“All that is true and real is always simple and natural, and life-supporting.”
― Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Upon returning from Rwanda (Part Fifteen) I found myself forever changed, except, that is, in my employment situation. I remained void of any career rejuvenating prospects, in part, I cannot deny, due to my underwhelming level of motivation. Rwanda was truly impacting my paradigms and my prioritizations. I was conspicuously being relieved of my ever-artificial lust for outsized material wealth. Rwanda revealed to me that a life in pursuit of material wealth for its own sake alone truly held no meaning or redeeming value for me. My definition of success did not have to be as myopic or grandiose as I had come to believe it had to be.
I was rapidly approaching middle age and could only go as far as to believe that I would find peace on the same career path if I only slowed things down a little. In contrast to my ill-conceived ambitions of a few years earlier, I had to come to terms with the fact that a high-profile business executive was not the person I am deep down inside. Given the paths I was invited to walk along and all the investments I made in time, money and energy, this was sure a bitter pill to swallow. I had skills of how technology and business works (apart and together) and that was all I needed to know to make a very respectable living for myself. I had amassed a far greater understanding and respect for the world at large and all people in it. Every human is a living and breathing story, and I LOVE a good story!
What I yearned for was not prestige or outsized earnings. I yearned only for more learning. I had the moxie to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted, so why the hell didn’t I just do it? Courage. I lacked faith and courage. I knew I had wings, but I did not trust them. I did not begin to trust my wings until after I met my biological family. I do not know how or why that became the missing ingredient, but it has irrefutably been every bit that. Well, maybe it does make sense the more I think about it.
I became a little more involved with Patrick’s film production company which had only been established within the prior couple of years. He and I worked out an arrangement whereby I would provide management consulting support and I could learn about the creative side of film production. Hmmm…. something new that I now find challenging and interesting.
My earnings from this? Each time I brought in new business I would receive a percentage of the revenue. Nothing more. I had never held much desire to be in sales which is a prescription for starvation as an independent consultant. My gregarious side (a must-have for sales) only comes out after I assess the environment and determine I am safe to let myself out of my shell to play. Too often in the past when I attempted to sell, by the time I could develop the courage to be more assertive, the opportunity would cool off a little. A more confident individual would have progressed anyway. We never defined my role in terms of sales but considering my comp package, I was every bit the sales guy.
Such was my life at the moment. Earning a paltry fraction of the earnings with which I had, over the years, grown comfortably accustomed. I was in the midst of parting (sadly but also peacefully) from a relationship that culminated in co-habitation and a subsequent move to Baltimore. After a less than a year after moving, I would make my way back to Pennsylvania with my belongings and a prayer that someone with cash in the bank, but no income of any real measure, could find a comfortable apartment. My prayer was answered. I found a place just shy of a thousand square feet nestled in an area about an hour west of Philadelphia that would quickly become to feel like home for me.
Over the next two and a half years, I would work an odd consulting gig here and there. That along with the few bucks I might have made with Patrick was still less than I earned during my first year after completing my engineering undergraduate degree. Patrick and I began to ideate a platform for executive video portraits that provided professionals a short video sharable on websites or social media to help market themselves in their careers. We provided structure and post-production along with coaching for being on video. We had do-overs and outtakes and all involved had fun with it. I thought were we really onto something. This was in 2012-2013; either the wrong time or the wrong place. Today, video has become ubiquitous and I have since been told that if we were located nearer to Silicon Valley rather than the east coast, the odds of it becoming something would have been more substantial.
In the Fall of 2014, I received a call from a former colleague with whom I had worked prior to the trip to Rwanda. I was pleased to hear from him. The work to which I was introduced through him then was mentally riveting and the people with whom I found myself working were intellectually invigorating. Nearly all had Ph.Ds. I, with a degree in Chemical Engineering and an MBA, was often the least educated person in the room. And I loved it! My acquisition of new knowledge had nowhere to go but up. To this day, my work with him between 2008 and 2010 remains among my top three favorite professional commitments with which I have ever engaged throughout my entire career.
He had recently cultivated a relationship with someone holding a significant position in R&D at a large agricultural company who was eager for assistance with simulation and statistical modeling to improve decision making in plant breeding. Basically, given what was known from data and experience, how can it be algorithmically determined where and when to plant and which varietals would be selected for advancement and which would not? Enough of all that shop talk. The client had requested a dedicated manager for the growing list of projects being offered. The salary was commensurate to where I had left off the last time I was fully salaried and I was intrigued by the prospect of learning a new industry. Moreover, the client had a global presence. While I did not know this at the time, throughout the next four I would travel to several countries on three continents and meet many more amazing people.
But wait! Is this not just one more episode of a door being opened for me where I walk through without any meaningful evaluation? Fair question. I was truly pleased, and in some ways relieved, to have this opportunity present itself to me. But notably distinctive here is that this felt more like when I was invited to join the technology team at the engineering firm where my professional career was launched. I was filled with wonder and excitement about learning something new.
I accepted his offer and for the next four years I would manage client relationships and a variety of projects. In much contrast to the pretense and game playing I came to equate with the contact sport of office politics, I was around highly educated people who, by and large, were not duplicitous in any way. It was rather refreshing to work with highly educated and dedicated professionals whose office attire kept them prepared to visit the crop fields on a moment’s notice without a wardrobe change. I appreciated this noteworthy contrast in the degree of pretense I observed during the earlier elevations of my career. In its own way, the authenticity in people I observed now had far more in common with my experiences in Rwanda than when I was waist-deep in high-pressure corporate environments. There was a bonus. Up to this point, nearly all my travel for work had primarily been within the United States and Canada. This new client was headquartered outside the U.S. and had a global presence. My time here sent me to several countries on three continents where I would meet many more amazing people.
Four years into this job there was a shakeup at the one client for whom I was exclusively hired. My days were now numbered. Within the same fortnight, I would be given two months’ notice of termination, I would make plans to visit a friend in Sonoma County, and I would open a very special email. Upon reading this very special email, I would make a few phone calls and before I knew what was happening, I was on my way to California as planned. But this trip would have one additional special purpose; to meet a gentleman I had hitherto never known or knew existed with whom I share paternal ancestry.
This brings us back to Part One where this whole journey began. So now where do I go from here? Within the next few months, haven already met two half-brothers, I would be finding myself planning to meet nearly two dozen more beautiful souls who are descended from my paternal grandmother.
I am filled with so much excitement and joy to share my experience of this reunion with you. What will I learn? What will I accept? What will I deny? What will I carry forward and what will I leave behind? I am really looking forward to writing and sharing Part Seventeen. I believe it will be as fun as it is evocative.
I hope to see you in Part Seventeen.