Saturday, February 28, 2009

Apex of the Pyramid: Foolish Folly or Meaningful Life Journey

In geometry, the apex of a pyramid is the point where the edge of the base meets the the top of the pyramid. As fascinating as that may be (not to me), mathematical discipline is neither my forte nor my interest. Pursuing interests, and their results, are MY interests.

My father used to tell me all the time that I should have been a writer. I was into everything and anything. I'd go deep into the details of something, stay their and sucked up what I could, then resurface to get a high level purview, then I would lose interest and move on. My father would tell me that I never stuck to anything and he would shake his head.
I always felt ashamed or sheepish when he caught a glimpse of my new interest via a new book, a new machine - think camera as in photography, or sewing machine as in design. He'd just purse his lips and keep looking forward and try hard and unsuccessfully not to shake his head in disapproval. Today I am a published writer. But that is not the point of this story. I truly believe that pursuing my interests is what brought me here today. Circuitous as my journey may have been, it never has been and never will be foolish folly.

Fast forward to Corporate America. I met a man at a company where I worked. He took a mentorship like interest in me. I had heard that he was a multi-millionaire and was consulting with the company. I had no idea either way. I first saw him in a meeting of my department. He slipped in late. Never having seen him before, I thought he was a new programming guy. Instead of sitting down like the rest of us, the poor sucker perched himself on a table. I was embarassed for him. He didn't know his place yet in the organization. Turns out I was the one uninformed. He was not to be my boss. He was my boss's boss. I got the courage to tell him who I thought he was initially and how I had felt sorry for him. He seemed to be delighted and just laughed.

He made a dream job come true for me. But the funny thing is, this is not why this man is memorable to me. I remember being in his office one day. I told him I was not sure what I wanted to do and what would he suggest. Without hesitation he looked me directly in my face, eye to eye, and said solemnly,

"Always pursue your interests."

I blinked and smiled and said thank you. What I did not realize at the time was that this man had deliverd a gold nugget of wisdom that would serve as a beacon in the darkness of confusion and as a buoy in the stormiest of tempests, for the rest of my life.

Up until meeting him I had been into competitive cheerleading, teaching children and adults, the Harlem Renaissance, race movies, King Louis the XIV of France, Movie Stars of the 20s and 30s, sewing, make-up artistry, writing, foreign language, stints of living abroad, extensive solo international travel, technology, beauty, afro-textured hair, food, fasting and cleansing and several other things.
My interest always ran VERY deep. My delvings into the detail and back out again of these various topics of interest reminded me of a picturesque scene of a dolphin in its natural habitat. You know, how dolphins dive in deep, then leap out and fly over the ocean water seemingly suspended like some beautiful graceful, long studying dancer. That's how I began to see myself, and what I was doing, as something beautiful.

At the same time I was developing an extremely valuable and priceless skill. I was learning how to dive deeply into varied and unrelated subject matter, expose myself to the detail, internalize, analyze and regurgitate it back or put it back out in ways meaningful to others. I had been developing these incredible analytical skills where I learned to make connections within any subject matter. I could take the details and create a high level process for others to quickly understand.

He helped me get a dream job in a foreign country that I absolutely loved. Then the foreign company was bought by a major bank. My most critical and career defining assignment up to that point came to pass. My job was to help transition the Information Technology Data Center and Department over to the new owner, which was Citicorp. If we failed at any point during the process, Citicorp would send in the Big Dogs, fire folks and take over. Oh boy!

Using my knowledge of the culture's protocal, I called leaders in the organization above the level of the person with whom I wanted to get access. I used my language skills to charm and navigate past the secretaries. I used my knowledge of financial organizations to determine what Citicorp needed to see in terms of a plan and to identify who in their organization could give it to me.
I located a person from Uruguay, but who was living in town at the time. He had successfully gone through one of these audits. I used my make up artistry skills and my knowledge of clothing design to 'costume' myself so that I would look like a woman to whom this man might respond positively (as in give me the information I needed without dismissing me).
I used my fearlessness and experience from solo international travel to locate him. He was three hours away, by taxi, way over in some remote part of town. When I got there, a young American woman was in the same room. She was on the verge of being hysterical and inconsolable. She was already in tears. She was talking with someone else in the room I did not know.

The executive that I had travelled three hours to see told me to ignore her. I told him I could not. I excused myself from him and went over to this girl. She was having issues adjusting. The food was making her sick. I used my knowledge of foods and cleansing to suggest what to do. She calmed down and stopped crying...weeks later I found out that she cleansed and healed just fine.
I returned to the executive. He looked at me for the briefest of moments. He studied my face and looked into my eyes. I can't tell you what he was thinking. He proceeded to tell and show me exactly what I needed to do and what Citicorp would look for in my plan and process to be successful. That plan was so successful that it was used as a template and implemented, by the other departments in the organization. I decided that it was in my best interest to leave before I was asked to leave. Yet and still, the plan took them where they needed to go without my physical presence. They were very successful.

Every skill and every interest or some part of it, that I had cultivated or dived into at some point came to play in my experience. You see, I had pursued my interests, all of them. The knowledge and experience that I had gained in the genuine pursuit of my authentic interests had culminated in my success of this critical situation.

Each interest had been like a building block of a great pyramid: the the laying of a steady and rock solid base of a monumental structure. As I pursued my interests, I jumped like the beautiful dolphin from one building base block to another. As I dived into the detail, I spiraled up and built my knowledge.

Every bit of my knowledge, every experience, every detail that I had delved into had prepared me for the culimination of events of that very moment, for that assignment. That assignment was the apex, the point at which everything wonderfully converged.

I am no longer embarassed about seeming to have been or be a "jack of all trades and a master of none." Pursuing your interests is no foolish folly. It is an essential component of a meaningful life journey. If something is genuinely interesting to you ladies and gents, pursue it. Time, opportunity and authenticity on your part, will make the breath taking connections for you on this tumultuous and gratifying ride, called "Your Life Journey".


jenteel said...

wow chicoro.

i feel like you're in my head. your dad is like mine. i feel like he looks at me with these degrees wondering what is she doing? i have landed in places that i wasn't sure quite why but loved it. as i get older, i feel like all these unrelated pieces are coming together and i too no longer feel embarrassed to be a jack of all trades, because i loved every minute of it. i am so excited at this point in time to discover what life has in store for me, because i now have the confidence to know it will be great.

thank you for sharing and for this wonderful post.

enaruvie said...

I must confess I had dismissed this blog without really finding out what it was truly about because I had already assumed (wrongly) that it was some namby pamby (British terminology)new age jargon... I sit here with heated cheeks apologising profusely for my initial assumption.. I just read that article and have to say it was spot on... Like Jenteel said, it felt like you were in my head.

I too felt like I take on a lot of projects and never seem to see them to completion. I am glad to report that this is no longer the case, as my interests are what are driving things forward and dictating where I am going in these days.