10.28.2015

Life Lessons, Learned in the Past and Finally Understood Many Years Later

I had the pleasure of attending an alumni "speed networking" event at Fels last week, which was designed to help current students see how recent grads' career paths have played out post-Fels.  Since I had to tell my story over and over again, it was a useful exercise in self-awareness.  It seems like the students learned a thing or two from my personal story, but whether or not they did I did:

* First, I wanted to let folks know that there's really no such thing as a career path, as if there is a clearly marked road that you go down en route to a known end destination.  In reality, you take a step and that step enlightens what possible next steps there are.  When you look back, it's not very straight and it's often very unexpected.  For someone as future-oriented as I, this can seem frightening, to not know what tomorrow will bring.  But, on another level, it can also be calming, that I don't know what's next but I have permission to be OK about that.

* Second, I realized that my sabbatical year at The Enterprise Center, where I enjoyed freedom from the day-to-day in order to get our nascent consulting practice off the ground, was a pretty good early exposure to exactly what I am doing now, which is doing consulting and trying to grow a practice.  Funny how we land in things we didn't anticipate and all of a sudden it's exactly what you want to do.

* Third, I hearkened back a lot to a saying from my own grad school days, which is "where you stand depends on where you sit."  Now that I am where I am in my career and in the evolution of my firm, I spend a lot of time getting into the nuances of messaging, politics, and personalities.  Which is to say that my life is not like math class, where you are given all the info and asked to solve for X.  Rather, there is no one right answer, but rather multiple perspectives pushing multiple narratives.  So understanding that different people will see the same issue differently, and being able to make sense of that towards some thing that my client is trying to accomplish (pass a law, build a building, push for a program), is pretty much what I do now.  And grad school prepared me for that.

So that was fun, to learn that what I had learned way back when was really an essential lesson for life many years later.  Hopefully these students will be taking away their own life lessons from their time in grad school as well.
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