Since around 30, I’ve always believed in pursuing what one wants in life, rather than waiting for it to show up. After business school, this took me to Dallas in 1980, where the weather is warm (a want) and it seemed the economy would be growing. It turned out that I had joined a weak company, a poor choice. So I moved out to Silicon Valley in 1984, which was a much better choice, and enjoyed 18 years there in the microchip industry.
When I got married in 1985, my wife and I discussed and agreed on some life goals. These include one that I’ll share with you now (and another I’ll share in a future post).
This particular life goal was that we both wanted to be breadwinners and we both wanted to be caregivers to the children we hoped we would have together. We decided to live these roles serially. Carole quit her job at a big tech firm as sales/marketing manager for a large region of the U.S. We had kids and she stayed home with them, giving them what they needed. When the kids were 13 and 15, we swapped roles: I quit my job as Marketing VP at a big company and became an at-home dad; Carole (who had gone back to school along the way and earned a PhD in Organization Behavior) became partner in an organization development consultancy.
It was informative how people reacted to this swap. Carole’s friends wanted to know if I’d had a nervous breakdown. People at the office wanted to know if I had cancer. Fortunately, neither was the case. We were merely executing the plan we’d set in place 17 years earlier. But it was a window into how set people can be in their thinking. Nothing could’ve been farther from people’s experience than a successful exec leaving the work world while earning well and with a bright worklife ahead. That’s because there’s a sort of “normal” path to life, and that’s what people are used to and expect to see.
My agreement to swap roles with Carole was another instance of pursuing the life one wants, rather than waiting for it to show up.
Carole thrived back in the workplace, and I loved being a housedad. The next five years brought a lot of life, in all of its forms. And then our youngest went off to college. I had achieved all the life goals I’d set for myself back in 1983 and now had no clue what to do next. What on earth would I do next??
If you are approaching the end of a long career; or if you have retired, you may have the same question: What on earth will I do next??