We all have a personal journey we travel. It’s littered with good and bad decisions, unintended consequences and circumstances beyond our control. This journey is who we are. Own it!
About thirty years ago while building my recruiting firm, I coined the term, “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” In a nutshell it means; in life and all its nuances, it’s the journey that matters not the destination. It’s the experiences of life that create the human beings we are. And maybe more than that; it’s how we think about those experiences and how we react to them. Taking this to heart, my journey has been varied and robust. Sometimes times it’s been good … and sometimes, well not so much. But through it all it’s been eventful.
We could start with college at the University of North Dakota after growing up in the same state. In addition to producing major rock concerts, the likes of Alice Cooper, Rush, Little River Band, Yanni among others, I dived headlong into the first wave alternative energy revolution of the early ’80s through through financial modeling and legislative action. During these formative years, classes took a back seat as real life opportunities relegated them to a supporting role.
After college and couple of years of surfing friends’ couches, I fell off Jeff and Lori’s into publishing nationally award-winning commercial arts and printing directories in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. This serendipitous turn proved to be the one that has taken me down the road I still travel on thirty plus years later; a life-changing twenty-plus year journey to Los Angeles creating a nationwide technical prepress and printing recruiting firm – and doing it as a single father raising my daughter, Alexandria. That above all has had the biggest impact on my life. While professional pursuits were not necessarily sacrificed, they were adapted, modified if you may, to accommodate what I believe was best for a symbiotic relation between Alex and myself.
This symbiosis moved me away from money being my primary motivator. While money is nice, who’s kidding who – it wasn’t and definitely isn’t now what I want to be known for. In fact what I did professionally; that dreaded title on the business card, means little to me now. It’s about the journey, the stories and the contributions I can make. It’s the people and experiences I’ve had the opportunity to have. It’s the good times and the bad times – and looking back it’s hard to separate them. I feel my life has been like a ‘box of chocolates,’ as my Australian friend, Annalie Killian says. “Sometimes it’s good and … well sometimes, it’s like those awful ones with the cherries in them.” Thank God for a waterproof tent and: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Just ask Alex (her side seemed to leak more than mine).
The last few years of my life has not gotten any more uneventful. My parents aging and their health issues has precipitated a move from Los Angeles to Montana. This transition was one of those “situations beyond my control” – but still one that had to be navigated. However, complicating matters was my own health. Aside from an over-indulgence of the libations, which I have since put behind all on my own (thank you very much); my health had been very good. That changed in 2015 when I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). After two sessions of chemotherapy, my cancer has been kept at bay for three years. Unfortunately though, the chemo trashed my immune system, including the ability of my bone marrow to produce normal blood cells. The dysfunction has added another entree to my plate of physical maladies. I developed myelofibrosis, cancer of the marrow. Two cancers and an immune system that needs constant upkeep will prove to be an precarious journey going forward. They will all be fighting to see who will be riding shotgun with me on “the road”. I can deal with that as long they don’t complain about my musical tastes.
But what all these experiences, these people and this ‘road’ has taught me (potholes and all) is that it all comes down to community. Because without community, no matter how big or how small; and how it’s put together – it’s really all we got. My journey has given me a unique skill-set and a perspective that can be instrumental in rebuilding or should I say retaking our communities. My current project, Melvin’s Neighborhood, is my vehicle to do this. Taking direction from nature by using a rhizome-based civic organizational structure, the Neighborhood redefines the physical Front Porch gathering spots our grandparents used to connect with their neighbors by transporting them to 2021 and beyond using today’s social media and database technology. And at the forefront of these efforts is my bleedingEDGE Experience Platform. Working in conjunction with our communities’ small businesses and local non-profit organizations, Melvin’s Neighborhood will assess each Resident’s well-being and nudge them towards a journey of self-efficacy and agency.
2021 and the arrival and tenacious staying power of COVID-19 has brought us a total unique set of societal circumstances and redefined our view of community. Whatever was considered “normal” before, probably no longer exists. How we co-exist with our families, friends, neighbors and business collaborators will be up to our own creating – not dependent on the norms of the past. While many view these times of uncertainty as scary – I look at them as exciting. Whether we like it or not, change has been thrust upon us. We’ve received a free pass to reinvent. We have to own it.
Personally, I see my role of ownership as that of a “weaver” – someone who connects resources, often people who would not otherwise connected or even seen how a relationship between them could be synergistic. This is not unlike the role I played for nearly two decades as a headhunter – identifying a space of professional cohabitation formed between different, often disparate parties, that benefits all.
Our ability to embrace this unprecedented time of change will determine what our futures look like. It’s time we evolve from sitting idly by waiting for “the man in the white hat … riding on the white horse” to save the day – and transport us back to the way things were. “Holding onto Yesterday” was a song from the ’70s, not a life strategy. What our futures look like lie with us, those we know around us and those we may serendipitously happen to encounter. It does not lie with some illusion of government or institution created for the benefit of generations long gone. My journey has opened my eyes to see that. Now the question is; what lies down the road?