This edition of the Road Less Traveled features a summary of all subjects featured in aroundKent Magazine. 16 subjects have shared their Roads with me. It has been a pleasure and honor to learn from them and chronicle their success. They are indeed a rare alumni group. A summary of the first eight subjects was the basis of Travel Tips from the Road Less Traveled (Vol.11). The primary emphasis of that volume was the need for a new conversation and approach to career planning in response to a myriad of changes. Eight additional subjects have been featured since that volume. Those subjects echoed the themes of the first eight. They also reflected specific personal qualities that led to their success. More Travel Tips from the RLT blends the themes and qualities of all sixteen subjects into one.
Dr. Patrick O'Connor - Life Long Learning Connection
Career and Life Navigation
The 16 RLTs include lessons for career navigating as well as life planning. Each of the subjects has an interesting and amazing RLT. Together, they provide us insight into what successful people feel, think, believe and do. This is bigger than just career navigating. Basically, they provide us an approach to finding happiness and success in life. And, lifelong learning is at the center of it all. We need to have a new conversation about navigating career and life.
All subjects possess qualities others can follow. Students, parents, teachers and school counselors can learn from their RLTs. Anyone who guides young people can benefit. Even employers could use these themes and qualities to select and manage employees.
The RLTs are a roadmap for success and happiness. The subjects are happy and content with their personal and professional lives. They have found a way to turn what they love into what they do. They have, however, had to invest in getting there. Each RLT is an example of the Confucius quote, “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Note the quote emphasizes you must “find” it. Opportunity rarely finds anyone.
The Initial Eight RLTs Alums
A brief review of Travel Tips from the RLT revisits eight common themes that emerged from analyzing their paths to success. These themes related directly to career preparation and are summarized in the following excerpt:
Since the whole career planning world has changed so much in recent years, it seems the RLT has value for anyone exploring, starting, changing or returning to a career. Perhaps you know someone graduating from high school or college who is starting the first full time position. Or, maybe you know someone who started college and left before graduating and is trying to decide what to do next. You may even know a few people who have lost their jobs for any number of reasons and are once again in the job search mode. It is also very possible that you or someone you know has retired and decided to return to work at least part time.
Many people think they know (or should know) exactly what they want to do. This is an expectation in our society. The irony of this is very few people knew or know what they want to do; just ask them. A few people might know but they are the exception. And, how many times have you heard (or maybe even said) “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up”. Travel Tips from the RLT informs us there are common themes among successful people. The eight themes in Figure one lay the foundation for success.
fig 1- Common Themes in the Road Less Traveled
Personal interests and experiences during youth can turn into a career
Happiness comes from turning what you love into what you do.
The arts, especially music, are a solid foundation
Failure is seen as opportunity to learn and grow.
Everything is connected
“Hard” soft skills are needed when adversity appears
It’s okay not to know even though everyone expects us to know
Love of Learning lasts a lifetime
The Second Eight RLT Alums
The second group confirmed each of the themes identified in the first group. They also provided a deeper dive into the personal qualities of successful people. The following qualities were evident in all subjects. A few subjects have been selected as samples for each personal quality. Consider the following:
1. There are no shortcuts – just challenges
Success must be earned. Regardless of the path there is no struggle when you earn it. You just take on one challenge after another. The only guarantee is your own ability, talent and effort to chart your own course. Preparation takes many forms. Some are formal such as excellent education and lots of support from family and friends. Other people get their education at the “school of hard knocks”.
Bill White’s RLT, for example, reveals how someone from humble beginnings can achieve great success in athletics, business and philanthropy. The RLT of Kara Stewart, dance professor, demonstrates the dedication and determination it takes to become successful at the highest level in a chosen area. Her Road also shows how someone leans on that determination (hard soft skills) when the dream crashes.
“experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”
Everyone featured in the RLT likes and almost welcomes a good challenge. Perhaps the satisfaction from meeting the challenge motivates them. Here are a few examples.
Gwen Rosenberg of Popped! is in constant motion always challenging herself to set and meet new goals. She is an imaginative and creative small business owner adjusting to her surroundings and market conditions. She views failure as a challenge and opportunity to grow. She is fearless indicated by her comment “who cares if I stumble; no one is keeping score”.
