post # 95 — June 2, 2006 — a Careers post
Another post from the archives. This question was originally posed in October, 2002, but I still get asked it again and again.
You have created what I believe is a high level of credibility and a brand. Have you ever been tempted to become David Maister and Associates? What factors would you consider in making this type of decision?
My (updated) reply is this: I am defiantly solo, and have never been tempted to build a firm. This has nothing to do with any business theory, but is just a reflection of my tastes and (eccentric?) personality.
If there’s a general theory behind it, it’s simply that you must know and accept yourself and try to arrange your life around what you want to do and what your goals are, never accepting other people’s views on what you “should” do.
I believe the goal of life is to maximize happiness and fulfilment as you yourself define it it.
You must never accept other people’s definition of success or happiness. There are too many ways to live life, and you’re allowed (maybe even required) to choose your own, without living up to other people’s views and beliefs. Assuming, of course, that you’re prepared to accept the consequences of what you have chosen.
My primary goal has never been to maximize income or net worth – it’s not my definition of happiness. So, building a firm to get rich never appealed.
Actually, building a firm at all never appealed. The legacy I wanted (and still want) to leave was not an institution, but to be remembered as someone who, as an author, made a difference by contributing sensible ideas clearly expressed; and, as a consultant, helped other people achieve more of their goals.
I understand and admire, tremendously, those who have built firms: many are my clients, and I am in awe of what the best among them have accomplished in creating firms.
But I don’t want to do what they do. I understand enough about what it takes to be an effective manager to know that I don’t want to spend my days doing it. I’ve seen enough partnerships in twenty years to know that partnership is not for me.
I LOVE the freedom that comes from having no colleagues, no bosses, no subordinates. I can and do collaborate (8 of the 12 books I have written, including those done in academia, were coauthored, joint projects.) But I love the freedom of choosing when I want to collaborate and when I don’t.
If all that means that I have to work a little harder and shoulder the full, personal responsibility for building my reputation and creating my own individual success, well, that’s fine with me.
I don’t say it’s right for others, just that it’s a perfect fit with who I am. And, done right, it pays well enough to keep my wife and I more than contented! (English understatement.)
Here’s the challenge for each of you out there: are you enthusiastically, deliriously, delightfully pleased with the career choices you made? Are you doing what YOU wanted and chose? I hope so!