The story behind the transition.
When my wife and I were engaged I had some well meaning friends warn me of the 7 year itch. “At some point,” they said, “marriage gets normal and you’ll want to look around.” I’m thankful to say that I did not experience this “itch” in my marriage. I’m happily looking forward to celebrating our 14th anniversary this June.
I cannot, however, say that I have experienced the same longevity in my professional career. And its not as if I didn’t have a great role model to follow. My father worked diligently for (I think) 25 years at his last company, commuting daily and (for the most part) enjoying his job and the advancements that he experienced in the field. But then there is me…I’ve been working since I was 13 at odd (and sometimes terrible) jobs, but always a new and different experience. In writing this I tried to think back to all of my paid jobs (where taxes were reported) and my list is long. Approximately 19 jobs and that was all by the age 33. True, many of the jobs overlapped and were seasonal or part time, but I’ve filled out a lot of I9 and W-4 forms for employers.
I really thought I was just cursed with lots of jobs but not a lot of time. I was only fired from 1, leaving all the others for different opportunities. I had a job itch and it seemed to have a 2 year cycle if not sooner. For some reason if I didn’t have a chance to improve and move up I just got restless and saw another position as a great step in my story. Professional Mortgage Corporation was one of my favorite jobs, I just started at the wrong time… May of 2007 to be exact. Just about the time the economic bubble burst and we began the steep emergency financial tailspin; still it lasted over 3 years and I loved it. My expectation was that SAIF Corporation was going to break that curse because lots of people worked there for a long time, so I really thought I had found that home…6 months later I was out (that’s a story for another time).
Then the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce chose me and offered the helm as President/CEO. “THIS IS IT!” I was so sure. I knew that there would be change to another Chamber at some point in the future (I was thinking in the terms of 7 to 10 years not 2), but what a great job! I could land here for many years and embrace the consistency, I’m even on record somewhere of saying just about that exactly. Funny enough I did start to feel a little itchy around the 2 year mark. But I dismissed it easily enough by buckling down and getting deeper into the work. I even got a message, a little friendly ribbing, from a former boss: “Hey, it’s been about two years now. You moving on soon? :)” Formerly true, so it was funny.
A call came to me in late March, out of the blue and totally unexpected…but first: While I was at Starbucks as a barista and looking to move up to Shift Supervisor my District Manager, Michelle, shared some wisdom with me that I’ve always held onto as a personal goal. “The greatest compliment any of us can receive in our professional career” she explained, “is to be asked to take a job because you were right for it, not because you applied for it.” I’ve taken that to really mean I want to work so that I’m called and offered a great job without all the hoops of looking and applying. Then I will know that I’ve made it. It’s never fully happened that way before, until now…
Back to that phone call in March…Anthony and I have a friendship that started when I was a mortgage broker. A continuing education trainer that I liked to take classes from, Ken Perry, had given me a free pass to attend Anthony’s sales training in Portland. They were friends, we became friends, and as guys do…friendship was retained with chatting once every 6 months or so. Recently Ken and Anthony joined forces in Ken’s business, which I thought was really exciting…and maybe a little jealous that I wasn’t a part of it. But we never talked about it.
It wasn’t rare to get a random call from Anthony, or vice versa. This time, however, he was calling as Anthony the CEO of the Knowledge Coop and he said the magic words. “Hey Nate, do you know anyone like you? Honestly sounds like you’ve got a great thing going, but we really want you to come work with us.”
‘Oh man…those are the words aren’t they? The ones I’ve been waiting to hear?’ I thought to myself.
But now isn’t a great time! Things are excellent, we are happy and content, why would I even consider this…so we hung up as we are, friends and excited for our independent futures. But the brain keeps thinking especially when the mouth is not moving. He called back: “I’m not asking you to apply for a job, I’m not going to sell you on the job, in fact I’m going to tell you all the reasons you will hate the job, but we want you to consider it. It’s your decision either way. Will you come meet with Ken and me?” Yes, of course I will consider it, and I love hanging out with you guys…double win!
And so here we are. We tried to dissuade each other, the three of us explaining why I wouldn’t want the job or why they shouldn’t want me. I explained my 2 – 3 year curse, but they knew all about it and liked that about me. They told me there would be a lot of computer work and not a lot of social time, networking, or evening meetings for a couple years. I would have to move my family to Vancouver, WA. McMinnville is a special place, I explained, we’ve already done some big things and gotten the Chamber back on the wheels//tracks//path and pointed in the right direction…frankly I felt like I was really doing a great job…that’s a lot to let go of. The conversations went like that for a while.
Thankfully I never had a 7 year itch in my marriage so in the last 14 years my wife has gotten to know me VERY well. She helped me get to the bottom of my decision struggle with a well timed, and well placed, question. “Nate, if you don’t take this opportunity, and in two years you keep watching and they have accomplished what you think they will accomplish, would you be okay with that?” She knew the answer before I did, God blessed me with a spouse who knows me better than I know me. The decision wasn’t finalized in my mind yet then, but it had been settled in my heart.
The hard part, the part that kept me from committing for a solid week was the pain of leaving. McMinnville is a great community and the Chamber is a great organization. Lots of growth, lots of development, all the things that inspire me to do what I do. Letting people down, or perceiving that I let people down, that’s my kryptonite (not implying I’m Superman). I hate feeling like people were depending//expecting something from me and that I failed to deliver. And the friends…we have many friends now who care about us and whom we care about…not easy to leave these relationships. But at the core I have a family to support and raise and something to give the world and I do believe that those two things can be manifest in the same work.
So we (both my wife and I) have decided to take the fork in the road. I’m glad for Literature in 8th grade and reading a lot of Robert Frost poems, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood…”. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, one that has economic and emotional costs on both sides. But at the core is the consideration of which direction will be best for the long term good of the family. In staying with the poem’s theme, the road less traveled for me will be the one that I was not expecting to see on this journey.
The Chamber Board has been very supportive and understanding. Friends have been both sad and supportive mirroring how we are feeling as well. It’s a journey that we are on and I like to think that we don’t say good by, just “See you later” (thanks Scotty) because somewhere, somehow, our paths will cross again. Maybe not in person, but in spirit and community. And I desire to leave well, which is why I offered 90 days if needed, so that the work we have accomplished over the last 3 years will not be lost and that the new leader selected will have a solid ground from which to move forward from.
Oh, right, what will I be doing? Well I like to keep relationships and try to always move on with mutual respect and understanding. I said that I’ve known Ken and Anthony for a decade now. We met when I was a mortgage broker and I loved Ken’s teaching style and the way he could help take complicated laws and rules and break them down to memorable pieces of knowledge .I think those experiences with Ken inspired how I always tried to handle the Legislative Affairs and provide updates that were quickly understandable and applicable. Well that will be most of my job for a couple years. The way training has changed in the last 8 years nationally has allowed for the growth of online Compliance Training and Continuing Education delivered digitally. So for the professional mortgage world I will be writing and delivering CE and Pre-Licensing Training, as well as compliance training, in all 50 states online (and some in person too). There is a lot to be excited about, and I think I’m just keeping it at bay for now to stay focused on the transition, but I am looking forward to get into Edu-tainment and provide training that makes a difference in a very large industry.
So until our paths cross again, either soon or later on in life, may the journey for you be rewarding, enriching, and exciting; and may your path be ever full of wonder and wisdom. And don’t forget the great quote from Bilbo Baggins (JRR Tolkien): “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door. You step on the ground, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Robert Frost on the complexity of decision making…
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.