With a little luck, planning and blind courage (that some may label stupidity) …. you really can go home again.
Flashback to the spring of 2016. Sitting in one of many windowless rooms in a leadership meeting in Shanghai … wait maybe it was Singapore … or it could have been Cartagena … it occurred to me that I needed a change. Now don’t get me wrong … I have nothing but the greatest respect and gratitude for Avery Dennison for 17 amazing years … inspiring leadership, outstanding colleagues and customers, non-stop opportunities to learn and grow and best of all the support to try new things and bring ideas to the table. But as I assumed leadership roles and earned a “seat at the table,” it had been a long time since I had the opportunity to literally roll up my sleeves and do the work. And that was my creative home.
And it certainly didn’t hurt that waiting for me was the one smart real estate purchase I had ever made — a condo right in downtown Austin, Texas ideally situated on the Ladybird Lake hike and bike trail. When I left Texas in 1980, it was with the twenty-something confidence that I would move on and never return. But Austin kept beckoning – the smell of the pit smokers, the big skies of the hill country, and the live music flowing into every street. In short, home.
Now it’s March, 2017. I do it — I pull the plug on a safe, well-paying, well-respected corporate job and decide to “retire.” Which meant packing up the car the next day and spending five days driving from Cleveland to Austin. I grabbed my daughter, a professional photographer, in Chicago, and we slowly made our way across America’s heartland, seeking out the strange and glorious enroute. An enormous plastic chicken in Romeoville, IL; a discarded hobby horse parade in a cornfield somewhere in Illinois; the world’s largest wagon and Big Lincoln; the birthplace of the corn dog at the Cozy Drive In in Springfield ; Henry’s Rabbit Ranch on Route 66; the unparalleled opulence of Graceland in Memphis and ultimately fields of wildflowers and pastoral scenes across North Texas. Till we make it back to Austin … and home.
And by April 5, I am sitting in my new home office… ready to kick off a new business as a consultant that would use the knowledge and skills I had picked up across the past 30+ years to the benefit of medium-sized companies, trade show organizations and associations. And I found myself writing, project managing, creating videos, and planning events. Doing exactly what I wanted, for whom I wanted … and most of all when I wanted.
And finally flash forward to January, 2018. I get a LinkedIn message from Jennifer Dochstader of LPC, Inc. I knew of Jennifer and we had worked together on an article back in her editor days. But we had never met. Via the wonder of social media, we discovered that we both now called Austin, Texas home. We had lunch, and we kept talking. I met her partner David and we all clicked. We discovered that we shared common values of being responsive and respectful of our clients, and of focusing in the areas we knew the best – labeling and packaging. Best of all, they had a need to expand their marketing communications bandwidth … and I had the passion to make it happen.
And now, despite Thomas Wolfe’s warning, I find myself home again …. With LPC, Inc.
Photos courtesy of AJ Abelman Photography, Inc.