A few other examples of tackling a challenge are George Miller who left a solid job at the post office to become a child advocacy artist. Rachel Brown started college at age 25. Julie Messing left her corporate executive position (that she worked so hard to get) to lead a non-profit entrepreneur center at a university. Tom Fulton changed careers to become a teacher after a 40-year career in theatre.
“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
2. Everyone needs an outlet.
It’s important to have an outlet of some kind that helps reduce stress. Exercising, gardening, reading, hiking and many other activities are helpful as an outlet. All RLT subjects have some form of outlet that helps reduce stress and seems to have a therapeutic value for them. This is often connected to their talent and the work they do. In some respects, the outlet is almost an extension of who they are and is used to improve the lives of others. Successful people share their talent doing good for others.
George Miller II, child advocacy artist, is a good example of this. George creates art for professionals who work with disadvantaged and traumatized youth. He comments, “my art is almost therapy for me as much as it is for those who view it”.
Rachel Brown shares her gift for music and songwriting with wounded veterans (the Drew Project). Imagine how humbling it must be to spend a day with wounded veterans assisting them in writing songs about their experiences. It sounds like it would be therapeutic for everyone involved.
3. RLT subjects are optimistic.
Successful people have a strong belief in the importance of their work. They believe that people will do the right thing. They have constant assurance they are on the correct path.
Nelson Burns, for example, has devoted his life to improving the lives of people with disabilities. He has led his organization, Coleman Professional Services, from a small local counseling service to a major regional player in the mental wellness of people and organizations.
A wonderful optimistic view is reflected in Joan Meggitt’s motto:
“take the leap; someone will catch you”.
4. Humbly live your mission
You must believe in and humbly live your mission in life. This gives you strength and enables you to stay true to what you believe regardless of the obstacles you encounter.
All RLTs are filled with examples of subjects sharing their gifts and talent with little fanfare or expectation of reward. These talents and gifts are shared almost as an extension of themselves. It seems connected to a “quiet confidence”; to approach each day with the belief they can make something good happen (and do it almost anonymously).
Joe Hendershott for example has taken his many years of experience working with at-risk youth to improve their lives. He comments, “Sometimes we must put the needs of others ahead of our own”. Joe left a successful career as a university administrator to fully commit himself (and his family) to working with wounded youth.
Linda Ferguson is an excellent example of how humility makes us all better. She has been in numerous leadership roles in several organizations. She brings the vision that we can all improve the lives of others. She comments that she loves to be the “harmony in the songs of others.”
Frances Mae Rottman, the Last Dreamer, approaches each day in her humble quiet way. She does many little things for her family, church and community following the quote of Mother Theresa, “Do small things with great love”.
“Define yourself rather than be defined by others.” Linda Ferguson
5. Community focused.
Successful people understand the importance of community knowing we accomplish more together than separately. Marilyn Sessions and Ann Kent are two good examples of this quality. Both follow the lead of Winston Churchill who said, “we earn a living by what we get: we get a life by what we give”.
Marilyn has been involved in almost every service organization and activity in the city of Kent. She has received numerous awards for her community service. Yet, she goes about her contributions with little fanfare.
It takes a special quality to inspire people to rally around the needs of a community. Ann does this in an unusual way. She works in a non-profit that supports organizations who want their employees to be community oriented. More and more organizations see the need to engage their employees in their communities. Ann and her organization facilitate this engagement.
6 The arts
The arts contribute to success. The arts require discipline, goal setting and continuous learning. The arts appeal to a part of the brain that other subjects do not. Music and the arts are an essential part of the RLT. Most of the subjects play a musical instrument they learned to play when they were young. And, for people who might be a bit on the shy side, the arts can help develop their social skills. Rachel Brown, for example, is a big presence on stage when she performs with Rachel and the Beatnik Playboys. She’s a bit more reserved in person. The arts seem to be the ideal blend of structure and creativity.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and loose ourselves at the same time”. Fr. Thomas Merton
Kara Stewart saw her ballet dream collapse and stepped away from dance for several years. She worked as a successful entrepreneur before finding her way back to dance almost accidently. She never gave up on dance commenting when she returned, “I felt like someone had just put their arms around me.”
