also in the context of the world and my life.

I was in my twenties, recently graduated from college, recently married. I was trying to find my place in the world, as if my identity were a destination. But now I know that identity is not a destination, but rather a journey.

Identity is fluid, not finite. And that is very good news! It means we can change our minds, make different choices, and consciously move in the direction we want to go next.

In this age of accelerated change, our roles are continually shifting, sometimes without our permission, other times by choice. How much will the world change in a person’s lifetime if she lives to be 90 or 100? Quite a lot. So, in a sense, we will always be Learning the Language.

Three Artists

Since she was very small my granddaughter Evalyn enjoyed painting with me in my studio. Over the years I’ve seen her creations evolve from messy blobs of black and red watercolors to quite sophisticated sketches and designs.

One day when she was maybe four, I took her to visit a friend of mine at his art gallery. I introduced them, “This is my friend Stan. Stan is an artist.”

Evalyn gasped. “I’m an artist too! And so is grandma!” she exclaimed. The label artist was something that connected the three of us, a shared identity. Oh, the wisdom of children!

Continue reading “Thoughts On Identity”

Three Essentials for Career Satisfaction

The Job Is Yours!

If I were to propose that you spend eight hours a day in a place you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t believe in or care about, would you take me up on the offer? Probably not.

What if I said I’d pay you to do so? Unfortunately, many of us have accepted that offer. Money in exchange for misery. But do we really have a choice? I think so.

You’ve probably heard the saying: Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life. You might not believe it. But if not, answer me this: Why do some people count the years, weeks, days leading up to their retirement while others never really think about it?

A few years back my financial advisor asked me at what age I wanted to retire. He needed the data point so we could figure out how much money I might need. I found the question very hard to answer.

I’d never given much thought to retirement. I wanted to work as long as I was able to contribute. I love to work!

But I haven’t loved every job I’ve had. There will likely be something about any job you don’t enjoy. But when you stop caring, or you dread going to work, it’s time to do something else.

Every job change I’ve made throughout my career stemmed from my being disengaged, disillusioned, or simply not challenged enough.

What we tend to forget when it comes to work is that we have choices. We have the option to change jobs, companies, even careers. Since we spend at least one-third of our lives working, we should probably enjoy our work. Continue reading “Three Essentials for Career Satisfaction”

Five Things Tango Taught Me About Leadership

Valentango 2011 with JuanWhen you spend most of your career leading, it’s hard to go back to following. But the truth is, it’s not an either/or proposition. I wonder. Is it even possible to be a good leader if you’re not also a good follower?

I’ve spent a lot of years leading teams in corporations. And, I’ve had the opportunity to work for different types of leaders. But some of the most valuable things I know about leadership, I learned “dancing backwards in high heels”.

It all started with a different kind of to “To Do” list.

One afternoon in 2005, I was sitting in my office feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and, honestly, quite angry! An IT Project Manager in a multi-million dollar corporation, the very large whiteboard in my office was filled with workflow diagrams, resource and equipment requirements, a roughed-in project timeline, and an issues list. My team and I had just completed an estimate for a very large data warehouse project. And that afternoon the VP of our division had thrown it back at me without discussion or explanation, demanding that I reduce the cost estimate by at least 50% “before I went home that night”. Of course, no requirements could be eliminated or scaled back.

I sat there staring at my whiteboard, and fuming (not for the first time) over the fact that this VP had no appreciation for my skills and no respect for the expertise of my team. All he wanted was a dollar figure that would please his boss, the CEO.

It was late in the day. Some of the team had already gone home. The work on my whiteboard represented a couple of weeks of research and analysis by experienced professionals. I wasn’t about to call them back in. They’d done a good job. And, for what our VP was asking, we may as well have thrown darts at a dartboard. What was I to do? Continue reading “Five Things Tango Taught Me About Leadership”