Thank you to many of you for your kind words and good wishes as I announced my departure from Equity Risk Partners several weeks ago. When you are singularly focused on what you are building, you sometimes wonder if anyone is paying attention to how you are building. I was very flattered to see by the comments that many people were paying attention to the values we espoused, as well as the results we achieved. For all of you future business leaders, it is the combination of achieving both objectives that is the true measure of success.
After the compliments and good wishes, by far the most frequent comment I received was, “What are you going to do next?” I am happy to announce that, as David Letterman once said, “I am hopelessly lost. But, I AM making good time!”
Over the past year, I have shared with you many of the lessons I have learned over now 30 years (OMG!) in business. Hopefully, those lessons are ones that you can apply to your own careers and families. If I have saved you one extra career step or one less family heartbreak, it will have been worth it. Now, going forward, I thought I would take you on my journey.
I have now entered uncharted territory. Instead of sharing with you the lessons that I have learned, you will now watch me learn new lessons in real time. If that is of interest to you, I would like to hear your thoughts. If not, just delete the updates from your LinkedIn and Twitter feeds (it certainly won’t be the first time someone deleted my tweets). I have spent 30 years honing my craft, sharpening my skills, and preparing mentally and physically for the challenge. Now, it is time to find El Dorado, The Lost City of Z (great book, BTW. I highly recommend it). Our journey for the buried treasure should be an interesting one filled with mistakes made, lessons learned, and hopefully, goals achieved. If we get there, we can all exclaim the immortal words of Daffy Duck when he beat Bugs Bunny to the Sultan’s treasure: “I’m rich! I’m rich! I’m a wealthy miser!”
So, to borrow from the end of every episode of Morning Joe, what have we learned?
First, nobody ever tells the dog what to do if he ever actually catches the car. It is one of business’s – and life’s – great contradictions. If you spend your time planning for what you will do once you achieve your goal, you will likely not achieve your goal. You just have to have the faith and confidence that the skills, blessings, and luck that allowed you to achieve your goal the first time are not part of a “zero sum game” and will sustain you on your next journey.
Second, the vast majority of people that give you (well intentioned and well meaning) advice about how to handle the transition period usually have no practical experience with what you are going through. If I had a dollar every time someone told me to “take a break” or “enjoy the time off,” I would be able to afford San Francisco real estate!
They do not realize that is precisely the opposite. Achievers achieve. Builders build. Sharks invest money in people with poor business plans on TV. (Except ARod. What’s the deal with adding him to show?)
Third, I have noticed a direct correlation between the advice I receive on what to do next and what is in the best interest of the person offering the advice. “Our special tonight is the veal marsala in white wine sauce. The chef highly recommends it.” What’s not said: “Last night’s veal scaloppini was a bust and I need to get rid of all of this veal before it goes bad.” The challenge is to stay true to your values, your goals, and your objectives. Being swayed by others’ needs and desires is not a recipe for success. As the greatest management consultant in history, Bruce Springsteen, once said, “You’re going to end up just another lonely ticket sold, crying and alone in the theater as the credits roll. I won’t be like those other guys who filled your head with pretty lies and dreams that won’t ever come true. You be true to me, and I’ll be true to you.” And, you thought Bruce was singing about girls?
I invite you on my journey.
“Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down the tracks
You don’t know where you’re goin’ now, but you know you won’t be back
Darlin’ if you’re weary lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry and we’ll leave the rest
Big wheels rolling through fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams.”
— Bruce Springsteen
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.