Freshly back from our SoCal sojourn, I am back in Seattle and in the midst of reading “Pivot – the Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life” by Adam Markel. It’s a mouthful, but it’s also a pretty easy read, and probably about time, too.
I had lunch with a good friend yesterday at Tom Douglas’s Bravehorse Tavern in South Lake Union (we had the Spring Asparagus Salad – try it, it was AMAZING). My friend asked me a few seemingly innocuous questions, like “if you could do ANYthing you wanted to, what would it be?” “If there was nothing stopping you from going after your dream job, what would it be?” It was funny. I sat there, perplexed and almost frozen. It took me a full sixty seconds to realize I didn’t have easy answers because I’d never been asked (even by myself) these questions.
At 51 years old, I have legitimately had about 5 jobs. Starting in college I was a word processor at a law firm. Then I became a legal assistant at a cable company. Then I became a legal assistant at a small law firm. I worked from there into the Director of Marketing position, and then Director of Business Development (24 years is a long time). Then I was the U.S. Sector Specialist for the Urban Development and Infrastructure team at a global engineering firm, and then I went in-house at a small hotel company as their DoM (which was supposed to be a corporate position, but didn’t really work out that way). Truth is, as I raised my kids (as a single mom), and made a ferry commute of 4 to 5 hours every day to Seattle for 22 years, I didn’t think about WHAT I wanted to do. I was too busy doing what needed to be done. And when the law firm job that lasted 24 years was gone, I didn’t really know HOW to think about what I wanted to do. I just knew I needed to DO something. I was excited about the change and opportunities in the engineering field, but the truth is, that was not a position that really allowed me to do the things I’m best at. It was all structured organization and boilerplate. Certainly do-able, but nothing to get passionate about, so when the opportunity to do something in hotels came along, I was excited again. But even that came with little to no deliberative thought on my part. And as it turned out, going into a small, upstart company on the verge of growth and an ever in-flux management team wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Truth is though, I wasn’t looking for easy. I was, however, hoping for something that would allow me to grow, learn and be part of something as it evolved.
Not everything works out as one might hope. So, this time, I’m taking the time to ask those questions. I’m evaluating my own abilities. And I’m going to to determine what I WANT. And I’m not going to say “yes” to anything that doesn’t fall within all those specifications.
In reading “Pivot” I’m already starting to feel my brain open up to possibilities that I hadn’t considered before. And if nothing else, that’s renewing. I’m the first to admit it’s a weird space to inhabit — for me. I’m quite used to be the gerbil on the run-around-wheel. I think my little legs may be tired (and I’ll probably know for sure after I’ve rested for a minute), but they always keep going.
So to rest and consider is odd, feels a little TOO self-indulgent, but I’m doing it. My friend gave me some advice yesterday. The words were quite terrifying “be very selfish. This is your opportunity. Take it.” Be Selfish. What horrid words. They are the opposite of everything I’ve been raised to respect in myself and others. They are the epitome of all I find less than impressive in others. But my lack of understanding them may be my greatest failing. In order to give to others, I have to have something to give from – that well of energy, passion, enthusiasm, happiness. Without that, there’s nothing to give. It’s like they say on the airplanes – if the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first, before assisting others. Well, you can’t help others if you’re dead. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is well taken.
So, I’m putting on my oxygen mask, and I’m learning to be a little more selfish. It’s a process. But I’m on the path. Have you gone through this process? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss.