What's next?

A lot for a little

I sometimes find myself thinking that I’ve accomplished a lot in the intervening years between high school and today.  I’ve founded a theatre troop, run shows, built academic networks, helped students with their career trajectories, coached debating, procured funding for research projects, published a paper, joined a startup, and been otherwise gainfully employed throughout.  It’s a laundry list but there’s two clear flaws: that’s six years worth of achievements right there, and none of it really ever had direction.

Most of what I’ve done since I graduated from high school has been stop-gaps.  In almost all of those examples I just happened to meet someone or know someone doing something that I could help with.  They asked for help, so I did it. In some instances I stuck around longer than others, but none of these projects have been more than loosely related.

The big master plan

Sure, all of these activities have been fulfilling.  In more cases than not I’ve had a direct impact on the trajectory of a friend’s career or academic progression, and that’s a fantastic feeling and still is.  But I’ve yet to find a project of my own.

I see people who have it all figured out.  One will tell me they’ll work at this company, go to this school, and then break into this industry.  Three years later, they’re doing it exactly like they said. Others will found social ventures and speak at global conferences and have incredible impacts on the world through seemingly nothing but grit.  Others still will find funding and build companies that think differently about little things with big impacts people who need the most. All of it happens exactly like they say it will.

Personally I never said anything to that degree.  I’ve set six month targets for big projects and completed them, sure, but there wasn’t a follow up.  This has become apparent to me recently.

Cookie cutter

It’s not a secret that I’m looking at going back to school.  Sales is a great tool and very lucrative but after eighteen successful months of actually doing it (in two radically different environments, at that), I’ve realized that it’s not the career I want.  The problem with sales is that it’s just a bit too narrow.

I love solving problems, you see.  Give me a case and I’ll go to town.  That’s how I’ve gotten involved in so many projects in the past.  I see a problem, I look for a solution, and I really get into applying it.  The way I see it, sales is problem solving with training wheels. In many ways it’s the opposite of problem solving, really.  You have a solution, and you go out to find problems which it can solve. Ideally the solution fits, and I’m very confident that in the last nine months I have actually been solving real problems and creating real value, but those problems have all been the same. It’s just the one problem that my product can solve.  A sales environment doesn’t offer the diversity that I’ve been looking for and that’s manifested itself.

To date, the most impactful things I’ve done with my current role have been internal process modifications. I’ve been working on problems that affect corporate productivity internally almost as much as I’ve been doing my actual job, of late.

What’s next

So I’m building a master plan.  Not only because I need to in order to write a personal statement which I actually believe in, but also because I want to have an impact through a project that I guide.  What will that project be? Who knows.

I know the industries that I’m interested in and that I see as having the greatest impact on people.  They’re transportation, health, aerospace, and urban planning, if you’re curious. I also know that nothing will really come together until 2025--I’ve done the math and there’s a timeline floating around my desk somewhere.  

I can tell you that, in broad terms, is to have the biggest impact on the largest group of people I can. Now I need to develop the theory and the case background to get there. That’s where the intervening 6 years comes from. That’s why I’m going back to school, and that’s what’s next.

If you have any comments or questions about the above or anything else click here and I'd be happy to chat.

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