All posts filed under: What’s Next…

Thoughts on my Gap Year, Encore Career, and Whatever Comes Next

Making Big Decisions

After running through the woods in the gathering darkness, four young people warily approach an old house. The dialogue begins: “Let’s hide in the attic.  No, in the basement.” They look around wildly, and one female pleads “Why can’t we just get in the running car?” A male character responds, “Are you crazy? Let’s hide behind the chainsaws.” The voice-over comes in to say, “If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. It’s what you do.” After the pitch for saving money with Geico Insurance, there is the scream, “Run for the cemetery!” and all four take off from the garage full of chainsaws to . . . who knows what.  But we’re safe in assuming it will be bad. I still laugh every time I see this clever commercial. Decisions. We all face them. And making big or difficult decisions isn’t easy, even if you’ve never been in a horror movie. But we all see examples of poor decisions leading to disastrous consequences on a daily basis. When we have to make quick …

Create at the Intersection of Experience and Innovation (Or: If You Never Invent Yourself, Reinvention Won’t Be Necessary)

In the recently released documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, country music legend Dolly Parton comments that “Linda could literally sing everything.” The film cuts to Ronstadt — who famously sang folk, pop, rock, country, R&B, Cajun, operetta, the Great American Songbook and traditional Mexican music in a long and successful career — as she dryly remarks, “People would think I was trying to remake myself, but I never invented myself in the first place.” There is a great deal of wisdom in those few words. Today we hear about reinventing yourself for the information age. Creating your new personal brand. Unmooring yourself from your past to create a new you. Most of that reinvention messaging is . . . what’s the technical term again? Ah yes. Hogwash. The assumption that you need to jettison the past as if it never existed and doesn’t matter is central to the modern idea of reinvention. Many writers have commented that the American myth is built upon jettisoning the old in order to glorify the new. …

Daydreaming Makes a Comeback

I became a fan of daydreaming while on sabbatical. Daydreaming has a long history, but in today’s culture of speed and action the idea of doing nothing generally has negative connotations. It goes by many names: boredom, weariness, ennui, lack of enthusiasm, lack of interest, apathy, sluggishness, malaise, tedium, tediousness, dullness, monotony, repetitiveness, routine, humdrum, dreariness . . . well, you get the point. I’m happy to report that the positive aspects of daydreaming are making a comeback. When I had the time on sabbatical to stop and reflect, I realized that I was often busy simply for the sake of being (or looking) busy.  If I was busy I was doing important work.  But I began to realize that being constantly busy wasn’t healthy, productive, or fun. A number of authors have written that there is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom.  So while in Rome, I took up the habit of a daily walk without any sense of purpose other than just to exist in that space. To daydream. I enjoyed how it …

History Was All Around Me: PreserveCast podcast of my career in preservation (so far)

“Connection to place is very important to me, and I learned that by walking the streets of Franklin and Murfreesboro, where I grew up.  History was all around me . . . and I’ve always wanted to do something about connecting the past to today.” When PreserveCast host Nick Redding began our recent conversation on the award-winning Preservation Maryland podcast with a question about my path to preservation, my thoughts went to my childhood home, grandmother, and a favorite downtown theatre. That podcast, looking at my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more, can now be found on the PreserveCast website. In a thirty minute interview, Nick and I explore not only how I became a preservationist, but also the various jobs that led to my serving as the Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust from 2010 until I stepped down from the position at the end of March 2019. “Somebody said that ‘Chief Preservation Officer’ is one of the great titles in the preservation field.  Its not as good as …

In Search of the Worst Case Scenario

I have only recently come to accept that I’ve spent my entire life as a worrywart. This is hard to admit, because I worry what people will think of me if they know that I’ve lived a life of constant concern about what can go wrong.  Knowing I dwell unduly on difficulty or troubles, will family, friends, and colleagues think less of me? A quote attributed to Mark Twain (and recently repeated during a lecture I heard by a Zen Buddhist monk at Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan) gets at the heart of the issue: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some which actually happened.” Until recently, I attributed my willingness to dwell on the worst case scenario to good planning. Having an advanced degree in planning led me to rationalize that I was simply trying to make sure things went well by gaming out all the things that could go wrong.  But it was pointed out recently that perhaps I’ve taken that to extremes.  I could tell I was driving …

How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Sometimes it’s hard to say good-bye. Last week, former Vice President Joe Biden—at 76 years of age and counting—became the twentieth announced Democratic candidate for President.  As many have noted, he’s not even the oldest aspirant in the field. That would be 77 year old Senator Bernie Sanders, running again after coming in second to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in 2016.  Both white males are vying to replace another white male, 72 year old Donald Trump. So much for the generational change with diverse candidates who look more like America that was to occur when the 47 year old Barack Obama assumed the presidency in 2009.  Not to mention the glass ceiling, which remains very much in place. Knowing how and when to step aside for a more diverse, younger generation of leaders is very much front page news for the Democratic Party as the nation heads into another presidential election cycle. A recent Suzanna Danuta Walters op-ed in the Washington Post argues that male politicians “have a responsibility—if they really do want …

The Gap Year Chronicles

At some point in describing my “not quite” retirement after 42 years in preservation, I began to refer to what was next as the “gap year” I never had in my 20s.  It was said only partially in jest. Gap years are a first world phenomenon that—as far as I was concerned—didn’t exist in my middle class/public school upbringing in Tennessee in the 1970s.  At least they didn’t exist for a young man who wanted to get on with his career (the ambitious slice of my personality); who, as the number two child/son, always did what was expected and “right” (the getting the job done segment of my personality); and, finally, who needed a job to pay the bills (the persistent part of my personality coupled with the reality of rolling off the family payroll). But here I am, having said “I’m taking a gap year” enough that it has become a reality, even for me, and I’m working on understanding what it all means. Will this period cover a full year? To be honest, …