Marty Mordarski started playing trumpet in the third grade. That led him to performing in rock bands as a teenager and young adult. He has used many of the skills learned from those experiences throughout his career.
“music was my first language”, Fred Rogers.
7 Mix interests
Most RLT subjects had multiple interests when they were growing up. In most of the cases, they merged their two (or even three) interests into one career path creating a new opportunity for themselves. This relates directly to the theme in Vol 11 that teenage interests can become the foundation for a career. This is how the subjects have turned what they love into what they do.
This is especially important for young people to know. It is wise to think more broadly than just one narrow career path. Most people have multiple interests and students in high school and college should blend them and see what careers emerge.
Ann Kent reflects this approach of mixing interests. She studied as a classical pianist. Her family were also social activists. Her musical talents and dedication to others resulted in mixing those two passions into one when she became a music therapist.
Another good example of blending interests into one effort is Joan Meggitt. She combined her interests in athletics, music, singing and dance into her career as a dance educator. And, she has shared those talents with people with Parkinson’s disease. The patience, talent and dedication it takes to teach a dance/movement class to people with Parkinson’s is remarkable. I saw it live when I attended her class.
All RLTs indicate successful people are adaptable. As our workplace, society, and world change so dramatically, adaptability is essential to success. It is a constant challenge to keep up with so much change.
None of the sixteen subjects knew what he/she was going to do in life/career. Tom Fulton is perfect example. After college he thought he would never be a teacher and 40 years later he became a teacher. 40 years! Don’t be so sure of yourself.
And people can have different aspirations, take different paths and still wind up basically in the same place. Kara Stewart was positive about dance and Joan Meggitt was positive about law. Both wound up in dance though they took dramatically different paths to get there. Part of success is to keep your mind and options open; be flexible.
Two more good examples of adaptability are Marty Mordarski and Julie Messing. They are examples of the phrase “skate to where the puck is headed” (Wayne Gretsky). Their effectiveness is related directly to their ability to anticipate, adapt and respond to change. Marty is constantly adjusting his methods to meet the specific needs of his clients. Julie has mentored many college students to become successful entrepreneurs. She adjusts her mentoring to accommodate the changing needs of students and the business world.
“It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin.
Prepared for the Future
Successful people possess many good qualities which prepare them for the future whatever it may bring. As lifelong learners they have similar themes in their paths to success which blend nicely into all RLTs (figure 1 and 2). There is a good chance these themes and qualities are common in most successful people as we all have a RLT…..including AroundKent readers!
These themes and qualities will continue to be important as change marches on and the need for new conversations emerge. We can all learn from the experiences and examples of the sixteen RLT subjects as we prepare for the future. They are excellent role models for all of us. I know they have been for me. Their RLTs guide us in finding how to turn what we love into what we do.
Fig 2- Qualities of Successful People.
Take no shortcuts accepting all challenges
Have an outlet
Humbly live their mission
Are community focused
Love the arts and music
Have a mix of interests
Volume 11 Subjects
The eight subjects featured were Al Flogge, corporate executive/philanthropist, (Vol.3); Julie Messing, entrepreneurship leader, (Vol.4); Marty Mordarski, organizational development leader, (Vol.5); Ann Kent, corporate community liaison, (Vol. 6); Linda Ferguson, foundation executive director, (Vol. 7); Nelson Burns, CEO, (Vol.8); Kara Stewart, dance professor (Vol. 9) and Gwen Rosenberg, entrepreneur (Vol. 10).
Volume 20 subjects
The second group of subjects were George E. Miller II, child advocacy artist (vol. 12); Tom Fulton, actor/performing arts teacher (vol 13); Marilyn Sessions, human resource manager (vol 14); Dr. Joe Hendershott, director Hope for the Wounded (Vol 15); Frances Mae Rottman, The Last Dreamer (vol 16); Bill White, entrepreneur/philanthropist (Vol. 17); Rachel Brown, songwriter, performer and music teacher (Vol. 18) and Joan Meggitt, dance professor (Vol. 19).