Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Few Moments.

It doesn't happen quite so often anymore, but I used to regularly get asked, 'So how did you end up owning an ice cream shop anyway?' If you've perused my original Ice Cream Diaries, you probably know the whole story and then some. I was thinking about this yesterday on my little jog around the block. You can never be too sure what triggers the thought process, but how ever it was kicked off, it left me thinking about what actually turned out to be the first link in the chain of events that ultimately landed me here.

As Bud Fox in the movie Wall Street calmly stated on his way into Gordon Gekko's office to make the pitch that changed his history, 'Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.'

I remember that moment for me. Like it was yesterday. I was in a stuffy, windowless conference room back at Lucent Technologies. About a dozen engineers, analysts, and managers slumped in uncomfortable chairs as they sipped industrial strength coffee and fought over stale danish. It was probably some weekly production check or perhaps a hastily called meeting about a troubling trend in some quality measurement, it doesn't really matter. I was doodling on my notepad, thinking about what to do with my upcoming weekend, when I happened to look across the table at a fellow engineer. His name was Ned Johnson. Actually, it wasn't. I've changed his name in the long-shot chance someone who might read this might know him. In any event, Ned was a good guy. Ambitious. Had a long, comfortable, and fairly lucrative career going at LU. He was knocking on the door of thirty years and a full pension. He seemed to still enjoy his job. It was in this moment I realized I was gazing across the table at my ghost of Christmas future. Ned was thirty years older than 30ish me, yet there he sat, doing essentially the same job as I was. Scribbling the same notes. Filling out the same TPS reports every week. In this, my course-changing moment, I asked myself, 'Do I want to be that guy in thirty years?' Sure, I loved my life back then. Great job, fairly low stress, all the money I needed, and the hours were reasonable. But then I thought about how I would feel on the last day of my career. Particularly how I would feel if that last day was in this same building, perhaps even this same dingy conference room. Would I have regrets for not pushing myself to try other things in the 'professional category' of my life? Is the nice paycheck more important than trying something I might really enjoy and feel good about during the half of my waking life I spend working? These questions played a mean game of dodgeball in my head as I stared glassy-eyed across the table at my future.

I went back to my desk after that meeting, and the first thing I did was pull out my resume. That night I cleaned it up, and posted it right up on A few weeks later, I got a call from a cool optical networking startup. A few weeks after that, I got the killer offer oozing with stock options with this promising and well-funded new company. An offer I couldn't, and didn't, refuse.

From there, my life was completely different. A year and a half with a cool startup. Got the great apartment in downtown Boston. Got laid off which freed me up for two years of amazing travel that included four months across the U.S. and Alaska, just me, my Acura, and a bunch of camping supplies. And four months backpacking through Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii. A winter spent writing a book from my friend's condo in Miami. And now my own little ice cream biz.
I guess I owe Ned a beer.

Can you think of one of those 'moments'?

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