As I sat down to write my just-released book Turn the Page, I drew upon the stories of the beautiful and inspiring people I have been honored to meet over the past 18 years at my speaking engagements across America.
In Turn the Page, one of the points I make is: “To remember who you are, forget what they told you to be.”
The inspiration for the sentence above was due, in part, to a fellow by the name of Harold, whom I had lunch with following an event in 2015. In the earlier years of his working life, his associates knew him as “Harry.” He had once been a hard-charger, an MBA in Finance, complete with red suspenders who took on a job with a large, regional brokerage firm. He came to the company after working in the world of trading and brokerage. Harry was the firm’s venture capital guy, the Mergers & Acquisitions expert, the wheeler and dealer and the man business leaders sought out when they needed creative ways to raise money.
It Takes Courage
Harry was a very wealthy man. Numbers were his playground, and negotiating deals was his professional forte. His peers always saw him as tough, driven and hard-nosed. There was no doubt he was in line for partnership and, who knows, the presidency of his company. That is why Harry surprised the entire organization the day he resigned.
Harry’s boss was bewildered. For it wasn’t money or position or more prestige that Harry sought. It was his aspiration to teach music to children.
Harry was very complimentary to his organization. He thanked everyone he worked with and acknowledged all of the clients who had made him “more than enough.” Harry carried a secret: he had only gotten into the financial world because his parents convinced him it was his duty to make a lot of money. The years went by, and though Harry had learned to be a master of acting, most mornings it was all he could do to make it out of bed.
Though he did well in college and graduate school, his greatest joy in an educational sense were the classes in music appreciation and music improvisation. He cherished the moments he spent playing the piano, and he loved strumming his guitar, and whenever it was possible, which wasn’t very often, he attended concerts and the symphony.
About five years before his resignation, Harry took his wife on an anniversary trip to Kyoto in Japan. As they were entering the Kyoto Concert Hall, Harry began to wonder how it was that he came to do so well in the world of numbers, while at the same time being so miserable as a dealmaker.
In this classical music palace, he turned to his wife and said, “I’m getting older.”
She asked him what he meant, but he didn’t know how to put it in words, so he blurted:
“I’m what everyone else wanted me to be.”
There wasn’t one aspect of his career that brought him happiness.
Harry, then and there, decided to return to being Harold, the kid who fished along riverbanks, the young man in Music 101 who had dreams of becoming a music teacher, the guy who would sit and play his banjo, guitar, and ukulele.
A Smile So Bright
They asked him what he would do, where he would go. Harry said he wasn’t exactly clear, but he needed to return to who he started out to be.
Harold went back to school and earned his teacher education degree. Harold approached me last year after I finished speaking at his school’s convocation kickoff. His smile lit up the auditorium where we were standing, and his attitude spoke volumes about his love for teaching children music.
I will agree that Harold certainly had the means to start his new teaching venture. However, it took more resolution than money. I cannot advise you on what you should do regarding your present situation, but I will tell you that there is nothing that prevents you from enjoying your life and turning a few pages – even if it’s for a brief period each day to pursue those things you love. Remember who you are; forget what they told you to be!