Sunday, January 30, 2011

But it Was a Mistake

When you fall off a horse, conventional wisdom tells you to get right back in the saddle again. And that’s exactly what I did with my new job at Lindsay Corporation.

But it became clear to me early on I’d made a mistake. You see, getting right back in the saddle again, I later realized, is a substitute for thinking things through. It involves setting aside your reactions and letting muscle memory take over. And that's precisely what I did.

Probably the first indication I'd made a mistake was my desire to take the summer off, rather than show up for work immediately. My twin daughters were home from Ethiopia, and I wanted some time to get to know them, to enjoy those first precious months. I resented being pushed into a strategic planning process in the first week of my employment, especially as it seemed hollow to me – another indication something was wrong. I was experiencing a deep weariness of all the corporate processes – strategic planning in particular. Couple that with missing my time with the family, and I just didn’t want to be there.

I muddled along through the summer and fall, trying to adapt to the much smaller dimensions of Lindsay, the greatly reduced span of control, and the differences in how decisions were made and implemented. It felt very confining, and I was having less and less fun as time went along.

In November I attended a seminar called “Courageous Conversations” featuring Robert Mintz and Roger Fransecky of the Apogee Group. That seminar changed my life. I realized I’d been pounding myself into a corporate round hole for so long, I’d forgotten I was had some corners on me. I started to think of my life differently – I wasn’t my job, or even my career. I didn’t have to be defined by those things – I could instead define myself.

I started to take time daily to think about deeply buried desires and interests – those things I was always “gonna do when I’ve got some time”. What was I waiting for?

Parenthetically, it helped that the Dow was back to 10,500 in December, and my investments were considerably more diversified and less volatile then they’d been when I’d left Valmont.

Yes, I’d made a mistake taking the job at Lindsay -- I could feel the nausea of it well up every Sunday night as I contemplated driving into the office the next morning. The question now was: what was I going to do about it?

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