Home > Work life > Begin. Never stop.

Begin. Never stop.

Some time ago I exchanged a few emails with Whitney Johnson. Whitney was gathering material for an article and I felt called to tell my story. Parallel to that dialog I read a post by Fred Wilson about finding your voice and using it. Between the answer to Whitney’s question and Fred’s prompt to write, what follows is my first blog article.

Whitney asked me, “Are there moves you made whether changing companies, or internally, that many would have looked at as low-end moves?” Here’s how I responded…

Yes and repeatedly: In 23 years of professional life I have never been with the same supervisor, position, or company more than 18 months. In 2003 I left a well-known biotech firm and took a position with a generics company in regulatory distress. I moved from the epicenter of cool (Boulder Colorado) to a blue-collar ex-steel town on the east coast (Baltimore, MD). I am still asked why I would leave a cushy job with a rich, stable company in a boss location. The answer is simple: I was complacent, my growth and experience was stalled, and I was becoming fat & lazy. I wanted a challenge and was tired of waiting for it. The company name opened many doors for me, but the one door it wouldn’t open was the  door to internal growth. It was and remains a great company, but for me the only path up was out.

Regarding needs: Everyone has needs that drive them to make decisions that seem crazy to the outside observer. Mine was born of burning ambition. The money was always good, but it became secondary a long time ago. The need to bring more value in tougher and larger arenas was a contributing factor from day-one. That was my fire and the fire drove me to look for more fuel. The hunt for fuel can take you to some strange and interesting places, whatever your fire may be. But here’s the truth, if you ignore the fire, the fire goes out.

Strategy: Very early in my career I noticed the people I respected most were fluent in all the business languages of the company. They traveled freely and effectively across the functional borders of science, finance, logistics, regulatory, and I wanted to be like them.  I intentionally crafted a career path that would give me experience in all these areas. Now, after 20+ years I have that experience and speak at least passable finance, science, engineering, and regulatory with the natives. Nowadays we call that process mindful, intentional self-disruption, but back then it was considered nuts, and to a large degree it still is. I routinely deal with people who believe unless you have 25 years experience in one narrow field you have no credibility, or you’re somehow unstable. The problem is obvious: they only speak one business language, and now I speak ten. If you want to travel well and wide, learn to speak the language.

Sideways: In 23 years I’ve done at least four sideways moves. The outcome of these moves is predictable: a sideways move slows me for a year or so until I learn the language and understand the craft, but then after a year, each sideways move accelerated me years along the career path. The sideways move, in my experience, always turns into a slingshot. The queue is long and filled with talent and ambition; so much talent and ambition that you may never get to the front. If the line is too long or moving too slow, get out of the queue, its holding you back.

The path of self-disruption is hard and lonely. Critics abound, and support is often sketchy at best. Disrupting yourself is only for the stout of heart. That said; I wouldn’t change a thing. I am still growing, still burning, and happy as can be. And ready for my next step sideways.

  1. Z.Shah
    April 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Respects. Always keen to listen your words carefully, and seek your guidance.

  2. April 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Great “Begin” to a blog and I hope you “Never Stop”. Your thoughts into words are always worth the time.

  3. April 25, 2012 at 11:22 pm


    Your insights into requiring the “stout of heart” reminds me of one of my blog posts titled “Why You Can Always Be Great”, which looked at Jim Collin’s “Great By Choice” book and one of the characteristics of the companies he studied. In a nutshell, the “Great” companies paced themselves, not getting greedy when the table was abundant yet forging ahead when things appeared bleak. These activities go somewhat against basic human nature, as does your concept of “self-disruption”.

    The bright side is that although it is difficult, since many opt out there is opportunity.

    On the personal front, this post has caused me to believe I need to re-fresh my own look at alternatives.

    Thanks – congratulations on your first post!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: