Trailblazer, aviator and stereotype breaker Amelia Earhart once said “When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it.”
Amelia, however, wasn’t helping raise a son. She also hadn’t just rebuilt a coaching practice working with individuals and teams back to pre-Great Recession levels.
Taking a risk for her, covering a gamble, was perhaps easier, with less downside to go along with any upside.
So when the email note from a colleague with a blue chip executive search firm – “Would you be interested in looking at this job opportunity?” – hit my inbox, Earhart came to mind as someone who seemingly never hesitated when opportunity called.
The chance to do something that may come along once in a lifetime is tempting. There are very few possible corporate jobs – working with my favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, if I lived in LA comes to mind – that quicken my pulse, that are potentially professionally intriguing, challenging and rewarding.
This role is one of them.
But being keenly interested in a role, being asked to take a role, and signing on for a role are three separate elements. Einstein suggested that one should “Never lose holy curiosity” and so it is about this opportunity.
I did what I encourage any of my clients to do; take the conversation. It’s a coffee date, not getting married.
Writer, thought leader and management guru Charles Handy has proposed a model for work that shifts between full-time work as an employee, to part-time work, to work as an outside consultant, to volunteer work, and around back again. The changes are a function of what else is going on in your life; the old “one size fits all model” Handy suggests is not only outmoded, it’s broken.
Handy’s model is a good structure, and one that makes even more sense in the reality of today’s economy and the fact the many of us will live longer, not shorter lives. There is no sense stopping what you love doing at age 65 if you’re likely to live another 15-20 years. There is no sense to work full-time or at all if you’re able if the pressing need to care for aging parents exists, or just take some downtime for yourself between hard-working engagements, is present.
The trick for organizations? Figuring out how to have people – be they part-time or full-time employees, consultants or contractors, want to work with them. Flexibility, in short, will be key; getting the best talent is paramount.
“Moonlight” Graham, played by Burt Lancaster in the movie Field of Dreams reflects on the short five minute stint he got as a major league baseball player. “You know,” he says, “we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”
That’s what it’s like when adventure calls; sometimes you lull yourself into thinking you’ll get another chance.
Sometimes you do, most of the times you don’t.
This opportunity for me? Hunch is that I’ll fall out of specification for the role. Corporations mostly look for square pegs for square holes; my profile may be too much of the round peg type to take a leap to be seen as a good fit. Do I think I can do the role? Sure, though doing well in most roles is not just about the job, it’s the culture and interpersonal relationship match that are part and parcel of the work.
We’ll see where this one goes; it’s a great opportunity for someone, if not me. Am I interested? Yes, though I don’t know enough at this point to know if it’s a good match, and a good move.
Lancaster’s Field of Dreams’ character, after talking about missing his shot at the baseball big leagues recounts his lifetime as a small-town doctor. He notes, “If I’d only gotten to be a doctor [rather than a major league baseball player] for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.”
As I write this monthly newsletter my 9 year-old son Traylor – home early from school due to a sinus infection – sits next to me in the study taking it easy. Our new puppy, yacking up earlier this afternoon, is nestled asleep on my lap.
Sometimes, perhaps, that great adventure that calls you is the life you lead, not the the one knocking at your door.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.