Or, How Macular Degeneration Changes Your Thinking Even Before It Changes How You See The World
One of my favorite movies ever is “Dirty Dancing.” It takes place at a Borscht Belt-style resort of the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, has a musical score full of songs to which I danced in my early teens, and characters who resemble the folks I knew growing up. It’s also a morality play in which the good guys win, the bad guys get their comeuppance, parents admit their mistakes — really, everyone admits their mistakes — and a young girl has a coming of age experience with an older guy from a totally different background which is going to be the making of her. I know that girl, and it was the making of me. Learning to fight for what’s right even in the face of tremendous social pressure to get along by going along is the most character-building experience that any of us can have, and the earlier the better. And I loved the dancing, which really was pervasive across my part of New England, where it was known universally as the “dirty bop.”
But my reason for going on about this movie has very little to do with it other than that I enjoy the occasional stroll down memory lane, especially as that lane grows steadily longer. Rather, it’s a particular song from that movie which is the subject of today’s blog post. So, if you haven’t already played the video above, now would be the right moment so that this music becomes the sound track for the rest of this post.
I really have had the time of my life career-wise, and I really do owe it all to a very long list of role models (some of whom were family members), colleagues and bosses (many of whom became friends), clients who were willing to take a chance on me (especially in the early years of my solo practice when I was advocating ideas about HRM and HR technology, many of which you’ve read in my posts, which are only now considered mainstream), industry thought leaders (and I mean this is the truest sense of thought leadership, which is oh so different than being a talking head of any flavor), university professors, and many more. Everyone on this list, in big ways and small, influenced my professional journey, proving yet again that it really does take a village.
I’ll take credit for my own hard work and for pushing myself when to do so wasn’t considered very lady-like, and I’ll also take credit for having an original idea or three, but none of what I’ve accomplished would have been possible without my having had very specific experiences, projects, historical opportunities, incentives and lots of other stimulae which were provided by or at least brought to my attention by a long list of players in the long-running production that has been my career. I’ve tried to thank people as I’ve gone along, and I hope that I’ve done a proper job of that because thank yous really matter. But I also want to do a general shout-out to my entire industry and to the folks who have shaped it (and me) for allowing me the privilege of working at something I’ve so enjoyed and for which I’ve had endless passion.
I’ve always felt that, if I were going to bill a client for my time, I had to deliver to my own very high standards in addition to meeting that client’s needs. That meant not only staying on top of literally everything going on in HRM and in HR technology but, as both of these have become deeply intertwined in everything from consumer tech and organizational collaboration to robotics and the focus on what really drives business outcomes, it has meant spreading my network and knowledge to encompass so much more than was the focus of my professional competency efforts even five years ago. And I don’t have to tell you at what a constantly increasing pace all of this has been evolving or what social tech activity streams have done to our ability to avoid drowning in detail while trying to focus on the facts and patterns that matter.
You guessed right if you’ve figured out that this is my way of saying a very fond farewell to my days as an HRM, business strategy, and HR technology consultant. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog or follower on Twitter, you know that I’ve been scaling back my consulting workload (here, here. and here) over the last couple of years, so this further scaling back won’t come as a shock. And you also know that these last few years have brought some real challenges as my body has reminded me that 45+ years of workaholism and business travel have taken their toll and as the very real sweat equity needs of friends and family have grown as they too have aged. Since I know that all of you are in a constant battle of balancing the many demands on your time and energy, you’ll understand my need to rebalance as those demands change.
What I didn’t know when I began my career but know all too painfully now is that there are health issues which are no respecter of your best health habits but lie deep in your architecture and don’t lend themselves to refactoring. Many of you know that I’ve been dealing with muscular/skeletal design problems that surfaced in my late 30’s and now limit my ability to walk the many miles required at our beloved HR technology conferences, instead resorting to a winged chariot (aka electric cart). But earlier this year, when I was diagnosed with dry age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), I learned that there was an unknown but racing towards me expiration date on my otherwise excellent vision and no currently known treatment that would extend that date. It’s very surreal, writing this with perfect vision (albeit corrected by the glasses I’ve worn, like so many have, from age 40), to imagine myself not being able to read what I’ve just written without adaptive technology (for whose advancements I am truly grateful). And it’s even more surreal when the best doctors can’t begin to tell you when that perfect (albeit corrected) vision will fall off a cliff.
I believe that most of us, faced with the same situation, would opt for reading great literature, visiting great museums, revisiting much loved sights and hitting all the new ones on our travel dreams list, spending time just looking at the faces we love and as many as possible sunsets and sunrises from the cockpit of our boat in a quiet anchorage rather than spending as many hours as I do reading industry press releases and blog posts, viewing relevant videos, and staring at a screen (no matter how big or small) for many, many, many hours each day. Right now, no one can tell me if my vision will deteriorate quickly or more slowly, and it’s entirely possible that a new treatment to stave off/reverse/prevent such deterioration will emerge tomorrow. But I’m no longer willing to spend my precious vision keeping my finger on the minute by minute pulse of our industry and keeping my knowledge as current and detailed as I demand of myself in order to continue my consulting practice.
But that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost interest in or passion for the mission: bringing the very best enterprise software to bear on human (and, increasingly humanoid robot) resource management in order to drive business outcomes. I hope to continue to contribute to our industry in ways that make sense — appropriate speaking engagements (e.g. organizing/moderating panels is a perfect fit), mentoring individuals and organizations, writing my blog (which has always been a mix of the personal and professional), perhaps taking on a Board seat or two, and ??? We’ll just have to see what opportunities present themselves. But first, we’re off to Oman, then on to cruising the west coast of India, and finishing up with touring the temple-dense highlands of Sri Lanka.
It’s been a while since I posted; now you know that I’ve had a lot on my mind. But I hope that you’ll stay tuned because I expect to have a lot more to say in 2015.