Transition’s Winning Formula…

“It wasn’t me,” shared Carlos Kotkin as part of The Moth’s Radio Hour.  “I felt like my spirit, my soul, was being stifled.  I hated my shoes.”  So went the conclusion of a story entitled The Accidental Executive.   Carlos went from college drop out, to chauffeur, to studio executive at 20th Century Fox in what seemed like twenty-four months.   Serendipity?  Perhaps.   His next move may surprise you.

by Amy Jacobs, 2007

by Amy Jacobs, 2007

Carlos quit….after only a two-year stint.  Despite a personal assistant. Constant attention from agents and writers.  A generous salary.  ‘It wasn’t me.’

How many of us would do the same?  His quick action caught me by surprise.  He left to search for something ‘more fulfilling.’   He didn’t hang around for a decade or two to gain experience that could possibly assist him on his way to another waypoint.  He simply departed so that he could keep searching.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Carlos demonstrated half of transition’s magic formula:  a willingness to act if something doesn’t seem right.

The other 50%? First, a little background is required.

This morning I was amazed at the headline, ” Scientists hit at the core of down syndrome” (Boston Globe, 7/17/2013).   Did you see it?  It seems that  Professor Jeanne Lawrence, a cell and developmental biology prof at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, MA, achieved the unthinkable.  She demonstrated that it’s possible to shut down the extra chromosome that causes the developmental problems and intellectual disabilities in people with Down syndrome.  Unbelievable.   An attendee at the conference where Prof. Lawrence first shared her results was quoted saying, “I really believe people’s jaws dropped at that meeting,” said Dr. Diana Bianchi of Tufts Medical School.

Now for the really incredible stuff.

Lawrence described her research approach as “weaving together two unlikely threads: her interest in the biology of the sex-determining X chromosome and her passion for helping families of children with intellectual disabilities.”    It seems that in the early 70’s Prof. Lawrence couldn’t find a job.  She had relocated for her husband’s job and found herself unemployed.

She was offered a role as an assistant in a geneticist’s lab.  She needed work.  Unexpectedly she became fascinated by what she encountered there.  She went back to school.  Started doing research.  It led to an idea.  A  crazy out-of-the-box idea.

Here’s an even more interesting slant.  She also loved a summer job she had during college.  She taught adults with down syndrome how to swim.

From my view she deserves a gold star.  Not for the groundbreaking research that is sure to pave the way to ‘curing’ untold numbers of genetic disorders.  No. She deserves accolades for dignifying her interests.  For letting them evolve and expand and grow.  She acted on them.  Never knowing exactly where they’d lead.

Earlier this week I connected with a former colleague on a business issue.   He sits on the Board of my last traditional employer, a S&P 500 company.   For those new to Novofemina, I served as EVP of HR and Administration there for many years.  He and I collaborated on a number of projects during my tenure.  He was one of my favorites…it was nice to have a reason to call.

“So what are you doing?”  he asked earnestly.  I responded by trying out my new self-created identity.   It is a broad statement followed by a few of my current experiments that are really ‘interests’ cloaked in work attire.   His response was, ‘you sound busy.’  I wonder what Prof. Lawrence might say?

I think transition’s magic formula has two components: a willingness to act and the confidence to dignify our interests.  What do you think?   At a minimum this formula requires all sorts of moves not the least of which is ignoring the expectations of those around us.

In Novofemina’s Summer Book Review #13: A Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Summer Book Review #13)  shared:

  • “And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.”  (Gift pg 119)

Even if you only have an hour one Tuesday night a month I hope that you begin to act and dignify those things that have caught your fancy.   Who knows, it might just lead to magic…..

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