Striking Out on My Own


I closed the door to the shop for the last time. Done. Business: over. Partnership: free. Dream: dead.

Yet instead of regret I felt satisfaction. Owning a small yoga studio turned consignment retail business was one great learning experience. What I learned about launching and running a business and about my own skills (and weaknesses)? Worth it all.

Best lesson: Hitching on to someone else’s dream just doesn’t work. You gotta travel on your own.

If you're at a similar stage in your life, you can probably relate. Especially if you're also a Gen Joneser like me. I'm coming of age! I'm energetic, enthusiastic--and empowered. A generation or two ago, middle aged was old. I remember my grandmother when I was a young child: Grey hair and jiggly arms. She must have been in her forties. She actually lived to be 92 but she spent forty years before she died being old!

Not us. We cover the grey and cover up, work out and move out into the world. I think Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures has it right. It used to be life expectancy (at least in America) was 70. Now, on average, we're closing in on 100 year life spans!

We spent our first age growing experience and wisdom (growing ourselves and our children) and now we are entering a second age of productivity and creativity. Barring illness (and even then), this second age presents unlimited opportunities in a changing world.

So this is the truth about where I'm going - and maybe you're going there too. I closed the last door knowing I'd move on, but this time I don't think it will be to the "next" thing, as in one more in a long series of things. I think it will be The Thing.

Some people know from the start what they will do with their lives. Their brains must come with a a Kodak-like snapshot embedded in the right cortex of their brains: Doctor. Carpenter. Scientist. Teacher. Politician. Engineer. Designer. I am not one of those people.

Instead of a Kodak moment, I got a damn door lodged somewhere between my brain and my heart. One that I kept opening--and closing (see above). I step out a bit, but always come back. No. Not there. Not going there after all.

My generation has held an average of 11 jobs over their lifetimes so far, so I know I'm not alone.

People who know me know I’ve been looking for more than self-fulfilling work. I've been looking for that thing - that place, that opportunity to do what I'm supposed to do, to change the world for the better in some way.

It’s been kind of like a door to and from a cosmic roulette table swirling brightly colored careers and jobs and projects. I'd close the door and start blowing on the dice as the wheel of time and circumstance spun. It would stop. I'd get out to explore and each time it was a whole new world.

I've worked for large bureaucratic organizations and small autocratic businesses. I've worked for causes. I've worked for myself. I've managed projects, I've taught students, I've raised funds, I've raised (three great) kids.

Door opened, door closed, wheel spun. Again and again. I wrote stuff and edited stuff, organized and planned, designed and executed. I read a lot and dreamed a whole lot more. Back and forth through the door as I offered this skill and that to his problem or hers. Because that's what I did, searching for that thing I was supposed to do:

Oh, I'll help them because I'm good at ____ (fill in the blank with a subset of my skills) and they need my help.

But this is my point. Not the next but The Thing I need to do - finally - is all about helping people because I am wired to help people. But this time, I'm going to choose what--and how. So bring it on. Next!