Like many young men, I was attracted to danger — or to stupid, depending on your point of view.
I’ve always been up for just about anything involving excessive speed, outrageous heights, sharp pointy objects, travel to far off lands, meeting new and interesting people, or that would, in general, elicit a “what was he thinking?” response. Fortunately, I survived those escapades (granted, in a few cases, I probably shouldn’t have). Although even I sometimes shake my head and wonder what I was thinking, it gave me a lifetime of colorful stories, and I hope, just a bit of wisdom born of foolish experience (but that’s for others to decide). It’s probably also why I’ve always been a performer.
Time went on, as it does, and life caught up with me. One day, a few years back, I woke up and found myself living a placid suburban existence with a family, a mortgage, and a very safe career as a professor. Without really noticing, I had been doing the same thing for 15 years (evidently, sometimes I let this happen). Now, don’t get me wrong: a family, a home, and a stable career are all great to have. They’re the things that people around the world strive for, if we’re fortunate and can afford them.
But something was missing. My life was day after day of “been there, done that.” I had lost the spark, the enchantment, the sense of newness and wonder. I still loved research and teaching, but I wanted to find a place out in the “real world” where those things could matter.
Never fear, I wanted to keep the kids (I like them and they’re growing into pretty cool humans) and I wanted to keep a roof over our heads, but I didn’t greet each coming academic year with the same vitality that once came unbidden. I thought that there had to be another way of making myself useful: I know people, I know data, I know technology, and I know how to perform. Surely I could construct a new career from those tools?
Besides, after rising to the challenge of building an academic program that served more than six thousand annual enrollments and growing it’s annual revenue from $2.2 million to $5.5 million in six short years (which is a lot in the world of the Academy, especially for a Sociology Program), I thought I might be able to do this business thing. And once the program was established, it just wasn’t the same adventure.
So now? I’m a guy entering middle-age with a neurodegenerative condition — and doing it without a net. (Which is, in fact, a total exaggeration: I’m blessed with a rich network of family, friends and colleagues who put up with my idiosyncrasies and help my journey in innumerable ways.) It’s scary as hell, but infinitely invigorating. Being an entrepreneur is fulfilling a lifelong dream that I thought I’d allowed to pass me by.
Life is about collecting experiences, connecting with others, and drawing meaningful insights we can share. Seeking new and exciting experiences is why I’ve got so many colorful stories. It’s how I’ve developed compassion for the human condition. And it’s why I’ve developed such a deep respect for Golden Age Pirates [link]. That truly was life without a net, but they developed innovative shared support systems in response. I see (some of) them as kindred souls separated by just three scant centuries. The rest were unmitigated prats.
Now? In the midst of the entrepreneurial excitement, I try to make the time once more for some of those adrenaline-inducing experiences. Responsibly, of course.
A successful life (or business) depends on rationally managing risk: identifying real threats and opportunities, calculating their likely rewards, and balancing their possibilities with their costs. I use real data and real social and behavioral science to make sense of it. If you’re interested in my consulting services built on my Finding Our Fit™ and Success ADAPTS™ systems, or you want me to speak, please contact me.
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