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.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Warning: meandering self-introspection ahead! Proceed at your own risk!

This past weekend my wife asked me a question while we were running through a beautiful State Park. She said, “What do you want to do in the future? Like, where do you want to be in 5 years?” She asked me this because I tend to be the type of person that tries to help others achieve their potential instead of focusing as much on my own. It’s always been that way to some degree. I gave up my first career-of-choice to start a family with my first wife, and then when I was faced with an opportunity to try that career again, other things got in the way and so I put it on the shelf, for the betterment of my family.

With my current wife, most of our relationship has been about getting her through her school program. With my step-son it’s been the same. My two sons are both in school and I’ve spent tons of time trying to make sure that they’re in the right academic program for their needs, and encouraging my oldest into looking at college programs to give him a career boost when he gets past high school.

I’m forty-one years old right now, and it’s pretty much the time in life when you start to have a mid-life crisis. I’m not volunteering for one, but it is a time when one’s thoughts turn towards looking at what they’ve achieved in their life, and if it’s what they want to spend the second half of their life doing. My personal goal is to live into my 80’s, which means I’m literally at the half-way point in my life. The first 15 years of my life were being a kid, and the last 15 years will probably be a winding-down that mirrors the winding-up of childhood. That gives 25 years on both sides of the mid-line point.

For the first 25 years of my life I spent time learning in higher education and then getting into a career in Information Technology. Not because I really studied to do it, but because I was good at it and had a lot of success. That leaves this second 25 years to potentially do something different with. My kids will be adults within 5 years, my wife will be starting her career, and the potential to make changes is pretty wide open. But that’s the rub… I’m not totally sure what I’d want to do.

Part of me could continue to climb the corporate ladder. There’s a lot of opportunity out there for someone like myself in IT, and lots of opportunity to grow in to bigger and better things, such as a Chief Information Officer of an organization, helping guide the technology direction of an entire company. Another part of me would just rather grow my hair out, get a bunch more tattoos, never wear a dress shirt again, and open up a small brewery/taproom, maybe with a running store attached. Or I could do nothing, and just keep doing what I’m doing now for the next 25 years.

All those options are completely within my scope of abilities, and that’s the scary part. It means that at some point I need to think about myself and my future in more than the speculative. It means that at some point I need to actually consider what I want to do and make a move (or not), and honestly, that’s more difficult for me to do for myself than for others. I’m very comfortable helping people figure out what they want to do, and helping them make success in their life. I’ve loved helping my wife and step-son with their career building, and am looking forward to being there for my two boys.

Maybe it’s because my career building hasn’t really been much of a choice for me. I started on the IT ladder, and I’ve progressed as I should. The two times I tried to go a different direction didn’t work (and in retrospect I’m glad they didn’t). But maybe that’s made me gun-shy to bother looking at my own wants and desires, and instead just focus on what I can help other people do. Or maybe it’s time for more long runs in the woods where I contemplate my navel and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Hmm… I have a 50K trail race coming up on Saturday…..