27 May 2010

From reading the June issue of San Francisco Magazine on people "reinventing" themselves in this economy, I came across research done by Carol Dweck from Stanford for her book Mindset. The passage from Nina Martin's article that struck me:

One of her most fascinating findings is that people who believe they are innately intelligent (that would be large swaths of the Santa Rosa-San Jose corrider), and that intelligence is at the root of their past success (as opposed to hard, hard work), end up avoiding risk and challenge because they don't want to fail--failure being a sign of stupidity or of losing their marbles. Now is not the time to give in to this kind of fear or to be paralyzed by what Stenger calls "the myth of midlife decline." "People here need to remember that failure doesn't black-mark your record, especially in Silicon Valley," says Stanford's Chip Heath. "To fail here is almost a badge of honor. It means you've learned something."
Serious learning is the point.

I think this is exactly where I am in my career development. I'm realizing that I will fail, and that's ok. I'm letting go of the stigma of telling people I'm unemployed, or my last job disintegrated, or I wasn't accepted to the graduate schools I wanted. Now I'm designing my own syllabus for learning, my own path to creating what I want to be doing. It's exciting instead of paralyzing, which is a recent change, really. I'm jumping into projects that inspire me, without necessarily sticking to the expected professional development path.

And one of the people highlighted in the article, Susan Hanshaw also speaks to pursuing your interests.

"The process of reinvention needs to start with following your heart, giving credibility to what you find yourself leaning toward, checking that out for a while--but also giving yourself permission to go in a new direction when that seems right. Where you end up is very rich."

Case in point: I'm starting a little specialty foods business (mo food), because I want to start a business. I don't expect or necessarily want to grow it into a large money-making enterprise (and whether or not I'm open to that possibility and the possibility of success is another blog-entry). I'm doing it because I want the hands-on experience of starting my own business. If business-school won't teach me how to do it then I'll just learn myself. I have a team assembled and people flocking to join me, amazingly.

And simultaneously I'm exploring the intersections of technology and education, signing up for local conferences and joining tech communities. I'm talking to everyone about it, parsing ideas and getting better at articulating what I'm good at and what I'd like to do. In the process I'm networking and refining my intentions. It is all very exciting!