But sometimes I feel so close to my own life that I might overlook the possibilities.
Do you feel the same way?
Well, what if you described your biggest challenge to seven smart people who know you well...
...and then you left the room...
...so they could brainstorm your options...
...while you waited out of earshot?
That's what I did two weeks ago.
I've mentioned my EO Forum before. We are entrepreneurs who meet monthly for a polite sharing of diverse experiences — experiences with business, with love, with the mirror.
This intimate group, called the Tiger Forum, listened carefully to my challenge:
As I plan the next chapter of my life, I don't want to jump too quickly.
And I don't want to overlook options that might be great for me, but simply might not come to mind.
You know me well, friends: what do you think I should do with the next ten years?
They asked thoughtful questions: how important is money? what motivates me? what are the constraints?
Then I left the room.
Sitting Out is Strange
It's odd to be excluded from an important conversation about my life.
It felt like the time — during my single days — when a former girlfriend came to a party in my apartment in New York. As soon as she met my then current girlfriend, they agreed that they needed to have a substantial talk about me. They disappeared into the bedroom (of all places) for way too long.
In time, they emerged, with knowing smiles. Smiling, no doubt, about how The Beautiful Jury Of Two had judged me a half-formed adult, if that.
(Guilty as accused. But the defendant has made limited progress in the intervening years. He's nearly 80% of a fully formed adult.)
After 45 minutes, our forum moderator invited me back into the room for the report.
The findings were helpful and interesting:
Beyond the specific ideas for what to do next, the process is important. They strongly recommended that I sample (or even just observe) a variety of vocations, each one for not more than a week or two. Then, after each sampling, I should spend a week reflecting on the experience: how did I like it, how did I feel about it.
The specific ideas can be separated into five buckets:
- Some confirmed what I've always suspected. Examples: write books, teach, continue in marketing strategy and creative.
- Some were creative ambitions. Examples: develop a radio show, act, stand-up comedy.
- Some would help me clear my mind after 18 years of focus. Examples: bartender, comedy writer.
- Some were community minded. Examples: work with children, dive into the challenges currently faced by our soon-to-be-closed Columbus Symphony Orchestra.
- Some were surprises.
Example: coach executives, helping them lever humor, soul, and wit in life.
There were many more ideas. From the far-fetched to the nearly-fetched. All were quite fetching because they expanded my mind.
So, I'm taking the results of the brainstorm to heart.
During the past two weeks, amid all the other business of the days, I taught high school for two hours each day. Now I'll begin a week of reflection. (And, surely, inflict it on you, dear reader.)
Play The Home Version Of Our Game
If you want to help others in the same way, here's how to conduct your own brainstorm.
In the meantime, feel free to suggest other ideas. I'm all eyes.
And what ideas would you wish might be suggested for your next steps?
Two notes about EO. All EO forum conversations are protected by the strictest standards for confidentiality. I trust that this post, because it reveals only my issue, does not violate that confidentiality. Also, EO forums, as a matter of protocol, do not give advice. In this case, we made an exception. (I'm grateful.)