Last week, a good friend took a little jab at me. I don’t think he meant it as a jab. He meant it to be funny. Actually, I think he was expressing deep and genuine curiosity, but because he was uncomfortable just asking me the question, he resorted to making a joke. Maybe to see if I would bite.
He said something like, “So, how are things going now that you’ve sold out to the for-profit world?”
Bless his heart – he got an ear full of questions from me about what he was actually curious to know and what assumptions his question was really based on. I say “bless his heart” because he was the one I “unloaded” on. My cup on this topic felt full because in the last three weeks about ten people – all in the school business – had made hints at wanting to talk about the same issues. I didn’t bite at the previous nine innuendoes. [It’s interesting how some things can come in waves (maybe because it’s school contract season?). And, of course, perhaps I was more sensitive to the sentiments and hidden curiosities because of the perceived volume in a short time.]
After a deluge of questions from me and honest replies from him, I shared with my good friend that I had taken about a 12.5% reduction in salary when I moved jobs. I shared that I had given up one of the most incredible benefits packages among all U.S. schools, including a completely free campus house and a meal-a-day cafeteria that I would put up against many three and four star restaurants. I reminded him that I had announced my intent to leave in September 2011 – five to six months before I had secured my next position or any guarantee of “big bucks” (to the horror of my father) – because I felt so strongly about the direction of my next chapter in educational leadership and service. A leap of some faith that was all about purpose and nothing about pay.
I also told him that I gained far more than I had sacrificed or given up.
After nearly 200 conversations between September 2011 and February 2012, I was able to join an organization that aligned beautifully with my desired purpose to be part of a team who could support schools and educational organizations that truly want to undertake the serious opportunities for significant transformation. I am in a studio of folks that want to amplify and accelerate positive change for groups that invite us in to partner with them to design and implement higher and holistic sets of possibilities.
Now that nearly eight months had passed, I could assure my good friend that I felt justified and reflectively peaceful in making my transition. While I missed the known and “comfortable” life of school principal, I was growing immeasurably among my new team of transformation designers, strategists, and sense makers. I could share that I feel harmonious with a group of people that aim to assist and empower organizations that want to radiate acting on the things that matter most.
I could also share that my quality of life benefits were through the roof. That I had regained my life as a husband and father. That I was in a place that did not brag about level of exhaustion as a measure of worth and productiveness. That I was in a place that places high value on creativity and vulnerability – with actions and daily habits, not just with words.
Throughout the conversation, I could share that my personal decision to begin a new chapter to my book was based on purpose and not paycheck. Despite being as immersed in capitalism as anyone, I could tell my friend that I had not, in my opinion, “sold out.”
But I do feel that I have bought in and anted up – to opportunities for more significant transformation in the educational landscape.
I so appreciate his willingness to listen and engage. And I am grateful for his encouragement to write a post about our conversation. He said he was thankful to understand my actual narrative so that he could throw away his inaccurate assumptions.
He is indeed a very good friend.