Hello Tomorrow

Among the many things we can’t control are the weather and flight delays, especially when they come together to keep us from getting where we want to be, when we want to be there.

I’m returning from Amsterdam today, by way of London to Boston, having spent the past week there and in Mannheim, Germany. Apparently high winds and the possibility of October sleet at Heathrow have delayed my flight by over two hours, resulting in a missed connection and the likelihood of an unexpected overnight visit in the UK. Nothing but to go with the flow.

The past week was momentous: one of those times in life that happen just when they’re supposed to happen but we don’t know that until afterwards. I didn’t plan for this–although I did make decisions that led to the experiences that opened a door that just may, if I hold on to the vision, lead to a future more satisfying and true to who I am than I ever could have imagined.

Earlier this year I was asked to speak at Enterprise 2.0, a social media marketing conference held in Amsterdam. My topic was Creating Influence. I’m returning from that speaking engagement now. In January 2010 I attended the same conference at which I met several people who have remained in my life. That earlier trip to Amsterdam was special in many ways, not least because I was with a woman with whom I was deeply in love. The conference was the backdrop to a winter idyll among the snowy canals and holiday lights that will remain in my heart forever. That’s another story for another time.

Of the many people I met in Amsterdam at the first conference, Sean MacNiven, an Australian working at SAP in Waldorf, and the brightest, most engaging young man I know, has become a good friend with whom I’ve corresponded and chatted on email for the past year and a half. Initially an intellectual soul mate, Sean, together with his lovely wife Gabi and two sons Max and Paul, has become a warm and constant friend. So it was a dream come true to visit Sean and his family in Mannheim this past weekend before returning to the States.

Sean knows more things than anyone else I know. Whether it’s the emotional life of bees, chimpanzee sign language or the complexities of the German secondary educational system, Sean has the facts and the story telling skills to bring his knowledge to life. We spent the weekend visiting nearby Heidelberg, with its caste and university, and the quiet town of Ladenberg on the banks of the Neckar, dating from Celtic and Roman ages. We walked, and looked at everything, and took pictures of each other next to the largest wine vat in the world.

We also spent many hours talking about life, happiness, work, family, our dreams and aspirations, and, with particular regard to me, how to chart the next route on my life journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

I’ve spent the past six months working as a contract CMO for a bio tech company in Providence, Rhode Island. The company’s founder developed a patented transdermal infusion process by which active ingredients are pushed to the skin by means of a battery powered flexible circuit patch. It’s like wearing a tiny, wafer-thin computer on your skin. Due to a series of circumstances which if I described them they wouldn’t be believed, the company decided to launch a consumer product based on its technology in the women’s anti-aging skin care category. I used this product as the example to illustrate my points in the Amsterdam presentation.

Now that the product’s been launched–e-commerce site built, digital campaign developed, PR driven influencer support established and direct sales initiated into the spa channel–my work is finished and I’m returning to San Francisco.

Initially I thought the weekend away in Germany would be the break I needed before getting down to business figuring out what to do next. Instead, it became the business itself. Everything has changed in the way I’m thinking about the future. Having spoken at the conference in Amsterdam, listening to the other speakers and talking with the participants, and spending the weekend with my friend Sean, I now know what change is required and have the confidence to make it real. II’ve needed change for a long long time, and now is the time. Everything that’s come before is preparation for this moment.

Having been accused of spending too little time on a canvas, James McNeill Whistler was once asked how long it took him to paint a painting. His answer was “a lifetime.”
That’s where I am. I have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to bring to bear on anything I want. I don’t want to be in a box, constrained by unachievable metrics and historical handcuffs. I’m finished with boxes. The free-fall I’ve dreaded is today a liberation. Hello tomorrow.

I’m finishing this piece relieved to be on board a late BA flight to Boston, having missed my original connection, and then having been transported from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3 and then back to Terminal 5, enduring two separate security checks, finally to arrive a my new gate only minutes before the doors were closing. As I said, one can only go with the flow, and sometimes it just works out.

10.17.2011

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