I was sitting with my family at my cottage the other week, and my eyes were welling up.
I had to catch myself before my kids or wife noticed. After all, a grown man isn’t supposed to cry.
I quickly regained composure (phew), put on a smile, sat up straight, and continued listening to my daughter sing.
She was dancing and belting out the song, “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac.
She likes Fleetwood Mac, which is somewhat unusual for a teenage girl. But not overly unusual considering her father listens to classic rock ALL THE TIME, and Fleetwood Mac is one of my favorites.
So why the tears?
For one, I listened to the words of the song:
You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way
It was at that moment that I came to the realization that this would likely be our last weekend together before my son and daughter left for university. My son left a couple of years ago. Now my daughter, our youngest, would also be leaving the house, which meant that our once otherwise busy house would now be quiet and, well, kind of lonely. My daughter was now “going her own way.”
I’ve often wondered what it would be like once the kids left the house but I wasn’t entirely sure how I would feel when the time actually arrived.
In many respects I am excited, and in many respects, there’s now a void, larger than any I’ve experienced in a long time.
Excited because I can spend time with my wife, and we can get to know each other once again.
Excited because we begin a new life’s journey filled with new challenges, travels, and new exciting adventures.
A void because I now need to redefine, in many respects, who I am. I am still, of course, a father, but my daughter’s leaving is the first step on a new journey.
Filling the Void
It’s not like it just occurred to me all of a sudden that we’ll be empty nesters. I’ve been thinking and planning for this moment for years. I knew it was going to happen. I sold a majority share of my company in October 2017, in anticipation of beginning a new journey. I’ve immersed myself in an almost entirely different life from the one I lived for the last 27 years.
You can read my journey post business sale here,
I stepped down as president of my company at the end of December 2017. January 1st, 2018 marked my first day on my new journey. My first day as officially “semi-retired,” or “unemployed,” or whatever else you call it when you’re transitioning to something new.
When I started my business in 1991, I certainly didn’t think I would be running the same company for 27 years. For 26 of those years, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of scaling a business. I decided that it was time to move on because I wasn’t excited by the prospect of growing the company any longer. I had enough to retire and decided that I was at the stage of life where I was ready to try something different.
My first day post-sale was bittersweet. On the one hand, the challenging M&A process was over, I had the cash in the bank, and I was excited by the opportunities that lay ahead. On the other hand, what I thought would be an easy personal transition was anything but. Little did I realize how much my identity, who I am as an individual, was wrapped in the business and in my relationship with my contacts, customers, team members, and suppliers. You can read many books, articles, and blogs, and listen to many podcasts about a particular subject, but often, until you experience something for yourself, it’s difficult to appreciate what’s in store.
The silence of solitude can be deafening at times, especially considering how busy I was when I was president. My identity was wrapped in my role, and I lived it for so long. It was difficult to appreciate what life would be like once that responsibility was no longer there.
And now, the silence of solitude will be even more deafening as my wife and I prepare to embark on a new journey without our kids running around the house.
My New Journey
Whenever I have a conversation with an entrepreneur for the first time, I invariably ask the same question: What are your short and long-term personal and business goals?
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there.
I am now at the other end of that question.
With so much of my life having been turned upside down in the last 10 months, I am now on a quest to work through my new goals and to figure out where I’m headed.
To help me along the way, I knew I needed to define my core values and understand what was most important to me.
With pen in hand, and a lot of long walks, here’s what I came up with:
I want to:
– Spend quality time with my family and friends.
– Take care of my body and mind.
– Make a difference in the lives of other entrepreneurs—teach and educate, and help them to become successful.
– Travel and experience new and exciting destinations and cultures.
– Treat my time as a precious commodity. My time is my own. I want to establish my schedule. I need to understand that I will never get my time back.
– Escape the cold during the winter.
With this information in hand, I began to craft my personal vision statement (PVS). This is something that Steven Covey addresses in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In the book, Covey talks about understanding your end destination, being aware of your principles, and the importance of establishing a personal vision statement. He says:
“The power of the personal vision statement lies in your vision and in a commitment to that vision, that purpose, and those principle-centered values. They will control your decisions, determine your outlook, and provide the direction for your future.”
He then goes on to discuss something he calls reflection questions. He writes:
“What is truly important in my life? What would I really like to be and do in my life? What are my greatest strengths?… What are my talents, possibilities, and true potential? If I had unlimited time and resources, what would I do? What are my deepest priorities? Which relationships do I wish to be lasting? Who is the one person who has made the greatest positive impact in my life? What must I do, and how must I manage my life, to constantly nurture these vital relationships?… What kind of person do I wish to become? What are the principles I would like to live by?
My personal vision statement will act as my path to help me on my journey. It gives me permission to say no to the things I don’t want to do and yes to those I do. I am now better equipped to establish my short- and long-term goals.
My Personal Vision Statement (PVS)
As an example, here is Oprah Winfrey’s personal vision statement: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
Here is Richard Branson’s: “To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.”
In light of the principles I listed earlier, I crafted my vision statement as follows:
My time is my most precious commodity. I will spend my time wisely. I value my relationships with family and friends. I will treat them with love and respect. Always keep my body strong and my mind engaged. My journeys should allow me to experience new and exciting cultures and destinations (without snow ). I will seek to educate other entrepreneurs and help them on their path toward success.
The very first thing you need to do, even before you start writing down your goals, is to develop clarity on your personal vision. Once you have that, you now have the tools you need to create your goals, and then, start along the path toward your two-year personal transformation.
And now that I have my new (and improved) personal vision statement, I am ready to embark on the next stage of life.
OR Maybe Not
On Saturday we dropped my daughter off at university. That was probably one of the hardest personal moments I’ve had in a long time.
Barack Obama said that dropping his daughter Malia off at university was like having open-heart surgery. He congratulated himself for not breaking down in front of his daughter.
I can sympathize with Barack Obama. I’m congratulating myself for not breaking down in front of my daughter. However, once she was out of sight, I had a tougher time containing my feelings. I was heartbroken. I still am. I miss her dearly.
I managed to hold it together when we said goodbye. I didn’t want her to see her dad crying.
My baby has left the nest. My wife and I taught her to fly, and now she’s ready to “go her own way.”
As far as her father is concerned, I’m ready for the next stage of life. I feel invigorated and excited by what life has in store.
With a slight daddy tear in my eye, and my new personal vision statement in hand, I guess I can say I am ready to “go my own way” too.
Want to know more about me and read some of the other interesting small business growth, profit and wealth stories I’ve written.
Here’s one of the first articles I wrote: My Journey Post Business Sale as I Sail Into a New Harbour.
Jeff Wiener, TheKickassEntrepreneur.com