Some time with the wife

One of my favorite things that has happened this year is that I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time running with my wife. Part way through the year I decided to spend some of my training run time with her, despite the fact that her pace is quite a bit slower than mine. This has had a couple of really positive effects. The first is that I’ve stayed much healthier this year, with almost no injuries or “niggles” to speak of. Secondly, it means we’ve gotten to spend a lot more time together.

One of the benefits of this is that we have some really great conversations. Sometimes we hash out difficult issues that we need to work through. Sometimes we talk of nothing of substance. Then there are nights like tonight where we work through big mental hurdles that are causing one of us issues. For me, tonight, this was about my job and career (duh, of course it was).

I had already had a conversation with my friend Michael over lunch, and it spawned into a much deeper dive with my wife on our run. We really dug in to some of the core issues that I’m feeling about what I’m doing day in and day out. What really triggered an epiphany for me was realizing that I need to come home from work feeling like I actually did something. When you’re a manager, often your day is filled with keeping the team on task, putting out fires, acting as an intermediary, and so on. I’m not getting to scratch my itch to actually accomplish something, and feel like I’ve done something fulfilling in my day.

In practical terms, what this means is that I need to stop thinking that the typical career path of climbing the organizational ladder is where I should be headed. Part of the reason that I got out of the Enterprise Architecture business was because I thought I needed to move into higher level roles, and I was told quite directly that I needed to show more people leading experience on my resume. That spurred me to move in to management, and as much as I like developing people, I really want to be a leader more than a manager. I want to get back to getting my hands a little bit dirtier than they get now, and end my day feeling like I accomplished something worthwhile.

Therefore, my new focus is going to be to start looking for something that’s more hands-on, and has more of a creative and deliverable outcome to it. It might be back in the architecture world, or it might be something different. However, it’s incredibly freeing to have a direction to point towards.

I’m glad I ran with my wife tonight.

Some things never change

Today on Facebook it kindly reminded me of memories from years gone by (as it does every day). Sometimes I’ll click past the first one it shows me and scroll down the page to see what else happened.

fbmemory

That’s right. I’ve been in career/job/life angst for 10 solid years now. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to realize that I’ve been struggling with this for a solid decade. You’d think that, by now, I’d have something figured out. Granted this specific post was more about money than career angst (I don’t think I was that disenchanted quite yet), but it was probably the start.

As I’ve thought more on my history, my happiest times were actually back just before this post. It was around this time that I moved into higher level roles, and started taking my hands off the keyboard a lot more. Since 2011 I haven’t done any real hands-on engineering work for my career. Part of the reason for that was that I was getting older and not keeping up with all the newest and greatest tech out there. I’m sure the fact that I spent so much of the time between 2002-2008 going to Seminary to train to be a pastor, didn’t help either.

Anyway, that’s an aside. The point of this post is that it’s been 10 years of trying to figure myself out. Knowing that fact makes me even more determined to make something positive happen now. Still not sure what it will be, but the motivation is getting stronger to end the cycle, while at the same time accepting of what may be the final answer, even if it’s not the dream I had thought of.

Thanksgiving 2019!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I realize that this year hasn’t nearly been as active as other years on the blog, but after three years of daily blogging, I needed a bit of a mental break. I don’t know that I’ll go back to daily blogging in 2019, but I might set up a specific schedule to start to move back towards more regular posting.

However, despite all of this, I still didn’t want to miss posting an annual Thanksgiving post. It’s easy for me to be thankful, because I was lucky enough to be born in a situation where, with hard work, I am able to achieve success in life. As we look at the situation around the world with refugees, and the rise of homelessness at home, it’s easy to forget just how lucky many of us are. I would encourage everyone who reads this to continue to be generous with charities that are trying to make a difference in your neighborhood and around the world.

I’m also very thankful this year for my friends and family who put up with my constant angst over my job and purpose in life. I’m truly blessed to have so many great people in my life that are willing to give me a safe space to process things, as well as bits of advice along the way. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’m grateful for the support around me (especially my wife!).

Finally, I’m thankful for the wonderful communities that I’m a part of. Specifically the wonderful trail running communities here in Minnesota. The people I’ve met through this community have been amazing, and many of them have become close friends. They are some of the most supportive and encouraging people I know, and getting to reciprocate has been a true blessing.

So from Lisa and I, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and may you have a blessed holiday season!

