John Lefferts' Blog

Thursday, May 1, 2014

And on a personal note...#careercurveballs

Typically a blog or Linkedin post is devoted to the sharing of business ideas. But lately I’ve found my personal life intersecting with my business life to the point where I’m not sure which is which. Some may call that balance, a concept historically foreign to me. I've tended to compartmentalize business from the rest of my life and despite enjoying a fair amount of success, I'm not sure it couldn't have been better had I included more balance. When the executive editor at Linkedin wrote suggesting I (and others) share a “career twist” using the hashtag #careercurveballs to tell a personal story, I decided to take him up on it. I’ve written several times about how certain events have changed my career including this one describing my first week on the job as President/CEO of AXA Advisors in NYC while my wife was househunting… then the mother of all #careercurveballs was thrown at many of us, when 9/11 happened. Everyone is dealt multiple curveballs over a career and its not really that they are thrown your way or that you can even avoid them. It's all about how you respond when it happens.This is a story about how I am working through my most recent curveball differently than ever before.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. — George Bernard Shaw
In the fall of this past year, I had achieved my business goal to successfully launch an RIA and B/D from scratch as Pres/CEO of Lion Street Financial linking up with the Lion Street insurance mother ship to form the “Tribrid” model (B/D/RIA/BGA on a single platform) I’ve been a proponent of for some time. It took close to two years with our heads down navigating FINRA and the SEC seldom coming up for air. But once we got across the goal line and went live in October 2013, I looked up, took a deep breath and came to the realization that it was “mission accomplished” what? While I have a great deal of respect for Lion Street founder Bob Carter, it was evident that in the end, it was his company to run, not mine... time to look for the next peak to climb
We cannot change anything until we can accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.-Carl Jung
Around this same time I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with family in my hometown of San Diego (I'm in Dallas now). I left there in 1990 vowing to myself that when the time is right, I’d make my way back there. It's now been 24 years and my parents had long given up asking "When are you moving back to San Diego?". Then one morning I was walking on the Del Mar beach with my wife Dianne, also from San Diego, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Even as hard headed as I am, I was able to pick up all the signs that the universe was shooting my way. Most career or life changing events have been either very agonizing decisions or made for me by default or circumstance. Not this one. This was clear and easy. My parents are now in their 80's in San Diego, my triplet children will be attending 3 different colleges dispersed throughout the nation, home prices in Dallas had just reached all time highs and I was for the first time no longer tied to Texas by family or career. I had survived multiple career curveballs and by finally entering my personal life into the equation, I could clearly see the laces on the ball coming my way.
I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that the person could be me"-Annan Quindlen
So when I returned from the Thanksgiving trip in California to Texas, I decided to approach my personal life in a sense the way I had historically done with my business life…very strategically. As a kid, my Dad was a season ticket holder for the AFL Chargers (still is) and we would go to games in Balboa Stadium which then resembled what High School stadiums in Texas look like today. I’ve been a Charger fan ever since and still am. So I decided to call my new strategic initiative “Operation Bolt”to signify that the Lefferts family is bolting from Texas to San Diego. The signals given me with my work at Lion Street winding down, my triplet children pursuing entrance into colleges outside of Texas and home values in my burb of Highland Park at all time highs were the cataylists for me to make a change. (Yes, I do think in 3’s a lot) So this became the central theme for “Operation Bolt”. There are 3 phases.
Phase I: Get Triplets into the college of their choice.
Phase II: Put house up for sale and more importantly, sell it!
Phase III: Find a career niche that I can use my life experiences and talents to the fullest in San Diego.
If you've read this far, you're probably thinking, “Wow, this guy must be the most rote and boring person on the planet” to which I (and my wife) will say, yes…yes I am. I’m not exactly Mr. Spontaneity, but am single mindedly goal oriented.
"Every Beginning comes from some other beginnings end"
I’m pleased (and proud) to say that Phase I is now successfully complete. I've had the privilege of time this year to spend with my soon to be gone kids traveling to multiple schools and tagging along with my son on football recruiting trips. With triplets and no other children, it’s "one and done" and the household is about to get very quiet. I've taken full advantage of this time with them since they’re set to leave the household headed to schools in other parts of the country. Rachel (first born by a minute) is headed to Northwestern University where she has been accepted into the Medill School of journalism. Karen is also headed to Chicago for the theater program at Columbia College Chicago. And Marshall has decided to play football for Penn State University (James Franklin is one heck of a recruiter!). He’ll be there in June to begin workouts with the team and take some summer courses. Article on Triplets here:
Phase II is “in progress” with our house up for sale at the beginning of April with the plan to sell by June and finally move to “Americas Finest City” by July. And as for Phase III, the career part, I’ve been networking within the San Diego business community and am in the process of writing up an investment thesis that can be either the bones for another start-up or part of a larger entity in the retail distribution space of financial services. With more change occurring in financial services today than the past several decades combined, as in many industries, business as usual is not an option. I can tell you that Linkedin has been an invaluable resource to network within the local business community from afar.
I’ve seen several articles recently that are boldly titled “quit your job now!” . Having spent 28 years with one company (AXA) my mindset for the longest time could not have accepted that premise. Whether it was being locked into the dreaded “comfort zone”, fear of the unknown or simply habit, I never opened myself up to pursuing what I wanted but rather what the firm needed from me. Now having before made the leap into the unknown successfully and realizing that life goes on, and often bigger and better than before, I no longer have that fear of taking the leap again. But this time, as my personal life has intersected with my business life, I’ve never felt more in control of my future and excited for what it has to offer. We all get curveballs thrown in our careerpath and at the time it may seem like the worst thing in the world. But I’ve found that if you keep your perspective, develop a personal strategic plan and get after it, like me, you’ll probably feel a high level of control and satisfaction across all aspects of your life. You just need to let your personal life intersect with your business life, maintain the balance, set a strategic plan for yourself and your family and enjoy the ride.
What you need above all else, is a love for your subject, whatever it is. You've got to be so deeply in love with your subject that when curve balls are thrown, when hurdles are put in place, you've got the energy to overcome them
-Neil deGrasse Tyson