Friday, January 12, 2018

On Halftime: Moving From Success to Significance


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If you've read any of my recent and fleeting posts here, you will know that professionally I'm doing quite well. Everything is humming along better than it ever has. What you are less likely to know is that personally, I've hit a bit of a rough patch. Nothing too close to home, my immediate family is great, everyone is happy and healthy. However just beyond my immediate family circle lies my difficult relationship with my father, and a host of surreal circumstances and recent experiences that most find hard to believe.

I'll withhold the exact details but it was in the middle of these extraordinary experiences that I met Claude -- a chocolatier -- in an airport bar, waylaid after a work trip to Whitehorse and Banff, and after completing a difficult and unplanned stop in Saskatoon. Claude sat down next to me and made a joke about wanting to order breakfast for dinner and I encouraged him to go for it. Next thing you know we got to talking about life, parenting, family, and what brought each of us to Saskatoon. Whether or not he knew it at the time our conversation was precisely what I needed in that moment and the selfless tenderness he showed me when I needed it most was almost overwhelming.

Its one of those conversation that simply sticks with you.

Over the course of our conversation he recommended a book written by Bob Buford entitled Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance I made a mental note of the title, gave Claude a business card, paid for his breakfast as a gesture of good faith, and thanked him deeply for his kindness.

At its core the book is about the midpoint in your career (i.e. halftime) and the transition people make from the first half of their career where they focus on finding success to the second half where they focus on finding significance. Now, while the book is dated and decidedly Christian (and I am neither), it does however provide a useful frame of reference and focus attention on what I would consider a natural pivot point for most career professionals.

Upon reading and reflecting on the book, I would assert that I am very much coming into my own halftime, and discovering the nature of the substance thatI want the second half of my career to be about. Its more of a process of discovery rather than a cleanly delineated break. The book uses the metaphor of overlapping waves, which I think is apt. Buford reduces the search for second half substance to a seemingly simple question: 'what's in your box?'. What's that all encompassing thing that will guide all of your activities in the second half of your career / life. For Buford it was religion and he dedicated the second half of his life to his.

I'm leaning towards, 'For Queen, Country, and a smashing good time' but I'm still in discovery mode. That said, I'm learning a lot about myself through the process. For example, I've learned that while there was merit in building an experience base by 'following the work' there also comes a time where much more can be gained by transitioning to a more actively managed my career trajectory, that one can credibly ask for specific opportunities, and that there is an inalienable value to bringing not only enthusiasm and a different way of thinking to a given problem, but also the body of knowledge and experience (gained by 'following the work') that makes them invaluable.

I'm learning that what motivates me is evolving and changing, but also that I still enjoy sitting down, thinking through a problem set, and taking the time to write those thoughts down and share them with others.

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