Hashtag Living My Best Life

A month or so ago, I was sitting in a small brewpub in rural Wisconsin, listening to some nice folk/bluegrass music on the PA, enjoying a nice beer, and soaking in a wonderful evening traveling with my wife. I was feeling wistful and relaxed. Therefore, I did what everyone does now, and I posted a selfie on Instagram, and for some reason decided to add the hashtag #livingmybestlife. img_3609I was feeling at peace with everything. We had just spent the evening with some great folks, talking about Winter Ultras, and in the morning we were going to get to run on a new trail. I had a craft beer in my hand, and music that I enjoy in my head. I was sitting in a lovely little place with my amazing wife, and at that moment, everything was perfect. The hashtag felt appropriate, and so I went with it.  One of the unique things about the photo I took was that it was a profile shot where I was gazing off into the distance and not looking at the camera. A little while later I was on a boat, performing a wedding for my brother and sister-in-law. While I was out on the deck I decided, “What the heck, let’s do another profile shot.” Because I was having a good time, I gave it the #livingmybestlife again. That’s when things started to take on a life of their own.  img_3727I’ve now embraced the profile shot with hashtag, and I’ve started doing it more and more often, just for the heck of it. It’s become something that is a mix of humor and emotional release. Humor, in that I’m obviously doing something very silly, and playing it up for laughs. But, emotional release because I’m trying to highlight the times in my life when I’m the happiest. It’s cathartic to me to go back and look at the pictures and remember those moments, breathing in the memories of simple times of joy.  Needless to say I’ll keep posting these shots, as I’m having a great time with them. I can’t promise that they’ll all be “influencer worthy”, but hopefully, they’ll give people a chuckle, and maybe a brief moment of reflection of what bring you joy in your life. img_3752 

More musings on life and career

Regular readers of my blog are no stranger to my semi-regular musings about my vocation and purpose in life. It’s a pretty regular theme, but as the years have gone by, I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to more clarity around what I’m all about. It’s time for another brain-dump of thoughts, so if you’re not interested in someone doing self-reflection, I’ll post something more entertaining in a few days…

This recent episode of angst come courtesy of my current job. I’m not going to go into many details, but I had some unpleasantness last week that put me in the position of not feeling like I can trust those around me, including my direct supervisor. It has me questioning again what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. However, it’s allowed me another time of reflection. I’ve started to piece together more of what it is that drives me, and why I’ve made some of the choices that I have.

As I’ve contemplated things, I’ve broken it down in to three key areas: Leadership, Community, and Experience.

Leadership

One of the things that I figured out a few years ago is that I like to lead. It’s not because I have a burning desire to always be in charge, but because I like seeing a vision take shape. I also really love guiding people and helping them reach their goals. As a manager I’ve had the opportunity to help salvage a few different careers and bring them back from mediocrity to something that gives the person a sense of accomplishment and value. My favorite moments as being a manager is when I can help someone better themselves, and discover more about their skills and talents. My leadership style encompasses Transformational Leadership and Servant-Oriented Leadership which are all about building up others. These two paradigms are what drives me to want to help bring things to life.

Community

I’ve discovered that I love bringing a community together. As the president of the board for Upper Midwest Trail Runners, I love seeing our small community come together around one another. We’ve even managed to (mostly) keep politics out of our community, keeping ourselves focused on our shared love of the outdoors. Just this past weekend we had our annual banquet and it was so much fun to look back at what we’ve done and share time with people who love this as much as I do.

I love being a part of a community, and I think that everyone’s life is richer because of the communities that they’re a part of. Some of the most amazing things that can happen in life, can only happen as a part of a community. I’ve written extensively about how powerful our trail community is, and the effect that it has on me. Being able to play a part in making this community better is incredibly important to me, and it’s something that I believe drives me in who I want to be in life.

Experience

Something I’ve had the honor of doing recently is creating events that bring people together. I’ve put on multiple fat-ass (fun) runs in our trail community, and I’m starting to get in to the race directing world. Just this past weekend, at our UMTR banquet, we had an incredible night, and everyone walked away feeling happy.  Next week I’m putting in my annual fall fat-ass and I’m excited to get everyone together for a few hours of fun. Making memories is something that brings me joy.

As I look back at this list, and the things that drive me, it really sheds a light as to why I wanted to be a pastor. All three of these things are key to the experience of being a leader in a church. Even though that career isn’t really in the cards for me anymore, it’s nice to be able to put some words and thoughts around what drives me, and why that career was so compelling to me.

The struggle now is trying to figure out how to take these insights and apply them to the second half of my life and what I do with my time. My friend Michael and I had breakfast this morning and in our conversation we talked a little about all of this. I contemplated if I could ever just find a mindless job and then focus my passions on things outside of work. Michael, who has known me for nearly 25 years, observed that this probably wouldn’t work for me. I think it’s because I’m just too prone to diving in completely to the things that I do.

So, as usual, I’ve got a lot of thoughts and questions, without a ton of answers. As I think about what might lie ahead, at least I have something more solid to hang my hat on than just vague feelings. I feel like I might be able to start putting some pieces together to build something. I joke with my wife that if I had my druthers, I’d have a career of writing/blogging, podcasting, photography, event directing, and non-profit management, all while traveling around doing #vanlife part of the year.

The more reasonable side of me realizes that this is probably silly, as making a living doing that is sketchy and difficult at best. I’m a highly skilled and experienced, strategic-thinking oriented, organizational leader, which means I understand the big picture of how things go work, and when things are difficult or easy. It’s just harder to see when it’s closer to home.

That leaves me thinking about more practical things around what I could do for an organization that has a meaning and mission I can get behind, that builds community, and creates meaningful experiences for people. I’ve contemplated getting into some type of executive directorship of non-profits, but I don’t have much of an “in” to that community, so that might need to be something I work on as a goal in the near term.

In the meantime I’ll keep posting brain-dumps here, listening to those around me and their thoughts, and building up a wider tapestry of understanding of myself and the legacy that I want to leave behind.