Rosa asked me to share a story about my experiences with learning.
Once upon a time, I was a reasonably successful professional radio announcer in Baton Rouge. In the radio business, the day is sliced up into “dayparts” and you always start in crummy dayparts (like midnight to 6am on Sunday morning) and move to more desirable dayparts as you move up the ladder.
One day, one of my previous bosses killed himself in a gruesome way because he was moved from a top-ranked daypart to a less prestigious one (morning drive to mid-days). It was about that time I decided it might be time to look for other career options – I didn’t relish being defined by my daypart.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do and considered all kinds of other options (garbage man, advertising, and a whole range of other things were on the list).
One February afternoon, my roommate came home and told me the software company he worked for was looking for a technical support person. He explained that a technical support person would be responsible for handling telephone calls from software users and helping them solve problems. I’d always enjoyed puzzles and problem-solving so I decided that might be fun. He called and set up an interview with the founder of the company the next afternoon.
A few minutes later, I realized I didn’t know anything about DOS (the operating system in use at that time). I asked my roommate if he had anything I could study, and he gave me a copy of Microsoft’s MS-DOS manual and Peter Norton’s book “Inside The IBM PC.” I stayed up all night cramming on these books and trying out what I learned on my other roommate’s IBM XT computer.
The next day, I went to the interview and, miraculously, I got the job. There I was, a naive young kid starting his first job in the computer industry!
20 years later, I still work in the software industry and I love it.
This type of stepping into the unknown has become a bit of a habit with me. Every 18 months or so, it seems, I end up taking on a new opportunity which requires me to learn very new skills (I’ve done and managed such things as customer support, quality assurance, marketing, software programming, product and program management, IT operations, web publishing, IT audit, process consulting, and, most recently, business development). Some of these career changes have been things I’ve asked for; while some of them have been imposed.
Stepping into the unknown is always scary, but I’ve learned the most valuable things in the situations where I’ve pushed through the fear and taken the chance ”“ sort of a “burning platform” approach. In some cases, I realized I’d made the wrong choice (thanks, dot-com hype) but I moved on and looked for the next challenge.
JFK said, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not only because they are easy, but because they are hard”” We’re at our best when we make the hard choices.
Make a few hard choices and seek the challenges in the unknown. Refuse to be defined by your daypart.
Postcript by Rosa: You can always find Dwayne Melancon, our Guest Author today, within the right-column listing of our Ho‘ohana Online Community. Dwayne is the author of Genuine Curiosity, and his ho‘ohana is that he is “Always on the lookout for new things to learn,” just as he has shared in this wonderful story!