Deep thoughts from 30,000 feet

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Warning: I’ve had lots of coffee, chocolate, brain candy, and now a glass of wine after little sleep and a thought provoking day… So this is going to be one of THOSE blogs…

Earlier this week I read this HBR article, “How will you measure your life?” by Clayton Christensen. He’s one of my favorite thinkers and authors so I was very excited to see an article by him on one of my top subjects: being intentional about how we live our lives. He writes about how he challenges his MBA students to apply what they learn about business and strategy to their lives: designing a vision, allocating resources, creating a culture and staying true to their principles. I read this a couple of days ago and several of the concepts have really stuck with me. The principles topic even caused a bad dream about what happened when someone tried to convince me from 100% to 98% on my principles. I was relieved when I woke up. I almost blogged on the article, but something wasn’t sitting right with me and I didn’t realize what until I read this follow up comment by David Brooks, “The Summoned Self” in the NYT this evening.

Christensen’s recommendation is just a little premature. Few MBA students have the perspective or experience to really know what is important to them, even fewer undergrads are ready for that kind of thinking. Not that they can’t have a hypothesis, but it is likely to change. My business partner Jim and I still enjoy rereading our journals from our quarter life crisis (25 years old) trip to the Galapagos where we discussed and documented the meaning of work, life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, some of it holds, but much has changed, and will likely continue to change.

This morning, on the way to facilitate a full day workshop, I talked with a colleague and friend about the choices we have made and continue to make related to work and life. As I told her, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I really love my work, at least 90% of the time, which is pretty good. And I live a very happy life outside of work. Related to Christensen’s recommendations related to setting vision, allocating resources, building culture and sticking to principles – I’m very satisfied with work and life. Even at the end of the day, as I headed back to the airport for a late night back to Denver, I was truly looking forward to a weekend full of time with my boyfriend, golf with my girlfriends, work on our book and some client work (that I was actually excited about doing!). But getting to the steady, happy, calm of the Thought Ensemble has been a long road of ecstatic highs, devastating lows and opportune encounters. Along the way I was lucky enough to encounter a professor who convinced me away from Math to Comp Sci, an Andersen Consulting partner who gave me an internship even though I told him I had no interest in consulting, a brilliant young CEO who saw my spark and lit my little entrepreneurial fire, the same CEO who years later, when I burned out and quit, just laughed and told me to take 6 weeks off because I’d be back (he was right), a top strategy firm who gave me a chance to consult with the big guys despite my nontraditional background, a longtime mentor who brought me back to my core of IT consulting, an MBA contact who almost lured me away to one of the top assessment and coaching firms and a best friend who called me one day and said “let’s just go create our future”. It took all those experiences, good and bad, and every fork along the way to end up so happy and satisfied doing what I do today.

So while I’m always one for planning and being intentional, I have to go with Brooks rather than Christensen on this one. I’m 37 and I finally know what I’m going to do when I grow up… And I know it is probably going to continue to change….

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