Location, Location, Location
This posting is one of both Just Thinking and Travel. It deals with a major transition that I went through professionally based upon my particular path of motivation and the location that was clearly instrumental in that transition. Bottom line: Without New Orleans, my professional career would likely have been very different and really not as worthy in the near term then and now 3 decades later in my 70s. (NOTE: I do not recommend what I went through professionally. It is my particular circumstances and perspective of motivation that drove me forward as described below. However, with that said, I hope there may be some points of interest for those readers that are facing professional issues.)
To start the following discussion, I should note I have 5 decades, and counting, of imperfect employment. By imperfect, I mean that I changed industries several times in pursuit of challenging positions without any direction except for the motivation of doing something mentally challenging and creative. As a starting point for my most significant transition 30 some years ago, I was fired outright at that point as a railroad executive, and I made the shift to consulting. Never saw that coming, but then again it was perfectly aligned with my underlying motivation. That was the ultimate transition … and … the choice of New Orleans (NOLA) within which to make that transition turned out to be absolutely critical to my career, but most importantly to my mental and physical health. When losing a job and getting past the resulting fear and anger, it is likely that one will confront himself/herself in the mirror one morning and ask: Am I a success? … or worse … Am I failure? This is an unfortunate thought that I expect many individuals think about when things go awry in their professional life. I did when I got fired AND in my initial years as a consultant. Yes! One can rightly rationalize that success is a relative issue. And, we may often think about the perspective of those around us as to what is the answer, especially when you get fired. But at the time when things have gone South, it may go through one’s minds and possibly through the minds of those dear to us. Getting past that self-damming BS and constraining point is critical, and the sooner the better. This is where Location is one variable that may make a difference, but not as a panacea. For me, the location was NOLA. With my expulsion from my executive position in Philadelphia, I move to and lived in “Norlins” for 8 years following my previous 45+ years in the North, Pennsylvania specifically. While I was originally viewed and graciously accepted as a “Damn Yankee” when I moved there, I really didn’t possess many of the stereotypes of other NEer’s, e.g., time is money, being reserved is “cool”, driving a B&W is a necessity, expecting to be asked what I did in social gatherings, and starting a business meeting was about the business at hand from the get-go. Long story short, I quickly adapted to the “SPIRIT” of NOLA (addressed later in the TRAVEL portion of this posting), but not in the way that would be acceptable by many given my BS/MBA background. It turns out that my liberal (Go Biden/Harris – Thank God!) view of life and following my emotions and enjoyment of music / dance / food / and dear, genuine friends, handsomely confronted and neutralized the false sense of failure as to corporate position and money. I archived my previous successes as a corporate executive, and was now redefining my life style, and what I would want to do as a consultant. Starting my consulting profession at that time, having been in railroad management, presented a number of challenges for now being on my own without staff and organization. I was no longer the client with suppliers who at that moment “adored” me, Now I had to sell myself. Fortunately, I had a number of years with IBM out of B-school, that taught me excellent sales and presentation techniques and, most importantly, the utmost proper business ethics. With a cold-start at consulting, there were several issues that I had to learn to accept. First, those dear suppliers and RR colleagues don’t necessarily return calls. Hmmmmm! Second, I had to confront the fact that I was not bringing in revenue on a regular basis, (a false success factor it turned out) and often with long dry spells. Having had 20+ years of solid employment up to that time was a point of ego and financial welfare to be dealt with. Starting my independent consulting career, I was totally on my own to make a career. And, I was focusing on the freight industry of which there were only 7 or so major roads at the time with which to deal …. And possibly fail. So, the risk was high. It didn’t help that I had been partially blacklisted by my prior employer for blowing the whistle on unethical, if not illegal, activities that I openly exposed about the RR as Chief Engineer. Clearly, I was naïve about what my actions could lead to in that not everyone was professionally trained under IBM’s guidelines and/or not naturally possessing integrity in thought and action. To a great extent, my daily activity dealt with looking out my huge Uptown kitchen window during the week and deciding whether to go wind surfing on Lake Pontchartrain or in-line skating in Audubon Park. During the day, this is how I dealt with being on the phone seeking (sometimes humbly begging for) work. The point is that I needed a daily physical relief from the pressure of not making income. I should note that after 8 years of struggling as consultant in NOLA, I did come back to corporate life for 3 years to accept and complete an exceptional challenge to develop a Positive Train Control (PTC) system that prevents train accidents due to human errors (now deployed across the U.S. via a Federal mandate). I then resigned both professionally and to myself that I was meant to be a consultant and free of corporate management constraints. To explain the motivation to leave a solid corporate position and make the transition back to being a consultant without such financial security, is best explained by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I’ll leave it to you to research Maslow’s Motivation Theory in greater detail. However, the following describes the primary principles of the theory that begins at the bottom of the pyramid and advances upward to the extent suitable for each individual. What one may first notice with this stacking of needs is that money is not mentioned; it is not a “true” motivator. It is important to provide for the Physiological and Safety Needs. Once that is true, then the individual may be motivated by the other needs in a sequence starting at the bottom until reaching Self-Actualizaiton.
