Volume XXII, Number 7 (Issue 1063) February 12, 2024
To Be, Or Not to Be…
“Don’t Give Up Your Day Job, Kid”
The year was 1996. Having exhausted all the excuses I could think of for Sandy and me to pass on an invitation to attend a couples spiritual retreat weekend in the Texas Hill Country, I finally acquiesced. Thus, when the appointed weekend arrived, we packed our bags and headed out for Camp Capers. Little did I realize at the time the impact that weekend would have on our lives, including the future direction of my career.
Prior to that retreat I had spent three years as a banker, followed by nineteen years as a consultant – all of it in some very technical disciplines connected to organizational performance improvement, financial modeling, and risk management. By that point in my career, I had earned a good reputation in my field. As a result, I could boast of a solid client list that afforded us a nice lifestyle. Nonetheless, I was becoming increasingly bored with the work such that the Sigmoid Curve (aka lifecycle curve) was beginning to wreak havoc on my motivation. More about that another day. For now, let’s get back to the retreat and the events that followed.
For the better part of two days, we and our fellow participants, listened as numerous speakers shared their personal stories, attended morning, midday, and evening services, and reflected upon how we were living our lives and what we were being called to do. At the end of the weekend, it was clear to me that while I was enjoying career success, I was not applying my gifts and abilities in the best possible way in service to others.
As I continued to reflect on these things after returning home, it dawned on me I might benefit from a conversation or two with a trusted friend and occasional personal spiritual advisor. So, I made an appointment to meet with our Bishop and former pastor. Upon sharing my thoughts with Jim, his first response was, “Keith, if you were ten years younger, I would send you to seminary; but honestly the Diocese does not need another middle-aged newly minted pastor.” At that point I injected that while I was honored by the comment, I may only have a single sermon and a parish would soon get bored hearing the same theme week after week. Besides, I was feeling led to find a means to deliver something of a faith-based message within the corporate arena that would get the point across without creating too many consequences for my clients.
After further discussion, Jim recommended I share my story with three others. The first was Garry S., a retired Air Force Major General and consultant to the Pentagon. The second was Drew C., a successful corporate attorney. The third individual was Baker D., an investment banker and named partner in a local firm. I was casually acquainted with Garry and Drew. I knew Baker only by reputation. At Jim’s prompting, I scheduled meetings with each of them. As I explained my thoughts and plans to Garry and Drew, I found each of them to be incredibly supportive of the idea. In fact, both offered to provide whatever help they could as I made the focal shift in my practice. My final appointment, with Baker, did not go as well. About five minutes into my story, he stopped me, looked over the top of his horn-rimmed glasses and said, “Don’t give up your day job, kid.” He then stood and showed me to the door.
I was stunned by both his response and the abruptness of it. Getting into my car, I was feeling a bit dejected. But the more I thought about his comment, especially when juxtaposed against the encouragement others had offered, I became angry. That was followed by a resolve to prove him wrong.
To this day I do not know if the series of conversations was a set up. That is, knowing me the way Jim did, were the conversations orchestrated in such a way as to reinforce my commitment to see my plan through? All I know, just shy of twenty-eight years removed from that decision and series of conversations, is I can look back and see that I have been given numerous opportunities to make a small difference in the course of organizations and the lives of others. Hopefully, through my work, writing, teaching, and counsel I have accomplished some of what I believe I was called to do. Others will ultimately judge the success together with whatever impact I may have had. For now…
Soli Deo Gloria
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1
J. Keith Hughey
Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2024 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Recent issues of Musings may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are always welcome.