By Executive Scheduling Associates CEO Mitch Santala
Somehow, a conversation that began about entrepreneurialism swung 90 degrees to what might be called the benefits of seasonal living. The person sharing this conversation was public relations practitioner Jamie Higdon. Jamie and her husband Michael have each started consulting businesses in the Washington, D.C., area. So you can see why we began talking about people who see a better way and help create those better solutions.
I told Jamie I thought a common denominator among those with an entrepreneurial spirit was reaching for what could be and should be. I asked if she agreed.
"I agree," she said. "Entrepreneurial leaders go beyond asking what's expected of them to how far is their reach? What am I capable and created to do?"
Then came the abrupt change of topic.
"And they constantly ask," she continued, "what is possible in this season?
"The turning point that redefined my vision for my professional life," she said, "was in July of 2012. Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote this essay in the Atlantic called Why Women Still Can't Have It All. It spoke to me but not in the way you might have expected."
"I had my first child that year," Jamie continued, "and it became a season of seeking and wondering who I was. Yes, I was a professional woman with an excellent education and a great opportunity in front of me. But I was also a wife and mother. I wanted to excel in both areas. Slaughter's thesis was that it is impossible. While I respect her point of view, I thought she was asking the wrong questions. Furthermore, I thought her question applied to men as well as women."
"Here is the better question," she claimed. "Are we grasping for too many things today? Should some goals be postponed for the sake of the highest current priorities? I began that year to do what was directly in front of me to the best of my ability. In the years since, I have focused on doing one or two things well in each season of life. I do so knowing that maybe in this next season, I'll tackle that other dream, that other idea."
I was cheering Jamie's conclusions. We make a mistake equating the postponement of ambition with missing out on that dream. The question is, what is my highest priority today? What deserves my best energy right now? Even more to the point, during the child-raising years, we do well to focus on that high calling and then move on to our next ambition when the kids are more self-sufficient. Perhaps there should be a plaque above our desks saying, "There will be time later."
"I think the idea of seasons paints a picture for a leader who's growing and becoming more mature," Jamie continued. They accept the fact that everything doesn't have to happen all at the same time. I think one of the leadership attributes is someone who's not a fear of missing out. They're not rushing. They respect good timing. Said another way, if I give myself to one thing or a couple of things at one time, I can give more of myself. I can be more effective in each season than if I spread myself thin."
I agreed wholeheartedly, adding that seasonal living doesn't mean giving up on our big dreams. But it does require a vision for where we want to end up in life. When we finish, what will we consider essential achievements, and what will appear secondary? Knowing that helps make seasonal choices a little easier. And this approach doesn't mean ignoring preparation for the future.
I said that Jamie's observations lead to an obvious question. Explain this, I continued. Along with serving as a mother, a wife, and a PR practitioner, I hear you are now going after your Ph.D. How do you manage work-life balance?
"I thought you might ask about that," she laughed. I don't think there's shining logic to the Ph.D. decision. But this is how I do it. I'm a part-time mom with a great husband. I am probably not as full-time a wife as I ought to be. I am a part-time PR practitioner and now I'm a part-time student. I have to maintain a lot of structure in my life to balance those priorities. The doctorate is a seed I'm planning for the future opportunity I envision – to teach later in life. I needed to scratch intellectually, to think deeply about questions I care about and challenge problems I see in the world."
I commented that I think these two issues – seasons and planting seeds – are linked. We do the work now to prepare for a future season that we don't know will come. We can't predict seasons. But, when practical, we work today on our dreams that might pay off in the future. I realize for some, that might seem a little crazy. But not to the entrepreneurial leader – the financial wholesaler or advisor, the teacher, the organizational founder, and others. Your sense of investing in future seasons is a way of life for these types of people. We might not be able to control future seasons, but we can do the work to prepare.
And how many times do we miss out on an opportunity, not because it didn't come our way, but because we weren't prepared to welcome it when it knocked on our door?
If you would enjoy listening to this entire conversation, click here.