Counting on a Change of Heart? Consider a Change of Venue

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Since the beginning of my career I’ve been interested in how lifestyle benefits effect employee recruiting and retention.

I always wanted to be able to change the companies I worked for. Not enough companies offer that opportunity. Of all my intelligent, college-educated friends in San Diego, none seemed to have any real power to change the direction of their organizations.

Why not offer that power to young smart people? It attracts the right crowd and gives them a huge opportunity in return.

One of my first business mentors, who I admired very much, offered me such a chance. Eventually we parted ways, and although a “lifestyle” focus wasn’t our key disagreement, the issue played a role in our separation.

One day, way back in 2007, while I was trying to figure out a new direction to take my work and small business, I fired off a long, rambly email outlining the key things I’d like to focus on. I must have mentioned a few blowhardy things about the future of employment– lifestyle focus, equity, and vision. Ya know, stuff from a snot-nosed kid. It wasn’t the best email.

Here was his response:

“Who wouldn’t want a job where you can just strategize about stuff, have equity ownership, make lifestyle a priority, work with people who share your values…? Maybe you are a smart enough guy to pull it off, but I’ve really not seen that kind of thing too often in my career. And I don’t think I have ever seen it in a case where someone is building something of real value.

One of the things I have not really seen you demonstrate is the ability to stick with something for a significant period of time. Maybe that is how you want it, but ultimately in your career I think it could become a liability.”

It was true that I didn’t stick to stuff for so long. I still don’t. That, apparently, was a big problem for him and his organization.

It’s common to overestimate our ability to change the situation we’ve found ourselves in. I’ve met people who are gearing up for a lifetime focused on “getting people to take our democracy seriously.” We all know entrepreneurs who sit down every night at the dinner table and try to convince their family that their start-up is a great idea. How about our friends who are struggling to complete degrees in subjects they hate and don’t excel in?

And there are things that people say, that governments do, that companies perpetrate, that are built in to their DNA. That won’t be undone or overturned.

When my mentor told me that the things I was most passionate about– lifestyle, freedom, equity, strategy, working with amazing people– were a liability to my career, I had two options.

A change of heart, or a change of venue.

Cheers,

 

Dan

PS,  I’m the mayor or twitter.

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Published on 04.06.12

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