Last month, I was speaking with a mentor/friend/advisor who I’ve known for nearly 30 years (yes, of course, we met when I was 2…), discussing the How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace talk and bringing it to his campus. As we were ironing out the proposal, we began talking about my eclectic bio, which, as usual, inspired a comment about how many different careers I’ve had. My standard reply is the self-deprecating, “I must just have a short attention span,” which is what I said this time. Most people just chuckle and the conversation moves on, but Dr. B. didn’t do that. He said, “That’s not it at all…” and then he stated something that captures me perfectly:
“You just treat life like a party with a lot of hors d’oeuvres.”
He went on to describe both my life and my party practices, so this was remarkably spot on.
“You walk in and see what’s available to you, then you try something, and chances are it’s good, but you don’t want to get too full of that in case something is better. So you keep trying everything. You occasionally go back to what you liked before, but you want to keep your appetite open to something new that might come in. And since you made sure to go to the right party in the first place, new choices keep coming through the door.”
I love this analogy on so many levels. First, as a woman, it is a fun, yet stunningly accurate response I can now give to any questions about my multifaceted history without putting myself down (a trait we female-brained need to eschew). Second, it reveals that changing direction is NOT failure. It is not about abandoning one field, but rather pursuing something else which might be tastier. After all, would we expect someone to only eat mini-quiche to the point of being stuffed rather than try the ahi toast points, chicken skewers, spanakopita, mushroom caps, gorgonzola puffs, baked brie, almond tarts and chickpea fritters?
I look at my life and I have no idea what the next tasty bite might be. For now, I am thoroughly enjoying the bacon-wrapped scallops (being an author, speaker and coach), and could probably stick with them until the party ends, but if something amazing walks through the door (like minted lamb chops, or hosting my own talk show), I might just have to give it a taste — without apology, without regret, and without thinking I’ve failed or have some flaw that made me move in that direction. For me, life (and most parties) are too damn short to stick with pigs-in-a-blanket the whole time.