Relevant Matters

Recently, I was joined a small group of senior executives to discuss ways to spur entrepreneurship in our state. This goes beyond the typical networking event with those community leaders who any new business person must first 'kiss the ring.' In politics, they call them 'party machines.' In business, they have many names, usually with a number attached to designate their importance.

Our first lunch challenged my East Coast mentality as to New York being the best place to be in business. The notion that 'where we are defines who we are,' was tossed out the window. I was with peers who came from the Midwest, East, the South and the Left Coast. What they possess is acumen and insight. But there is one word that honed in on what we were all looking for: Relevance.

For the first few years in Arizona, I sought relevance. That happens to all of us who switch towns or tasks and we are often faced with the "Didn't you used to be?' remark.

I've heard the phrase "Clark Kent is who I am, Superman is what I do." At the risk of the conceit label, I must admit that my high profile career has often blurred the lines, in business and in my personal life. Whether we want to admit it or not, what we do goes a long way in creating our persona and it often leads to personal crisis or at the very least, deep introspection.

The economic turndowns of the last two decades have freed up people to explore. These are also called life cycles. They came in the form of layoffs, firing, divorce, illness or tragic loss. I've experienced most of those and each one of those led me to question my relevance. As an executive, as a father, as a husband. Sometimes, it's not pretty, but it's always revealing and asks us to stop and smell the roses.

I always liked that phrase. Ferris Bueller updated it with "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

I'm not a huge fan of the word entrepreneur as anyone can slap that title next to their name when describing what they do. The dictionary definitions, including enterpriser, mogul, whiz kid, go-getter, mover and shaker and the worst, hustler, don't adequately describe the word. It's a lot simpler than that. I think the word is 'explorer,' and the definition is 'finding purpose.' And on our own terms.

The insurance executive, the author, the publisher, the writer, the land developer, the COO and the others in my group all spoke of wanting to find careers in their life that gave them purpose, based on their inherent skills or interests. To do stuff. Stuff they liked. And then pass that purpose onto others.

It was my parents' generation, for the most part, that had to take a job that guaranteed an income and when they got home, they didn't talk of that world until they got up the next morning.

Relevance. Defined as connected, useful, helpful. It's a personal thing, not a business thing.

After a 35 year career in public relations, my job is to make my clients relevant and that comes from their personal goal to make a difference, in creating things and selling things. Finding a need, filling that need. It's as simple and complex as the fields they work in.

And that's not just reserved for the moguls, magnates and hustler.There's a visionary in all of us looking for relevance. What is a visionary? To me, it's someone who has their feet planted firmly in the air....where dreams come from.