“I feel like I am committing professional suicide,” I told Kathy, my wife.
I just finished a meeting with my friend and fellow High Tech Ministries board member Mike Morris. Mike is a brilliant consultant and is advising HTPB about board organization, terms, and rotations. As part of this discussion, we talked about me rotating off the board by the end of next year.
I find myself having similar conversations regarding my leadership role in other community organizations. It feels like I am preparing to unplug from organizations I started or helped build. When all this unplugging is completed, will I be a plug with no socket?!
But something new is happening.
As I unplug, I find other opportunities coming my way. People are asking me to help them in exciting ways.
- Speak to groups of entrepreneurs and leaders.
- Provide insight into raising money after landing a big deal.
- Coach an entrepreneur through how to raise money when he’s tapped his most loyal investors and is about to run out (for the fourth time).
- Coach a CEO and founder who realizes he doesn’t know how to be a CEO and needs help.
- Coach an entrepreneur on starting a new business by helping him think through his idea.
- Give advice on the next step in a career, business, or walk with Jesus.
- Raise funds for a non-profit.
This is a new season with different problems to be solved with the wisdom learned during the first two seasons.
There are new opportunities to be addressed all from the very same market I’ve been serving for my entire professional life. I will be using the gifts, experience, and wisdom God gave to me over the last forty years of my career. It’s not professional suicide.
This is a professional rebirth.
I was talking to my friend John Richie. John and I are about the same age, and we are going through the same challenges. He is just quieter about it. He told me, “What you are describing is professional decline.”
He continued, “I just read an article from The Atlantic, which you might find helpful in thinking through this transition. It is entitled, “Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think.“
John was right. This article was spot on. What I am thinking. What I am feeling. What I am experiencing. It is all right on time. This is my time in life. Take a look at one of the author’s conclusions:
“…the most profound insights tend to come from those in their 30s and early 40s.
“But the best synthesizers and explainers of complicated ideas—that is, the best teachers—tend to be in their mid-60s or older, some of them well into their 80s.
“That older people, with their stores of wisdom, should be the most successful teachers seems almost cosmically right. No matter what our profession, as we age, we can dedicate ourselves to sharing knowledge in some meaningful way.”The Atlantic
When entrepreneurs come to me about product-market fit, I always ask, “Who is buying from you now?”
The market is always right.
- If I listen to the entrepreneurs, who know me
- If I am patient enough to see their needs
- If I am humble enough to stop thinking about myself
- Then I’ll be market aware.
I’ll know what my market needs from me at this point in my life—the value they see I bring versus trying to tell the market what I want to offer.
Here is an introduction to an email I just received from an entrepreneur I’ve advised in the past. His comments explain what listening to my market is all about.
“Ever since reading your recent article “Are You Worth It?” I’ve wanted to get your advice on my current situation. I understand from what you wrote that you’re moving out of angel investing, but after an entire life stage of doing it, I know you have a lot of built-in wisdom and gut instincts that can help others. In addition, I value that you are also a follower of Christ. Thank you for any insight you’re willing to share, and if you don’t want to share that is okay too.”
This is the beginning of the next stage in my life. This is stage three.
- Stage one was establishing and building my career.
- Stage two was the pivot to meaning. These two stages were marked by achievement and recognition.
- Stage three is all about giving and sharing what I’ve learned from living this life while serving in my market.
Stage three is not about achievement and recognition. It is about relevance. And relevance comes from seeking a deeper relationship with God while serving others and sharing God’s wisdom.
I’ll be writing more about the path I am following as I enter this third stage. One of my guides in this stage, Bruce Wilkinson, called it “the path to convergence.”