The Graduation

After 22 years, my life changes course. There’s a grin on my face and excitement in my belly as I share with family and friends my latest life decisions. The decisions I am making now are going to impact the rest of my life.

I just don’t know how yet.

Why am I not afraid?

In 1992 at the age of 22, I told my family and friends of my decision to leave the Midwest and move to Manhattan to join the management training program of a major global bank. While I thought my education was behind me, little did I know that my most formative education lay in front of me. Nor could I imagine the influence and friendship from the New York friends I had yet to meet.

My college graduation is not what I am writing of today. It’s 2014, 22 years later, and I barely remember the day, only that our commencement speech was delivered by then House majority leader, Richard Gephardt. A quick Google search reminds me what he said:

“To enjoy life to its fullest, to live without regrets, requires a discipline, a continuing reminder of how good life really is,” he said. Rather than pursue a career at all costs, he advised us to “value important human relationships, above all else.”

I feel like I am graduating again. I even find myself listening to commencement speeches on YouTube from Bill and Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Jim Carey (I highly recommend all three!) who remind me–along with the university graduates they are addressing– to be my best self.

And just as I stepped away from the undergraduate university I so loved, I now step away from the investment management industry. It’s the industry I grew up in. I learned a million lessons from it. I even had an impact on it, having been given the reign in multiple organizations to do things differently, and to see success.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been able to speak to many of those influential former colleagues. They have long been considered friends. But they are also my mentors.

I’m not a fan of corporate mentorship programs, whereby an organization pairs up senior and junior professionals. It feels forced. But I do think that being a mentor and seeking mentors is a critical element to lifelong learning. For me, these multiple relationships have always been organic and reciprocal in the support shared.

With my 2014 graduation, I have been seeking the advice of mentors who themselves have stepped off the corporate cliff. Making this decision is self-discipline in remaining true to my values. I know I am blessed in having both the courage and means to make this bold decision, and to be strengthened by family, friends, and mentorship.

I am seeking to live life to its fullest, to live without regret.

I think Richard Gephardt would be proud.

 

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