I WAS not able to say a proper goodbye. When I started my People at Work column in Metro Working Mom last March 2002, I did not expect that it would last a good three years. But a full three years it was, with so many things happening in my life in between columns. So many learning events done, training seminars conducted, radio programs started and continued, a television segment started and stopped, a public service program launched and generating more projects, one major illness, two deaths in the family, one grandson delivered, one daughter launched into college. Yes, life continued, punctuated by bouts of panic when the deadline to submit my column came… and went. When I started missing deadlines for the column, I knew it was time to quit. Life had interrupted my tete-a-tete with you wonderful readers of MWM. And so last June 2005, my column was published for the last time and my search for a second curve in my life began. Actually, it is the third curve.
Let me explain. Charles Handy in “The Age of Paradox” wrote that life is an S-shaped curve called the sigmoid curve. This curve looks like a wave with the line on the bottom part swelling up in a curve, like the crest of a wave and then starting to go down from there. He says that this curve plots the progress of a product, a corporation, a career, a relationship from the point when it starts to exist to the point of its peak and then to the point of the start of its fall. Luckily, he says, there is life beyond the curve. A product, a corporation, a career, a relationship—life itself—need not be a downhill situation when it has reached the peak of its success.
Handy reveals the secret to extending the curve, “…start a new sigmoid curve before the first one peters out.” As you know, I had quit my 20 years of human resource management practice five years ago to start the People at Work subsection in the Philippine Daily Inquirer to be able to devote more time to my family. My colleagues and superiors were surprised to see me leave the HR department of the Inquirer supposedly at the peak of my career there to start from scratch as a part-time subsection editor.
My HR life was my first sigmoid curve; my foray into the editorial world was my second. A short five years later, a sense of restlessness moves me to start my third curve. It is not surprising to find my second curve a shorter one than my first. Handy writes that “the accelerating pace of change shrinks every sigmoid curve.” True enough, I had packed in five years much more experiences than what I had accumulated in my 20 years of HR work.
And now, it is crunch time. While I had stayed in my comfort zone as an editor, the world around me had changed. With some exasperation, I thought, why does the world have to change? My butt’s warm and I just the heck don’t want to move to another stormy career. But didn’t a philosopher once said that you cannot step into the same river twice? The reason being that the waters in a river keep on flowing all the time and it is a different volume of water that passes you by as you stand beside the river. In my seminars, I also often say that technically, we are not the same persons we were when we were born, or when we were teenagers, or even 10 or 5 years ago. The reason being that our bodies discard and replace new cells all the time. While mentally I accept this premise, emotionally, I still feel sad about the changes around me: people leaving organizations, companies saving “centavos” as costs skyrocket to the stars, friends leaving the country to find a better life abroad, our country’s leaders bringing each other down like crabs in a bucket.
Now is really a bad time to become an entrepreneur. I want to stick my head in the sand and insist on writing my life away (like what I am doing now?). But entrepreneurship seems to be the second curve that’s rising from my present one. While I may not be able to imagine at this point in my life losing my passion for writing, it seems that if I want to achieve my new future, I cannot not heed what’s pushing me (hello, clearly it’s the world) to leave the present and start anew.
Handy supports me on this. He prescribes, “The right place to start that second curve is at point A where there is the time, as well as the resources and the energy, to get the new curve through its initial explorations and flounderings before the first curve begins to dip downward.”
While I had started some sort of business two years ago when I set up Optimus Innovations, Inc., envisioned to be a different kind of learning company, running it was like humming a familiar tune; the projects I went into was as easy to do as playing chopsticks on the piano. Well, the conditions then helped make it easy for me to earn a bit of money on the side. But now, as I am finding out, projects don’t turn in revenues as easily: the old formula no longer works and the world is not looking kindly right now at entrepreneurs who want to make an easy buck without turning in a lot of hard work. Yes, I’ve got to finally take a serious look at the business and see what it takes to build an organization that provides products and services that are worth the best value to some customer and that is “built to last,” a legacy I can leave to the next generation.
Yes, the world is ejecting my comfortable butt out of my editorial seat, forcing me to fly high to achieve another vision, another mission, in search of a good life (not the good life, there is a difference, but that is another article). Handy writes, “A good life is probably a succession of second curves, started before the first curve fades.” I am sure as I grow older, my life will continue to be a succession of curves waiting to be surfed until that final crest comes that will carry me to another world without boundaries. I wish the people who produce MWM and all its readers a good life!
Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom August 2005.
Photo credit: www.sxc.hu