There are masses of people who are likely facing significant, unforgiving unemployment for the first time. Unlike my situation, while I was thrusted into unemployment by the railroad for doing the ethical thing of presenting the criminal activity of management, but naively, I had greater opportunity to find work in that job market. So! This document is not meant as a panacea, not even as encouragement necessarily, but rather as a presentation of thoughts that may be of some assistance mentally, physically, but not necessarily financially. Each of us have a personal slate of issues, I only wish to suggest that there are some points to consider when moving on, including location, that may not come to mind at first.
During my time in NOLA 20+ years ago, I perceived that it had 3 primary social classes. However, given Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I expect that has changed in a significant way. But first, the WAS. At the top of society, then and now, there are the very, very rich that are not approachable even as a U.S. “foreigner”. At the other end, there had been the culturally rich, but financially poor that received a very poor public education and subjected to the continuance of unreasonable living and working conditions that one would expect in the South. However, while NOLA is in the South, it is not a stereotypical Southern city as one would think of in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. This is a city with unchallenged historical cultural depth in the U.S. This is a city of activity of artistic wonders including music, food, dancing, and structural arts of sculpture, glass blowing, painting, etc. It is a singular example of an amazing city for which unusual opportunities are available to a select portion of the otherwise under-privileged due to the living arts, most notably music. Between those two classes resides, then and now, the upper middle class. There really isn’t a middle class as one would expect in the North. NOLA is a city based on living a great life, and not the requirements for supporting and building the country other than via the arts. With that understanding, I became included and embraced by the Upper Middle Class that is engulfed in a wealth of the pleasures of living. This portion of society does not judge you on what you do, what type of car you drive, and are without interest as to where you live in the city. Of course, there are some jerks, but most assuredly not the folks that are native to the city. But none of that is exposed or noticed when you go out Tuesday night for dinner at Clancys Uptown … or … dancing and profusely sweating on a sweltering summer night at the Maple Leaf on Oak St. SIDE NOTE: Dancing in NOLA is not like anywhere else outside of Louisiana. It is all about hitting the “off beat”. Hard to explain, but once learned, one cannot change. The “off beat” is all about a pause in your mind, and then an ongoing continuance of thrusting forward with your partner. Now, the culturally rich, but financially poor set, has been replaced in the last 15 years. Katrina took out the housing and livelihood of those that could least afford to recover from the disaster. Hence, a new group came into rebuild the city, and I can only assume that their life style has resulted in some significant changes in the cultural environment. I really don’t know, but the Spirit of NOLA has now an additional tangent I expect. Personally, NOLA is one of 3 cities that I cherish across the globe. The other 2 are Paris and Villefranche sur Mer with several postings on this blog as to each of those. As to those 2 cities, I can always visit. But as to the people, NOLA is the most. These are people that enjoy the best parts of life shamelessly. A NOLA friend is true to being what they want to be even beyond their responsibilities. A proclamation I once heard, source unknown, is that NOLA is the city that so many will return to in their life. I believe that, and perhaps I may do that – once real estate prices approach reasonable. The bottom line here is that for those individuals who are facing difficult working positions, or none, they may want to think about their location. I found NOLA met my personal enjoyment requirements at a critical time in my personal and professional life by providing me the freedom to pursue what I learned about myself, and with rest-full nights. In closing, individuals should only go to NOLA to LIVE the best, and/or rebuild themselves, and not simply reside. Otherwise, they will only become cynical about the enjoyment of those around them and hence be generally pissed off about life. Clearly, this is not a full TRAVEL posting on NOLA. There is so much more to be described in a future blog dedicated to the subject. My discussion here has been focused on what I experienced during my transition there.