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Saturdays with Bob

Posted by Joe Antle on April 5, 2021 4:25 PM EDT
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We talk about current events, what can be done to make the most of our lives in the phase we are living in now and what might be the "next thing"....what to do after one retires, and how to finish well.....

....before retirement...and for years of fulfillment after retirement.

In hopes that I can link the concept of sustained efforts at innovation, let me share a little background on this periodic series I plan to share from time to time...

Back at the very end of the "roaring 1990's" in the newspaper business, I realized that my career had reached a point where there were not any obvious next moves.  It was 1999, and I had just finished reading Intel's former CEO and Intel Chairman Andy Grove's excellent book, "Only the Paranoid Survive".  In the book, Mr. Grove shares what he considers a very important principle and one he and others at Intel experienced and rose above.  He called the concept "strategic inflection points".  To be somewhat simplistic about it and in deference to Mr. Grove's great knowledge on the subject, the definition of a strategic inflection point is when something profoundly important to the success of a business experiences a "10X change" in an important factor that the business' business model depends on, such as legislative changes, changes in the economy, competitive changes, new technology disruptions, changes in strategic partners, consumer taste changes, changes in competition and changes in suppliers.

I was particularly impressed by the book and what its message portended for innovation.   And was profoundly interested in the final chapter in which he espouses the importance of applying the principles of surviving and thriving from "strategic inflection points" to one's career.  He called these "career inflection points".

Since I had determined to make a big change in my career and write a business plan to make the case that our newspaper company needed to develop an e-business strategy to apply the concept of online transaction and web portal tools to our advertising sales, order fulfillment, and local print and online ad creation processes, I had been reading as many contemporary business publications as I could.  It was not lost on me that this was as much a career inflection point for me as it was a strategic inflection point for my newspaper employer.

After reading Grove's book and reflecting on it and the final chapter with our HR Director, he said that I should consider a couple of other books.  One was the popular "Who Moved My Cheese" by Dr. Spencer Jouhnson, which I had already read.  And the other was a book I had not read before.  So, respecting the wisdom and advice of our company's head HR professional, I bought the book and began to read it.  The book is called "Tuesdays with Morrie" which was written by Mitch Albom.  (Postscript:  I have reread this book several times since then. It's an easy read and I find each time I pick up a meaningful message that I had not caught before).

Since this blog post is not a book review, I will succinctly say that it is about the author's reconnecting with one of his favorite college professors named Morris (aka: Morrie) Schwartz.  The author is dealing with the deep illness of his brother who has lost connection with after his brother moved to Europe.  And in the course of trying to come to grips with that issue he is able to reconnect with his wise, old friend and professor, Morrie.  However, Morrie has a debilitating illness of his own, which is terminal.  After a good and deep conversation, the two agree to meet every Tuesday, hence the title of the book, "Tuesdays with Morrie".   It turns out that these Tuesday sessions with Morrie are largely focused on Morrie sharing his wisdom and insights on a host of topics, usually selected by the author, but occasionally selected by Morrie.  Many of the topics deal with the essence of finding fulfillment during various phases of one's life and when dramatic events, both pleasant and catastrophic happen...sort of like a "10X change" in some aspect of a person's life that is important.  Given the context of Morrie's continuing decline in physical health and the author's personal search for how to make the most of his life during times of distress, the book was, and is, a good read for anyone.  Certainly, much heavier in tone from "Who Moved My Cheese", but meaningful, relevant, and almost uplifting in its message.

I recall back in 1999, after reading the book, that I wished I had a "Morrie" in my life...and better yet, I wished I could somehow be a "Morrie" in someone else's life.  Upon reflection, it was hard for me to decide who was the greater beneficiary of the Tuesday with Morrie sessions...both men gained great reward for their sharing.

Recently, I reconnected with a friend, former work colleague, and wonderfully successful person in the early years of retirement.  His name is Bob and while he was not my favorite college professor, he was in his career perhaps one of the most admired and liked professionals in his field.  And Bob is in great health and enjoying his retirement immensely.  In his heyday, Bob was not the highest-ranking manager in our newspaper company. but he was a manager with a great reputation for getting things done.  And he helped many others get things done, which is the essence of great management of people and innovation-"getting the job done by helping others get their jobs done better". 

Bob's impact was significant for many years for he wielded great informal influence to those that he reported to, those he worked alongside, and those who were in the early years of their media careers.  In fact, it was this role he found for himself that made him such a success.  The number of young professionals that he mentored and influenced is and was remarkable.  When he retired a short while ago, there was a presentation and in it was presented the roster of all the people who had once been his subordinates or colleagues and peers and later became his managers.  What was astounding was the deep understanding that almost each of those successful people would have answered the question of "Who are or what was one of the most important influences in your career and its success....?"  And to a person, they would have said one word, err, name.  BOB.

So, Bob and I have agreed to do some bike rides on Saturdays, when the weather is accomodating.  And this blog is an introduction to a periodic series of blog postings where I plan to share some of what I will learn during my Saturdays with Bob.  You see, Bob's wisdom and willingness to share with others has not subsided due to his retirement.  And I plan to make the most of it, and perhaps share some insights of value of my own.

These bike rides and chats are not about providing time to reflect on what could have been or brag about what was, but to better understand wise options for making every day a bit better and to build a better path to a happier, most fulfilling "next thing".  And I will strive to consider how this reflects upon innovation, perhaps innovation in one's well-being is a good start...and in the context of planning and doing a fufilling, active and meaningful retirement can lead to a great ending.. 

Suffice it to say that it's already off to a good start....after all, what could be more innovative than to consider retirement planning for what you will be doing rather than the traditional focus on what you need to do financially.  While financial well-being is important, the other dimensions of well-being such as social, community, career, and physical well-being are perhaps more influenced by what you do than on how much money you have.

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