Friday, October 08, 2004

It took over six years

But I've been vindicated at last

Six years ago I was an up-and-coming mid-level manager in a large corporate environment. I was in a highly-visible position and regularly rubbed elbows with the high muckety-mucks, movers and shakers. My boss made it no secret that he was grooming me to take over his executive-level position when he got promoted. You might say I was somewhat of a golden-boy.

At least until the day I had an epiphany.

If I wanted to move up to the next level, I was going to have to sacrifice my family and outside interests on the altar of work. When I realized this, I also realized that I was not willing to make that sacrifice. Or, as I sometimes say, the prize wasn't worth eating the CrackerJacks.

I had a pretty open line of communication with my boss, and so, when I decided I wasn't going to take his job someday, I told him so. He was floored. "I thought we normally communicate pretty well, but this just came out of left field," he said. "We DO communicate well," I told him, "and that's why I'm telling you NOW, so you can let me step aside and give you time to get someone else ready." He thought I had lost my mind - that I couldn't take the pressure and just wigged out, or something. I assured him that I really was sane and I really didn't want to be the heir apparent.

I only worked for him for a couple more months before I left his organization, and about a year later left the company for good.

My friend, the Bigdog, still worked there - for my old boss. And they went to lunch together about once a week. He (the Bigdog) tells me that for at least a year or two, whenever my name came up, my old boss would look at the Bigdog and say, "You know LittleA. What? Did he just flip out? Was it a mid-life thing? What?" And the Bigdog would tell him, "No. He just values different things. I talk to him regularly and he seems happier than he's ever been." And that would be it, at least until the next time my name was mentioned.

As a side note, when I left the company altogether, I took a steep reduction in position and pay at my next (current) company and had to convince my boss' boss that I wasn't a lunatic or axe-murderer or a psycho of some sort before he'd assent to hiring me. Obviously I can be persuasive. He told my boss after that interview, "I still can't figure that guy out, but if you want to take a chance and hire him, go ahead." (I don't think they've been sorry)

I haven't really spoken much to my old boss. I'd seen him a couple of times and nodded and said hello, but nothing much more than that. I pulled into the gas station a week or so ago and all the pumps were busy, so I pulled up in a likely spot to wait on a guy that looked like he might be finished soon. And then I looked again because he looked familiar. He looked up at me about the same time I realized who it was. Yep. My old boss. I shut the car off and we stood and talked for a few minutes. He's been promoted (again) and is acting as one of the big senior executives until they find a permanent replacement (he's a candidate for the permanent job as well). He has been run ragged, traveling all over the country, burning the candle at both ends.

He looked at me and said, "Do you remember when I had you in my office and laid out everything you were walking away from and you still walked away?"

"Yeah," I said.

"You may have been on to something..."

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