Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Winds of Change

At the pinnacle of my career success, I knew beyond any doubt that everything I had ever done toward my chosen field had prepared me for the precise moment I was living. My education, the people I had worked with, failures, successes, all the experiences I had collected were part of this knowledge storehouse I could tap into at will and find something that applied.

I was given the keys to be very creative with our policies and I took full advantage of my time in the driver's seat. I was a trusted advisor to peers and superiors, the go-to guy and the face of the company throughout a long slog of a battle against a union that some of our employees were fighting hard to bring in. After that two year battle to oust the Teamsters, a battle that was in many ways similar to a political campaign, I was tapped to usher in a new direction for the plant's employee involvement process. We started Kaizen teams and worked together to make rapid improvements in the manufacturing process.

And then, it all ended.

Rumors and speculation were rampant as to why the company would choose to close its most productive, most efficient, lowest cost producing plant. But the reasons didn't matter as much as the fact that it had happened and I was tasked with dismantling the lives of over 500 people who had come to earn a living making plastic toys. Even in that dismal time, I could see how my past experiences had prepared me for that moment, that time, that era. I reconstructed my department - human resources - into an outplacement service for our people and I went about trying to keep spirits afloat while we tore apart all that had become familiar.

After the doors closed, I lost my way career-wise. Like an ant scuffling as it tries to find its way back to the trail, I tried to grasp something that made sense for me. I consulted in human resources for a while, tried out another company or two, but HR no longer held an interest for me. I had grown weary of it all, I suppose. I owned a small business for nearly a decade, but I don't think I was all that good at being a businessman. Too many big ideas and too little budget to stretch over them.

But, finally, the winds are shifting again. I'm starting to see how all those experiences I've collected are once again pointing me to forge a new trail and see where it leads.

My first love always was producing the written word. I abandoned that dream to do something sensible and stable, like managing human resources in manufacturing companies. It's a return to my roots, an exploration of my faith in me, and a quenching of the dream I have always adored only to shove back into the closet like a once favored childhood toy. Only this time, it isn't a toy. It's for real.

And for the first time since those days of campaign tactics, new directions, inspiring others and trying out whole new concepts, I feel that everything I have ever done toward my new chosen field has led me to this very moment I am living today.

I think we all have to face a world that looks very different than it did when our lives began. The old securities are no longer valid. The trust that one could spend an entire career with one company is now so fragile it is a rare exception if it exists at all. So the only other option is to remake ourselves. It isn't a big deal because we do it all the time. We were students, who became workers. Maybe we were college students once. We got that promotion, changed industries, changed careers, our companies were sold, broken up and resold. It is how we survive, how we learn, how we continue to collect those valuable experiences that will prepare us for the next leg of the journey. We choose, we learn, we grow, we choose again. There are no assurances that all our choices will be good ones, or that we will prosper because of them. In a recent movie, Clint Eastwood's character said, "if you want a guarantee, buy a toaster."

I think I'll eat my bread untoasted, thank you, and follow my dreams instead.


dot said...

Very powerful, Bob. While I don't quite understand the details, I know that you do, and that's what matters. I certainly agree that our world now has changed drastically. And I applaud your following your dreams.

Jeanne said...

I can't even begin to tell you how deeply and how appropriately this spoke to me, but when I get done wiping the tears out of my eyes and finish the work at hand, I might just have to write you a longer letter. I totally back you in these dreams, though, my friend. These adventures are the things our lives have prepared us for. We have no direction to take but forward, following our paths, walking down the occasional blind alley, and often turning a corner to find a bright new sunrise. Great blog post, to say the very least! Be well.

Jeff Mores said...

Love it.

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