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Really Joseph Campbell?!? The nine-year-old in me respectfully disagrees!!

“Mulligan: An extra stroke allowed in golf given after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.”

In a few weeks I will turn 39 years old. Not exactly a milestone day, but one that has gotten me thinking. I’m at a fork in my personal road and really have no idea where it is that I’ll end up, but that’s not why I’m writing this. The inspiration for this post is my realization that somehow, someway, I find myself being a HR Manager by trade. My traditional day finds me making my way to an office usually by 6:30 in the morning, spending the next 10 to 11 hours dealing with the multitude of issues of a challenged business, and then returning home to do more email and then hit the sack so I can get up the next morning to do it all over again.

Really? How in the world did that happen?!?

I’m not talking practicalities here… We all know that most of those in a similar business position have traveled an educational path that lead from high school to college to even grad school for some of us. That is all very clear. No, what I want to know is how I went from wanting to be an artist or forest ranger in grade school to becoming a HR Manager at the ripe age of 39. Again I ask, how in the world did that happen?

After much thought I think I have come to an answer. As a child I was told I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be. That I should shoot for the stars and to allow nothing to prevent me from aspiring to be what I wanted to be, whether that be President of the United States or an archeologist or a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts. So what happened to that thought process as I got older? I didn’t hear anyone echoing those same sentiments as I entered into my high school years preparing for my SATs and ACTs. What I heard was a lot of talk about doing well on these standardized tests so that I would be able to get into my college of choice in order to “make a solid living”, finding a career that leads to “financial success and security”, and to be best positioned to chase the “American Dream” so that I could find happiness. That was some solid conventional wisdom…

Too bad that it’s my experience that conventional wisdom sucks so often.

In the almighty pursuit of this “American Dream”, we have been been brainwashed that we need to sacrifice our childhood hopes and dreams to meet some mythical “reality based” formula of success. That logic has led to a massive amount of unengaged, disinterested, unhappy people in this country. Is it any wonder that every other commercial on television seems to be centered around some form of antidepressant? I’m convinced that we are in the middle of a national identity crisis and that we have no hope of obtaining any level of greatness as a country because we forgot what it is that made us great in the first place. That would be our investments in doing the things that we are passionate about, that we dream about as we lay our head to pillow at night. I can guarantee you that there are very few children going to bed tonight dreaming about the wonders of ending up in middle-management somewhere in Corporate America…

I’m not saying that I’m completely miserable as a HR Manager. I have found creative outlets that allow me the ability to get some measure of self satisfaction out of the work that I do: leadership and management development, employee engagement, finding ways to help in the here-and-now which make immediate impacts for others around me. And I’m not really blaming others for the choices that I made. I take responsibility for the paths I chose to follow and for the career that I find myself in today.

Having said that, if I were given the opportunity to do it all over again I would make very different decisions. I would make decisions that were based much more on my long-term happiness than on my long-term ability to achieve what has largely been defined as the “American Dream.” I would make decisions that led me to a career that emphasized my passions over my ability to grow my bank account. I would worry much less about making sure I stowed away enough money for retirement and worry much more about making sure that I was living my life to its fullest every day versus waiting until I was 65 years old to start doing so.

As the father of a two and a half-year-old darling little girl it is very important to me that as she gets older, for her to feel like she has the choice to do the things that she loves as opposed to being forced to do something others expect of her or something she’s compelled to do in order to conform to the so-called “American Dream.”

As for me, I’m still figuring out what I want to do when I grow up. What I do know is, it likely won’t include finding myself in a cubicle or depressing office for 55 to 60 hours a week serving as the minion to some upper management oligarch.

Learning as I go,


Keith

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I find that every once in a while, life resets… or at least parts of life. There are a few ways that you can look at these times as they come around. You can view them with anger, frustration, confusion, annoyance, fear, depression… or you can respond with hope, creativity, imagination, inquisitiveness, or as a challenge to be boldly accepted.

There are a lot of different areas where life can reset: your personal life, your professional life, your family, your friends, your community. What gets especially interesting is when life decides to throw you a knuckleball and suddenly you realize that multiple parts of your life are resetting at the same time, in what could likely be described as a personal “perfect storm”… That’s when things can get a little crazy, a little hairy, a little maddening if you left them.

Perspective… Perspective is the key.

I look back on my last few years and can see the finger prints of these life changes all over the place:

  • Job changes
  • The birth of my amazing daughter
  • Divorce
  • The emergence and departure of friendships & relationships
  • The evolution of my own thought processes
  • This sample of key events that have happened over the last several years in my life highlight the importance of perspective. Each one of these things brings it’s own amount of stress to the table, yet how we respond to that stress helps to define whether these things serve as an ending or as a new beginning in our lives.

    It has become my opinion that all things that we encounter can be managed and massaged in such a way as to be portrayed as negative events or positive ones. I would challenge that we look at all the things that happen to us simply as key moments and impact events that shape us and guide us on the unique paths that are being laid out in front of all of us. For these moments and events, we are the ones to determine their relevance, their impact. We are the ones to assign fortune or distress and to superimpose those value judgements upon these events in our lives.

    That means that we have more control than many of us might care to admit. Because with that acknowledgment of control there comes a price… That level of control gives us a measure of power over our own lives and forces us to realize that we are the ones to largely determine the effect, whether positive or negative (or even neutral), that these moments and impacts have upon us and this bestows a certain level of responsibility with regards to how we live our lives. That will require a lot of people to be a lot less mopey, depressed, and “woe is me” when it comes to their day-to-day as well as their Facebook and Twitter posts. : )

    New beginnings can be scary and that’s okay. No one said that you had to have all the answers or have it all figured out. I guess what I’m realizing is that collectively we should seriously consider stopping the self sabotage and start realizing that life is an adventure to be lived and that the best adventures always have a fair number of twists and turns to keep things interesting.

    I have no idea what’s around the next corner, but I have never been so excited not knowing…

    Learning as I go,

    Keith

    August 2018
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