One of my favorite sayings is “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” As it turns out, this is a quote from General George S. Patton, and it bespeaks both patience and impatience — at least from my perspective. It conjures up impatience at obstacles, be they human or inchoate ones, such as indecision. Yet, it also conjures up the patience to follow a true leader, once he or she emerges.
So it is with transition directions, you know the right direction once you’ve identified it, but you sometimes need a muse or guide to get you to that point. Sometimes that GPS route finder just doesn’t cut it. As described in my last blog post, this was my dilemma, and it was not resolved until I had a long, hard look at my bookshelves and queried them as to where my heart’s interests lie. Figuring that might not work for everyone, I started querying my Colgate sojourners for their advice.
Jack Blanchard, ’60, says, “Don’t be shy, and reach out. It will evolve.” He recommends that seekers talk with all of their contacts, their interesting contacts, and see what they do. “[I]t’s almost instinctive,” he adds, saying “we need to connect the dots to blend the discoveries of what others are doing. Nothing is more important than reaching out and making contacts to follow the thread of what others are doing.”
Jack believes there is a core of creativity in every Colgate grad, saying you didn’t get admitted to Colgate unless you have it. That creative tinder will be sparked by your contacts with the folks you admire, and create a fledgling flame that, when stoked, becomes your next exciting transition.
The right transition path, he adds, involves something you would love to do, something you think would be really interesting to do. The questions that naturally arise include things like what would it cost, or what would it pay, or how could I do that? But you can’t let the cost or ‘how to’ questions slow you down too much since there will always be “financial surprises.”
When he was researching his own transition from public relations professional to therapist, Adam Sachs, ’85, took comfort from a study that showed that those making a transition eventually wound up back at their old income levels. Indeed, many found themselves making more money. https://midlifedude.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/yolo-dont-fear-the-late-career-change/. All the more reason not to get stuck on the question, what will it pay?
Jack rightly notes: “The scary part is the ‘what if’s’ but the problem is if you don’t evaluate the other paths, in spite of the ‘what if’s’, you will wind up hating yourself, you will pay a price for that indecision.” And the price you pay is a soul-sapping one that takes its toll over the long haul.
Diane Danielson, ’89, has a system she recommends to folks who are stuck that reminds me of some of the exercises in my how to books, only her system is a lot simpler. She recommends that you write down three projects that you’re really proud of. They can be work related, volunteer projects, or hobbies. Write three paragraphs about what you liked about those three projects. Common themes will emerge from those ‘likes,’ and they become the core of your next endeavor. Diane has a friend who used this technique and quickly realized that teaching was a thread than ran through all three of her favorite projects.
Another test Diane employs is to look hard at what you like to do in your free time. Whatever that is reflects the type of work environment you need. Diane continues to play soccer. She plays all positions, and will cover for anyone, so she needs a work environment that mirrors that. Her chief operating officer position is perfect for her. As COO, she gets the variety of responsibility she craves, with never a dull moment between tasks.
In closing, it bears repeating: don’t be put off by the challenges posed by your new direction. Rather, to quote Patton once again: “Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.”