The early light of morning made it difficult to discern where the ocean ended and the sky began. Eric was sitting looking out the window and soaking up the solitude. The house was quiet, and he guessedit would be for awhile longer. As he sat, he began to think about how he wound up here. Not here at this beach house in Capitola, but rather here as theVP of Sales and Marketing for San Joaquin Dairy. He always felt as if he were somewhat of a misfit. He didn’t get a thrill from the hunt or a high from closing the deal. Equally, he never took a “no” personally or found himself crushed by the business that was lost. Truthfully, he found the whole process rather uninteresting. But, he’s been pretty damn successful which struck him as weird. It wasn’t that he was unhappy. He enjoyed finding creative solutions to complex challenges, and that is how he viewed the sales process. What brought him the most joy was mentoring his team. To the unfamiliar eye, his team might appear to be a motley crew. But, each member had developed their own style and gained a solid understanding of the business. There were even a few Eric felt would be good future leaders. He was proud of his team and proud of the work he has done to support them. But, he still found himself wondering if the success he had experienced was a result of his actions or just a bit of good fortune.
Just then, Eric’s attention was pulled away by a lone, still, figure sitting on a bench below his window. He wondered if they’d been there all along. In the pre-dawn light, it was difficult to make out who it was, but Eric was fairly certain it was Thatcher. As if on cue, Thatcher turned toward the window, waived, and motioned to Eric to come join him out on the bench. Eric pulled on his hoodie, slipped on his Crocs, and walked down the steps to the deck below. “Morning, have a seat why don’t ya?”, Thatcher asked. “Thanks”, said Eric feeling a bit uncomfortable. “I noticed you were enjoying what I call the thinking view. When you look out that window, it seems as if the rest of the world melts away and you are just left with your thoughts. Mind if I ask what you were thinking about?” inquired Thatcher. Eric had no intention of sharing his thoughts, but for some reason, it just felt like the right and natural thing to do. So, he spilled his guts. Thatcher listened intently, not interrupting, just softly and slowly nodding his head in an affirming manner.
“Whoa”, Eric said as he let his breath out through his nose, “I didn’t plan on dumping all of that on you.” Thatcher smiled, “I have that affect on people. I can get them to sing like canaries. You know, I get it. I’ve felt the same way for most of my career. I mean I was in thick of the “Startup Economy”. Everyone around me was ruthlessly pursuing the next big thing, looking for that innovation that would yield the big cash out and make them darlings of Silicon Valley. But, that wasn’t me. I wasn’t in it to win it. Like you, I really found enjoyment in solving complex issues and finding a way to meet an unmet demand. Really, all I wanted to do was have a positive impact on those around me. I didn’t have a pervasive thirst for success. Strangely, success just seemed to find me. I also wondered if it was just dumb luck. You know, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then.” Eric smiled and took comfort in what Thatcher was sharing.
“Can I tell you a quick story?”, asked Thatcher. “By all means,” Eric replied with genuine curiosity. “When I was in college”, Thatcher started, “I really struggled with anxiety, to the point, I considered dropping out. One of my professors was aware of this and invited me to join him at his meditation group. That was a pivotal moment for me, and I have been an active participant in the group ever since. That professor remains one of my greatest teachers. About six months ago, right after I sold my last business, I came to the group. After the session, my old professor sensed that I was a little lost, so he asked, and I shared what I’ve just shared with you. You see, I didn’t know what to do next. I was a hot commodity in Silicon Valley. I just sold a business to Microsoft. But, I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t fit the mold, and as I shared with you, I kind of wondered if it was just luck that had gotten me that far.” Eric was surprised by the doubt that Thatcher had about his future. It was not what he would have expected.
“The professor and I grabbed some coffee on the way home.”, Thatcher went on. “He said to me that it wasn’t dumb luck that got me this far, It was leadership. He explained that those people that made me feel like an outcast, had it wrong. They were focused on products, processes, and outcomes, while I was focused on people. Leadership, he explained, is about getting things done through others. But, more than that, it’s about helping people see the potential in themselves or in a situation they have yet to see. Eric, that is what we do. That is why we’ve met with success. That’s why I bought this business and why I am so excited to have you as part of my team. We’re going to make something special happen. Now, let’s just sit and enjoy this view and some silence for a few minutes, because we’ve got some work to do after that!”