Thanksgiving Post-Post Mortem--and a Purposefully Rambling Post of Elusive Merit

What a joy it was to be a Thanksgiving guest.  My daughter and her husband did an outstanding job. Everything was perfect! (And I did serve as the turkey technical advisor). While it was the first time in 26 years that I've not hosted TG, the happy circumstance, it was also the first time in 34 years that we did not dine with Mark's parents.  My MIL is too fragile to travel, so we missed them--terribly so. The good news is that they are doing fine, but are choosing to limit their travel (albeit a short distance) due to my MIL's fragility.

To assist my Dad who is 80, my son fetched him and took him home.  Night time driving is not something that is comfortable for him--me neither.

Our Virginia weather was stupendous--as is typical for most fall days so long as we are not getting pummeled by a hurricane--either directly or indirectly.

I continued to work around OUR house (rather than a project house this weekend). I am actively looking for another project, but so far, I have not found one despite spending quite a bit of time in front of a computer prospecting over this holiday.   In doing some prospecting, I also came across some homes on the market that were owned by renovators.  I decided to do some research on one of the companies--looking up other renovations, seeing the before (pics &$'s) and the after (pics & $'s).  It was interesting to do this research.It was clear that this company was a full time renovator--turning over the properties in about 90-120 days.

That is of course what a professional renovator would do.  While by definition I would qualify as a professional renovator, I'm having trouble embracing that title.  I now have 4 renovations under my belt (okay....3.75 as I'm still in the throes of finishing this next one)--and I get paid to do it. But it is not my full time vocation--rather it is more of an avocation, and a way to put client money to work--safely and with a good return, and to give me a chance to do something in addition to my real profession.

Now that I decide to couch the distinction of vocation v. avocation in such terms is worth a second look for it is a reminder of how powerful our view of ourselves is.  The fact of the matter is that no matter what vocation I am in, I bring to bear in that endeavor (beekeeper, barmaid, scientist) a specific set of skills and experiences quite apart from my education.  I'm more comfortable in my vocation because that is where my education and experience is centered.  Nevertheless, I have a talents that are just part of my chemical makeup (creativity, ability to integrate diverse 'stuff' and problem solving being the ones that I hold high and dear) coupled with a great desire to help others.

But these named qualities are valuable in any setting.  Identifying and developing our true gifts is perhaps the most important thing that we can do.  I was reading today, Jose Ortega y Gasset's Meditation on Quixote.  Here's a quote that I thought interesting (as I've been writing this post as an interspersed interlude to more mundane things (cleaning, cooking, laundry):
There are men who might reach complete self-fulfillment in a secondary position, but whose eagerness to occupy the forefront destroys all their worth.

 I would see this so often in sales people. All good salespeople want to be a sales manager.  However, the chemical makeup  that makes a good salesperson a good salesperson renders them not so good a manager.  But one must be careful in taking a specific and over generalizing.  I've witnessed the specific many times...but it still may be over generalizing.

The point being what?  The point being the importance of our being authentic in understanding who we are, what we want to accomplish, and how we plan to get there--alongside a frank assessment of whether or not which is independent of trudging down a path.  Warren Bennis offered the following, which I always struck me as being insightful, pragmatic (and of course obvious, but the obvious rarely presents itself so cogently.)

On Becoming a Leader
Warren Bennis
1989, Perseus Books

How can you best express you?

The first test is knowing what you want, knowing your abilities and capacities, and recognizing the difference between the two.

The second test is knowing what drives you, knowing what gives you satisfaction, and knowing the difference between the two.

The third test is knowing what your values and priorities are, knowing what the values and priorities of your organization  (current endeavor) are, and measuring the difference between the two.

The fourth test is - having measured the differences between what you want and what you're able to do, and between what drives you and what satisfies you, and between what your values are and what the organization's (your current endeavor's) values are - are you able and willing to overcome those differences. (pp 123-127) Crossouts and italics shamelessly provide by me

That brings us to what? The courage to frankly address Bennis' points above.  Considering Bennis' points would help us determine if we are giving up self fulfillment (per Gasset's observation) by grasping for something that is beyond our desire, skills, etc.  My son said to me one day some years ago, "I would never want to have a job like yours; you work all the time."  Indeed I did. But I didn't really mind it as it 'suited' me.  He had the presence of mind to know that he wanted a more balanced life.  My SIL said the same thing to me when frustrated with the demands that her work was making on her time--"I don't want to work the hours that you worked."  Well, in my job/position, those hours were required, and my responsibility was always great--what I accomplished (or not) had real consequences to the jobs of people.  I knew what I had to do;  I had the desire to comply; and I believed (and it is true, I think) that bringing to bear my skills and experience in those settings mattered to many (saved jobs, created jobs, etc).  That of course satisfied my need to help.

But in my career, I did do that leapfrog over my self fulfillment to being in the forefront.  It was something that I was asked to do and was honored in being asked.  I felt it was my role to execute what was being asked of me.  In that terrible space, I bumped against my limits--the first time in my entire life. In that space, there is a terrifying clarity, and I understood myself better than ever before.  Ortega y Gasset was not in my reading repertoire at the time. Perhaps if he had been I would have had a more balance perspective of where I had landed!

When was the last time you consciously thought about the who you are authentically v.  what you are currently doing?  Well, the New Year is fast approaching, and that would be something worth considering when you are in a contemplative mood.  For myself, my writing this missive has transformed my 'self-view' into embracing my title as a professional renovator. As I go through the points above, this work (in addition to my vocation) lines up very well with my 'proclivities'.  We are not 'this' or 'that'--if we choose to identify ourselves that way, we become self limiting. If we fear failure, we never take a risk.  But the biggest risk of all is our failing to be self aware.


  1. Leisa,
    I enjoyed your comments about salespeople. I’m retired to the southwest now, but was a sales engineer in the Midwest for over 25 years. And I wanted to be a sales manager, perhaps because it was expected.
    The company I was with had over 40 sales offices in the U.S. and after about three years in the job I was asked to interview for the sales manager position in the Chicago office. It was one of the largest offices, so quite an honor to be asked.
    I flew to the interview, spending all my time on the plane in final preparation.
    As a sales engineer I knew that if I arrived at a prospect’s facility not knowing why I was there, I should stay in the car until I did know. And as I arrived at my interview I realized I didn’t know why I was there. I really didn’t want to leave my territory and my customers, and I didn’t want to be a sales manager. I actually didn’t know it until that moment.
    I went through with the interview, because sales people who didn’t aspire to management were thought to lack the drive necessary for the sales job. I don’t know if most companies look at it that way, but if so, perhaps that’s why good salespeople want to be sales managers, or at least say they do.
    Not surprisingly I was not offered the position, and spent the next 20 plus years as a successful sales engineer. I think my failure in the interview resulted in a much happier and more successful career.

    1. Thank you so much for such a concrete example. It sounds like you had a fulfilling career because you had that great moment of clarity about what it was that you wanted. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.